Sunday, December 19, 2010

What Does Christmas Mean to You?

During the homily today, Father Finian asked us to ponder what Christmas means to us. For me, I am just enamored by the incarnation, and I don't know much how to put that into words. Jon, a theology classmate of Sister Pamela Catherine, shared a beautiful Christmas song with her that does help to express this wonder:

"Winter Snow"- Audrey Assad w/ Chris Tomlin

Winter Snow - higher resolution from Eric Rutgrink on Vimeo.

Could’ve come like a mighty storm
With all the strength of a hurricane
You could’ve come like a forest fire
With the power of heaven in Your flame

But You came like a winter snow
Quiet and soft and slow
Falling from the sky in the night
To the earth below

Could’ve swept in like a tidal wave
Or an ocean to ravish our hearts
You could have come through like a roaring flood
To wipe away the things we’ve scarred

But You came like a winter snow
Quiet and soft and slow
Falling from the sky in the night
To the earth below

No, Your voice wasn’t in a bush burning
No, Your voice wasn’t in a rushing wind
It was still, it was small, it was hidden

But You came like a winter snow
Quiet and soft and slow
Falling from the sky in the night
To the earth below

The Motherhouse is getting trimmed and looking lovely. In the novitiate, we sat down and worked on Christmas cards together while listening to Susan Boyle's new CD, "The Gift". It was a "gift" Sister Pamela Catherine and I gave to Sister Natalie for her birthday. We put together a scavenger hunt around the novitiate for her and it was at the end....we were amazed at how quickly she figured out the clues!

Today we are going the Rahr-West Art Museum to see their Christmas display with the Novitiate team. I am looking forward to that.

What does Christmas mean to you? A time for sharing? A time for family and/or friends? A time for community? A time to mourn? A time to celebrate? A time for a break from school? A time to give and to receive? A time to remember and honor in a special way the men and women serving overseas? A time to bake Christmas cookies? A time to help others believe (or maintain their belief) in Santa? Getting "time-and-a-half" at work to help make ends meet?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christmas Break Begins!

I finished my Old Testament class this morning with the final exam, and now it's time to write Christmas cards, begin reading a social justice book, crochet, put together Christmas gifts, etc.

Speaking of Christmas gifts, I read a brilliant article in my favorite Catholic newspaper, Our Sunday Visitor, called Sappy - and Sacred by Robert P. Lockwood. His article challenges the often negative thoughts of the commercialization of Christmas.

He writes: "Christmas is when faith can't be pushed to the periphery, no matter how hard we shove. In fact, we open our doors and invite it right into our homes with the tree, the stockings, the cards and the gifts. No matter how much the culture tries to gloss it over into secular mush, the faith can't be avoided at Christmas. It's front and center, the whole reason why everything happens.

"So let Elvis be blue and let that kid keep holding onto the pair of Christmas shoes. Let the downtown lights be lit, let Santa hold court at the mall, let the halls be decked with boughs of holly. It's all evangelization." (Lockwood)

Then he closes with my favorite part of the article, because we pray the Canticle of Daniel often in our Office Books:

"With apologies to the author of the Book of Daniel (3:52-90), and my buddy Mike, who first suggested it, we need a Christmas litany to remind us that:

"'Christmas lights and Christmas candles, Bless the Lord.
'Shopping lines and the last-minute rush, Bless the Lord.
'Stockings and mistletoe, Bless the Lord.
'Wrapping paper and bows, Bless the Lord.
'Gifts and cards, Bless the Lord.
'Sappy songs and trees on SUVs, Bless the Lord.'" (Lockwood)

It's journalism at it's finest.

Last night, the Clipper City Chordmen performed at the Motherhouse. They came last year, too, and both times I have really enjoyed their Christmas concert. To help describe the group, I found the following on their website: "The Clipper City Chordsmen Chorus is an a cappella men’s chorus whose mission is to 'preserve and encourage' the Barber Shop style of music" (
They are spectacular. My favorite song they performed was Chipmunks Christmas Song. One of them does the Alvin voice really well!

I am praying that your Advent season is full of joy, anticipation, and goodwill.
If you live in England or Rome, please know of my daily prayers for your safety.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

A Few Simple Joys

We are now in the third week of Advent, and the pink (rose) candle is lit, representing joy. We wait joyfully for the coming of our Savior. God has also provided some simple things to enjoy at the convent (besides, of course, the wonderfully exciting Insignia Ceremony for our Postulants!!!!):

-The first snow fall that led Sister Daniella, Sister Therese, Sister Pamela Catherine and I out to make snow angels, have a snowball fight, and even go sledding! See pictures by clicking here.

-An excellent harp concert from the students at the Holy Family Conservatory.

-Getting to watch the 2006 movie the Nativity Story with the postulants and our directresses.....had never seen it before. It is incredible!

-Getting my favorite Christmas song stuck in my head. Here it is for you to enjoy, with the lyrics in the video:
"I Celebrate the Day" - Relient K

-And, finally, the Lions beat the Packers today! Leslie, one of the postulants, who is a Packer fan, but a supporter of me (her words) ran with me down the hall with my Lion's blanket a few times to celebrate. It was very fun!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Cute Video of a Girl Telling the Story of Jonah

This is too cute not to share with all of you! It is worth the 7 minutes or so it takes to watch it! It has been circulating through the emails of many of the Sisters in our community, and we have enjoyed it very much.

The story of Jonah from Corinth Baptist Church on Vimeo.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

On Living with an Older Population of Sisters

In my last entry, I wrote that I was going to crochet a 7"x9" rectangle to send in to Warm Up America. Well after telling a few of the Sisters in our community about my latest endeavor, I received 3 rectangles in the novitiate mailbox for the cause. So I decided to turn this small thing into a community project. It was approved by my directress and the local director for the Motherhouse. Sisters have the option of knitting or crocheting. The rectangles will be combined into afgan(s) (49 rectangles = 1 afgan) and donated to a local charity. I am also thrilled that the St. Rita's staff are informing the Sisters who live there about the program, so they can be included. (St. Rita's is our Health Care Center, and it is run like a regular nursing home. It also includes sisters who are recovering from surgeries.)

Pictured L to R: Sister Helen and the Local Director for St. Rita's, Sister Anne Marie

I am so grateful to have joined a community with older sisters. I cannot emphasize that enough. Their wisdom and friendship are invaluable, and I feel like I would be at a loss with out them. It is something that is difficult to explain to people who haven't had this experience, and from the outside, it can seem intimidating. However, once someone has stepped into this life, the preconceived notions begin to disappear, and you find yourself all the more enriched by those around you.

I wish you all a wonderful Thanksgiving that inspires you to give thanks for the blessings in your lives. If all else fails with the cooking, Lean Cuisine has some pretty good turkey meals. I recommend the Roasted Turkey Breast Meal with the "savory herb dressing and cinnamon apples." Of course Lean Cuisine doesn't give much food, so it would be good to add a sweet potato. Poke holes into it with a fork and microwave on HIGH for 4-6 minutes for 1, 6-8 min for 2. Let stand 5 minutes.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

What Some Franciscan Sisters Do in Their Free Time

Last weekend was one of the discernment retreats for our community, and we had the pleasure of meeting (and seeing again for a couple of them) 7 young women. It was exciting and included music outreach at Holy Family Parish in Brillion. (We occasionally travel to parishes throughout the Green Bay Diocese to do their Saturday evening music ministry.) I was happy to have spent some time with the retreatants and each of them remain in prayer, in a special way.

Sister Pamela Catherine and I felt a need to relax and watch a movie on Saturday night. While we do watch "normal" movies, we both felt like watching a religious one. So we selected the 2005 movie "Pope John Paul II". It is difficult to watch at times, because JPII lived through the Holocaust in Poland and the rise (and contributed to the end) of Communism in Poland. The scenes involved with these two situations are gripping, but each scene had a was clear that they weren't just included for dramatic effect. I had no idea that JPII had faced so much...he continued to follow God deeply and use nonviolent means to end violence. It reminds me of what Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said,
"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.
It was an incredibly inspiring movie.

On Monday, we had Craft Night in St. Al's (the postulants' homeroom). Those are so much fun. People come and bring crafts to work on. There is always a nice diversity of crafts....card making, mosaics, sewing projects, etc. Last year, I tried knitting, but I did not particularly enjoy it. However, some time ago, I was playing "Hand and Foot" (a popular card game here) with two of the postulants and Sr. Theresa. Sr. Theresa told us that it is important to be able to knit/crochet, because when you get older, it will be activity that you'll still be able to do. So that resonated in me and I decided to try out crocheting. I found these instructions online, and Sr. Theresa worked with me to well, get the idea of how to crochet. I am still very much a beginner, but I actually enjoy crocheting. :) I am working on a 7"x9" block which if all goes well could be used for "Warm Up America." It will be good practice in the meantime. Maybe I'll be able to make a lot of 7"x9" blocks for an afghan (over time)...we'll see.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

We are 141 Years Old!

This is going to be a rather quick entry. I am currently in a surreal state of mind, the one you get after completing a major task, and you know its over....but then, wow, it's over? Yesterday was Founders' Day, commemorating our 141st year as a community. Every year, the first year novices put on a program covering some aspect of our history. This year, we (the novitiate community) chose to focus on Healthcare Ministry. So we scoured through our novitiate archives, interviewed Sisters, took lots of pictures, and I put together a PowerPoint. We presented it in the afternoon for the St. Rita's Sisters and in the evening for the rest of the Sisters. It was a bigger undertaking than thought, but it was very enlightening and enriching. It made me even more proud to have joined this community.

So it's over, but don't worry, I'm not without things to do. We (the novitiate community) are in charge of the community social on Sunday, and I am working on a topic proposal for a research paper. Also, there is a retreat this weekend! I am looking forward to meeting all the young women who will be staying with us for a few days!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Halloween/All Saints Celebration at the Convent

October 31st was a fun and eventful day. Sister Pamela Catherine and I helped Sister Daniella (a Benedictine Sister from Tanzania) and Sister Therese (a Dominican Sister from Vietnam) carve Jack-O-Lanterns. (We host Sisters from other communities--our "cousins.") We had so much fun! I played a Halloween mix that I found on Pandora, we had some Halloween candy, and Sisters Daniella and Therese used their amazing creativity!

Then Sister Daniella impressed us all with her ability to balance her jack-o-lantern on her head....and dance! The jack-o-lantern looked like he was having a good time, too!

Soon after that I left with a group of Sisters for the Manitowoc Life Chain, as part of the 40 Days for Life Campaign. You can read more about our experience here. It was nice to spend an hour in prayer and solidarity. My sign said, "Abortion Hurts Women," which is something I think organizations like Planned Parenthood gloss over. It is why I am so happy that there are programs like Project Rachel that offer healing for women who have had an abortion.

If you or your partner have had an abortion, please know that you are in daily prayer, and that God loves you more than you know.
If you are a woman who has had an abortion, I invite you to visit this website to begin/continue your healing journey:
If you are a gentleman whose partner has had an abortion, I invite you to visit this website for your path to healing:

Here is a music video that I really like that shows a lot of the internal struggles of an abortion:

On a lighter note, we had a fun "All Saints' Party" Sunday night! We dressed up as saints (like last year) and we walked around St. Rita's Health Care Center serenading them with "When the Saints Go Marching In" and showing them our costumes. Then the postulants hosted everyone in their homeroom for games and prizes. So many wonderful saints were present....Mother Teresa, Joan of Arc, St. Philomena, St. Juan Diego, St. Lucy, St. Mary, etc. I was St. John Bosco, so I dressed up as a clown. I don't have any pictures of the party, but my mom sent me an email with pictures from my childhood clown obsession, so I thought I'd share them:

My mom decorated this cake for my 4th Birthday. She is very artistic- she put these picture together in a scrapbook. (My baptismal name is Kara.)

My mom thinks I was 6 when this picture was taken:

Oops, just kidding found this picture!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Old Testament Musings

Sister Mary Ann (one of the vocation directors AND my Old Testament professor) promised me that if I wrote about her class in my blog, she wouldn't read it. So here goes...

The class had been incredibly enlightening, and has changed the way I view the Old Testament. It has been nice to delve deeper into the stories. Of course not everyone has access to a College Old Testament class, but I would recommend purchasing The Catholic Study Bible, and reading the study guides at the beginning and the footnotes at the bottom of the pages.

Today I read the book of Ruth, and to be honest, I never read it until today. It is totally awesome. It's only four chapters, so you could read it in one sitting, and the love of the characters for each other are so inspiring. It reminded me of my favorite poem:

i carry your heart with me by e.e. cummings
i carry your heart with me (i carry it in
my heart) i am never without it (anywhere
i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing, my darling)
i fear
no fate (for you are my fate, my sweet) i want
no world (for beautiful you are my world, my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)

I hope you all find time to read and reflect on the book of Ruth. I daresay it's now my favorite book of the Old Testament. If you don't have a Bible, you can read it by clicking here.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

What a Great Day!

I am truly inspired by the FAITH, HOPE, and CHARITY of the miners in Chile! They are major role models for the world! It is so refreshing to have good news! Also, with all the bad press the Catholic Church has been getting over the years, they are a light in the darkness. God bless them, and thank you God for bringing them safely to their families. Wow, I am just so amazed by their fraternity and their faith!

Associated Press News Article: All 33 miners are safely rescued! (Or 34, because the miners say that God is their 34th miner, except He was instrumental in the rescuing!)

ABC World News Video: High Praise for Chile's Leader as Miners Rescued:
Diane Sawyer talks to Chile's President Sebastian Pinera about mine rescue.

I was privileged to watch two of the miners get rescued on the internet today. It was awesome! I am so grateful to God for these wonderful men! God bless them and their families continuously! I am excited to learn more about their stories.

I don't have a lot to update on my own life right now, because personally, I am just excited about the rescue. I am so grateful that my community makes an effort to know what is going on in the world, and lets us read about the events/watch them happen online.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Enjoying the weather....

I hope the weather has been pretty decent where you live. It seems Mother Nature has been pretty fierce this year, yet we haven't treated her too well either....

It's been a beautiful (and warm for October) weekend in Northeastern Wisconsin. Sister Natalie, Sister Pamela Catherine and I were able to take down our patio garden, "Therese's Terrace". It was a lot of work, but I think we all enjoyed it. It was also nice to have accomplished all that.

I got to play tennis with two of the postulants, Holly and Lindsey, yesterday, so that was fun. A lot of people were outside.

We also spent 3 days celebrating Sister Pamela Catherine's birthday. :) It takes awhile to eat the cake, so that's another reason to continue the celebration! We started it with watching Letters to Juliet, which happened to be the movie they played in the cafeteria for our bag-supper night. It was a cute movie, but there was a really cheesy line at the end of it...

So we've been having fun. I'm getting ready for my Old Testament midterm this Wednesday. If you are a student, I will add to my prayers for your tests, too!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

An Interfaith Dialogue and a Community Art Project

Over the the past two weekends I have had visits from my family. (My mom and dad are divorced, so I see them at separate times: Dad and Ginny one weekend, Mom the next. My siblings are also able to come if they are able, but they had schedule conflicts this time.) Both weekends were wonderful, good times to visit and share.

This past weekend, while I was waiting for my mom to arrive on the Badger car ferry, which is actually more like a ship, I had a delightful conversation with an Amish family (except the husband/father was not with them). We talked about our shared love for simplicity, our hobbies, our daily prayer, the importance of community/family life, and the misunderstandings of the world about our way of life. I learned a great deal about Amish community, or at least the community of the people I met, as all communities are different.

I asked what book they'd recommend for further study of Amish life. They said that they couldn't think of a single book, actually. Most of them are written by people who used to be Amish and therefore have had unhappy experiences with being Amish. For instance, many have written about domineering fathers, which has left society with an impression that the Amish have rigid, domineering fathers. In actuality, personalities differ within the Amish community just as they differ within the rest of society. The family I was talking with said that they have a gentle, loving, and playful husband/father. Just like some Christians give ALL other Christians a bad name, and some Muslims give ALL other Muslims a bad name, it is also true that some Amish give ALL other Amish a bad name.

Other things they shared:
-They use modern machinery for milking their cows.
-Even though they don't watch TV, they read the newspaper daily and are well aware of what is going on in the world.
-They hire a driver when they have to travel further than a horse and buggy will take them.
-The men grow a beard when they get married. They don't wear wedding rings, because there is already an invisible bond.
-They enjoy singing together.
-They want the commitment to be Amish to be a voluntary one, so they don't have infant baptism, and people are free to leave.
******Every Amish community is different, so it's important not to assume that all Amish do these things.

Please pray for this family. They are trying to sell their house so they can live closer to other Amish families. The son is temporarily in Michigan working to help support the family back in Wisconsin. (He is home for a visit.)

Of course, this was a dialogue, and I also shared with them about what it is like to be a sister. Interestingly, the mom had the same concern that I had had about the Amish. She wanted to know if I am free to leave, because she thought that once I entered I was roped in. I shared with her that I am in a time of discernment and am free to leave at any point for the next 5 to 9 years, when I will take final vows. After final vows, if I would want to leave, I would have to go through the pope. I told the mom that I had thought the same about the Amish.

What a lovely family! It was a fascinating dialogue!

Some other excitement this weekend was the Feast of Saint Francis. We had a beautiful Transitus ceremony on the evening of Sunday, October 3rd. You can read more about it here and see pictures from it.

Then on October 4th, his feast day, we had a fun social where we had a community art project. We were divided into 9 groups to make collages for the Canticle of the Creatures, by St. Francis of Assisi. (One group did a collage of Brother Sun, another of Sister Water, another of Mother Earth, and so forth...) These collages were on large puzzle pieces. that we fit together in a prayer service. The St. Rita's (infirmary) Sisters were there as well, and it was nice to visit with them.

Here is our completed Canticle of the Creatures puzzle:
(The date on the picture is wrong.)

I hope you all had a blessed Saint Francis Day!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Chastity Force

As I had written in an earlier entry, I wrote for another website that my friends David and Amanda run for their Chastity Force program. So as much as I love writing in this blog, I get to be a little lazy this time and put a link to their blog. (Let's just say I worked ahead!) ;)

Click Here to read the entry.

Click Here for the rest of their blog.

Click here for their main website.

Also, Amanda has a beautiful music video that just came out, and it is about chastity:

The city that the video was filmed in is Grand Rapids, Michigan, and the parish is St. Francis of Assisi Parish.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

An Unexpected Blessing of Music

I cannot believe that it is already the end of September! The 4 postulants have now been here for over a month, and seem to be adjusting well despite the changes in lifestyle. We are kept busy with school, charges, and music lessons, and of course our prayer life and recreation. Yesterday, I worked in the kitchen and made a couple fruit trays with apples, oranges, and grapefruit.

Piano is still going well. I have now been taking lessons for two weeks. It is getting more tricky, because my fingers are starting to move up the keyboard a little bit, and I am starting to play more than one note at the same time. I am enjoying it very much though, and I am always excited to see that what I struggle with one day comes easier for me the next day.

I began voice lessons yesterday, too, with Leslie, one of the postulants, and that went well. I became a second soprano this year. Generally we sing the alto part, and only sing the second soprano part for SSA music. (SSA- first soprano, second soprano, alto). In junior high, I was a second soprano at Saint Cecilia Music Society, but that was ages ago. In high school, I was moved to first soprano, since I could sing higher notes...I think my range developed. In College Chorus, I sang the descant part. Ha ha I just remember the splitting headaches we all got from singing those high notes for over an hour at rehearsals. So now I am back at second soprano. Some how, I had only learned solfège for the key of C up until now, so in the voice lessons yesterday, I was introduced to the phenomenon that the solfège moves.

I have always had a passion for music, but I never thought that I would get to use this passion later on in life. It is one of the blessings of belonging to this community.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

There's a lot going on at the convent...

It seems that I haven't written in a while. School has started. Sister Isabelle and I are taking Old Testament with Sister Mary Ann. We are enjoying the class....I am not just saying that because Sister Mary Ann is one of the vocation directors and therefore reads this blog...we're getting a lot out of it. It's kind of awkward writing that knowing that she's going to read this so I'll stop now.

We started our piano lessons and I can't believe how much I've learned in a week. Sister Rose Cecile is an excellent teacher, and she's really funny!

We (3 Novices and 4 Postulants) just finished an exciting game of basketball in the gym. I think the other team won. It was a lot of fun, and it was nice to do that for recreation.

Yesterday, we (Novices, Postulants and Directresses) when to a daylong conference at Marytown in Libertyville, IL. It was called "Glorify God in Your Body," and it was the Theology of the Body for Priests, Consecrated Religious, and Other Consecrated Persons. It was a wonderful day. The mass was so reverent, and the talks were great. It was also cool to interact with people from other orders, like the Missionaries of Charity, Dominicans, Canons Regular, Little Sisters of the Poor, etc. I am working on a blog entry about chastity, and I will incorporate things from the conference into it. It won't be on my blog though, it it be on Chastity Force's website, and it should be posted at the beginning of October. Click here for Chastity Force's blog. (
Since my entry won't be up for about a week, you can take time to look around at the rest of the site, read other blog entries and watch the videos. My friends Amanda and David run Chastity Force, and they are incredible people.

I hope that you all are having fun, too, and enjoying the fall!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A Call to Prayer

In reference to the following entry: He called it off. Praise God!

In our community, we feel that it is important to pay attention to current events. It certainly gives us more things to pray for! In the novitiate, we watch the local and world news. The past couple of nights, ABC's World News has been informing us that Pastor Terry Jones and his congregation, will be hosting an event called "International Burn a Koran/Qur'an Day."

Pastor Jones believes that Islam is of the devil, and on 9/11/10, he plans on burning Qur'ans, a book so sacred to Muslims that they don't let it touch the floor. Several key political, cultural, military, and religious figures throughout the world, including the Vatican (click here for the awesome EWTN article) have tried to persuade him to call it off, but he is convinced that this is what Jesus would do. Muslims have tried to make peace with him to no avail. He will not call it off unless God gives Him a sign that it is the wrong thing to do. Um...I'd say all these key people giving him warnings not to do it is a pretty good sign...

I don't know what kind of "sign" Pastor Jones is looking for. I am not seeing any of the fruits of the Holy Spirit in this situation. They are charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, and chastity. I believe that this is spiritual warfare. This is no reason to fear. God will turn all things to good, so we don't need to worry about it but entrust it to Him. As Sister Isabelle and I told our fifth graders last year, the devil is like a fire ant, and God is like Godzilla (Godzilla times infinity!). We need to be wary that we don't get discouraged by events like this and keep looking up to heavenly things.

I have told you this so that you might have peace in me. In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world. -John 16:33

I am calling out to everyone to pray for everything involved in the situation, including its aftereffects. Everything from a sign for Pastor Jones and conversion for him and his followers to the safety of our troops. Pray for healing for all Muslims from the emotional pain of this planned event, pray for peace.... Please pray. Pray the rosary, pray before the Blessed Sacrament, pray the St. Michael the Archangel prayer, pray using your own words....please pray.

And He said to them, "Suppose one of you has a friend to whom he goes at midnight and says, 'Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, for a friend of mine has arrived at my house from a journey and I have nothing to offer him,' and he says in reply from within, 'Do not bother me; the door has already been locked and my children and I are already in bed. I cannot get up to give you anything.' I tell you, if he does not get up to give him the loaves because of their friendship, he will get up to give him whatever he needs because of his persistence. "And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. What father among you would hand his son a snake when he asks for a fish? Or hand him a scorpion when he asks for an egg? If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the holy Spirit to those who ask him?"
-Luke 11: 5-13

Thank you.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

New Year, New (or Renewed) Goals

I love this time of year. It's a time of new beginnings and fresh starts. It's back to school time! I don't know if that excitement ever goes away. For instance, in a movie I've seen more than a few times, You've Got Mail, Tom Hank's character writes to his online friend, "Don't you love New York in the fall? It makes me want to buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly-sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address. On the other hand, this not knowing has its charms" (You've Got Mail Movie Script).

At least for me, it's easier to make resolutions at this time of the year than it is on December 31st. It's probably because I imagine December 31st as the middle of the year. Hmmm....that could be one of the reasons why many people fail to keep their New Year's Resolutions...they're accustomed to making S.M.A.R.T. Goals at the beginning of the year, as their teachers taught them. (For how to make SMART goals, click here.) Maybe if people started going to the gym in late August or Early September, they'd be more likely to use their membership in February. Just a thought.

Today's Gospel is very appropriate for New (School) Year Resolutions:

Great crowds were traveling with Jesus, and he turned and addressed them, "If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. Which of you wishing to construct a tower does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if there is enough for its completion? Otherwise, after laying the foundation and finding himself unable to finish the work the onlookers should laugh at him and say, 'This one began to build but did not have the resources to finish.' Or what king marching into battle would not first sit down and decide whether with ten thousand troops he can successfully oppose another king advancing upon him with twenty thousand troops? But if not, while he is still far away, he will send a delegation to ask for peace terms. In the same way, anyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple."
-Luke 14:25-33, NAB

While some parts of it can sound harsh, especially the word "hate", the meaning of the Gospel passage is for us surrender everything to follow Christ. We are not to allow anything to control us, whether it is money, unhealthy relationships, or a whole bunch of other things. God wants us to be FREE, and it is by surrendering to God that we can be truly free and happy.

We can set goals for ourselves to grow in our faith in God, and also remove things in our life that are causing us the most stress, particularly through SMART Goals (S = Specific, M = Measurable, A = Attainable, R = Realistic, T = Timely). I think that Jesus could have been talking about SMART goals in the second part of the Gospel. (Vague Goal: Construct a Tower. SMART Goal: Sit down and calculate the cost [before the 24th of this month].)

It is important to be aware that anything new takes more time to do. If you want to pray the rosary daily, be aware that it will take longer to do it at first if you are learning the prayers and about the mysteries. Another option is to buy a CD, audiotape or download an MP3 of the rosary that includes meditations. Make sure it contains the Luminous Mysteries for Thursdays. Pray with it on the way to work or while out for a walk/run. Eventually, you will know it and look forward to it so much that you will be able to pray it in your own quiet place.

Also, sometimes you need outside help to achieve your goal. If you want to eliminate your debt, you can register for Dave Ramsey's biblically based, tried and true program called Financial Peace University. Many classes are starting within the next couple weeks. You can find one in your area by going to this site:, or you can do the program online.

If you will be in West Michigan on September 11th, and want you and/or your family to grow in knowledge and commitment to chastity, you could have a SMART goal of having everyone ages 5 and up attend a Chastity Force Conference at Pius X Church in Grandville, Michigan. It includes age-appropriate workshops, Mass with the Pius X parish communiy, and a concert by Amanda Vernon. You can register by clicking here.

If you are a young woman discerning religious life, you can register today for a retreat by clicking on "Young Women's Discernment Retreats! (pdf)" under "Related Websites" at the upper right hand corner of this page, or you can register online at

I have a few of my own goals. For example, this year, I will be taking weekly half-hour piano lessons and practicing piano at least 30 minutes everyday. I know that by doing this SMART goal, I will achieve my vague goal of learning to play the piano.

God bless you on achieving your goals!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Vocations for the Religious Life

On Wednesdays at the motherhouse (and first Sundays), we have to opportunity to deepen our relationship with God through Eucharistic exposition, adoration, and benediction. I do wish to make it clear that Jesus is just as present in the tabernacle as he is in the monstrance. For this reason, the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity have tabernacles that contain the consecrated hosts 24/7, so that we can adore our Lord: Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, outside of Mass. Yet there is something nice about the rituals of exposition and benediction, as well as being able to see the consecrated host.

I just spent some time in St. Mary's Chapel. What's cool is that above the monstrance is our crucifix, so I reflected on God's forgiving, unconditional love, and constant care for us through each and every moment of our lives. Saint Paul wrote it better than I could:

"What then shall we say to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us all, how will he not also give us everything else along with him? Who will bring a charge against God's chosen ones? It is God who acquits us. Who will condemn? It is Christ (Jesus) who died, rather, was raised, who also is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us.

"What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword? As it is written: 'For your sake we are being slain all the day; we are looked upon as sheep to be slaughtered.' No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." -Romans 8:31-39, NAB

Last night we went to a picnic that the Serrans had for local priests and religious. It is a nice tradition. Good fellowship, food, BINGO, and prizes. It was a lot of fun, and I was happy that all of our new postulants (Rose, Lindsey, Leslie, and Holly) won at least one BINGO game. It sure is nice to have the them all with us. They even started wearing their habits today! They look very nice. What wonderful people, too! It was great to spend more time with them at the picnic last night, too. You can read about our lovely new postulants here.

Left to Right: Leslie, Holly, Lindsey; Rose

Serrans do a LOT for vocations to the priesthood and religious life. It is truly incredible. (Click here for their website.) My maternal grandpa was a Serran, so I feel a special connection with them.

I am including a couple of my favorite songs that I think relate well to the call to the religious life:
Love Song for a Savior by Jars of Clay

Give Me Your Eyes by Brandon Heath (this video has lyrics)
If an advertisement appears, click on the "X" on the upper right side of it.

I hope you all are having a nice August!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Simply Enjoying Summer

Four more days until our four new postulants arrive! Needless to say, the community prayerfully anticipates their arrival. They will be arriving the day after our monthly vocations day, when we pray the Franciscan Crown for vocations.

We are also enjoying having less humidity. Sister Isabelle and I have been on the tennis courts a few times now....we're improving! We now spend more time volleying, and less time running after stray balls. We don't play competitively...we don't care how many times the tennis ball bounces before we hit it, nor how far it is out of bounds....we'll still run after it.

During instructions, we have been learning about the history of our community by reading Refining His Silver by Sister Teresita Kittell, OSF and watching old "Founder's Day" programs. I am truly inspired by our saintly founders and foundresses. As learn more about the history of the community, I am even more glad I came here.

Other than that, things have been pretty low key before school starts. We've watched a couple movies, attempted kite flying a couple times (Brother Wind, please be more consistent so our kites stay in the air), and of course have been doing our charges. I finished Pope Benedict's encyclical, God is Love, and I highly recommend it. The end of it gets into some philosophy that could be difficult to understand by those without a background in it, but other than that, it is written very clearly.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Joys of Volunteering

I hope you all are enjoying your summer. We've had good weather at the motherhouse, so Sister Isabelle and I have gotten to play tennis a couple times, which is always fun. We now have three really good tennis rackets, because one of the sisters donated hers.

Everyone is full of anticipation and excitement for the upcoming arrival of the new postulants. If you are one of them, know that we pray for you, both as a community and individually, daily. Also, just in case you may feel nervous, it is totally normal to have "cold feet" right before a change from what you're used to. That's why there's a name for it! I literally had to go through the motions last year of walking onto the ferry to cross Lake Michigan, but once the ferry started moving, I thought I might as well stay on for the ride. I'm glad I did. The water was pretty deep.

I mentioned briefly in my last entry that as novices we spend Thursday afternoons volunteering at the Salvatorian Mission Warehouse, directed by Brother Regis, a Salvatorian. "Since 1968 The Salvatorian Mission Warehouse has been shipping tons of critical materials to needy villages around the world" (

It is an awesome experience! We have a lot of fun putting the different items together to send them to different parts of our world, and we get to hear stories and see pictures from those on the receiving end. Sister Dolores has organized groups from our Motherhouse to go there for years.

This time, we organized "cut offs" from Land's End. The machines in the factory only use the fabric they need, and the rest is sent to us. We then ship the cut offs to people who live in third world countries, and they make them into clothes.

These are some finished clothes that people sent back to us to show how the cut-offs are used.

Later on, I was reading part of Pope Benedict's encyclical, God is Love, and he writes that "love for widows and orphans, prisoners, and the sick and needy of every kind, is as essential to [the Church] as the ministry of the sacraments and preaching of the Gospel. The Church cannot neglect the service of charity any more than she can neglect the Sacraments and the Word."

The Pope's message truly echoes Matthew's Gospel when Jesus says,
"Then the king will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me,naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.' Then the righteous will answer him and say, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?' And the king will say to them in reply, 'Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.' (Matthew 25: 34-40, NAB).

So it's cool to have another way to live the Gospel, as Saint Francis intended for Franciscans.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Typical Day at the Convent

From an outside perspective, it can seem that when you join the convent, you are giving up so much, and are going to be cut off from the world. I can't speak for everyone, but I am finding more and more that joining the convent has opened me up to several new experiences. I also know more about what is happening in the world than I ever did before. We watch the local and world news every evening and have access to newspapers and news magazines. I am finding that I enjoy reading Catholic magazines and newspapers, too, because they have a dimension that seems to be lacking in other news sources. I also appreciate that by living in community, others can catch things that you miss. The other night we prayed for the people in Pakistan who had a flood, and until that moment, I was unaware of the flood.

Also, the experiences have been quite interesting. I learned how to dead-head flowers. The whole process of dead-heading flowers is counter-intuitive, but it actually makes gardens healthier. I also got to watch a monarch come out of its chrysalis. It was so cool! It was actually really quick. We have a sister who collects them and then releases them when they are ready to go outside.

Outside of the new experiences, I am enjoying the daily schedule. Since I am a novice, and I have various charges, the schedule varies, but some things remain constant.

Here's an example a first-year novice's day in the convent (varies)

6:45am Morning Prayer
7:05am Mass
7:40am Breakfast
8:10am Breakfast Dishes
9:15am Instructions (about spirituality, history of our community (141 years), or the rule and constitutions of our community)
9:50am Sacristy for the Later Mass
11:40am Dinner (they call lunch "dinner" at the motherhouse, because it's our main meal)
12:10pm Midday Prayer
12:30pm Various things (we had classes in the afternoon, sometimes we work in sacristy, sometimes we have Eucharistic adoration, and we always have an hour of personal prayer each day)
4:45pm Evening Prayer and the Angelus
5:10pm Watch the News
5:40pm Supper
After Supper, a couple nights a week we clean the cafeteria line, then have recreation, but we always have recreation together.
Before bed: Night prayer

Once or twice a week, we work in the kitchen, helping to prepare meals for the community. Somedays, we do sacristy for the morning mass, so we arrive at the chapel earlier in the morning to prepare for mass. On Thursdays, we go to the Salvatorian Mission Warehouse to prepare items to be shipped to people in third world countries. We will be taking an Old Testament course in the fall and a New Testament course in the spring. We have the option of helping in the craft room this month, and we will be taking musical instrument lessons soon. We also can play various sports and go on walks. So we have an active and contemplative way of life.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Here are the Icons we made!

As I wrote in the last few entries, those of us in initial formation took an iconography class. We learned about the history and meaning of icons during the first week and in the second week, we got to "write" icons under the guidance and direction of our professor, Sister Mariella.

Sister Mariella is no stranger to iconography. She prayed and wrote two San Damiano Crucifixes. One is in St. Rita's Chapel. The San Damiano Crucifix is an icon that Franciscans hold dear. St. Francis received his call to rebuild the Church when he was praying before the crucifix in San Damiano. When he heard this call, he thought he had to rebuild the physical structure of the church. He realized later that his call was to rebuild the Catholic Church. For Franciscans, this crucifix is a reminder of our call and commitment to God.

This summer, S. Mariella took on the challenge of teaching us. We learned that icons are sacred images. These images are the Bible of the Illiterate: the Word is for hearing and the Icon is for sight. They are called "Gates to Heaven" or "Windows to the Eternal." Icons are rooted in the incarnation and they represent humanity and divinity. Their simplicity, flatness, unreal colors, and different facial structures can be difficult for some Westerners to appreciate at first, but this "different" artistic language emphasizes that the figures being represented in the icon are beyond the physical world. In other words, they are spiritual.

Icons were controversial for a time. In the eighth century, there was an Iconoclastic movement that was anti-icons. The two major arguments of Iconoclasm were the prohibition against fashioning images, and the presumption that it was idol worship. (Exodus 20:4- " You shall not make for yourself an idol.) However, these misconceptions were overcome as St. John Damascene, St. Athenasius, St. Cyril of Alexandra, Empress Theodora, and others corrected the false notions. In 843, Theodora restored the devotion to the images. They once again became a way for people to pray, as people understood that icons are not being worshiped.

We also learned that we "write" icons. I kept having to correct myself for saying "paint." When we look at an icon, we "read" them. When we write them, the darkest colors usually go first, for a gradual movement to light, to represent the our interior movements from dark to light. The whole process is a prayer. One cannot write an icon without praying.

I am just fascinated that the icons don't smell, because we made the paint with egg yoke! That's how iconographers make the paint.

Here are our icons in front of the San Damiano Cross in St. Rita's Chapel:

I was able to pray with the Good Shepherd icon last weekend, which was very enriching! My icon was of St. Monica (far left), and it helped me to feel more connected with her and her story.

Right now, we are applying the varnish to the icons. It's really helping to bring out the colors!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

These are a few of my favorite things...

This weekend has been full of excitement as the sisters returned home from the mission sites for the annual community meeting. It has been awesome to see over three hundred sisters in one room and to listen to everyone pray the Office in unison. I loved that. The Divine Office, or the Liturgy of the Hours, is the prayer of the church, so Catholics everywhere pray it, and when we pray it, we are united with them. Hearing all those sisters praying it gave me a greater experience of the whole church, and made me think that this is what heaven will be like, only it will be billions of people giving glory to God in perfect charity.

Speaking of Charity, today we all received a copy of Benedict XVI's encyclical, Charity in Truth (Caritas in Veritate). In this encyclical, he "explores the relationship between love and our commitment to social justice. We were also encouraged to reflect on an older encyclical of his called God is Love (Deus Caritas Est). Here's that description: "In today's high-tech, fast paced world, love is often portrayed as being separate from Church teaching. Pope Benedict XVI hopes to overturn that perception and describe the essential place of love in the life of the church." I haven't read it yet, so I have a little catching up to do. It looks like an amazing document though, and Pope Benedict has the gift of being able to discuss profound ideas in a clear way. I truly appreciate that!

The encyclical we were given is an additional material to help with our 2010-2011 study of social justice, including the seven principles of Catholic Social Teaching. I am very excited that we are taking the year to explore together an area of the Church that I was personally involved in during my college years. We had a day of positive and fascinating workshops, including one where we learned that race does not exist, that it was something that humans created in order to feel more advanced than others. In fact, out of a black person in the US and two white people in Ireland, the person in the US can share more of the same genetic makeup with one of the people in Ireland, than the people in Ireland have with each other. John Carr, from the USCCB, also gave a excellent, positive, and humorous keynote address on how we can incorporate Catholic Social Teaching into our daily lives. I just love how connected I feel with the whole Roman Catholic Church here.

After the day of learning and reflection, I was pleasantly surprised that our "evening entertainment" was dancing! I. Love. Dancing. Of course it was awesome! We also were given a fantastic performance by two of our sisters from Africa of some traditional dances.

This morning, a lot of us sisters put on a sacred reader's theatre for the rest of the community on the dialogue between St. Francis and Lady Poverty. It was a lot of fun, and I learned more about the vow of poverty. It was also cool to continue acting, because I was "bitten by the acting bug" in college. Everyone did so well, too.

Many things have also occurred. We finished the sewing class. The temporary professed made their skirts and novices made aprons. I did struggle with the machine a bit, but on the last day of class I did very well on the machine. It was purring like a kitten, instead of getting jammed... I am looking forward to improving upon my new skill and doing other projects! Here are our aprons:

The icons we "wrote" are on display in St. Rita's Chapel for the Sisters to pray with. Pictures to come!!!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Summer at the Convent goes by Fast!

This summer feels like it is just flying by. It is probably not flying by for the incoming postulants. I know that until 2 weeks before my entrance date, the summer felt long. (In the last two weeks, it seemed that the summer came to an abrupt end.) What would I say to an incoming postulant? Pack a little at a time. Try to pack as little as possible, but definitely bring personal things like photographs and things for your favorite activities. Know that we have enough books here to last you a lifetime as well as things for crafts and sports. Spend quality time with loved ones. Have fun, and enjoy the moments. Take comfort in knowing that your hobbies can continue, and so can the relationships you hold dear. Know that hundreds of sisters pray for you daily. Try to increase your time spent in prayer a little bit, perhaps by going to mass more frequently, or by reflecting on the mass readings for the day. Don't worry about anything.

Life in the novitiate has been peaceful and fun. We are busy, but there is a calmness in our life. Sr. Isabelle and I are getting the hang of sacristy and kitchen work, and we have been involved in projects. We got to go to a local farm and pick strawberries. The first time we picked strawberries, it was for jam, and the second time it was for strawberry pie. The pie was delicious, and I had some jam on my toast this morning and loved that too.

We are also working really hard on putting together a patio for all the sisters to enjoy. There had been an empty plot of concrete next to the novitiate. It overlooked Sr. Caritas' garden as well as Silver Lake, so it had a beautiful view, but it wasn't so pretty itself. So, the novices last year with the help of Sr. Elizabeth Ann, put together a proposal to the Council to make it an enjoyable and pretty place, it it was approved! Sr. Elizabeth Ann calls it the Sacred Garden. I've also heard it called St. Therese's Terrace. I like both names. I am learning a lot about gardening and I love it. Here is a picture of Sr. Pamela Catherine and I putting together the trellis. Now we just need to figure out how to hold it in place on the concrete! St. Joseph the Carpenter, pray for us!

We also finished the iconography class. When they are ready for the display in the cafeteria, I will take a picture of them for this blog, and write more about the meaning of the icons. I definitely have a deeper appreciation of them!

Now we are taking a sewing class. It's really fun. Yesterday, we made pin cushions and today we are going to lay out patterns for aprons. The temporary professed sisters are making skirts. I was happy to notice that I retained some knowledge of how to use the sewing machine.

It is amazing how many opportunities you have to learn new things and develop new hobbies as a sister! Lots of old favorite activities continue as well. A gentleman across the lake had a wonderful fireworks display. We had a flag ceremony, played volleyball together, had a water fight, did sparklers and ate burgers from the grill. It is cool that you don't have to give up that stuff when you join the convent. Life is good.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

New Beginnings

I have much to write about. So much, that I am conscious that this blog entry could be pages and pages if I don't use some self control. First and foremost on my mind, a friend of mine at the convent, Sr. Sean Marie, is preparing to enter Heaven, after a long battle with cancer. Sr. Natalie, my novice directress, has taken us to see her a couple times. I am convinced that she will go straight to heaven. She is already a living saint.

We currently have four postulants coming in August, which everyone is excited about, but Sr. Sean Marie says that there will be a fifth one, and she is offering up her suffering for that one, whoever she is. What a powerful prayer from a powerful woman. When she first told me about the 5 postulants, she saw right through my lack of faith that I was trying to conceal, and gave me a lecture about that. She said, "Don't pray for it if you don't believe that it can happen."

When she was missing her rosary, she used my plastic white and light blue one. I hadn't thought much of it before that. When Sr. Anne returned it to me, she told me that Sr. Sean Marie told her to tell me that she prayed lots of rosaries on it. Now it's an extra special rosary to me. I even have my double-sided blanket flipped over so that the Packer side is the one showing. (The Lions are on the other side.) Sr. Sean Marie is the Packer's biggest fan, and even got to go on the sidelines during a game because of it! She and I would go back and forth about our friendly rivalry, and she would affectionately call me "Detroit." I am so glad that I joined this community when I did, so that I have the blessing of knowing her.

Now I am on a different stage in formation. I am a novice. I have a white veil, and my name was changed from Kara to Sister Monica at the reception ceremony- here is the link to read more about it and see pictures from it. A lot of people ask me, "Why Monica?" Well, when I came here, I had intended on maintaining my baptismal name, and being either Sister Kara or Sister Kara Michelle. Someone advised me to be open, just like I was open to coming to the convent. A few days later, on August 27th, it was St. Monica's feast day. She stuck out in my mind, but I figured that the same would happen with other saints on their feast days as well. It didn't. My mind kept going back to St. Monica. Whenever someone would mention her or her son, St. Augustine, I would be excited. I just couldn't get it out of my head. I prayed to God to give me other names to choose from. He kept giving me Monica. In the spring, I asked one of the sisters to pray for names for me. I liked the name Monica, but I thought I should have more options. I did not tell her what name God had been revealing to me. A couple weeks later, she told me that she was sorry, that she wanted to give me a few options to choose from, but the only name that came to her was Monica. When I submitted my name choices, I submitted Monica, Thérèse, and Kara, in that order.

Now it doesn't happen this way for every sister. I don't want anyone to think that it does. The fact that it happened to me says nothing about me, and everything about God and His powers. But I know that God doesn't just do something like that to benefit one person. I am sharing it with you because I want to share with you His awesome powers at work in us. Also, some sisters keep their baptismal names, which is very good, because becoming a religious is a deepening of baptism.

Since this blog entry is getting pretty long, and I am trying to practice the self control I mentioned at the beginning of the entry, I will quickly write what else has happened in the past two weeks in the novitiate. Sr. Isabelle, formerly Marie and I joined Sr. Pamela Catherine and Sr. Natalie in the attached building reserved for the novitiate. We spent the first week helping out at Camp Franciscan, which was a blast, and the second week getting trained in sacristy and everything else involved with being a novice. We are also taking an iconography class, and we are looking forward to making our own icons!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Growing in Intimacy with God

Yesterday was a very big day in our community....Sr. Chiara had her first profession of vows! It was so cool! She looked so radiant and so beautiful! I was pleasantly surprised to see that the ceremony was a lot like a wedding ceremony. Her family seemed to enjoy it, too. She is on her home-visit right now, so I am sure her family is thrilled. We were all just so ecstatic for her!

There will be another big day in our community next Sunday. Marie and I will be received into the novitiate! We will receive our white veils and our new names! If you want to see pictures and/or find out what our names will be (we don't know what they'll be either- we gave the administration 3 choices though) you can go on our community's blog, Franciscanized World. They should be up by the night of June 13th or June 14th at the latest. Feel free to add comments to it or look around at the rest of the blog. I always have a link to my community's blog on the upper-right corner of my blog.

As I wrote on my last entry, I spent five days in retreat. I was wondering how I would write about it, because I cannot do it justice. It was about the "Vowed Franciscan Way of Life as a Pathway to Intimate Union with God." Fr. Jeff began the retreat by giving talks on developing an intimate and loving relationship with God, and the last 3 days were spent on how poverty, chastity and obedience help develop this intimacy.

At first, I felt a little strange taking all that time out for just the Lord and me. It seemed a little self-centered. But after talking with Fr. Jeff in a private conference on the first day, I learned that it is quite the opposite, and in fact, necessary for a life of serving others. It strengthens us for our ministry. In fact, after his conversion, St. Paul spent 14 years in solitude before preaching and spreading the Good News. St. Francis spent a lot of time praying in a cave and on a mountain. Even Jesus spent forty days in the desert before He began His ministry, and throughout His ministry He would frequently tell His disciples to "Come away for awhile and rest.

During one of his talks, Fr. Jeff shared the story of Martha and Mary to illustrate our society's need to always be productive and accomplish things. We are depriving ourselves by giving in to this pragmatism.

Here's the passage from scripture:
As they continued their journey He entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him. She had a sister named Mary (who) sat beside the Lord at His feet listening to him speak. Martha, burdened with much serving, came to Him and said, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me." The Lord said to her in reply, "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her." (Luke 10: 38-42, NAB)

I love that line, "it will not be taken away from her." The Lord delights in us, as we are, without considering anything we have done or haven't done. It reminds me of the feeling of wonder we get while watching a baby....all the baby has to do is yawn, and we think s/he's cute...or, at least I do! So this is how God sees us.

He also shared with us this scripture passage, which beautifully expresses God's love for us:

"Sing aloud, O daughter Zion;
shout, O Israel!
Rejoice and exult with all your heart,
O daughter Jerusalem!
The LORD has taken away the judgments against you,
He has turned away your enemies.
The King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst;
you shall fear disaster no more.
On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem:
Do not fear, O Zion;
do not let your hands grow weak.
The LORD, your God, is in your midst,
a warrior who gives victory;
He will rejoice over you with gladness,
He will renew you in His love;
He will exult over you with loud singing
as on a day of festival."
(Zephaniah 3: 14-18a, NRSV)

As I wrote earlier, the last three days were spent on how the vows help us with intimacy. On Wednesday, he taught us that poverty is about detaching/dispossessing in order that God can fill our lives, and that humility is a sister to poverty- it's even included in the vow of poverty. On Thursday, he talked about the vow of chastity that enables us to have an undivided love with God and emerses us more completely to Him. Lastly, on Friday, he taught us that through the vow of obedience, every time we unite ourselves with the Father's will, we are in deeper intimacy with Him.

It was a wonderful retreat and made me even more excited for the novitiate!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Back to the Convent

My last week of my homevisit went by very fast. My mom and I finished the skirt...surprisingly, using the sewing machine is the easier part for me! It's using the pattern that takes the most time. It involves a lot of cutting and pinning. I hemmed the sides of the skirt. She hemmed the waist and bottom, because those are for more advanced sewers. I just found out that we will be taking a sewing class this summer at the motherhouse, so this has been great practice for it.

I visited with a few more friends and family members. I unfortunately didn't get to visit with everyone I had wanted to, but in actuality it shows how blessed I am to have so many wonderful people in my life. By the way, my maternal grandma said, "Say hello to everyone I don't know!" So she says hi to most of you! She's so funny! I told her that I am praying for her, and she said (with a jokingly serious face), "Well you can do more than that! Pray for your other relatives, too!" :) Yes, Grandma.

Marie picked me up from the airport and her family had us over for dinner before we came back to the motherhouse. We feel as if we have been gone a long time. It has been a month away...the sisters gave us a warm welcome back. It has been nice not to have any homework to do while we've been back. Marie and I got out our bikes from the barn, and rode around the property for a while.

This weekend is jubilee weekend for those celebrating their diamond jubilees (60 and 75 years professed!) This morning was a nice breakfast in honor of them, and this afternoon there will be a special mass with the Bishop. I was thrilled to see a couple of the sisters from the St. Peter's Indian Mission in Arizona. I miss all of them.

Tonight those of us in initial formation (and some other sisters who also signed up) will begin our 5 day silent retreat. It is called "Living the Evangelical Counsels in the Franciscan Tradition."

This is the retreat's description: "One of the profound aspects of the vowed consecrated life is growing in intimate union with God. In a way that is unique and penetrating, the evangelical counsels [of poverty, chastity and obedience] lived in the Franciscan tradition facilitate and enhance a deeper intimacy with God."

Our retreat master is a Capuchin Franciscan from Colorado, and we will be able to sign up to meet with him. We can also go for bike rides, walks, read, and other quiet activities. Sr. Mary Ann (one of the vocation directors) gave Marie and I some watercolor paints and a little book of prayers, readings, and reflections. The Sisters all advised us to create a schedule for our days, so as soon as I receive the itinerary tonight I can figure out how I will spend my days.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

My Home Visit (and good news from Congress about a bipartisan issue!)

Let no one have contempt for your youth, but set an example for those who believe, in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity. -1 Timothy 4:12, NAB

One of my main causes that I support in prayer is Invisible Children, a grassroots movement to help end the Africa's longest running war in which children are forced to be soldiers. Over the years, during my activism days, people would ask me how protests are actually going to help. I said that I have to believe they do, just like Dr. King had to believe that his protests would help. In fact, Rob Siltanen wrote something that was used for a computer ad that was circulated frequently during "The Rescue" protest: "[T]he people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do."

I was very pleased to return home to find a letter from Senator Carl Levin, letting me (and the others who wrote to him- politicians do write back) know that the Senate unanimously passed the LRA Disarmament Bill and Northern Uganda Recovery Act (S.1067). I checked online and discovered that the House of Representatives also passed it. Now we are just waiting on President Obama to sign the bill!
5/25 update: the President signed it! You can read his statement here.

The following is a two-minute excerpt from the House of Representatives. It is very inspiring!

Congress Passes LRA Bill: Highlights from INVISIBLE CHILDREN on Vimeo.

This is a spiritual issue, because Joseph Kony thinks he is god. We are doing more than we think by praying for those involved. St. Therese of Liseux is patron saint of the missions, and she never left the convent.

In other news, I am enjoying my home visit. The first day back, I wore pajamas until I had to get ready for Sunday evening mass. I have been enjoying going to the 12:05pm daily mass at the Cathedral, too. It's interesting, I can already feel the sense of community's nice. It has been great to share my time with family and friends, play with the cats, relax a bit and play games, such as Monopoly Deal. Seriously, that game's a blast! My dad and stepmom taught it to some of us at the convent, and now it's a favorite there, too. When you play it, remember that there's no charity in cards, so don't feel guilty about stealing property from your friends.

I have one more week of my home visit. Last week I was with my dad and Ginny, and this week I am with my mom. It's nice that I can spend a week at each home. My mom is going to teach me how to make a skirt. We bought the pattern and fabric from Jo Ann Fabrics. I am excited to learn how to do this, and to wear the skirt!

Friday, May 14, 2010

How to Make Egg Salad and Other Stories from the Desert

I've had hat hair, I'm expecting to have veil hair soon, but I did not anticipate having crown hair! During the school's morning prayer, whenever it it someone's birthday, they get to wear a beautiful paper crown. They are decorated and the person's name is written in a fancy way with glittered lettering. They also receive a bag stuffed full of goodies, like brand new toys! The whole school sings "Happy Birthday" and "May our dear Lord bless you" to them. My birthday isn't until September 17th, so I was very surprised to hear my name called off for the birthdays! :) I also surprised to get my own bag of gifts. I wore the crown all day.

I've learned a lot this week. The sisters at the mission want me to make sure to include that I learned how to make egg salad. While I was figuring out what to prepare for myself, I saw a sister mixing together a hard boiled egg with mayonnaise. I then realized that the mixture was starting to look like egg salad. My jaw dropped with disbelief as I stared at the concoction. I said, "That's it? That's all you have to do to make egg salad?! I have been paying so much money at the deli for that stuff!" :) They told me that some people like to add a little bit of mustard or a little bit of relish. So I made egg salad for myself with a little bit of mustard, and sure enough, it tasted like egg salad. :)

I also learned how to use a sewing machine. It was really fun, and I am looking forward to developing this new skill. I finished the inventory of the school uniforms on Monday, so since then I've been helping around in the school library: picking out books, shelving books, screening new (donated) books for their appropriateness, and reading at story time. I liked reading at story time the best. It was fun to hear them laugh about Amelia Bedelia's silliness and say, "Uh-oh!" whenever she did something she wasn't supposed to do. I have also continued to walk with the kids around the track in the morning before school and helped with grading assignments...good practice for the future!

Today I shared my vocation story with the fifth graders, and it was so much fun! They were excellent listeners and they were so funny! During the Question and Answer time, they were amazed that I knew who all their favorite music artists were and how to dance all their favorite dances. Whenever they asked me if I knew a dance (e.g. the Cupid Shuffle) I would dance it for a couple seconds to prove it as I said, "Yeah, I know it." They thought that was so funny! They also asked really good questions about what it is like to be in formation. After the "Going Home Prayer" at the end of the day, a group of the fifth graders crowded around me for a big group hug. It was so cute!

I have really enjoyed being at this mission site. The school has such a family atmosphere, and that's nice to see. As I have been telling the kids, I don't know where the community will assign me in the future, but I would be happy if I was assigned here.

Here are a couple YouTube videos of the St. Peter Indian Mission (where I've been):
Franciscan Sisters Arizona Mission Ministry Part 1
Franciscan Sisters serving in Arizona Missions Part 2

It is bittersweet to know that I will be leaving tomorrow. I am going to miss everyone here, but I am also happy that I will be going on a home-visit to see my family for a couple weeks.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Make Way for Ducklings!

Hello from Arizona! I have been in Bapchule, AZ since Sunday, at St. Peter Indian Mission. It is at a Pima Indian Reservation. I was greeted by my first ever dust storm! While the descent of the plane was turbulent, and the road conditions were similar to a blizzard, it was a bit exciting to experience something new. I also was amazed at the height of the cacti! I had no idea they were so big! They even grow flowers.

The Sisters took me IHOP, and someone paid for our meal! That was so nice. People treat sisters so well. Since then, I have been experiencing life at the mission site. I have been helping out around the elementary school: walking with the kids around the outdoor track, doing the school uniform inventory, sharing my vocation story, listening to the kids prepare for the Spring Program, and reading to them. I have also been helping prepare meals and run errands. It has been wonderful to be here! I would love to be assigned here someday. I love weather too.

The convent here has two ducks, Ben and Aflack. (Sounds like Ben Affleck!) Aflack is having ducklings! They are so cute! So far, 2 have hatched: Cuddles and Ducky. We hope that Eggbert arrives tomorrow. We have been so amused by these ducklings. I looked up how to care for them on the internet, and we have been very careful to keep them safe. When the ducklings are ready, they will be moving to the local petting zoo.
Here's Cuddles with Aflack:

It has been nice to have prayer with the school. Every morning, we pray a decade of the rosary and sing songs, and in the afternoon there are more songs and prayers. Until now, I did not realize how perfect it is that there are 5 decades, and 5 school days. I think it would be great if more Catholic schools took advantage of that, and prayed a mystery a week. Yesterday was a very special was May Crowning. The seventh and eighth grade girls wore traditional dresses and processed up to Mary with bouquets of flowers. The 8th grade girl with the best church attendance got to crown Mary. They did so well and looked so beautiful! We also prayed the rosary for a greater respect for human life from conception to natural death. The school is going to do something great next year: they are going to have Reconciliation once a month. The graces from that Sacrament cannot be overestimated.

Today, we went to a House Blessing for the kindergarten teacher and her family. It was great to be apart of that. Father Edward put me in charge of the holy water, and he gave me very specific directions to shake the holy water liberally everywhere. We had two bottles of it. The prayers were really cool, too. We also had a great lunch, watched the Yankees for a bit, and played with her four-year-old son. He is so smart and outgoing.

I feel like I have so many more things to share, but perhaps another time. I am really enjoying being with the sisters here. They have been so nice and welcoming. It's been a great week. I am glad I have another one here.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Pilgrimages and it!

I found out that I will be able to write in this during the novitiate. :) Check back monthly. I could write more than once in a month, but I am writing in this monthly as a minimum.

April has been flying by fast. There have been so many things...we have been cleaning out our rooms, sewing numbers on our clothes for the laundry, and doing presentations and papers. We also each picked 3 names for the council to vote on, and learned how to pin our veils! We actually got to wear them for a few minutes yesterday for pictures, but those won't be up until after reception on June 13th.

Today, we went on a pilgrimage to Holy Hill. It was wonderful to go there. I had never heard of it before I moved to Wisconsin, but it's actually kind of a big deal. Even Pope Leo XIII knew about it and declared it a shrine. Now it is a Basilica. It was really cool to look at all the crutches people left behind next to the Marian Shrine after they has been miraculously healed.

I loved it there. There is an ambiance of joy and peacefulness there, and I just wanted to stay. I would love to go back to spend more time praying throughout the area, and going on a hike in the woods surrounding it. They also have an outdoor stations of the cross that I would love to do. If anyone is able to go, I saw a flyer for an awesome event happening there on Saturday, October 2, 2010. It is called St. John Bosco Youth Day 2010. Click here for more info. Fr. Stan Fortuna is going to be there, along with Lila Rose, Martin Doman, and Bishop William Callahan. The event is free, and if you want to get a boxed lunch, that is $7.00. I won't be able to go, but my blessings on anyone who can attend!

I am looking forward to finishing up this last week of school, but I am going to miss everyone at Silver Lake College! They are incredible people and I feel privileged and honored to know them. The college is a real gem. Saturday is May Crowning, and Marie gets to crown Mary! :) Then we will spend two weeks in Arizona at separate mission sites, and another two weeks on our home-visits. When we come back, we will have a weeklong retreat on living the evangelical councils and deepening our intimacy with God. Then reception is June 13th! It's a lot to look forward to!

Just to let you know, there will be a discernment retreat for young women at our community from May 21-23, 2010. Registration ends a week before the retreat. The retreats are all very wonderful and Holy Spirit filled....this one coming up especially because the theme is Pentecost. Find out more info here. And you can register here. Seriously, Marie and I loved these retreats so much!

Also, while you are browsing the internet if you would like, my community provides a free song download every month as well as blog entries about the going-ons of our community in the webpage Franciscanized World.

Just in case you were wondering I was not asked to advertise for these things. I am free to write about anything in my blog. I am sharing these things because they are awesome and I just wanted to share them with all of you.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Dead Sea Scrolls

One of my professors asked us to write a paragraph reflection on seeing the Dead Sea Scrolls at the Milwaukee Public Museum for extra credit, and that assignment got me thinking about the blog. There's been some exciting times here. St. Patrick's Day was a lot of fun, complete with Shamrock Shakes. (I don't like green beer.) We also had Irish dancers at the convent a couple days earlier, and that was awesome! Finally, and worth noting, St. Patrick's Day is our directress' feast day, so Marie and I performed a skit for her based on the "Death Therapy" scene of What About Bob, with the help of the novices. A good time was had by all.

Last Saturday, as I mentioned, I got to see the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit. It was really cool, and I recommend everyone to go see this traveling exhibit. Make sure you buy the audio equipment when you go. It was incredible to see how God's word has been preserved all these years, kind of like how the Church has persevered through both good and bad times. It was awesome to see the ancient fragments! My favorite part was seeing the tomb of Alexander of Cyrene, the son of Simon of Cyrene. Wow. After growing up hearing about Simon helping Jesus carry the cross, it was cool to see something so close to him. Since we had a lot of time to spend at the museum, we got to wander around the exhibits. I loved the dinosaurs and the mummy! There was also a tropical room that had butterflies in it, and they were playing really soothing music. I bet the people who work there go in there went they are stressed about something.

I also got to hear a person named Gunther Skaletz who survived both being in Auschwitz concentration camp and later on being forced to fight in the German army ironic! He and his wife who is a strong person herself talk at Silver Lake College, where I am taking classes. It was an incredible story about God's faithfulness. He wrote a book called Life on Both Sides of the Wall. I would love to read it. What great, inspiring people!

I was surprised that there are pictures two other sisters and I on the front page of the Compass, which is the newspaper for the Diocese of Green Bay. We are ice skating in the pictures, and well, one of us falls... The pictures can be found on the photographer, Mike Roemer's blog. He's an excellent photographer.

I am looking forward to experiencing Holy Week here. I have enjoyed Lent here, because we have time to contemplate and reflect on our relationships with God.