The beautiful story of the promise made to Noah launches us into the first full week of Lent. It is good to be reminded our God has made a promise to us and we are held in a covenant with God. During this first week of Lent we are invited to pay attention to the promises we make and who we are in covenant with in our daily living. To be in a covenant calls us to relationship, not just a transaction. As a Franciscan Friar I live my life in a covenant with my fellow Friars and with the church, those who are married are in a covenant with their spouse, and all of us are in a covenant with each other and creation. If we consider the covenants we are currently in during this first week of Lent by the time we arrive at the Easter Vigil the readings from the Old Testament and the Resurrection of Jesus make perfect sense. For God’s covenant with us is about relationship, continually calling us into God’s love and to ensure this love is made known in the world. In other words, to be Good News Bearers. This is at the core of the gospel for the First Sunday of Lent.
The gospel story about Jesus in the wilderness and being tempted often leads only to focusing on what tempts us. When we pay closer attention to the gospel (Mark 1.12-15 – read it again!) we see the temptation of Jesus is simply noted as a passing statement. What stands out is the length of time (40 days), who surrounded him (wild beasts and Angels) and what Jesus did following this time (proclaimed Good News). During this first week of Lent let us investigate our life and consider: How I am intentionally spending these 40 days? What wild beasts do I need to face this Lent? Who are the Angels who are guiding me? How will I journey during this Lenten pilgrimage as a Good News Bearer?
As our hearts are transformed, as we pray, fast and give alms, as we take note of the covenant we hold with each other and with God we come to see how our lives speak of the kingdom of God. Every covenant has times in which they need to be evaluated, in which forgiveness must be sought and repentance must be made. Lent is the perfect opportunity to renewal our promises to be covenant people and bearers of the Good News. Our baptismal promises demand this of us.
Peace and Goodness in Week One of the Lenten Journey.
Br. Michael Perras, OFM is a member of the Franciscan Community. He is currently ministering at Mount St. Francis Retreat Centre in Cochrane, Alberta. We look forward to sharing this series of reflections with you in the coming weeks.
This year marks the 800th anniversary of Saint Francis of Assisi being branded with the wounds of Christ. Several months after celebrating Christmas at Greccio in 1223 Francis received the stigmata (the five wounds of Christ) while praying at La Verna (a secluded place) in 1224. We may never receive the stigmata; however, each of us are branded with Christ in baptism. This coming season of Lent is a reminder of our baptism and how we live out our baptismal mission and duty as ambassadors of Christ. Saint Francis of Assisi was caught up in both the incarnation and passion of Christ. His attention to these frameworks of the life of Christ are an invitation for our Lenten mission. We must consider again how we birth Christ in our actions and how we meet Christ in the wounds of our lives and of the world. Our baptism is activated in the ways we carry out this mission and encounter the promise of the resurrected new life of Easter in our life, church and community.
On Ash Wednesday we will be marked with the cross reminding us of the fragility of our life (another point St. Francis knew well). We will also be reminded through scripture we are ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20—6:2). What do ambassadors do? They give witness to their mission. We will also be reminded our Lenten mission is to pray, to fast and to give alms (Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18) in purposeful ways. These are guideposts for the 40-day mission and each year we are reminded to refresh our mission. How can we do this in a meaningful way this Lent? It will look different for each of us, but by the duty of our baptism there are no excuses to not act as ambassadors on our mission. Make a plan! Do one thing well! It will be worth it, and it will make a difference for the Lenten journey and beyond. Don’t let the season slip by unnoticed.
We would like to congratulate ATW member Sarah Rudolph, IBVM, who professed her Final Vows with the Loretto Sisters on December 9, 2023. Below is a reflection that Sarah wrote for the Vocations Canada Newsletter.
On December 9, 2023, I will make my final profession of vows in the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Loretto Sisters), a journey that has been more than nine years in the making. Nine years of initial formation, over two years of discernment prior to entering, and a lifetime of listening to God’s call and growing in my ability to discern and respond.
Originally from Calgary, I was living in Ottawa when I first began to discern a call to religious life. Although the seed was planted when I was about 25 years old, it took me until I was 32 before I was able to actively commit to discernment and respond to the call. At the time I was working in the federal public service as a policy analyst on files related to children’s rights, youth engagement, and maternal and child health. With a background in international relations, it was a career that I deeply enjoyed. I found the issues meaningful and important, and I loved the policy work. And yet, I found myself yearning for something more that I couldn’t quite grasp in my day-to-day life. I was an active member of my local parish for several years and felt a longing to somehow integrate more deeply the religious/ spiritual with what I was pursuing as a career and to give my life in service to God.
When I encountered the Loretto Sisters through their website, the pieces seemed to fall into place. I was attracted to the international dimension of the Institute – our network of Sisters working across the world for peace and justice in myriad ways – and as I learned more about our founder, Mary Ward, and about Ignatian spirituality, I found my spiritual home as well. It seemed to be a place where I could be my full self and continue to grow into the woman God has created me to be.
Despite feeling at home, it was a risky decision to request to enter, and a risky response for the Congregation to say yes to welcoming me. The reality is that the Congregation in Canada is moving towards completion. We now have only five sisters under the age of 75. When I entered in 2014, we were over 70 sisters; now we are fewer than 40. Of course, when I entered in 2014, I was naïve and didn’t have a sense of what this might mean. Over nine years, I have learned much about what this reality means and have grown to accept a new vision for religious life. Some of my earlier dreams have been broken and new dreams are growing in their place. One implication of this reality is that I have grown in my understanding of belonging to an international Institute. This has been fostered over the many international experiences I have been gifted with during my formation. I spent the canonical year of my novitiate in Manila, Philippines in an international formation community of Sisters from Australia, India, and Vietnam. In my second year of novitiate, I spent three months in New York City completing an immersion program at our NGO at the United Nations, where I was exposed to the incredible work of our global Institute responding to the needs of the most vulnerable and how we, as women of faith, can influence global policy. My UN experience was a great treasure to me. It allowed me to directly use the policy skills of my professional background from a faith-based perspective. Throughout my three months at the UN, I felt aflame with God’s love for the world.
In 2019, I was blessed to attend the Mary Ward Summer School in York, UK, a regularly offered program for Sisters and our friends and Colleagues, to deepen our understanding of our founder’s life and spiritual foundation. We studied her letters and other historical documents and visited places of significance to her life in Yorkshire. And just last year, I provided communications support at our General Congregation in Manresa, Spain. Not only was it profoundly inspiring and enlivening to be present in a place so sacred to Ignatius of Loyola, but I met and made connections with dozens of Sisters, deepening my appreciation for the international dimension of the Institute. And most recently, I spent the month of September in our Eastern Africa province preparing for final vows with three other Sisters preparing for vows. It was a delight to experience the Eastern Africa province, which is growing and expanding, and to witness the commitment to our charism and mission lived in a different cultural setting. It took me beyond the confines of what I know in Canada and made me realize that other futures are possible.
This global web of connection is reflected in my local experience of religious life. As I reflect on making lifetime commitment as a religious, I find hope in this larger network. Not only as a member of a global Institute, but as a member of a ‘community of communities’. I have been blessed with friendships with other men and women religious from across Canada through our participation in the annual Around the Well retreats. The retreat is a space where we can come together to share the reality of our lives as religious in a changing world and amid changing demographics. We learn about each other’s charism and are enriched by our diverse expressions of spirituality and mission. We also dream about living, one day, in community together, and engaging in joint ministry. For me, the religious life of the future will be a living out in concrete ways the deep interconnectedness of humanity and creation through shared community life and ministry, and mutual commitment to the evangelical counsels. This offers me great hope.
Formation that fosters these interconnections is essential. As individuals we find a home in our respective Congregations with their charism, mission, and spiritual expression, but together, we as religious, live vibrantly and more fully our shared charism of religious life. I live in the present and look to the future with joy, knowing that I am part of an interconnected group of men and women religious striving to live lives of generous love in service to God and to God’s people.
Sarah Rudolph, IBVM (centre, in blue) is pictured with other members of the Around the Well Group at the reception for her Final Vows on December 9, 2023.
A teacher friend recently posted a picture of herself on Instagram; she was out for a winter walk in Edmonton, Canada. I felt an unexpected tug at my heart upon seeing her and the familiar, deep snowbanks. Living in the Philippines this year has meant that I’ve experienced only green scenery and hot temperatures. The wintery scene reminded me that I am very far from home indeed, even as I continue to delight in the many opportunities that I enjoy in this vibrant country.
Mark Twain wrote that a man who carries a cat by the tail learns something he can learn in no other way. What I’m experiencing now is that a Canadian teacher temporarily residing in Metro Manila learns something about herself and many of her former students that she could not learn in any other way.
I have listened to stories about the Philippines for most of my teaching career. Long before I ever arrived in this warm and welcoming country, former students had educated me about jeepneys and tricycles (common modes of transportation here) and Christmas celebrations that begin in September. I had heard about favourite local foods, including roasted pig and babinka and balut. On countless occasions, Filipino students have shared about the place of their birth with a wistfulness that made me even more curious about this faraway nation.
Now that I have had the opportunity to live in Manila for a few months as part of my International Year (a part of the formation of FCJ Sisters in Temporary Profession), I have discovered that I am inspired by all those who have dared to leave this tropical, archipelagic nation to live in North America. In the process of settling down here, I have come to experience more deeply that living in a new country is about much more than adjusting to a different climate and an unfamiliar language. While the opportunity to live in a foreign place can seem like an adventure to be sure, once the ‘honeymoon period’ wears off, the day-to-day lived experience can test one’s understanding of how one fits into the world.
To the homeless people who ring the bell at our convent in Quezon City, I am referred to using the adjective ‘matangkad’; that is, I am the ‘tall’ Sister. By Canadian standards, I am of average height, but when I walk on the sidewalks here, tree branches are trimmed in such a way that I must duck my head. When I travel in standard jeepneys (small public buses), I sit too high to be able to see out the windows. The tricycles (a kind of motorcycle with an attached passenger cab) are perhaps only a little larger than my coffin might be someday. This is a city that, on the whole, was not built for people of my ‘great’ height.
My size is just one way that I can feel like a fish out of water. My first week here, I was reprimanded by security for talking to another Sister on the light rail train as Covid protocols here require silence from passengers. On another occasion, during a meal together a student asked me if I always used a fork when eating rice. My affirmative response was clearly surprising (and even a little bizarre) to him as many people here routinely eat with their hands. Even asking for help finding an item at the grocery store can turn into a frustrating interaction when it becomes apparent that the foodstuff I’m requesting goes by a different name in the Philippines. The occasional cockroach wandering into the house can, on my worst days, feel like the stuff of nightmares.
There is something about living in a different place that can, at times, strip us of our sense of belonging. It can seem like a lifetime of learning has not prepared us for current circumstances and we are children again, learning everything for the first time. Sometimes, it is utterly exhausting and even deeply emotional. When, I can not understand or be understood, when it’s a struggle to perform even simple tasks, it can invite the question: was coming here the right decision?
In the Scriptures, little is said about the reactions of the fishermen that Jesus called on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. In the Gospel of Matthew, their response is encapsulated in eight words: “Immediately they left their nets and followed him.” And yet, these men were leaving nearly everything they knew: their livelihoods, their homes, and surely many family members and friends. Some of them, the New Testament later tells us, even went on to travel all over modern-day Europe. This cannot have been an easy thing, so what sustained them in those moments when they were feeling far from home?
In reflecting on their experiences in his hymn ‘The Galilee Song’, Australian priest Frank Andersen, MSC, writes “I feel my spirit called like a stirring deep within/ restless ’til I live again beyond the fears that close me in.” In these lyrics, I recognize something of the process that has helped to sustain me during my transition to life in a new country. Firstly, to start trying to ‘live beyond the fears’, it has been necessary to name the anxieties that ignite within me when my height or my limited Tagalog (the predominant language in the Philippines) or my ‘strange’ Canadian customs result in embarrassment or difficulty in the routine of my day. Naming them has meant being honest with myself, sharing about them with the members of my community, and taking them to God in prayer.
It is in the silence of prayer, that I can become more deeply aware of the ‘stirring deep within’, the voice of the Spirit, inviting me to a place beyond my insecurities. It is in this place before God that, gradually, I start to see that the worries that plague me have no foundation, that they are formless and without substance. It is here, too, that I experience gratitude for the companionship of God who intimately knows my anxieties and gently challenges me to release them. This process of letting go takes time and deep-rooted honesty and humility. It is the work of a lifetime. Thankfully, God has the patience and persistence to be with me every step of the journey.
As I recall my former students and think of all the people who have relocated to Canada, I am inspired by the courage so many have shown in leaving their “boats behind” on “familiar shores.” As millions of immigrants have learned to find their way around unfamiliar cities, taste new foods, adjust to language differences, purchase heavier clothes for cooler weather, and make sense of a different political landscape, they have also been invited to acknowledge their insecurities and move beyond them in a challenging, exhausting process.
However, God’s challenge is for everyone: we all carry anxieties with us in the ebb and flow of our everyday lives, whether we are living in new places or not. Perhaps you, too, are aware of the ‘spirit deep within’ inviting you to reflect on uncomfortable insecurities today. What ‘familiar shores’ is God calling you to leave behind, even if only for a few hours? How are you being encouraged to ‘live again beyond the fears that close [you] in?’ In the quiet of prayer, listen for God’s invitation to greater freedom as you, too, set your heart upon the deep.
By Michelle Langlois, fcJ
Originally written for the Religious Moral and Education Council Journal, ATA, Alberta, Canada
Some suggestions for teachers who are welcoming immigrants/ refugees into their classrooms:
Adjusting to a new language can be exhausting. It is okay to encourage students to ‘take a break’ when they go home in the evenings and speak their first language at home.
Pictures make a big difference. Using word walls to help students learn new vocabulary is good for immigrants and can help other students who struggle with vocabulary. Invite your students to help you create a word wall in your classroom.
Many Filipinos learn some English in the Philippines, but there will still be a lot of English terms/ idioms they may not understand
Consider finding the flags of your students on-line, printing them, and putting them up in the classroom. A country’s flag is like having a piece of their ‘homeland’ in the room.
Consider having a word of the day posted in your classroom, using the first languages of your students as a starting point. ex. Salamat (means Thank you in Tagalog)
Encourage students to talk about their difficulties living in Canada; what is different for them? What things do they find hard? Using gentle humour when sharing about our fears can sometimes be a big help.
Ask your students to share about their countries. What do they miss? What was their favourite place? Knowing that someone is interested in hearing about their country of birth can be a great support.
Consider bringing in a food from another country to share; places like TNT can have good options. Or if you see students eating different kinds of food, ask them about it.
David E. Rosage’s book of the same title was one of the first books that I was given when I became a Pre-Novice with the Sisters of Instruction of the Child Jesus (sej) in Coquitlam, British Columbia, nearly 3 years ago. In the foreword, Monsignor Rosage writes, “These [the book’s] thoughts should facilitate making the transition from the busy workday world into a quiet, receptive attitude of listening to God with one’s whole being. They should also motivate one to become totally available to the Lord”.
I have been listening to God in my life for over 40 years. Now, if you were to ask me if after listening to God, I responded to His invitations and the Spirit’s promptings, I’d be lying to you if I told you that I did. I grapple with God – a lot. Case in point, I’ll be 47 years old next month and I am a Novice! Yes, I know, better late than never!
When I was asked to contribute to the blog, I wasn’t sure what I could possibly offer on the topic of “hope”. It’s a broad subject and some days God and I discuss at length whether or not my timing to enter religious life is right. I’ve been told as I am sure many of you have too, that religious life in Canada is declining. Actually the exact word that was used was “dead”. Religious life in Canada is dead. And yet here I am. Why?
Tongue and cheek humour aside, I am here because God is ever faithful. If you haven’t read it, the Hound of Heaven by the English poet Francis Thompson is a classic. Religious life is not dead because God is not dead. Sorry Nietzsche but you and I will have to agree to disagree. Religious life is evolving and changing because the world is evolving and changing. In her book, Religious Life For Our World: Creating Communities of Hope, Maria Cimperman, RSCJ writes, “A great transformation is being asked of religious life, but not without the lead and accompaniment of the Spirit. Religious must use their religious imagination, guided by the Spirit, to see beyond numbers. Religious life is being asked to connect more globally and is being given numerous opportunities for global connections. Agility, adaptability, openness, clear communication, collaboration, and a deep, contemplative, reflective spirit are essential” (pg. 21).
I am not sure if I have mentioned this before, but there is a 30-plus year age difference between myself and the next youngest sister in my congregation here in Canada and I am their only Novice. When I wrote my letter to ask to begin my Novitiate, the sisters in Canada discerned. Our Generalate in France discerned and the six other countries where our sisters serve in ministry also discerned. A global pandemic made it impossible for me to join and journey with the other “younger” women in our congregation in formation in Chile where a Novitiate community existed. Instead, I remained in Canada and while I didn’t initially recognize it as a blessing, it has most certainly turned out to be one.
Like our foundress, Anne-Marie Martel, I have been invited to follow the Spirit into newness. For my congregation, it has meant reimagining what the formation of a Sister of the Child Jesus looks like. It has required responding creatively, collaboratively and faithfully in the face of uncertainty – aging sisters and a mission in Canada described as nearing completion a.k.a “dying”. But dying we are not! The Spirit is constantly at work – inspiring and guiding.
I have heard it said that Nuns don’t retire, they simply get re-treaded and my Directress has clocked some serious mileage! Instead of sailing off into the sunset, the Sisters of the Child Jesus in Canada have chosen to set sail in a new direction, Novice on board, trusting that if and when we encounter rough waters, Jesus will be there to do His part, as He always has. And here is where I find my hope in and for religious life; in the companionship of empowerment. I may be the only Novice in Canada in my congregation, but I am not alone; far from it! I have been blessed by my congregation’s openness to a kind of formation that has been intercultural and inter-congregational. As I share this reflection on “hope” with you, I am profoundly grateful for the “yeses” of 17 Sisters of the Child Jesus in Canada, who without realizing it, have taught me the art of deep listening and courageously following God into the future.
Blog post by Heather Charest, Sisters of Instruction of the Child Jesus (sej)
As a teenager, I remember hearing the words, “I have called you by name and you are mine” Isaiah 42:1-2. These words were my inspiration to leave all things and follow Jesus in religious life.
I grew up in a small village in a family that practiced the Catholic faith for generations. My first teacher was my mom, who nurtured my faith through prayer and religious practice. I believe my parents’ prayers and example encouraged me to respond to the call to Religious life.
I attended school with the Missionaries of Christ Jesus, who introduced me to religious life; however, I did not feel called to join them. God’s plan was that I join the Sisters of Our Lady of the Missions. I was attracted to their way of life and their call to serve the poor, orphans, women, the underprivileged and marginalized.
As I discerned my call to religious life, I was inspired by the life of Euphrasie Barbier, our Foundress. From an early age, she had a strong determination to go beyond her culture and devote herself to the missions. She had first joined the Sisters of Compassion, and the superior wrote of her, “I have never known anyone so firm, so tenacious in business matters. She loves God with all her heart, is full of charity towards her sisters, respectful and affectionate towards her superiors and zealous for the salvation of souls”…
The testimony of her spiritual director is also inspiring. “She is an excellent religious, a zealous soul ready to sacrifice everything for the glory of God and the salvation of souls. With prompt, unquestioning obedience she goes forward throwing herself wholeheartedly into whatever tasks her superiors assign to her without giving a thought to obstacles. She is entirely a woman of God, and the best instrument that I know of in His hands”.
Her writings and the story of her life inspires me to build my relationship with God and treasure the gift of my vocation.
Her words are my daily inspiration, “My daughter – How do you live your Religious Life in today’s world?”
“Yes, Mother – I try to live one day at a time; I value your spirituality and charism as a particular gift to understand the Trinity as the source of all my missionary activity.”
Then I hear her words, “Let us love him in joy and thankfulness. Let us love him in silence and song. Let us love him in recollection and prayer, in studies and work, in rest and activity. Oh, yes! Let us love him always, always, always and let us love one another in him”.
How important is a small community or a group companion in a journey?
Belonging to a small community of like-minded people gives me support and helps me to dream and hope in the journey of life. That is what I like about the 55ish and under group. Outside of their respected communities they come together to share and hope, to reflect together and support and inspire one another. I was able to join the group retreat and being with them twice made me reflect on the importance of companionship with people at the same stage of the journey. With a guided retreat director, Sr. Mary Rowell, I was able to reflect, and experienced a meaningful journey as a sister in community life, but at the same time hearing the insights and reflection of the 55ish members gives me so much hope and inspiration and meaning of my vocation. The sense of having a community outside your own community is widening a horizon of companionship on a journey. As an international student, not a citizen of this country, the group companionship of one another is always an insightful and meaningful journey, as well as, their welcoming spirit to others like me.
The 55ish group reminds me of Jesus’ journey during his passion where there were group of men and women who were with him, believing that amidst (Mk 15:40-47) challenges, as as long as there is a community of believers who hope and trust him, you find consolation and hope. A community who always dreams with Christ, trusts his Words and calls them to respond. Jesus inspires them that to believe in him is to believe that life that he is offering is but a journey towards a hopeful life (Mk 16:1-8) resurrected with Christ, and finds the support of the community, good companions on a journey. Happy Easter People!
Oh, Canada listen to our cry
Oh, religious and political institutions listen to our song
We are spirits of the One Creator
sending you a message of seven values,
learnt from the Aki-land, forest, animals, birds and all living creatures:
Love, Respect, Truth, Bravery, Humility, Wisdom and Honesty.
You have started a path of Peace and Reconciliation
by listening to one another, exchanging gifts of each tradition and culture:
small shoe, poches, snow shoes, drum, cradle,
a note book-full of memories of pain, sorrow, sufferings -a cultural genocide,
olive branch, cross of Christ, Madonna with a-child – Yes, let us walk together
by recognizing the Truth, living the Healing, working for restorative Justice and
embracing the deep Reconciliation. Not easy, but we say FIAT-Hopeful Yes TOGETHER
to this project of brotherhood, culture of dialogue and encounter.
Yes, we heard those words of our brother Francis,
“I AM SORRY, I AM VERY SORRY AND I AM VERY SORRY
I FEEL INDIGATATION AND SHAME.”
He compared us to a well rooted tree with its beautiful branches.
Yes, that is what we are, very well rooted, not going anywhere.
This is our Land, we speak our languages
we are committed to protect our identity and culture.
This beautiful tree has been damaged by colonialization,
discrimination, racism, “Kill the Indian in the Child”-residential schools,
murder of our women, not respecting the treaties,
stealing our land-Doctrine of discovery,
Oh, we can say more and more…
Here we are, we are not going anywhere because this is our AKI.
We have been here for the past 10,000 years.
We were brave enough to show to the same institution
which rejected our cultures, traditions, languages, way of governing,
way of life, our skin colour, who treated us as a number even changed our own name,
the beauty of who we are and where we come from.
It was elegantly displayed by
powerful Fancy Dance, prayers recited in our languages like Dene- Michit and Inuktitut.
In fact, it was a Cosmic dance-our Creator’s dance,
every one dancing together: Elders, knowledge keepers, Survivors and Youth.
Our people celebrating traditional ceremonies at an open St. Peter’s square
and the Catholic church having Mass at closed doors…. Yes, every one has a place in this AKI.
Oh, for sure, the gift of cradle and small shoes of ours touched us very much,
An invitation given to humanity
to respect Life in all its forms and to treat the children with love and compassion.
“Let the little children come to me because the Life belongs to them”.
Oh, dear peoples, listen to our whispering voices and deep respirations,
Open your documents to know who were the culprits,
make their names known and bring them to justice,
abolish the Indian law and the doctrine of discovery.
We are with you, we implore together the Creator’s blessings
to do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly with our Creator,
with one another as brothers and sisters of one ecological family.
Oh, my little angels, I, -we listened to your cry and I am sorry, we are sorry
for all that happened to you, but you know,
you are our living memories, our lighthouse, wild goose, the voice of the Creator.,
I say FIAT with my whole heart to this pilgrimage.
We say ‘Deep Yes’ to this project of Healing and Reconciliation
that starts with a respectful, intentional and spontaneous LISTENING
to Manitou, the Nature, the spirits, one another and oneself.
We are together in this journey!
Oh, Creator God, Help us to be peoples of Easter-a real reconciliation seekers!
Submitted by: Fr. Reegan Soosai, CMF Inspired by the meeting of Pope Francis and the Indigenous Delegation to Rome
According to the dictionary a vocation is a summons or strong inclination to a particular state or course of action. There is so much more to a vocation.
We all have gifts given to us by God. We are called to live honouring those gifts and growing ever nearer to who God has called us to be. Parker Palmer writes “God asks us only to honour our created nature, which means our limits as well as our potentials.”1 We are called to listen to God’s voice.
Religious life is a demanding call. We are invited to leave our former, familiar world, and let go of what we used to know and hold on to; all this implies loss. We receive something new but at the same time we must let go of something else. That was certainly true for me. I left the city where I was born and thought I would always live in and moved to a city that I did not know to live with 4 other women (2 of whom I did not know all that well). Talk about adjustment. Talk about upheaval. I left behind family and friends. I have been blessed however because I have made many friends in the various places where I lived and each has been a gift in my life.
I had the great gift of living a single life and it was my thought that this was where God was calling me. Sister Sandra Schneiders, I.M.H. writes “No one (at least no one in her right mind) undertakes this prophetic vocation on her own initiative.” I recall several years ago saying to my friend Nancy, that being a Sister was not in the cards. I imagine God was having a good chuckle at my expense at that time because here I am as Sister Costanza. Who would have thought it!!! Not me!!
I remember very vividly sitting in my parish in Sault Ste. Marie (St. Veronica’s) for our Holy Thursday liturgy. I then went out for coffee with some friends and then felt called back to the church to sit with the Blessed Sacrament. Prior to my heading to the back of the church, I sat in the very front pew in the dark. The large cross was in position, ready for Good Friday. In that stillness and quiet, I began to cry and there was an overflowing peace that came over me and I knew then and there that after months of denying and trying to ignore God’s voice, the answer was YES. It was in that moment that I knew what I needed to do. One of my first talks was with a very dear friend who was also being called to religious life, my parish priest, Fr. Paul and my Spiritual Director. I then connected with the vocation director and the rest as they say is history.
Why do I stay? It’s because the Sisters live life to the fullest in everything they do whether it be prayer, throwing a good party or playing cards! When I listen to the stories, I hear of the “boldness” of these women who forged ahead, moved around and continue to do remarkable things always trusting that God will see them through. I realize that I am standing on the shoulders of great women. I am in awe of the great role models that God has given me from the past and the present.
There were two thoughts and feelings that allowed me to persevere and which continue to sustain me. The first was that God would never lead me where He did not think I could go and the second was that I believe God is always with me and therefore if I allow the promptings of God to lead me, I would learn from both my successes and my not so great moments. Richard Rohr writes “I need to recognize that I’m in a river that is bigger than I am. The foundation and the flow of that river is love. Life is not about me; it is about God, and God is apparently about love.”2
God’s call is different for each one of us and yet it is the same. It is a call to answer our baptismal call, to grow in love, in wisdom and in inner freedom, and thus to bring greater love, peace and freedom into the world. I realize that my parents laid a strong foundation of love and respect. My parents were very caring, compassionate and well loved. I miss them!
When I reflect on Psalm 139, it provides me with peace knowing that the God who created me will always be with me in lightness and in darkness. The God who created me and knows my heart with the good and the bad that surround it, loves me still.
I hope I am always open so that God can speak to your heart. It is said that God writes straight with crooked lines. Each step in our lives is an important one. One of my favourite sayings is that “Life is about using the whole box of crayons”. I think God loves colour because my life has been filled with so many things I never even thought of!
I know that the road ahead will be filled with blessings but also crosses. I also know that all is gift with God at my side.
Un bon matin, suite à ma prière, je me suis sentie invitée, de l’intérieure, à un temps de silence. Ce fut un temps de silence habité, habité d’une présence, habité de la présence de Dieu. Ce fut un bon moment pour moi, un temps de grâce avec le Seigneur. Il ne s’est rien passé de spectaculaire, mais j’ai ressenti une présence en moi qui m’interpellait à aller plus loin en profondeur, en mon être. J’ai reconnu ce temps comme un temps de bienfait et je savais que je venais de vivre une expérience spirituelle particulière.
Le lendemain, après ma prière du matin, j’ai risqué retourner en ce lieu, en moi, où j’avais senti la présence de Dieu. Et je me suis retrouvée pour une deuxième journée consécutive dans ce havre de paix, au plus profond de mon être. Depuis ce matin-là, je vis une proximité en présence de Dieu. Je sens que je suis dans un temps de grâce et j’en profite pour être en paix dans cette présence de Dieu. Je ne dis rien, je ne demande rien, je reste là, tout simplement là, en sa présence et ça me fait du bien.
Je suis dans l’action de grâce pour ce temps privilégié qui m’est donné. Même si parfois, pour des temps prolongés, je ne sens pas cette présence de Dieu, je reconnais que sa présence est toujours là. Mais quelle grâce d’y gouter de temps en temps! Je continuerai de retourner à ce lieu de silence en moi, chaque jour, car Dieu me fait cadeau de sa présence, que je le ressente ou non.
Je reconnais que Dieu est là, présent, dans le silence de mon cœur. Cette présence de Dieu dans ma vie colore ma vie et toute ma vie en est teintée et rehaussée. Je souhaite que je puisse le porter en moi dans les rencontres que je fais chaque jour pour que d’autres puissent gouter les bienfaits de la présence de Dieu dans leur vie.