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

Jesus Breaks In

On Holy Saturday of this year, our convent had an unexpected visitor.  A young man kicked in the back door with a loud noise that reverberated throughout our house.  He entered, hammer in hand, mumbling to the FCJ Sisters that met him near the door about needing to find a way through.  He was told, firmly, that he could not get through and so he ran back out the way he’d come in.  The police arrested him a short time after that and we were left with a shattered door to fix and a mixture of feelings to process.

It was with new eyes that I read again the words from the Gospel of St. John the next day.  Disciples in a locked room?  A man appearing unexpectedly in the midst of them?  That sounded eerily familiar, all right.  However, Jesus’ visit elicited very different reactions from his disciples:  joy, reassurance, peace.  Perhaps it was the violence of our unwelcome intruder that prompted me to spend some extra time reflecting on this particular account of Easter Sunday:  How had Jesus breached the locked doors of my home during these days of Covid-19?  Where had the presence of the Risen Christ brought joy, peace and reassurance as I grappled with living in a pandemic-stricken world?

For me, the face of Jesus has appeared repeatedly through the laptop which I use to virtually teach my junior high students from our convent.  These past weeks I have chatted with young people sporting unkempt hair and patterned pajamas speaking to me from cluttered bedrooms with unmade beds.  I’ve had the opportunity to get to know more about the day to day existence of my students than I could have done within the walls of a school:  I’ve heard the hungry cries of baby brothers, the shenanigans of younger sisters, the songs of pet birds and seen some interesting home décor choices.  There is something about working from our homes that seems to give us all permission to put on less of a persona and to present to our friends, colleagues and teachers more of the grittiness of who we are.  It’s unavoidable, really.  To me, there is something lovely and reassuring about this. We are united in our ordinariness and humanity.  There are no Snapchat filters or carefully worded Facebook posts to disguise the genuine Body of Christ.

On another level, our vulnerabilities emerge in ways we may not be used to.  We miss the physical presence of each other, and so we make contact in the ways that we are able.  Students message teachers, just to reassure themselves that there’s someone who will answer.  Colleagues initiate video conferences for no other reason than to chat and catch up at the end of a virtual day of teaching.  These moments where we become aware of our need and reach out, seeking connection and intimacy with each other, but at a distance, have touched me.  In these instances of yearning for human contact, we are the human face of Jesus, the broken Jesus who whispers “I thirst” from the agony of the Cross.  And when we respond to this need for companionship from our students, friends, families and colleagues, we resemble the Risen Christ, breaking through walls and crossing vast distances (via Wi-Fi) to share the reassuring presence of God.

Sometimes, it seems there is so much to fear in this time of pandemic and there are good reasons for us to spend more time in the relative safety of our homes.  Yet, Christ still comes in unexpected ways, breaching our locked doors and bringing us peace and love that shine through in the humanity of others.  Let us pray that we don’t allow our fears to hide these Christ- moments from our awareness.  Alleluia, He is Risen! He is Risen, indeed!

Michelle Langlois, fcJ

 

Holy Week: A Threshold Time

Threshold spirituality is a meaningful way to sum up our spiritual experience in a time of pandemic. It is also the spirituality of Holy Week.As we wait with anticipation to “cross over” lines in grocery stores, as we long to pass through the dark night of reaching the flattened curve, as we imagine going through doorways to visit those loved ones we have been separated from…We are called into threshold time. May our passings be blessed as we live fully this moment and the crossings it brings.

Written by: Sr. Noreen Allossery-Walsh, OSU

With gratitude to Paraclete Press for providing this reflection and guided meditation.
https://m.youtube.com/watch…