Monday, September 12, 2016

Beyond the Closing Door

St. Francis Church  North Adams, MA     September 2016
Please be present with me as I reflect upon the meaning of this sacred door of Saint Francis Church in North Adams.

This is a significant doorway of entrance into the mystery of God.
Through this door I was carried to received the sacrament of  Baptism. Through this door I processed with many schoolmates, as Sisters of St. Joseph prepared us for Penance, First Communion and Confirmation. This is the place where many became graduates of St. Joseph's Grammar and High Schools.

Daily Mass, October and May devotions, Novenas, Holy Hours, Stations of the Cross, and choir rehearsals, in this sacred space, nurtured the faith life of so many. Weddings, funerals, special services to pray for peace and offer solace united us as a community of faith.  I recall especially gathering to pray for the victims of the plane crash over Lockerbie, Scotland where our Wendy Lincoln was among the students from Syracuse University on board.

The steeple, that for years was part of an amazing skyline among the hills of North Adams, and whose bells rang out the angelus as a call to prayer, now lies in rubble among the bricks to the side.

A lamp post stands as a sentry, honoring the memory of each individual who ever passed by this holy place, some crossing their foreheads, others tipping their hats.

Flowering plants and greenery remind us that life continues to go on.

The open blue sky frames the memory and an era that is passing.  It speaks to me of Life Beyond the Door. The faith in our living God is part of us forever. We carry it wherever we go. Our faith was never meant to be tied to a building. We are asked to arise and move on to a beautiful new horizon.

I am prompted to pray with the words of Dag Hammarskjold:
 "For all that has been - Thanks. For all that shall be - Yes.
I thank my friend, Elaine Mattern of North Adams, for posting this photo on her Face Book page with the caption, "No, this is not the Alamo.". 

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Final Day of UISG

 Sisters from India prepare for the beautiful liturgical dance at the doxology of the Mass. 

Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz (Brazil), prefect of CICLSAL, speaks with some sisters prior to the concluding liturgy. 

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Papal Audience

Sister Maxyne Schneider is in Rome attending a conference of the International Union of Superiors General--a worldwide, canonically approved organization of Superiors General of Institutes of Catholic Women Religious.

At the start of the hour and a half audience UISG President, Carmen Sammut, MSOLA brought the greetings of the group to the Pope.

Questions from the membership were given to Pope Francis in advance and also were read aloud by a Sister. The first four questions,  all had to do with the role of women in the church - decision making, preaching, participation at all levels. Questions had been solicited from across the world by the UISG to be given to the Pope. Receiving questions was his request. From among the submitted questions those that were similar were combined and sent to the Pope by Easter.

Pope Francis seemed utterly at ease, committing himself to the inclusion of women in the dicasteries, for example, but not going beyond current official boundaries in other cases. He made frequent references to pastoral circumstances from his years in Argentina and made a few very lighthearted and humorous remarks.

There is much more to be said. I have been told that theZenit website might have full accounts of the audience.


More on the UISG

Carmen Sammut, MSOLA (Malta, I believe)
is President of the IUSG. Sisters of her congregation,
Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Africa,
lived with our Sisters in our D Building
at one time, and now are at Providence Place.
Our Sisters in Kenya also knew some of their Sisters. 
Sister Maxyne Schneider is in Rome attending a conference of the International Union of Superiors General--a worldwide, canonically approved organization of Superiors General of Institutes of Catholic Women Religious.

There is a new energy in the International Union of Superiors General (UISG). It was apparent last August at the meeting of the American constellation after the LCWR National Assembly in August, and it is very apparent at the triennial Plenary Assembly. The IUSG  is under the leadership of Executive Secretary Sr. Pat Murray, IBVM (Ireland), who had brought similar energy to leadership of Solidarity with South Sudan, and  Carmen Sammut, MSOLA (Malta) as President. Now with a strong board and a strategic plan in the face of compelling world needs, the body representing more than a half million Sisters worldwide is far more than a forum for exchange of information.

The UISG was established 50 years ago on the final day of the second Vatican Council.  It was intended to be the counterpart to the corresponding organization for men religious which had existed for some time, the USG. As such, it would be the organization for the leaders of apostolic religious institutes of women. This is its golden Jubilee.

Last fall at the Synod on the family the IUSG took an important step in advocacy. While the USG, the men's organization, had always been considered equivalent to bishops and therefore would be given 10 seats at a synod, the women's organization, the IUSG, never had any ability to attend. This year the men offered the women one half of their positions. They presented that to the appropriate Vatican official and it was refused. However, the women were then given three positions at the Synod and were allowed as with all positions to have their three minutes of speaking time. While there is still much to be done in regard to the presence of women at the Vatican, this is one small step. One of the future concerns is that there are 30 people who form the commission for the dicastery on religious life, CICLSAL, but there is not even one woman, though women make up most of the religious  of the world. 

Sr. Monica Cavanaugh, center, is a Sister of St. Joseph from Australia, 
Mary McKillop's congregation. They were founded 150 years ago 
with direct inspiration from the Sisters in Le Puy.

Last evening the Chambery Sisters invited all the Sisters of St. Joseph at the UISG  for an evening of conversation (multilingual) and supper at their generalate house in Rome. 

Talking to Sr. Rosemary Brennan from Boston and Sr. Monica Cavanaugh from Australia is Sr. Mary McKay of Carondelet, a close cousin of Sr. Judy Levins.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

UISG Meeting in Rome

Sister Maxyne Schneider is in Rome attending a conference of the International Union of Superiors General--a worldwide, canonically approved organization of Superiors General of Institutes of Catholic Women Religious.

I will write with more depth of content later, but I wanted to get some material to you before too much of the week has passed. The conference has significant depth of content and feeling in its formal presentations and conversations informally. There is a noticeable change from three years ago both in seriousness of intent and in a number of external factors that signal that change as well as the simple internationality of the conference.

Three years ago there was simultaneous translation in six languages, while this time there are eleven with Polish, Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese and Japanese. At my English-speaking table there are Sisters from Ireland, Australia, Nigeria, India, Tanzania and the US. One leads a congregation of 7000 and another is from a community of 36.

The theme, "Weaving Global Solidarity for Life," is meant as a recipe for effective action and not just a suggestion for pleasant pondering. There is much reference to the "charism of religious life" as an emerging reality in lives increasingly lived with global influence and global challenge.

Carol Zinn, SSJ (Philadelphia) delivered a powerful address on Monday regarding our crossing a threshold for global solidarity for the life of the earth. Mary Sujita, SND yesterday, echoing Pope Francis, called us to the peripheries where our Sisters serve across the globe. Our hearts were at once gladdened and deeply moved with the poignancy of human suffering in the afternoon panel on the UISG efforts against human trafficking, overwhelming migration of refugees, solidarity with South Sudan and the profound tragedies being played out in the Middle East. These brief words hardly begin to touch the realities spoken of in sessions or privately as Sisters told of the lives of their congregations.

Tonight Sr. Sally Hodgon, CSJ (W. Hartford), Vice President of the UISG, has invited all the Sisters of St. Joseph at the conference to the Chambery residence for supper. I look forward to it. I am sorry that the superior from the Institute that includes Le Puy is not at the conference. Sr. Catherine Barange from Lyons will convey our greetings to her, however.

I had the opportunity for "une petite conversation en francais" with Sr. Carmen Vergara,
the superior general of the"filles du Coeur de Marie" to greet her and express thanks for the hospitality of the DHMs.

Last evening when the conference ended just before 6:00,
Srs. Rosemary Brennan, CSJ (Boston), Anne Myers, SSJ (Philadelphia),
Kathy Dougherty, OSF (Philadelphia) and I stopped by Trevi Fountain
on the way to supper. Yes, wishes were made by all and mine included the Congregation!

More later...


Friday, April 8, 2016

Hello Yellow Daffodil

Here to show that we survived the April snow and the windy blow. Alleluia

The survival of the daffodils, buried beneath the snow for two days and blowing in the wind for two more has much to teach.
Daffodils symbolize rebirth and new beginnings, How appropriate that this common flower has appeared as such a strong symbol this second week of Easter.
May each of us find the blessing of beauty, new life and new perspectives. Be the one to say hello and watch the glow come to a neighbor's face.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

April Showers?

Down in Adoration Falling
Perspective is everything.
It's early April. Spring came early following a very mild New England winter. Easter came early too, the last week in March.
Here it is the first week in April and the daffodils are bent low as they gaze in wonder at the snow. I took this picture yesterday. Most of those I showed it to commented on how sad they looked. My friend, Martha returned an e-mail with the above response.

Yesterday as we prayed with Mary at the Annunciation, we wondered with her "How can this be?"
Today we prayed with Nicodemus as he was invited to be born anew and enter life within the Spirit of God. "How can this be?"

I suspect these newly born daffodils, in their own way are pondering the same question.

Each of is invited anew this Easter season to live from the place of resurrection. It is a call to see what we think is apparent, to a possible different perspective. What is offering itself to us that might be an invitation to move from "How can this be?" to "Let it be"?

So many years ago in Bethlehem a baby came like a violet in the snow.

From this perspective we open ourselves to something new emerging. What is it for you?