Sunday, June 28, 2009

A Broader Sense of Home

I write this in the air (my elementary mind tells me I’m closer to God here) as I travel to Cape May, NJ for retreat this week. I figure I can upload it to the actual blog for you all so see tonight before the retreat starts.

I know, I know… I haven’t written for quite a while and many sisters have enlightened me (numerous times) to that reality. There persistence finally paid off!

The life of a novice as you know from my previous writings is very different than it used to be. Who would have been able to take a flight to a retreat, out of state, back in the days of old? I know that this is a privilege, not a right, and I view it as such. I’ve realized lately what a great time I’m entering my community, and really… religious life in general. There is so much talk about our role within the church and how we respond to the needs of our church and our world today. I get very excited and energized thinking about the possibilities that will be available to me with all this rising change happening around us. At the same time, I feel a tremendous responsibility. With religious life having, in general, fewer entrances (although numbers not uncommon in the overall history of religious life), I know that God will have to dream possibilities within me that would require fewer sisters and more lay people to accompany me. Nonetheless, I know that the work will continue to be great.

On a different note…
This past week, after a visit with family for Father’s Day, I came back to visit six possible ministry sites. Soon I’ll be choosing one, with God’s help, where I will minister 2-3 days a week starting in September. The ministries include service at a food pantry, parish work, school, retreat and social service/justice work with young people, and tutoring. I’ll let you know more about the ministry that I’ll be working in when it’s possible.

Also starting in the Fall, I’ll be taking one class at Catholic Theological Union. I just registered for the class, we’ll see if it’s full. In addition to the ministry and class, I’ll continue having a prayer day and will have classes with Kathy, my director.

Some of the other things that are planned this summer include:
• a trip to Wichita to meet with our leadership team and to visit community houses and ministry sites in the area – I’ll also be having a discussion with sisters in the area about a topic (undecided) that was covered during the program in Orange and having time with individual sisters
• helping with a Partners in Mission trip in LaGrange which I’ve heard is a program where some students from our high school in Cleveland will be coming to do ministry for a week
• Come and Paint week with Mary Southard
• Jubilee weekend at Nazareth (oh yeah also the Jubilee celebration in Wichita while I’m there)
• Some vacation time
• A temporary vows ceremony in Brentwood, NY to celebrate with one of my novice friends!
• A final vows ceremony in Louisiana, there are two but I’ll only been able to go to one. Undecided which…

So as you can tell from reading that line-up, there isn’t much time to feel settled or get to know people in the place that people call my home. This transition is starting to feel really elongated which is tough at times but I’m also glad to be able to see so many people and have the opportunity to go places. I’m looking forward to the chance to really develop relationships with people inside and outside the community. I’m praying for the patience to allow God to show me who that might be.

Hope that I haven’t lost too many of my readers with my hiatus but I think I’m getting back into the swings of reality and daily life… finally! Praise God!
I’m looking forward to the things I’ll be able to write about while I finish this first year of novitiate and head into the second. Who knows where I’ll be writing from next time.
Much peace to you all!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Wonderful World of Vows Part III

Not proofread yet-- will do that tonight...

I saw it as very providential that our obedience classes started on the feast of the Annunciation of the Lord. I planned prayer that morning, last Wednesday and just found so much life and such a strong message. Ann and Bernie didn't plan for thisbut God did and the message came strongly within my heart. Through the two days with Pat of LA-Carondelet and with out ICN class yesterday, I felt the cnonection and draw of Mary's fidelity to God's heart and will in her life. Pat shared with us her insight about Luke 1's example of the Annunciation. Mary says, "How can this be? I've had no relations with a man." Pat's insight was that Mary realizes if she's not in relationship that there's no way that she can bring about life. I thought of this in the bigger context of how so many times when I withdraw or am just selfish about my time with others OR God, it's impossible to get new perspective and be changed and transformed. I think this hit me as the basis for this vow, we can live the other vows alone, be chaste without relationship and live a life of poverty alone (as so many do) but obedience requires a relationship with not only God but with those we surround ourselves with.
Pat talked a bit about the State of the Heart as one of the ways that we, as CSJs, have a built-in way of practicing obedience to one another. We get the chance to share the movement of God in our lives and although it's not a conversation or a dialogue about prayer, it helps us own up and be honest as to our response to that movement. It also hit me that with my community, our Renewed Local Communities are a second built-in way to practice obedience. I have a new appreciation for them now when Pat said something about needed to believe that my sisters are prayerful people that could talk about discernment together. It's not about coming to my RLC or leadership to say I've decided but about asking questions, looking at options, asking for what you need. I know that I didn't decide to enter this community alnoe or just with God and so really, why should I make any other decision without floating the stirrings and ideas to those around me? In this way, Pat mentioned that obedience is a vow of mutual collaboration. Through this vow, we are called to attentively listen to our lives and share that with others. But obedience isn't just about being in relation with God and people but also to "lovingly tend all creation given to us". That idea struck me deeply: to be in relationship with everything God created. With all of this said, it reinforces the desire in me to share my life with people and creation that help me love life more and live it better.
We also talked a bit about the difference or "grand canyon" between the experience of older members and younger members. It's obvious that the externals of the formation process looked a lot different than they do today. My mind wondered about the internal process though. I know we've both experienced missing home and missing important events in the lives of family members to a different extent. I can say at least that I have the advantage with technology because I've been able to meet and visit with my 2 month old nephew through Skype which is like an Internet video conversation. But nonetheless, I've missed many things in my family and have had to put a hold on any peer relationships that were outside of community. It's hard to believe what formation would have looked like without all of the talk of charism, history and spirituality. I'm surprised that all of this would be new to so many CSJs since many (if not all) of our speakers went through formation pre-Vatican II.
I always wondered why all the sisters weren’t given that same opportunity of learning as it's obvious our speakers did. I guess that's a new responsibility for me, to share the knowledge that I've gained these past months with people that are interested. I think this blog is a way to start that but maybe when I get home it can be more of a conversation that I hope some (or many) are interested in having.
In this same area, I also thought about how older generations grew up many times with rich customs and holiday traditions that were very cultural and religious. Then they entered the Sisters of St. Joseph and weren’t really educated about the history of the order. That really seems flipped for my generation. We really grew up in the melting pot culture and sometimes don’t know where our family traditions came from, if we have any at all. On the other hand, we’ve entered the Sisters of St. Joseph and are filling that part of our lives that didn’t have an understanding about history or tradition and this life is what helps give our experience, our life, our relationship with God, much more meaning and energy. I never really saw that correlation between generation but I think it could help me and others gain perspective when speaking in intergenerational circles. Either way, I think we're invited by God to honor the experience of the other, no matter what generation they belong to and no matter how different it may be from our own.
I remember at my novitiate ceremony speaking of being attracted to the authenticity with which the sisters lived their lives. At the time I didn't think about it but not I can label that as the outward experience that I had of others living out their vow of obedience. The attentive listening to the Spirit and God's movement in life can be an outward sign to others. It's what makes then ask questions and wonder what is different about us.
So I guess I've come full circle with this class: Mary's fidelity. For guidance, we can look toward the created trinity of Jesus, Mary and Joseph because they were the best examples of how to live out our lives deeply connected to the source of our lives. Jesus shows us how life can be fully lived with all of our humanness: hands, feet, heart and mind and how those parts of us when connected to God can lead us to find God in one another. Mary, through her fidelty can teach us how to honor and reverence each moment and to always trust the energy that comes from solitude that will lead us outward. And finally, Joseph, shows us how to surrender to the experience, to listen for God's voice and fearlessly respond to that inner voice that calls us because that attentiveness will decide all of life. I could share so much more but I think God's still moving it around in me, maybe you can see that.

I'm leaving for Disneyland in 5 minutes. WOOHOO!!!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Wonderful World of Vows Part II

This week Tuesday and Wednesday we were graced with the presence of Janet Mock, a Baden CSJ. There seems to be so much within this vow of chastity so it's hard to put it all together in a nice neat package on here. Maybe that's just because I haven't done my reflection paper on it yet.
There were three areas that Janet focused on that I picked out. 1: How to live the vow inside myself. 2: How to live the vow in community. 3: How to live the vow in our world as it exists today.
One of the first things that Janet said was that the heart of this vow is reverence. I believe that this reverence comes in the ways that we are able to respect the heart of God that lies within each other, religious or not. First that respect must be for myself and all that God's created me to be. Then that reverence is what draws us to each other and calls us to energize and effect each other.
In community, we are meant to live Church in our own homes in order to be an example for the world community. A question that I asked myself: What kind of community member am I? And how do I want to be so that others may see me as an example of living healthy/right relationships?
Janet said, maybe the fact that we're getting smaller and have fewer entering is actually a gift of the Holy Spirit. That way we are called to be more nimble, flexible and open to more because we are small and can look for the most influential opportunities. I wonder if that gives us the possibility of doing bigger things for change??
I think I come to this community at a good time. I don't have the same questions that older sisters had while in formation and I probably don't have the same questions that they have now. I've lived in the American culture without the knowledge of vowed life and the idea of a global community in the same sense that we're used to hearing as CSJs. I grew up with different values and the culture of a different generation. Because of this, I see things a bit differently in this formation process. Some of these changes in my belief system will help me grow personally and I hope some things may even influence the community perspective.
I realized after talked about the community peice, that I'll need to be more open to the world around me as far as peers go. This is difference than other sisters that were able to enter with their peers. They maybe didn't have the deep relationships in the beginning but they had companionship that moved into deeper relationships. Because I don't have many peers in religious life or in our community, I've need to look for more mutual relationships outside the community in order to remain healthy. I don't think this is a bad thing, just reality. Maybe that's another gift of the Holy Spirit at this time because taht way our charism won't be contained to community conversations. These mutual relationships outside community may look a bit different because of my future vows. I know that it will be a bit difficult because even though sisters aren't often put up on a pedestal like they used to, I think the opposite is true for my generation. They think something's is wrong, strange, or flawed for the most part. (Mostly just because they aren't familiar with religious life like people used to be.) So in that way, it may be hard to find that equality or someone that can respect this life that I've been called to.
Also, another question Janet asked us to ponder was: What grounds you in your belief in God amongst the growing chaotic times but still allows you to grow? What a weighted question! I think one of the responses I came up with is that I have the hope and faith that God is continuously manifesting Himself in the heart of humanity. Sure bad things happen but a saying comes to mind: When the student is ready, the teacher will appear. Some students are ready for a different awareness and consciousness, some aren't. Those students are the ones that will be filled with the truth of God and will be given the grace to live it out. I see all of this happening and know that God can only work with those that are open to His Spirit. I can only choose that openness for myself and hope that God sees my heart fit enough to carry the message that He places inside. So far, I feel like I'm on the right track but I have a lot to learn, I know.
After hearing Janet, reading on my own, and listening to our ICN speaker. I know that I have experienced God in a way that no other relationship or exclusive relationship could touch. The place in myself that God created for himself is meant to be energized by more than one person (ultimately from God) and is also meant to feed more than one person. My experience of God personally and communally tells me that an exclusive relationship for me is too narrow for the heart that I've been graced with. I've wondered many times what I would do when I fall in love with someone while in the community. (After all, it's inevitable. The statistics show that each person falls in love an average of 7 times throughout their life.) I started to come to the conclusion that it would be a very hard decision because I've invested so much of myself into this. At that same time, I would welcome the discernment. I realized after some reflection that if I hold my heart away from falling in love, then really I'm choosing to hold myself away from all love. I think at this point, if I were to meet someone, the question wouldn't be: Am I supposed to be with this one person or am I supposed to be a sister? The question is bigger than that. Instead God asks me, "How can you best love in this life that I've given you?" That bigger question takes away the fear in me. I'm called to live big and love big and God's calling me to be in relationship in a different way, one that our culture isn't too understanding of. I'm called to have mutuality with more people than just the one that I might have exchanged rings with in a different life.
All of us have an inate drive to connect with people. Some are meant just to be intimate with one person. All of us are meant to give life though. My challenge, a religious's challenge, is to find ways to bring about life outside of actually creating another human being. I'm still meant to have intimate/close relationship, just not with one person and not in a sexual way. In which lifestyle does love seem more expansive? This is a question we all have to ask ourselves.
As of now, I feel the way I've been called and personally choose to live my life is in the context of community. It is where and how I'm called to love, make decisions and share goods.
Finally, in all relationships and all situations, God asks me to stay in it for the lesson. Don't back out too quickly or withdraw. God's in it if I let Him find me I won't fall into the darkness or negativity of any situation if I choose to allow God to be present in everything.
Our culture today says that this vow is unhealthy, unnatural, and definitely not the norm. Was Jesus the norm? Did people of his time believe in the way he lived or what he believed? He was unnatural and out of the ordinary as well yet look at the broad impact he had. This life is where I've found God, where my heart is challenged and where I've experienced the most life changing growth. Unnatural? Yes, but Abnormal? No, there's too many people living it successfully and with passion. God's call has gone beyond those labels and I can only see myself growing deeper into that love of God and bringing it to all who cross paths with my life.

Friday, February 27, 2009

The Wonderful World of Vows, Part I

Well, I haven’t been that good at keeping you all updated. Sometimes it’s just really hard to put it all into words for all of you. There’s so much that’s internal and still yet to be revealed… even to me. That’s why the majority of what you have read on here seems superficial at times.

Last week we started our study on the vows. Judy Fergus of the Orange CSJs came to share with us on poverty. It was good to hear her perspective because she’s been in leadership before. I appreciated what she was able to share with us. It seemed to me by the end of that Tuesday/Wednesday class that she’d only been able to scratch the surface and that iceberg underneath was where my heart has been. It remained untapped until further reading and discussion. It seems like this vow is so much bigger than the monetary poverty/economic poverty that folks keep talking about. This is the aspect that my family I know is worried about: that I won’t have money to live on and that I don’t have control over the money that could be mine alone if I were in a career and single. I see the vow as so much bigger though. Don’t get me wrong, solidarity with the poor is a ministry of the sisters that is very meaningful and necessary for our world. I tend to think that God’s directing me in a way as to not ignore people that are suffer because of different kinds of poverty… poverty of spirit, poverty of health, poverty of life-giving relationships, poverty of knowing a loving God.

There are those that need basics: food, water, shelter, sleep, etc. There are services that help these people receive these needs for the day and others that teach them skills that would get them out of their current situation. My question was: What happens to these people once someone helps them find a job and maybe a home? What got them into this situation? How are they going to maintain it? There are practicals like keeping the job and putting food on the table but there’s a step above that that most likely has been denied as well. This step above is a sense of safety, belonging, and esteem. Even people that grew up with the privilege of two parents, a roof, a bit of money and an education have unmet needs in this area. I think maybe for me that this area of poverty is just as much a call for me (if not more) as the folks without basic needs. There are folks whose needs are based on human rights or a need for healthy relationships. What prevents these things? Sometimes it’s a need for systemic change and sometimes it’s a need for personal transformation. Either way, these are needs that call for attention. These are all things that still need much reflection but I suppose it’s part of this journey of practicing this vow. Like I’ve heard, it’s never an arrival, only a journey.

That was the ministry piece of poverty. Also, the piece that we’ve spent a great deal of time with is the role of poverty within the community. How do we live it together? How do we challenge each other? There are some other big questions that go with this and I know that as you’re reading this, some may even be going through your mind. The question of whether it’s better to “save money” by living alone and closer to work. The question of whether it’s better to live in low-income individual housing than in a house with other sisters. The question of whether it’s better to rent a house in the inner city to be in solidarity with those you minister to or whether it’s better to live elsewhere in a house that’s owned and work with the poor in that same inner city. And also the question of what example do we give to newer or interested members when they meet sisters, ask them about their experience of community living, and hear that actually that sister has lived alone for X number of years. These were all things brought up in our class. I don’t claim to know the answers or solutions to these questions. I just look forward to the open discussions because as one article that we read stated: the vow cannot be standardized for every sister but supported by the community. So I guess that brings the additional questions: Do we support the way our fellow sisters practice the vow of poverty? and How do we do that?

Can you tell it was a topic with more questions than answers? I sort of wish that we could have had someone come talk to us about poverty that’s entered within that last 10-15 years (either instead of or in addition to what we had). It seems to me that sisters who entered right out of high school (or even while still in high school) had a different experience than those of us today. When folks enter today, they come with some sort of independence financially… some more than others of course. I don’t know that this can be said for the majority of sisters that entered Pre-Vatican II. Even though I haven’t had an apartment on my own since I entered right after college, I was independent in many ways and I think it’s a bigger jump both into community and into the vow of poverty, etc.

I’m looking forward to these discussions when I get back this summer. I know these topics are hard for some people because we can live the vows out so differently but with the same heart. That’s what I want to talk about: that same heart… the one that God has called and how sisters have experienced that calling in relation to the vows.

This weekend is the L.A. Religious Education Congress at the Anaheim Convention Center. We had a full day of workshops, etc. today and will be going back tomorrow (Saturday) and also Sunday. What a jam packed weekend with lots of input and even more to reflect on. There’s good energy and material to enliven the part that might be slacking at this conference. It’s like a huge retreat weekend with 40,000 of your best friends. Introverts nightmare as they say but I like it, just a bit more tired afterward. You won’t hear me complaining though, there are great speakers. I’m hoping to write about it after the experience is over this weekend. Some other topics to speak of soon: vow of chastity/celibacy, our intercommunity class with Simone Campbell, and lastly experiences with our presentations. Stay tuned… I promise it won’t be this long next time!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Resurrection and New Life

Dessert in our backyard
The 10-12 foot pointsettia-ish plant in the back

So as I write this, my sister-in-law, Jen, is in the hospital waiting impatiently for the baby to come. Today is 4 weeks until the actual due date but there's been some heart rate and blood pressure questions so they thought it best to help the process along. I've been eagerly awaiting each call since noon yesterday and just keep praying that everything will be okay. So I guess it's safe to say that my mind (and I wish my body) is at home with the fam and so it's a little hard to focus on what's happening or what has happened here... we'll see what I can come up with.

Last week Marie Schwan from our very own community was here with us to share about Ignatian Spirituality. I knew before that our CSJ spirituality has a base in Ignatian spirituality but before this last week I didn't have a class that was specifically about Ignatius to thoroughly understand it and know what prayer experiences to label as Ignatian. It's a strange thing sometimes when these speakers come to us and you can just feel like they're speaking from your own heart and you feel everything just fall into place and it finds a home in you. We spend some time talking about the life of Ignatius and the founding of the Jesuits and then spent a good deal of time with the Spiritual Exercises and the process of that. The idea of the 30 day retreat seems a bit intimidating right now but who knows what will happen. I'm sure it would be a great experience but at this point I would have a hard time being in that space for that long.
This is one of my favorite quotes from the classes that comes from the Principle and Foundation: “All other things on the face of the earth are created for human beings in order to help them pursue the end for which they are created. It follows from this that one must use other created things, in so far as they help towards one's end, and free oneself from them, in so far as they are obstacles to one's end.” There's a lot in this quote and I think that's why it stuck with me... because there's a lot to unpack. The Spiritual Exercises just seem to be a natural process that happens in life whether you're educated in it or not: an experience, an awareness, a need for change/transformation, a realization of the need for God’s presence and voice in it, an understanding of how Jesus and the people he encountered experienced the same, and coming to greater union with God and living more deeply in that reality. I have a feeling that if anyone is living life in a contemplative/reflective way, then this process would automatically happen. Maybe it's just a nature course in my life because I already have the charism, etc. in me but I wonder about non-CSJs.

Friday's prayer day was really, really good for me. I decided to take the car and drive to an Orange County park in the mountains but when I woke up that morning it was raining. (A VERY rare occurence.) I left about 11 and it was still raining but I went anyway. I drove toward the mountains that we see out the window at the end of the hall. It was gorgeous! I decided to keep driving up the mountain but ended up on a road that only led to the landfill... opps. It stopped raining at about one and I decided not to pay the money to get into the park when I couldn't enjoy it that much while it was raining or directly after. I ended up driving through the mountain areas that were burned out from the recent fires. It was amazing to see the newly green green grass popping up from the rain and then get into the charred trees with rain dripping off. Every now and then there would be a patch of green grass next to a tree like that and it just gave me a new and different example of resurrection. I drove through these incredibly winding roads feeling very small with the mountains surrounding the shoulder-less road, through the burned out areas and found a small park on the side of the road. I parked there, ate my lunch and just spent time reading and writing with God for a few hours. When it was about time to head back, I found this road called "Scenic Ridge". It led into a subdivision but it was amazing; there were a few empty lots and you could see the amazing view below. I'm sure I could have seen a lot farther without the clouds but none-the-less, it was a beautiful view. This weekend we're planning a trip to the mountains. It's funny how they have to DRIVE to the snow around here. So that's the plan and I'm hoping for a great view and some good pictures. I'll let you know how it goes.

This week we had our first Order of the House meeting. We have State of the Heart every Sunday but this semester they've added the Order of the House as a new experience. Not sure how often this will take place but it was a good experience. I have to admit that I wasn't so sure about it when it was being explained. It turned out to be a very life-giving experience for us. I think it's just another way of increasing awareness of our actions as a whole and how they effect others and our mission together. We were open, honest and respectful and I think that attitude in all of us makes interactions and relationships stronger. I think it's a great process for religious but really there needs to be mutual openness for it to work. I'm learning that about many things.

So that's what's going on these days. It was quite a surprise for me to hear about Joan's passing and that's been deeply in my heart and my process lately. Experiences like this definitely give a new perspective on life and the future. Rest in peace Joan... and Emily.

Please keep Jen, Jeff and the "nephew in waiting"(to be born) on your prayer list. Peace! Namaste!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Journeys - Christmas and otherwise...

Well Happy New Year all! I hope that all of your Christmas and holiday celebrating was filled with much love and joy! Now that I'm back to the daily novitiate schedule in California, I'm thinking that my Christmas journey durign the break felt like an outward journey or all the inward journeying that novitiate is supposed to be about. Maybe it's even the journey that Mary and Joseph would have experienced, all the traveling around and business of not being settled.

Before my last post, I was thinking about this blog and really wondering where to go with it, I didn't know who was reading it and how many. Since I've been back to the center at Nazareth. Holy Moses! I realize I can't stop now! It was great to hear in person how many people are following me around and really accompanying me on this journey. I know that there are people at the Nazareth center that print off these writing for all of the sisters, to you I've very grateful that you can be the legs and hands that allows non-computer sisters to read this! And to all the readers, thank you for your support through thoughts, prayers, and just plain reading! I had to laugh when I went to the computers on 4th floor and when the screen awakened, I saw an icon with "CSJNamaste" on it that would lead a sister right to my blog. Just a little heart warming moment! I am grateful to all of you!

Christmas felt like an amazing and long road trip around the country of places that I call home. The break was three weeks long but it seemed that the energy level that I needed for the break was about 6 months worth. I got to see a ton of sisters, some in groups, some individually and it just amazed me how available people were for the limited amount of time I had. I was able to share more of my internal processes with a lot of people that haven't been able to be in contact with me and it was just good to share the stories of what insights both life and God gift you with when you have the priviledge of having time away which this program in California does. God is truly alive in prayer, people (whether I know them or whether I just catch a glimpse of them on the sidewalk), in community, in family (though I'm not able to be close to them not, and most of all in myself. It's hard sometimes to know all the changes that are happening in myself and not have words to express that. It's only through some stories that I'm shared with people that can express the difference/ the changes in me. God is just so big right now and I never want that to leave. I suppose that's one thing that I hope to settle in this semester: I want the largeness of God to fill me, my perspectives and my heart, that I will forever be changed. I think it's possible. I hope that the settling leads me to a place that is more unitive than selfish and more loving than ever ignorant or blinded again. I also think that these changes inside which have a hard time being outwardly expressed makes it hard for people to really realize that a change has happened within myself. The people that I'm closest to, I'm not really sure that they know me anymore. I have to be okay with that, knowing that God's work with me isn't completed yet and hope that everyone can just walk with me where I'm at, loving me through it, and appreciating the positive aspects of this journey with me. At this point, I don't even know what to expect from myself these days, (I can't expect anyone else to). I'm on God's potter's wheel and just waiting patiently for an inkling of where to go or what to do next because I know only God has that knowledge.

When I got back to the Chicago house, my novitiate house, I decided that whatever was in that room, I really didn't need (except winter clothes) because I've been living without it since August. So I went through everything: books, cds, clothes, bedding, shoes, etc. It was good just to reorganize things, make my room my own and pack up boxes. I'm hoping to do more of that when I get back in May but it felt good just to clean out. I also had to do that even before I unpacked my suitcase as there wasn't a space of any of its contents! Charlene and I had some bonding time in Chicago the first week though since Kathy had meeting all week and Tess was staying at the motherhouse. Charlene and I didn't have much time to be together when I moved in because he job has her traveling a lot. We had time to decorate and cook together and just be together and get to know each other a bit more. For me, it was just a good quiet re-entering into the chaotic that Christmas time can usually be about. Oh by the way, Charlene just had an article about vocation in the America magazine. I think it's still the latest issue, if not, it's the one just previous. Check it out, her name's on the front (article inside :) Charlene Diorka! We were all proud of her!

Time at home home (Detroit/Sterling Heights)was great. I spent a good deal of that week with my family. I got to see my parents first of all and was greeted with a big ol' hug from mom (and quite few tears) and next one from dad. They even had a welcome home sign on the door with Santa on it for me. They're just too cute! Christmas Eve was time for church and Chinese food. It's a tradition with us. Then onto my cousin's house Christmas day and then to my brother's house to open immediate family presents. It was the first time that I got to see Jen pregant and the baby's room which was almost finished, minus furniture. Jeff was all proud showing me the clothes they already have for the baby including a little outfit that says "Police Academy" on it since his dad is a policeman and numerous Michigan State clothes since both parents went there. I think the most emotional part of the break was when we were there at my brother's house and the last gift of the evening was from "Aunt Jenn" (which I had a hard time writing for the first time) to "Little Graus Man". It was a book called "One the Day You were Born". Jen opened it and say that there was a letter inside. She started to read it and couldn't get through the first sentence. Jeff refused, my mom didn't think she could do it so only my dad was left. He read the note that I wrote to the baby which apologized for the fact that I can't welcome him into the world at the end of February but I had this book which I want to be a tradition between the two of us that I'll read it to him on his birthday every year until he can read it to himself. I told him that this year, I needed a fill in and I hoped that it would be grandma. Toward the end of the letter I said, "I promise to read a copy of this book the day that I get the phone call that you've arrived. I'll be with you in Spirit and hold you in my heart until I can hold you in my arms in May." All during this, my dad is reading while the song "Silent Night" is playing and all of us are in tears but it was a good family moment and I hope they understand how much I wish I could be there. Jen is on bed rest until the baby is born, I know it's all going to be okay but I'm just keeping her and close in my heart these last maybe 6 weeks.

My time in Michigan was short but I did spend time with Marie B, Jeanne and Joyce De. It was so good to be with them, Jeanne especially. We have a different mode of share now because we're both away from home and it feels good just to share with someone that's experiencing some of the same things.

There was lots of traveling, lots of energy needed and expended and even more love the was really felt in a short amount of time! I think that boost gives me a good jump start to this next semester.

We got back a week ago on the 3rd and on the 4th, Millie was out her to Orange with Lynn and JoAnn that live out here in California. I hadn't ever met them before but I was glad that I got to see Millie and that her being out her helped me to meet our own. Bernie took them for a tour and then Ann and I joined them for brunch. Picture below.

This week we had Barbara Baer from Wichita with us. She shared a very condensed version of what she would do in Bearers of the Tradition. It just amazes me all the year that she has crammed in her mind but the knowledge and all the stories with our CSSJ history was very inspiring and there are many ties that I found of how we're repeating some history with the journey that our new community is taking.

Anyway, this is getting excruciatingly long. I'll end here and just let you enjoy the pictures of my trek from Orange to Chicago to Nazareth to Chicago to Detroit/Sterling Heights to Nazareth to Chicago and back to Orange again :) Enjoy!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Sun is Setting on First Semester

At this time next week I'll be in Chicago adjusting to the HUGE climate change.

I realize that it's been quite a while since I last updated and a few sisters have reminded me that I left you all hanging... wondering if my immediate surroundings had been charred. That answer is NOPE :) *I'm still standin'* The fires did get close and that smoke and ash was around for quite a while. I realized that in the Midwest, we love the wind to relieve us from the humidity. Around here, the lack of humidity dries everything out and the smallest spark from a cigarette out the window or whatever ignites hundreds of acres. Wind is the enemy around here and even though my hair dislikes humidity, I found that I can probably put up with it if it helps prevent the spread of fire and devastation.

Since last time, a lot of end of the semester things have been happening. Each novice had the task of writing a mid-year assessment which included topics like my relationship with: Self, God/Prayer, Community, Congregation, Ministry, Classes, Vows, Balance, and Director. Our director, whether it is Ann or Bernie here, also wrote an assessment of us on those topics and we discussed each of them yesterday. It was really in-depth and time consuming but at the same time it requires you to be reflective on all the areas of life and realize what might need a bit of tweeking for the future.

Our home directors and Kathy McCluskey, the federation director, will all be arriving on Sunday. So from Sunday-Wednesday, we'll be sharing reflections and prayer with them about the last few months. All together there will be 18 of us. At the beginning of next week as well, we each meet with our home director and our director here together in order to talk about the assessment that I wrote about above. Lots of sharing, lots of energy needed but it will be fun to have some new faces and different people around as well. Kathy and I will be flying back to Chicago together on Wednesday afternoon.

I'm looking forward to a break, I wish it could continue to be in warmer weather but oh well! I'm looking forward to seeing some people in Chicago and sleeping in my own bedroom, taking a nap in my own bed and cuddling up on the couch because it's cold! I'll be able to visit family and the sisters in the Detroit area when I'm there between December 22-28. I know that my mom and dad are looking forward to me coming home. In fact, I just got a cute card from my mom today talking about how they're "impatiently waiting" :) I hope I can have time with the sisters and friends that I know around there as well. I know it's a busy time for everyone and being that I'm only going to be there a few days, it might be hard to squeeze everything in but I'm hoping it happens! There's a lot to do in a little time but God will provide every experience I need... maybe even the time to gather enough information while I'm home for my CSJ history presentation that's due in February!

Also since I last checked in with you, we celebrated Lynn's unbirthday. We decided when we got here that even if your birthday wasn't between August-May, that we were going to celebrate it anyway and November 23 was Lynn's day! We went to Balboa beach (which currently ranks #3 on my Top 4 list (which will hopefully be Top Ten in May)). We had a hamburger picnic, used the swings, played in the water, and watched the sunset before coming home to Thuy's first chocolate cake ever. Pictures are below:

We also spend Wednesday night - Sunday afternoon last week at the beach house that the Orange sisters own on Seal Beach. It was a very nice weekend being that close to the water and taking it all in before starting to pack for home. It was very relaxed and we all participated in the making on Thanksgiving dinner. Karen got elected to make the Turkey since she'd taken a class on it. Who woulda thunk? Glad someone was willing AND able! SO we relaxed, finished papers, walked, toured the town and just had fun.

I hope to get back to all of you before returning to Chicago on Wednesday... but no promises!
Happy Advent!!!