Human-Becoming

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Awhile back I asked my ministry if I could have two weeks off and people politely inquired where I was going on my vacation.  I laughed and told them it was no vacation but rather a two-week meeting with my community in Buffalo!  I am here with my community volunteering on the hospitality committee, or as I like to call it the ‘fun and games commission’.  This is my first experience of Chapter since this meeting only takes place once every six years and last time I was a first-year candidate.  As Sisters have asked me how my time here has been and what I think of the whole process I reflected back on where I was in my discernment and incorporation six years ago during the previous Chapter.  Looking back to who I was as a candidate I realized how lost in translation I was then and must laugh at the image of me partaking in that Chapter.  Sometimes I still get lost but now I am not shy about asking for context or history, and people are always ready to fill in my blanks and share the ongoing story of my community. 

From my point of view this Chapter depends a lot on history since we are sitting with a document produced three Chapters ago.  As my unofficial table of support staff Sisters discussed the discernment questions we came upon the image of transparencies.  I may be the last generation who knows what those even are!  Nonetheless, I have found it to be a good metaphor for our discussion as we sat with our Critical Concerns.  We placed the transparency of our discernment question asking where our God of Mystery and Wisdom is calling us now along with the transparency of our impertive to deepen our integrety of word and deed.  In this light my table saw that the destructive dynamics of pervasive power were fundamental to all of our Critical Concerns.  The next piece with which to overlay these layers was not completely clear for us but we do feel called to, in someway, let our lives model a new way of being and becoming which counter this pervasive power. 

There is some sort of gray space between our ministerial lives of service to the materially poor and the ministry of our lives as Gospel women committed to prayer and community.  My unofficial table began to discuss this space which we have dubbed the space of becoming: as in I am not a “human-being” but rather a “human-becoming” on this faith journey.  The witness of our lives as one community within this human family models the lived understanding of the interconnectedness of all beings in creation.  This modeling may be one way to fight for equlaity, the environment, and peace.  We have been doing this all along yet I feel called now to go deeper and seek this level of connection with every moment, and fiber of my being.  Who knows where this next phase will take us, but I can confidently and comfortably say that whatever is next I believe we will continue to be faithful to our call and will depen and widen our understanding of who God is as Love.

Creation Creating

In culinary school my bread instructor encouraged us to mix the dough with our hands and not to “worry about the mess” when we are baking bread.  I like the feel of bringing the dough together with my hand as water and flour are transformed.  This moment of transformation caught my attention during Holy Week as I prepared the bread we would eat for Eucharist during the Triduum.  I love baking and find that there is something so wonderfully prayerful about baking bread from scratch; I think it is because you are physically immersed in the creative process and From the womb of the Earth to the mill- and beyond- the seed that makes bread is a living creature.therefore somehow personally connected to our Creator, or at least that is how I experience it.  This batch of bread I was making for Holy Thursday was special though, not only was it a contemplative activity as bread baking so commonly is for me, it was also a poignant moment as I considered where this bread was heading and how it would feed others.  On Thursday I was asked to carry the basket of bread into the chapel, which felt slightly awkward since I do not like to be in the spotlight, but I am glad that I did it because in that moment I not only presented the bread I also brought the gift of who I am as a creation of God to the table.  As I saw my bread blessed, and for the second time flour and water were transformed, I wondered how something I put out into the world could come back to me in such a special and intimate way.  We are all gifted and that can be so hard to admit for some people; sometimes it seems as if we have been trained to downplay our gifts.  On Holy Thursday I realized that if I am not willing to accept and celebrate my giftedness as a child of God than I cannot hope to see others, and in fact all of creation, in this light.  Even the flour and water, twice transformed, are God’s own creation and now that creation is transformed once again in all who shared that Eucharistic bread.

New Decade, New Life

 I just recently turned thirty, and as I begin this fourth decade of my life, as well as a new ministry, my family is also blessed with a new spark of life.  That’s right, future aunt right here!  To celebrate my birthday, and this tiny new member of our family, my sister and I went to the Magic Kingdom!  I had been so freaked about turning 30, my mind was full of thoughts of saying goodbye to young adulthood, so we thought it would be best to go all out and really celebrate this big milestone as I transition into full-blown adulthood, and what better place to celebrate than Disney.

Celebrating is what I love most about birthdays, marking the end of a year completed and seeing how far I’ve come, especially on this occasion because thirty is the last big milestone birthday for awhile.  In retrospect I suppose I didn’t need to be so worried, after all a milestone is something we’ve invented as a society.  I will continue to grow and be myself whether  I’m 20 something or 50 something; it’s not like I woke up on my birthday a new and different person from the day before. Everyday I continue to evolve, as a sister-friend of mine noted just the other day as she recalled some of my first incorporation interviews into the Sisters of Mercy. I am a much different person than I was five years ago when I began this journey, but of course not all of that growth happened overnight.  Every year has been filled with a deepening of my self understanding as I am shaped by the course of my life.   In just this past year I have gone through a lot of changes: I lived in three different states with three different groups of sisters, and participated in three different ministries.  These events, just as with all events big and small, have shaped me and helped me to grow and mature.  I’ve faced challenges and overcame them, gone out of my comfort zone, been touched by the depth of relationships in both community and ministry.  These are all milestones in and of themselves and each moment deserves to be celebrated because I am grateful for who I am becoming on the journey.

I look forward now to the continuing journey, and though it’s impossible to tell what will happen or how events and encounters will change me, I trust that God has a desire for my growth.  I am still confirmed by the quote I chose to begin this blog five years ago: “I know the plans I have for you, plans for good…to give you a future with hope.” (Jer 29:11).  No matter how old I get I’ll never really know where this life of mine is going, but I will continue to trust that I have a future full of hope.

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A Journey Just Begun

group photoWould you believe it’s been five years since I entered the Sisters of Mercy! I have grown deeper in my faith, in the community, and in my self-understanding since I began this journey; now, as I think of my first vows ceremony, which was less than a week ago, I see that my journey has just begun. In fact journey was the theme I was thinking of when I picked the readings for the ceremony. I started with a reading from Catherine McAuley where she reminds us that developing a relationship with God takes time, practice, and trust; the theme was echoed in the psalm I picked out. My second reading was Jeremiah’s call which reminds me that God has always known me, and that all I need to do is my best to be faithful and attentive to my relationship with God. The Gospel reading was “Peter do you love me” from the end of John. What attracted me in this reading was how Jesus met Peter where he was in this moment of reconciliation and, though Peter had messed up, their relationship did not end but rather had the opportunity to begin anew and deepen.

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An open heart- cover art for the program

In the weeks leading up to my ceremony I was thinking and praying about all of these readings; I drew a mandala reflecting their themes as the cover art for the program showing the idea of keeping your heart a little bit open so God will have a way into the world. When you let God through then your relationship has a chance to grow, you become more co-creative with our God, and also a little more open than before.
My ceremony ritualized this idea of journey for me because there was not one but three moments for me where I committed myself. I verbally said ‘yes’ when asked, I signed the official document, and just before the whole ceremony had started I went for a walk by myself and shared a private moment with God.
The morning after the ceremony I gathered with a group of Sisters to reflect on the day. What struck me then was the absolute gratitude I had felt during the ceremony while I was surrounded and affirmed by community. So many Sisters, family, and friends came to celebrate with me and God’s generosity in my life became apparent in that moment.

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A journey just begun

A few days ago I drew a second mandala reflecting on my memories of the day; it is filled with joy, life, and delight. In this mandala I see that my journey is unfinished and I couldn’t be more excited with that realization since sometimes I need to be reminded that life has no finish line. I am at the beginning of this journey and I do not know what more is to come, yet I know now more than ever that my potential for life is great in my community of Mercy.

“Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.”

This hasbcc6103b68691588b121fcc5b33ddb20 been an interesting time for me.  I have just six short week left before my canonical year of novitiate ends and I move out.  Some days this seems less real than others, but today it feels very real and very near as I helped to welcome the new group of novices to the novitiate.  I am surprised at how nostalgic I feel as I experience these welcomings from a new perspective.  In addition to the new arrivals we also welcomed a new candidate to the community yesterday.  Witnessing and participating in the entrance ceremony was an amazing experience for me.  In the Mercy community we have a tradition of blessing individuals with a sung triple Amen of affirmation; I have been the recipient of this blessing many times.  Now, being able to offer it to another woman stepping out on her journey in Mercy made me feel as if I had come full circle from my own entrance four years ago to this next big step in my life as I finish my novitiate year.

www.pinterest.comAnother special moment for me as I witnessed this ceremony was the second reading (Song of Songs 2:10-13) which just happens to be one of my favorites.   I was so struck by this reading because this passage describes spring when it is safe and easy to travel and when figs are easy to pick along the way so there is always enough to eat.  This is a beautiful reading for an entrance ceremony and it fits my own experience as I prepare to leave and continue on my own journey deeper into mercy.  I was so grateful to be reminded that now is the acceptable time for me, and that there will always be enough for the journey no matter where my life in Mercy takes me.

We name you our sister

Looking back on the sixth I am so moved by all the warmth and welcoming I felt as I was a received as a novice. I didn’t have much time between my meeting with the North East leadership team, who had to approve me for the novitiate, and the actual ceremony. In only three weeks my director and I arranged all the details and the food, picked readers and speakers. I of course selected Jeremiah 28:11-14, “I know the plans I have for you”. I also picked Mark 10:46-52 which is the healing of the blind man. One of the things I love about this passage is the image of the blind man, who has been called forth, being led to Jesus by the community of believers around him. I thought this reading would be really meaningful since I am a new member joining a community who is so deeply rooted in God.
The sense of community in the church was so palpable that day too! There were sisters from each state in the region. Some traveled all day, others left vacations and family to be there for me. I was moved by there presence and their communal blessing as they affirmed me as sister. Their personal welcoming of me at the reception following the ceremony was a very reflective moment for me. It brought me back to my entrance ceremony and the receiving line that seemed interminable. By my estimate close to the same number of people attended both ceremonies but the receiving line seemed much shorter and faster now that I know most people’s names.
I have gotten to know so many sisters, companions, and associates over the past three years. I feel a deeper sense of belonging now, a greater sense of being home. This assures me that I am following, to the best of my ability, the path God called me to. Thinking about the future is so exciting even though I’m sure I can’t guess what God has in store for me. I believe that whatever surprises await me will be good ones, and will be met with the love and support of not only my community but my family and friends as well.

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More pictures coming soon!

Looking down the road

The other day we celebrated the 50th anniversary of three of the sisters, one of which I live with!  It was amazing to celebrate their lives and all the years that they have lived in community, being there made me think of something my original vocation minister said to me.  The day I entered she said, ‘just think in 50 years we’ll be celebrating your jubilee!”  At the time all i could think is holy cow how can I think 50 years down the road!  But now, as I celebrate with my house mate, I think yeah this will be me one day.  Everything just felt so right that day, I cant wait for my own celebration!  2 years down, and only 48 to go!

The ceremony on Sunday was beautiful, I processed in with the cross ahead of a liturgical dancer, and the three jubilarians as we sang “We are Called”.  Afterwards we all, over 100 sisters and family members, gathered for a reception where I caught up with some of the sisters.  I was so wonderful for me to be able to see women who have been living this life for 50 years and are still enjoying every moment of it.  I was once asked to be on a panel because I was young and they wanted a “sister” who was still excited about their life and all I could think of were many of the 70, 80, and even 90 year old sisters I know who are just electric with excitement about the life they have chosen to live.  I know, with a quiet sense of joy, that in 48 years I’ll still feel the same about my choice, or maybe I’ll feel even better!

Mercy’s got talent!

The mercy Associates held a talent show the other day to raise money for  a Haitian girl.  This girl was not able to go to school without the support of the Mercy Associates and thanks to the talent show they raised enough money to send he to school for another year!  I got over my stage fright  enough to participate, and it didn’t hurt that my tap class was up there with me!

Mercy Day

Classic Freddie "ooooh!"

Today we gathered to celebrate Mercy Day which comes around this time of year since it falls near the feast of Our Lady of Mercy.  In addition to celebrating Mercy we celebrated a few of the sisters whose souls we all treasure. One sister, Freddie, is especially dear to me.  Her sincerity, simplicity, and her profound joy are obvious as soon as you meet her. Freddie, I’m glad to know you and to share life in Mercy with you.

 

My 1st Anniversary!

August 21st was my one year anniversary in religious life!  The two sisters I live with are also celebrating anniversaries this week (48 and 49 years “in” as they say) so earlier this month we had a cook out at our house to celebrate.  We used paper plates, does that count for a first anniversary?  I’m really excited about this anniversary, sure I’m technically not a sister yet but I feel so at home with Mercy, and that is such an affirmation that I am on the right track.  Feeling at home, or rather the feeling of coming home, is what helped me make the final decision when it came down to the last two orders I was considering.  But that’s a whole other post.