Teacher: “Why me? Why now?”

9 months into this pandemic and we have given birth to fear, isolation, sorrow, and frustration. Rewind! 9 months ago in the world of education we left school on March 13 (A Friday!) thinking we were getting an extended March Break and we would come back to our students a little more refreshed and ready having had extra days to catch up on sleep. Fast forward to 9 months later and our lives, as teachers and students have been turned upside down.

As a primary teacher I returned to the classroom after doing Special Education for seven years and I was a little excited to have my own class, do my own thing with them, giving them a home away from home experience. The kids were excited to come back to school and get back into a routine they so desperately needed. Whoop! Check! When we returned we entered a whole new realm- masks, visors, desks a metre apart, tape on the walls to show where you stand in line, walking with zombie arms is the new “lips and hips”- What in the heck is this? I can’t teach like this. I can’t have fun with my students because I can’t even take off my mask to read them a story and show my goofy faces while I read it to them. Insert Charlie Brown voice, “Why me! Why now!”

Ok! I said to myself, enough whining! While I often steer clear of “God doesn’t give us more than we can handle” (I don’t believe that! She has given plenty of over the top situations that required way more of me than I was willing to give). I did try to reframe my thinking. The pandemic is here to stay. I made a choice to pray for patience and peace.

This thinking/ praying developed into COVID- Care Of Very Important Disciples. We are these disciples and all those we live with, serve with, and encounter are the VIDs in our CO. Now, in an effort to get through this together, my staff, sisters, friends and family continue to feed the poor, my classroom is a safe zone and we play, “Noodle Tag”, so we can “touch” each other, our zombie arms have become “spacers”, and the class is our home.

With the birth of Jesus just weeks away, our preparations centre on making Christmas special for struggling families. Approximately 50 families in my small school will receive a Christmas package this year. The advent wreath made from traced hands will grace the bulletin board. The Elf on the Shelf will show up hanging from the ceiling of the classroom. And together we will wait in joy for the coming of Christ and the end to a pandemic that together calls us to be better.

Take a page from this student who found her own pace in the craziness of a lunchtime chaos.

Article and picture by: Connie Harrington, SNJM

Finding God in the Little Things

This past year, the pandemic and its’ restrictions have been challenging for most, not always for the same reasons.  My heart goes out to all parents and families, and maybe especially business owners, for whom these times have been especially difficult financially.  I can only pray that they will receive all the help they need to survive and live in dignity in spite of all the hardships they have endured.

Our local parishes have been challenged: will they come through this pandemic in one piece?  Will church buildings need to close?  How long can they survive if the pandemic and restrictions stretch out for another long period of time?

Many countries’ and provinces’ health care systems have been tested.  How long can our front line workers withstand all this pressure, working short staffed, trying to care for the sick and protect their own selves and family members at the same time?

On a more personal level, many of us have elderly parents; some we can visit, others have been inaccessible since the beginning of the pandemic, living in nursing homes where restrictions are strict in order to keep them safe, or they live in another province and travel restrictions make it difficult or impossible to go see them.

And all of us have elderly sisters or brothers in our communities.  Some have been kept safe but have suffered from isolation, some may have died.

And now, we are in the second wave of the pandemic…

In my lifetime, I have never experienced such a general deep need for hope.  We all need to look after each other.  Seven months into this pandemic, how are we?  Have we kept enough ties to the important people in our lives and a strong link to God that we are able to say, “I am OK.”?

Having been a social worker in the Mental Health field, I learned early on that in order to survive as a Crisis intervention worker and then a Psychiatric Unit worker, I couldn’t take on all of my clients’ troubles and sufferings on my shoulders.  It was a hard lesson and it took me a few years until I was better at it.  It was never perfect.  We are all human and some things hit closer to home than others.

I guess the purpose of this little article of mine is simply to remind people to enjoy the small things in life.  Take a break once in a while from the suffering in the world in order to reconnect more fully with God, with creation, with yourself.

For me, the pandemic has allowed me to reconnect with nature: longer walks, more bicycle rides, sharing some hiking time with friends.  I even had the joy to participate in a Cycling With Sisters event on PEI on October 3rd (shout out to Sue Kidd, Libby Osgood,CNDs and Laura Kelly, CSM!).  It was a nice opportunity to be out in God’s creation, praying with others in our pilgrimage stops.

I wish all those who will be reading this blog a deep peace, the kind that flows from God, sometimes directly to us, sometimes through nature, sometimes through friends, but always bringing us back to His heart and His love.

Blessings,

Céline Belliveau, ndsc  – author and photographer for this post.

 

 

Cette dernière année, la pandémie et ses restrictions ont été difficiles pour la plupart, pas toujours pour les mêmes raisons.  Je suis de tout cœur avec tous les parents et les familles, et peut-être surtout avec les chefs d’entreprise, pour qui ces temps ont été particulièrement difficiles sur le plan financier.  Je ne peux que prier pour qu’ils reçoivent toute l’aide dont ils ont besoin pour survivre et vivre dans la dignité malgré toutes les épreuves qu’ils ont endurées.

Nos paroisses locales ont été mises au défi : vont-elles traverser cette pandémie en un seul morceau?  Les églises devront-elles fermer?  Combien de temps pourront-elles survivre si la pandémie et les restrictions s’étendent encore sur une longue période de temps?

Les systèmes de santé de nombreux pays et provinces ont été testés.  Combien de temps nos travailleurs de première ligne peuvent-ils résister à toute cette pression, travaillant en sous-effectif, essayant de soigner les malades et de se protéger eux-mêmes et les membres de leur famille en même temps ?

Sur un plan plus personnel, beaucoup d’entre nous ont des parents âgés ; certains peuvent leur rendre visite, d’autres sont inaccessibles depuis le début de la pandémie, vivent dans des maisons de retraite où les restrictions sont strictes afin de les garder en sécurité, ou bien ils vivent dans une autre province et les restrictions de voyage rendent difficile, voire impossible, d’aller les voir.

Et nous avons tous des sœurs ou des frères âgés dans nos communautés.  Certains ont été mis en sécurité mais ont souffert de l’isolement, d’autres sont peut-être morts.

Et maintenant, nous sommes dans la deuxième vague de la pandémie…

De toute ma vie, je n’ai jamais ressenti un besoin aussi profond d’espoir.  Nous avons tous besoin de nous occuper les uns des autres.  Sept mois après le début de cette pandémie, comment allons-nous ?  Avons-nous gardé suffisamment de liens avec les personnes importantes dans nos vies et un lien fort avec Dieu pour pouvoir dire “Je vais bien” ?

Ayant été travailleuse sociale dans le domaine de la santé mentale, j’ai appris très tôt que pour survivre en tant qu’intervenante de crise, puis en tant que travailleuse dans une unité psychiatrique, je ne pouvais pas prendre sur mes épaules tous les problèmes et toutes les souffrances de mes clients.  C’était une dure leçon et il m’a fallu quelques années pour la maîtriser quelque peu.  Ce n’était jamais parfait.  Nous sommes tous humains et certaines choses nous touchent plus que d’autres.

Je suppose que le but de ce petit article est simplement de rappeler aux gens de profiter des petites choses de la vie.  Faites une pause de temps en temps pour vous éloigner de la souffrance dans le monde afin de vous reconnecter plus complètement à Dieu, à la création, à vous-même.

Pour moi, la pandémie m’a permis de me reconnecter avec la nature : plus de promenades à pied, plus de balades à vélo, le partage de temps de randonnée avec des amis.  J’ai même eu la joie de participer à un événement “Cycling With Sisters” à l’Î.-P.-É. le 3 octobre (mention spéciale à Sue Kidd, Libby Osgood,CNDs et Laura Kelly, CSM !)  C’était une belle occasion de me retrouver dans la création de Dieu, de prier avec d’autres personnes lors de nos arrêts en pèlerinage.

Je souhaite à tous ceux qui liront ce blog une paix profonde, celle qui vient de Dieu, parfois directement à nous, parfois par la nature, parfois par des amis, mais qui nous ramène toujours à son cœur et à son amour.

Que Dieu vous bénisse,

Céline Belliveau, ndsc  – author and photographer of this post.

God at Work in the Pandemic

When I celebrated my 1st Anniversary of Ordination on February 9, 2020 (which feels like a lifetime ago) I was revelling in the joys of the first year of Priesthood, and looking forward to all the great things in store- continuing to minister at a thriving Parish, continuing to build our Campus Ministry program at the University of Windsor, going on a tour of Italy with a choir I used to sing with while I was in Formation, and much more!

Little did I know that within a month of that anniversary- everything would change, and so many of the things I was looking forward to just wouldn’t happen. Instead, I’ve learned all about how to set up and manage a live stream, how to edit videos, how to manage Social Media… and a whole host of other things I never would have even dreamed of doing- all in an effort to continue to spread the Gospel during the shutdown. As we’ve come to terms with the reality of pandemic shutdowns, physical distancing, changed ways of worship, restrictions on travel, and so many other things, one quote from The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring has kept coming to mind:

“I wish it need not have happened in my time;” said Frodo.
“So do I” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

It’s easy to wish, with our dear friend Frodo, that none of this had ever happened- that the pandemic was not a thing. But Gandalf’s words are wise, and remind us that when the circumstances of life are out of our control, all we can do is choose how we respond to the situations we are faced with.
Throughout the Pandemic, my biggest question has been “How is God at work in all of this?” Answering that question has helped me to keep things in perspective, and helped me to remember that God is still with us, even in the midst of so much suffering and loss. It was a great joy to read an earlier post on this blog, in which so many of the younger religious throughout Canada expressed the ways in which they were finding grace in the pandemic. I’ve seen many examples of God’s grace at work myself: from parishioners who have aided elderly members of our community by picking up their groceries and prescriptions for them, to the massive, community organized food drive that took place in Windsor and Essex County, which collected over 2 million pounds of food!

May we continue to be aware of the presence of God’s grace in our lives, as we continue to navigate the uncertainty of this Pandemic, and seek to continue to bring the Gospel message into the world.

Fr. Steven Huber, CSB
Assumption Parish, Windsor

The Resurrected Life

One of the many reflections that were being offered at the recent online Young Religious Retreat:

Zoom retreat-day four

Honestly, at one time I did not like eagles. I used to dislike them because they are so strong; they look more scary than cute. I like the gentle little birds that do not harm anyone. However, my opinion changed after I enjoyed a Bird Show in the Philippines. Strange! I noticed the Eagle… then, I started to learn about it.

Everyone probably knows how great the eagle is at leadership and parenting. However, I noted another aspect of its life that few people probably notice, “Resurrection”. An eagle can live up to 70 years if it goes through a painful experience. After it has lived for 30 to 40 years, an eagle must go through a painful time to be able to live for another 40 years; otherwise, it will lie there and wait to die. It depends on its choice. The brave eagle will pluck out its own feathers, smash its beak, and peel off its own claws so that all will grow again and it will continue to live. Many eagles cannot overcome the pain and simply lie there waiting to die. If it bravely suffers, after reviving it will become even stronger than before.

There was a time when I went through great pain; I felt uncertain about how to continue living. For a long time I searched for “life in the pain of death”. This time of darkness was so long, sometimes a month, sometimes a year, and sometimes the whole childhood. Had I just lain there waiting to revive, I would have died in that pain and been unable to escape. I had to pluck off the feathers of the hard shell that I thought was a safety coat. I had to smash the fearful inferiority that prevented me from stepping out of myself. I had to strip off the claws of the wall of defense I had built for myself.

“Resurrection” is an experience of pain and fear but also an experience of hope and future happiness.

“Resurrection” requires courage to smash the fears and so transform into a new life.

“Resurrection” requires time to accept the truth and to listen to the Lord speaking through the experiences of each day.

“Resurrection” requires a new spirit even in the face of returning to the original path “From Emmaus back to Jerusalem.”

Reflection and painting “Eagle” by Giang Pham RNDM

Our Lady of the Missions

 

The Body of Christ Online

The following was written following the celebration of the Eucharist as part of the 2020 Young Religious Retreat:

The body of Christ gathered at our screens looking on as the priest,

our brother took the host in his hands and holding it to the screen,

reminding us Christ, our brother is here: “this is my body broken for you”

In the same way with the chalice, the reflection of our faces from our screens

caught in the silver of the chalice the community gathered,

the priest, our brother holds the chalice out to us,

close again to the screen, reminding us of our mission:

“do this in remembrance of me.”

As amazing as technology is we could not fully partake in this Eucharistic Feast

yet we were together and united and awakened to our call,

a sign of the Eucharist indeed. Although we were not gathered around an altar

we were gathered at the altars of our lives during this time of pandemic,

while on retreat together being transformed as the Body of Christ.

July 2020

Written by: Br. Michael Perras, OFM

29 Zoomed in for 2020 Retreat!

Another retreat has wrapped up and we are all a-glow with God’s love because of the “Surprising Journey of Prayer.”  The joy that we all shared continues to reveal that God is with us – no matter what!  Special thanks to planning committee members Michelle Garlinski, Dan Lobsinger, Michelle Langlois, and Celine Belliveau for your hard work and creative energy.  And heart-felt gratitude goes out from everyone in attendance to our retreat directors Sr. Bernadette O’Reilly, NDS and Fr. Larry Gillick, SJ.

May God bless us as we return to bring Christ’s life and love to others as “Monks in the City”

Looking forward to next year and many posts in-between!

Your aroundthewell editor,

Toby Collins, CR

Searching for Justice

At a recent social zoom gathering young religious form across Canada and parts or the U.S. shared reflections on the recent protests to remind us all that black lives matter.  Below is a comment from one of the Sisters present.  We also talked about a helpful youtube videos in trying to understand the injustice and how grace is at work in our present day.  May God continue to help us to live together in peace as beloved and equal to each other in our common human dignity!  Thank you to those who offered the following quote and video links.

“The struggle is that those on the privileged side are both insulted and isolated from the struggles of the marginalized. Probably we will gradually come to where an injustice everywhere becomes a search for justice everywhere. The Catholic social teaching are all about that.

Sr. Evelyn Mayanja, FDCC 

Life of Privilege Explained in a $100 Race

 

The amazing true story behind a viral photo of protesters protecting a Louisville officer

https://www.courier-journal.com/story/news/local/2020/06/06/breonna-taylor-protesters-protected-lone-lmpd-officer/3146530001/

Grace During a Pandemic

Below are some of the graces that younger religious have been noticing.  We invite you to continue to reflect on your experiences during these times and take any new insights with you into our “new norm.”  May God continue to accompany us and help us emerge gracefully from this pandemic.

 

When I awoke on the morning of March 14th, it was as though someone had flipped a switch. The usual sounds of traffic, barking dogs, and occasional siren were absent, replaced by something totally unexpected: silence. And then the silence was filled with birdsong. These days of the pandemic lockdown have produced a surprising grace. In the midst of confinement, I have found freedom and reconnection in the natural world outside my door, in the concrete jungle of Toronto, hidden within the cracks of the pavement and exploding in the greens and golds and pinks of Queen’s Park and the campus of the University of Toronto. As I take my daily walk, I notice the quiet presence of the Creator in the creation that surrounds me. The gentle gaze of the Father in the budding leaves on tree branches, the Holy Spirit rising in the fragrance of the cherry blossoms, and the companionship of the Son in the squirrels, geese, and robins that play in the grass of King’s College Circle. The intimacy of nature is an unexpected grace in a city grown quiet, revealing the steady presence of God and a promise of hope through the tenacity of Spring.
– Sarah Rudolph
Our world is a busy, full and beautiful place with much to see, hear and take in. One of the graces I have discovered since public distancing has become the norm is quiet. My heart often years for quiet and these days have been a gift to sit longer in the quiet and allow the Holy Spirit to breath and move more freely in me. In turn new prayers, soul stirrings, awareness in creation and creativity has arisen. These graces in turn will guide me in my interactions with others as I accompany them on the journey.
– Michael Perras
Knowing that God is in Contol. COVID-19 has proved human fragility. Even those who believe or consider themselves to be powerful cannot control what we are experiencing. BUT the giver of life is in control. It is very consoling amidst fear and panic.
I am finding grace in the ways that people are caring more about each other and doing small things to help out.  One of the students at the high school I work at organized a non-perishable food collection where people can put donations on their porch and he will come pick them up.  It is all going to help the local St. Vincent De Paul program that was running out of food due to increased need in the community.  It’s pretty awesome to see initiative like that on the part of students.
– Christian Cahill
I think that the grace that I am receiving in this time, among many others, is a sense of support and communion with my sisters. We are in this together- living the present moment and walking day by day. We have had moments of tension, fatigue, sadness…but the joy, renewed creativity, simplicity and sharing has outweighed the difficult moments. We have discovered new gifts, new skills and new hope as we look toward the future. Without a doubt, I have felt the consoling presence of the Holy Spirit  and am certain that the Spirit is making all things new- from the inside out!
– Kate O-Connor

Myrrh Bearing Women

A Homily given by Fr. Michael Smolinski, C.Ss.R. on the 3rd Sunday of Easter

(Mk. 15:43-16:8) In many parishes during the month of December, we hand out calendars for the new year. Most people only use them to see if they get to eat meat on a particular Friday (Ukrainian Catholics abstain from meat on most Fridays of the whole year). Of course, there’s more information on the calendars. We also find the saint or saints of the day listed. The vast majority of these saints on our church calendars are men. This Sunday is a celebration of women, the myrrh-bearing women. We discover the names of the myrrh-bearing women in the Gospel accounts of the Resurrection. They include Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Susanna, Mary (Joseph’s sister), Salome, Martha and Mary whose brother was Lazarus, and Mary the Mother of God. Jesus gave these women a more exalted role than most women in 1 st century Palestinian society. Sure, there were no women apostles, but to Jesus, women were not second-class citizens. Jesus was faithful to them and they were faithful to Jesus. They loved him. They stayed with him all the way to the cross when most of the men took off.

What the myrrh-bearing women did for Jesus, they did out of love. They saw the burial place where Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus placed Jesus’ body hastily because of the impending sabbath. After the sabbath, on the first day of the week, the women came to anoint the body of Jesus. Thus, they became the first witnesses of the Resurrection. They did something. They did the right thing.
What they did out of love for Jesus was an expensive thing. Only one of the women was rich, but they spent a lot of money to buy huge amounts of oil, perfumes, and ointments. Ointments were used to dry the body and perfumes and oils were used to honour the body. They used up their rainy-day funds for Jesus, because He was priceless to them. For Jesus, they spared no expense.
What they did out of love for Jesus was a dangerous thing. Jerusalem was a walled city and rightly so. Outside the walls were wild animals and thugs. The tomb was outside the walls. So, the women made themselves vulnerable in going to the tomb. Because they did what they did, the women were the first to ever hear the greeting, “Christ is risen!”
We can fail to act like the myrrh-bearing women when we act out of fear. St. John
tells us, “Perfect love casts out all fear.” We fail to do what is expensive, because we don’t want to give up the cost of our time or freedom. We fail to do what is dangerous, because we don’t take risks. We fail to do what is foolish, because we live more by the world’s values.

When the myrrh-bearing women arrive at the tomb, they found the stone already rolled away so they were not foolish. The young man who greets them gives them three commands: Do not be afraid. Go and tell the
disciples. Go to Galilee. By telling the women to go to Galilee, the angel is telling them go back and start again. The women are commissioned. But, the Gospel ends with the statement, “they said nothing to anyone.” Really. Is that the end? How are we even here celebrating Easter? And who is “anyone”?
Storyteller Megan McKenna explores that question of who “anyone” is in her book, And Morning Came. McKenna says the anyone to whom the good news was not shared includes the following: anyone who had not been with the group since Galilee, anyone who betrayed Jesus, anyone who killed Him, or anyone who
was part of the crowd.

So, the women shared the good news with the group of Jesus’ followers who were frightened and fearful, scattered and shattered. The women shared the good news and gathered the community for the journey to Galilee. The journey was 90 miles long over rough terrain. The group included the 11, the women, and many
of the 72, so about 100 people. On the way to Galilee, they walked it off. They walked that fear off. They shared stories of their encounters with Jesus. They retold the parables. They talked about those who were healed and forgiven by Jesus. They shared their memories. And their hopes rose. The women led the way in sharing the joy of the Resurrection. They build community. They had a voice and used that voice to preach Good News.

The mission of the myrrh-bearing women kept going after Galilee until their deaths. Mary Magdalene traveled the world preaching the Good News of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Some of the women died as martyrs.
Some died peacefully. Let us be like the myrrh-bearing women, preaching Good News and gathering community. In the days of physical distancing, we cannot gather as community, but we can still be community. We are bound together as
the Church of Christ by the Good News. Let us continue to connect with one another, care for one another, and help one another. We are bound together and sent as one to share the word and faith in our risen Lord.

Below is a picture from a t-shirt designed and worn by women and their friends.  All of whom are creating community by remaining united in faith during the pandemic.

 

Virtual Saskatoon Retreat

As we are all navigating during these unprecedented times, we are unable to participate in the retreat in Saskatoon.

However, we will offer the retreat VIRTUALLY!

Begins Monday July 27 (later afternoon/early evening) to Thursday July 30 (late day).
Cost: $100 per person Guiding our retreat experience will be the same:
Sr. Bernadette O’Reilly, NDS and Fr. Larry Gillick SJ.

Registration is open! Please email Sr. Celine directly at

As we are all navigating during these unprecedented times, we are unable to participate in the retreat in Saskatoon.

However, we will offer the retreat VIRTUALLY!

Begins Monday July 27 (later afternoon/early evening) to Thursday July 30 (late day).
Cost: $100 per person Guiding our retreat experience will be the same:
Sr. Bernadette O’Reilly, NDS and Fr. Larry Gillick SJ.

Registration is open!  Please E-mail Céline to register at ndscgen@rogers.com

Hope to see you there!

Retreat Organizing Committee