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!!!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Wild Fires

All over the news today is the wildfires around Southern California. They're in and around Los Angeles and for what I hear, that's usually where they stay. Right now there are some in Yorba Linda, which is 20 minutes north of here and in Corona which is in the mountains that I see out my bedroom window. I was at the foot of those mountains when I went to see my brother a few weeks ago. The Santa Ana winds that we've had for 2 days is feeding the fires to the point that fire has consumed 2000 acres in those areas.
This is the view from our window at the end of the hall

Taken 45 minutes later

Out the back of the motherhouse... these pictures were taken on the balcony:

Please pray for all the people in these areas, and pray that it doesn't come closer!
LA Fires
Yorba Linda Fires

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Happy World Record Week!!

So I found on Yahoo that this week is World Record week and to celebrate, some world record holders went to New York for a ceremony. This ceremony included a woman who's legs alone are 4 1/2 feet long! You can search yahoo's news if you're curious.

Since my finding out about this, there's been two experiences here that I would put on that World Record list myself. First, Southern Californian (including the Orange CSJs and us) participated in the largest US earthquake drill this morning. It was supposed to happen around the area at 10am but instead happened at 9:30 to the surprise of many... including me! There were faked injuries, triage area, and a makeshift command post. I think it was a good thing to get the snags out before a real one could happen. In fact, many sister before my coming out to California said, "Hey Jenn, I hope that California doesn't fall into the ocean while you're there." Thanks to all who offer those well wishes but so far, so good. One day at a time and today was NOT the day that we fell into the ocean! HOORAY!

Second on the list of our own personal world records this week was our class yesterday which was turned into our monthly house meeting time. Oh no, but this wasn't just ANY house meeting. When all was said and done, we recorded a time of 6 HOURS!!! Who ever heard of a 6 hour house meeting? We all survived that as well and everything that needed talking about was acheived. Hopefully there's no reason to break the record next month!

For anyone else who experienced a World Record Event this week, I'm sorry you weren't invited to the ceremony in New York but feel free to share with me!

In other news...
I realized that I haven't updated since Halloween. It was a festive and fun evening. Ann and Bernie provided a black and orange themed dinner. Ann's friend Mary, from Wichita, joined us for the party. We shared a Halloween prayer which members of my congregation sent our way. Then those who had costumes dressed up. You can see the pictures below. We played Halloween pictionary and jeopardy which was provided by Melissa and ended the evening watching scary movies together. It was a great community night together.

We celebrated Ann's Birthday a few days later:

We spent Sunday (11/2) in LA before our ICN class at Carondelet on Monday. We visited the Getty Museum which is just a gorgeous place! It's located on a hill just west of the hill that Carondelet is on. The buildings are all separate at the Getty and each has different artwork in it but you walk outside to get from building to building. They're also known for their sculpture and landscape but in my heart, it's known for it's view!

Lynn Levo (CSJ Carondelet-Albany) was with us last week for that ICN class in LA and our own classes Tuesday and Wednesday. I had heard her speak before in Villa Maria, PA but this time I heard her talk on "Intimacy and Sexuality" completely different. I'm sure many of you have heard Lynn speak before and maybe on this topic. Usually when folks outside religious life hear about this topic their one eyebrow goes sky-high. When we talk about the vow of chastity, non-religious always think of the can'ts and don'ts of this vow. Really this vow is one about relationship. Lynn helped us to realize that all the energy inside of us, all the trials of life and our prayer life... each of these should be sending us out into relationship with one another. Our vow in religious life allows us to have deep relationships with everyone without distinction, but they aren't meant to be exclusive in nature. It struck me while she was presenting how much our media has changed the definition of the word "intimacy". Intimacy really means being vulnerable with another person and allowing a deep sharing between each other. So I can be in a relationship with many people: friends, co-workers, family, community members but there's going to be different levels of conversation with each person, different levels of intimacy. Lynn's classes are always helpful no matter how many times they're heard because she always comes with the encouragement to be a healthier person who has healthy relationships.

At our house meeting we discussed a bit about the mid-year assessment that we have to (get to) complete. It will end up being a paper that needs to cover topics such as: Self, Prayer, Community, Ministry, Classes, etc. and about how we've seen growth or movement in these categories. Also we talked a bit about Thanksgiving. We won't be going home for Thanksgiving, instead we'll spend Wednesday night or Sunday afternoon of that week at Seal Beach where the Orange sisters have a beach house. It's the next best setting to being with family. My mom and dad can expect a phone call that day as my toes will be in the ocean! (Don't know that I'm going to get much further than that!) We'll all be heading home on December 10 for a Christmas break. Our home directors will be here for 3 days for meetings with us, Bernie, and Ann then we'll head to our respective homes. I'll be in Chicago the majority of the time between Dec. 10 and January 3 when we come back but will be able to go to the Detroit area for a few days to hang out with my family and friends! In some ways it seems like it's been like yesterday and in some ways it seems like it's been too long since I've been home! This weekend we're supposed to get to 90 degrees again, not what I'm used to for Christmas shopping!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Middle of My Work Day

Well, well, well... Thursday's usually the busiest day and it's almost half over. I always know that it's almost half over and that I'm going to have a great weekend when I get to this point of Thursday and my reflection paper from class is written and printed.

This week Anne Hennessey from the Orange congregation (but she lives in the San Fransisco area) joined us. Her expertise that was shared with us was on 17th century France and Jean Pierre Medaille. She helped us understand the atmosphere at the time a little more because since we don't know much biographical information about Medaille, we need to gain understanding about him from the culture itself. I always enjoy learning about the class systems and the inter-relatedness of all the royalty from the countries in Europe. Everyone was fighting for power and land and they all married each other's relatives to make alliances with each other. It just boggles my mind. The part that really gets me excited is when the women take charge like Elizabeth in England or Anne of Austria or even Marie de Medici. Such tough, confident women! Anyway, I think the thing that I'm left reflecting on is the charism of reconciliation that was so much needed back then because of the cloud of death and depravity that was over France and how much we're in need of those reconciling attitudes today because our American society is in the same boat these days... everyone living in fear and so many living from paycheck to paycheck. It give me a lot to think about and strikes me with the need to pray for courage to have the attitude with the people I encounter while I'm out here.

We've been watching the World Series every night out here and that came to a celebratory end last night. We have two novices from Philly here so it gave us some incentive to watch, in addition to the love for the game itself. Now that those parties are over with, we're looking forward to a Halloween party tomorrow night after our prayer day. Karen and I rented some scary Halloween movies to watch that night after dinner so we can all be scared and have nightmares together!!! EKKK!! Also, so many people from the wonderful Congregation of St Joseph graciously contributed to our festivities with care packages and decorations!!I think we'll have a great evening!

We'll be going to the LA Carondelet center after touring LA on Sunday. Lynn Levo (Albany) will be at our ICN gathering on Monday and she'll be presenting at the LA center for us. She'll be talking about friendship with the ICN folks and will come back to Orange with us to speak about Intimacy and Sexuality on Tuesday and Wednesday. But before that, there's the need to celebrate the birth of Ann Letourneau on Monday night with pizza, prayer and other goodies! Happy Birthday ANN!!

So I guess it's safe to say that I'm in good space and looking forward to this next week. Picture will be posted soon.
Love to all and thanks for the prayers (and care packages to those who sent them!)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Oliver, Otis and Other Things

So you may have seen the pictures of Oliver and Otis yesterday and much has happened since then but before I move forward, I think I have to go backwards. On Monday with the Intercommunity Novitate folks, we went to San Juan Capistrano to do something more social as a group. It was a good, hot and sunny day to spend outdoors. We arrived there about 9AM and went to some touristy places before having to gather at 10. At 10, we met up with our two tour gudies and they explained the history of the mission and what it's function was. The tour was about 2 hours and afterward we stayed around and ate the lunches that we brought together.

Anyone that knows me well knows that I love butterflies and they have been a great symbol for me since entering two years ago when Gert Maurer gave me a monarch caterpillar as a gift. I had Ernie for about 3-4 weeks as he went through the transformation process of becoming a butterfly. At San Juan Capistrano, I was kind of distracted because there were so many Monarchs flying around and craving my attention as they landed on different flower and flew around my head. There was a flowering milkweed plant that was low to the ground inside the mission grounds near the bells and there had to be about 15 or so caterpillars on this plant. By the end of the day, I decided that I needed a souvenior and this is one that could pray with and would speak to me deeply with all of the symbolism. So that's the story of how I got Oliver and Otis. Usually you can't tell the sex of a caterpillar, you have to wait until it becomes a butterfly so their names may have to change by the end of this process.

On Monday evening, I was afraid for them because the milkweed that they were on was wilting and they couldn't eat it any longer. At dinner with all of the motherhouse sisters, I was asking many of them if they knew where I could find milkweed because from the internet I knew that milkweed in California didn't look like the milkweed that I'd grown used to seeing in Michigan. Tuesday on our lunch break, I decided to go to 2 parks that I'd found in the area from the internet and thought that they might have milkweed. I wandered through the parks for about an hour with no luck. I had twenty minutes until I had to be back to the motherhouse and it was a 16 minute drive back. I was supposed to turn right but I knew that God was telling me to turn left. I did and there on the right was a park and in the back of the parking lot was a building that said "Parks Office". I went inside and there were two park rangers. The one took me to the state park where he had his office and was going to give me seeds but when he found out that the need was sooner, he ripped 3 plants out of the ground and sent me on my way. It wasn't the kind of plant that I would have been looking for so I'm sure glad that God directed me to their expertise.

In the afternoon yesterday Oliver and Otis started to hang from the milkweed plant and I realized that they were going to start to form their chrysalis even sooner than I had expected. Otis you'll see in the pictures is already in the comfort of his chrysalis and Oliver is still trying to figure out how this process goes. I'm kind of worried about him because he hasn't moved in quite a while and is slower about this process than Otis was. I hope he's okay. I'll keep you updated on their progress. They still have 9-14 days to become butterflies though.

Onto other news. Last week Monday, we had Jane DiLisle from Orange with us at our ICN meeting. This was the first part of our program on the Enneagram. She introduced us to all the personality types so that we could try and decided what our motivations are and what the motivation of others is. I think the whole day was full of great material because we were able to see how and why we react to certain things the way we do and how others react as well. I think it helps build community and get along with people too because you can embrace each others strengths and weaknesses. Next Monday, Jane will be with us again for Part 2 and she'll be talking about how the different personality types relate to different prayer styles. I'm looking forward to that. For those of you that are familiar with the Enneagram... any idea what number I am? Ann and I have figured it out and I'm still feeling it out to see if it's a fit.

For the past two days, Pat Byrne from Baden, PA has been with us to talk about the Primitive documents. I wasn't so much of a history buff in school so I wasn't sure what to expect for this class. I think it definitely helps to have the background that Pat has because it gives an appreciation of the strruggle and joy that was involved in making this place available for me as a home. We spent time with the Reglements and the Eucharistic Letter as well as the first Constitution written by Fr. Medaille. I won't get into these classes too much or any in the future because I know that each of our home novice directors are supposed to email our communities about the content of our classes here. I will share something that struck me the most. It happened at the end while we were talking about the Eucharistic letter. We were learning about how the letter states that our whole congregation and it's design is based on the Eucharist itself. I hadn't ever really thought about this before but it has given me a greater understanding and appreciatation for the scarament. Our congregation wasn't recognized as a civil body in the beginning because we weren't like any religious order that already existed. We weren't monastic and we didn't have the monastery walls. We weren't recognized and we had no example to build ourselves off of. We had to completely give up any preconceived idea of religious life so that God could make of us whatever God intended. While Jesus was on Earth no one could understand or see that he was divine. He lived a hiddenness because no one had encountered anyone like Jesus, both human and divine. We began in that hiddenness as well. No religious order was able to be on the streets and work as we did during that time and so we lived out our call in the hiddenness that Jesus experienced as well. It seems today that we are living the same way. I've experienced this quite a bit. People wonder why I'm entering a religious order when they don't see outward signs like they're used to. Society is used to sisters being in habits, teaching in schools and being in hospitals. Then they see me in jeans or shorts and a tshirt, taking two years away from work to "play" in California, being interested in technolgy and sports and expect me to be completely shut off from society. There is still that hiddenness today and as the sisters in 1650 were called to redefined religious life, I think that is the challenge that we face again today.

We're finishing out the week with ministry today and prayer day tomorrow. My brother is coming out to California this week for a softball tournament so I'm hoping that I have some time to go visit. If I'm lucky, maybe I'll get some news as to the names that they're thinking about for my nephew who will appear in February.

Evening edition:
RIP Oliver... Oliver was buried at 8:26 this evening without fully realizing his beauty on this Earth. What a sad, sad way to end the evening!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Meet Oliver and Otis

Here's pictures of the two souvenirs I got from San Juan Capistrano yesterday. I'll write the story tomorrow but I wanted to get the pictures up!



Sunday, September 28, 2008

Consensus Statement Reflections

As I was thinking about class this week, I thought that I would share with you some of the questions that we had regarding it in case you would like to reflect on them yourself. We had this class with Bernie and Ann but they had a video presentation from Leonie Shanley who broke down each part of the Consensus Statement and went deeper into it's meaning:

Stimulated by the Holy Spirit of Love
and receptive to the Spirit's inspirations

The Sister of Saint Joseph moves always towards
profound love of God
love of neighbor without distinction

from whom she does not separate herself
from whom, in the following of Christ
she works in order to achieve unity
both of neighbor with neighbor
and neighbor with God
directly in this apostolate
indirectly through works of charity

in humility - the spirit of the Incarnate Word
Philippians 2:5-11

in sincere charity (cordiale charité) - the manner of
Saint Joseph whose name she bears

in an Ignatian-Salesian climate: this is,

with an orientation towards excellence
(Le dépassement, le plus)

tempered by gentleness (douceur), peace, joy

Reflection -
1. How is the Spirit calling me to move?
2. What neighbor or kind of neighbor do I struggle to love?
3. How do I work to achieve Unity?
4. What do I need to empty myself of in order to be filled with God?
5. When have I experienced someone treating me "in the manner of St. Joseph"? What did they do and how did I feel?
6. Who in my life seeks excellence and is able to temper it with gentleness, peace and joy? Or, when have I found myself living in this way.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Time Spent Wisely Part II

So now for Thursday - Sunday.
Thursday is our Ministry Day. We all split up for an experience at different ministry sites that have been made available to us. We prayer in the morning and then go on our own. Bridget helps out at Mary's Kitchen. Andrea is an assistant in the 2nd grade room at St. Joseph School. Karen and Lynn speak with kids in Juvenile Hall. Julie and Thuy are at the L'Arche community. Lastly, Melissa and myself are at Thomas House. I'll do a post one day just about Thomas House but all the ministry sites were explained in a previous post titled "Transitioning and Re-orientating Myself". Many of our ministries occur after lunch, like for Melissa and I, we get to Thomas House around 2pm and leave around 8. That leaves a good amount of the day before hand to catch up on things. I usually spend that time writing my weekly reflection paper (all of ours are due on Sunday)talking about what we took away from the class that week. I also catch up on reading material, emails and letters, go to Mass, lunch and then it's about time to go. In the past when novices got back from their ministries on Thursday nights, they would get together for prayer that evening and sharing Theological Reflections. This year has been a bit different since many of us get back late and wouldn't have sufficient time to reflect and get the written portion done. So we do this sharing on Friday night after dinner.

For those of you that are wondering what Theological Reflection is, this is the breakdown we use:
1. Story: Share a story of an experience that took place during your ministry experience that day
2. Charism/Scripture Relation: Connect your story to a Scripture passage or a quote that expresses the CSSJ charism - such as something that you may have learned in class
3. Image/Symbol: a representation of this event that may come during prayer
4. Call: What is God calling me to personally? How can I apply this lesson in my own life/prayer life?

Friday is our prayer day. It's a day of silence until the evening meal that we share together. We are free to spend our day with God wherever we find the Spirit's direction. Today I spent my morning reading and journaling, reflecting on some of the events of the week. I went to Mass at 11 and ate lunch outside. I had planned to go to the beach to be with the waves but decided to stick close to home, I sat outside for quite a while, went to the pool, looked over the daily readings again and continued reading a good that I started awhile ago "The Feminine Face of God" to name a few things. We ate together at about 5:30 and shared our Theological Reflections. Usually the night is free on Friday but tonight John Dear, the Jesuit peace activist was at the Center for Spiritual Development and a group of us went to hear him speak. Sometimes speeches like that make you feel so small!

Saturday is a self-care day. This is when I choose to do my charge, my laundry, and any shopping that I have to do. Usually, Andrea and I go to Mass at 5 at St. Norbert's which is 15 minutes away. I thought it a good idea to get an outside experience of church community while in the novitiate which is at times closed in. Helps me remember that there are other believers out there and maintain that connection.

Sunday is usually a free day until dinner. We share dinner together and afterward have Sharing the State of the Heart together weekly.

So I hope this gives you a glimpse into the novitiate weekly life. You can count on us doing these things week in and week out. Usually my posts from now on will pick out a certain happening from class or ministry or else pick something that's happened out of the ordinary to keep you up to date.
Thanks to all of you who read this. I know that some post comments, others don't but I thank you for your interest and most of all your thoughts and prayers!!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Time Spent Wisely

Well finally we're on the normal schedule. It's taken us a while to get there. I've almost been here a month and it's taken us that long to get into the routine. Orientation is now over, we're all set with our ministry sites and our intercommunity schedule is straightened out. I was waiting until this point to give all of you an idea of our time here because I wasn't sure about it until I started living it.

This post, I'll focus on Monday - Wednesday and tell you about the other days another time.

Monday is our intercommunity day. We had our first one this week. We usually get together in the Los Angeles area, about 45 minutes away from 9:45 - 3 pm at the motherhouse that belongs to the Lovers of the Holy Cross. The program is supposed to be for novices but it's envolved into pre-candidates through 1st and 2nd year novices. There are about 40 of us plus all the directors. Each week there is a new speaker. This week Kathy Bryant, rsc joined us to talk about "God's Will and Our Desire". She focused mainly on the ideas of consolation and desolation and on Ignatian spirituality which fit all the CSJs present. The rest of this month we have:
Linda Buck, csj (Orange) - Family of Origin
Carol Quinlivan, csj - Journaling and Prayer (this will take place that the Orange CSJs place near Seal Beach)
Mondays we also have prayer together (which we all take turns leading) at 8am and after dinner. We have dinner together which we volunteer to cook for as well. We have our own kitchen and living space on 3rd floor that the 10 of us share. And after dinner and prayer each evening, we're free to relax it whatever way comes to us.

Tuesday and Wednesday look similar to each other. We pray at 8:30 and after dinner together. This is when a CSSJ speaker comes in for a few days to have class with us on their area of expertise. This week we had Paula Drass from Baden come to talk to us about the Charism and the Two Trinities. Class usually runs from 9-3 with breaks for reflection, Mass at 11 and lunch. (Lunch is provided downstairs in the dining room everyday with the sisters if we're around) Each week we are required to write a paper due on Sundays in which we talk about our reflections from this 2-day class time. Some people hate the papers, but I don't mind and even enjoy it because it allows me to get all my thoughts down on paper and process better. This reflection paper is only required to go to our director here.
This month we'll also spend this 2-day period talking about:
Ann and Bernie - Consensus Statement
Mary Ann Mulzet (Philadelphia?) - Prayer and Ritual

So that's how our time is well spent on Monday - Wednesday. Hope it helps give you an idea of the novitiate life. More to come...

If you have any questions for me ever or ideas about what you'd like to see on this blog, leave a comment and let me know!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

#1 Song this Weekend

Yesterday after a day on Hollywood Blvd. we went to the Hollywood Bowl with about 35 Carondelet sisters. We saw Brian Wilson in concert. I didn't realize that it wasn't all the Beach Boys we were seeing and someone said that the others died.

Thought you'd like to listen to the #1 of the novices last night. Make sure your speakers are on and hit the triangle button to play!

Sloop John B - The Beach Boys

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Fall is Here!

Fall is officially in California! Ellen DeGeneres announced on her show yesterday that it's official that Autumn has started in California since the temperature has fallen 2 degrees!!!!! You've GOT to be kidding me... I just laugh at all the folks that are bundling up already!

What a busy week! Last time I wrote, I was on my way to the overnight Intercommunity-Novitiate (ICN) retreat. We were joined by about 7 others communities: many Saleians, Lovers of the Holy Cross - a Vietnamese order and Claretian brothers are some that I remember. Many of the Saleians seemed like they were right out of high school and with about 40 people in the whole ICN group, less than 50% were actually novices. Seems confusing based on the title, huh? The 3 Claretians along with the 10 of us were the only ones in everyday clothes. The other 30 or so were in uniforms and habits. I was able to have some quiet prayer time but overall didn't get too much out of the presentations themselves. Every week on Monday we meet with the same group and have different speakers. This coming Monday we have Kathy Bryant, rsc talking about "God's Will and Our Desire". It seems from the comments that people have made that this program as a whole is very introductory but I know that I'll still be able to find a thread that I can hang onto for the day that applies to life as I know it.

This week we had class with Bernie and Ann on Tuesday and the building coordinator saw us on Wednesday to talk about earthquake safety. Many of the novices were glad to finally have talked about that. I'll just put it all in God's hands and pray that I don't fall into the ocean while I'm here. (Some sisters actually told me that they'd pray for that reason while I'm here!)

Wednesday afternoon was free so 5 of us went to Huntington Beach for the first time. Definitely different than Seal Beach. It's the surfer's beach and we saw quite a few. We even saw some folks that choose to be homeless, live on the beach and out of their Winnebago, and just surf... all day. As much as I like the beach, I can't say that I'd like to be homeless for it. The breeze was amazing sitting there as I read and relaxed. I didn't go there yesterday for prayer day because it was a bit cloudy but I think that I'll be going many Fridays. #1 Beach: Huntington.... maybe I'll make a Top Ten list while I'm here!

Thursday was our first ministry day. I chose to go to Thomas House, two apartment buildings which are used for transitional housing for families. Both Melissa and I chose to go there but I'll be working with Kathy Stein, who's a CSJ from Carondelet - LA and the manager of Thomas House. It's not officially a religious organization because of being able to get more grants, but they do call her Sister. I'll be helping Kathy with the computer records for graduates of the program from about 2-5pm. At 5, the parents go to their parenting class on Thursday night and all of the kids 30+ go to a room to finish homework before going outside to play. So I think it's a good mix and yet will be a challenge for me.

Yesterday was a prayer day but I wish I had another today! Instead, we're leaving at 10:30 to go to LA. We're going to Hollywood since last time it didn't work out. I'm not sure what the plan has worked out to be but I'll update you next week. The reason we decided to go is that we were invited to something called the Hollywood Bowl. It's a summer concert series that takes place outside in Hollywood. Tonight Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys are here. YAY!!! Beach Boys in California!!! So we have to be at the Carondelet center by 5 to get the bus with the rest of the sisters. I think since Carondelet are co-hosts of this Fed. Novitiate that we'll be doing a few things like this with them. Don't worry I'll take lots of pictures!

Thanks to all for the cards and emails. Even though I give you the highlights on here of all the happenings, there has been plenty of free time, settling time, and God time. These highlights are my breaks from the internal work. Thanks for sending the prayers, love and letters that help me keep my head above water when things start getting deep here. Peace!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Quick Note of New Experiences and Wake up Calls

This afternoon we're off to Holy Spirit Retreat Center in Encino for an overnight retreat on prayer. It's the first time that we'll be with the Inter-Congregational Novitiate Program. We'll be meeting with them every Monday for a speaker but it seems that they are starting this year off with a retreat. Should be a good couple of days so I'll update you when I come back.

I'd also like to update you on the different ministry sites that we visited this week but I think that's going to have to wait until next time as well.

Before I go, I want to leave you with a poem by Hafiz that made me laugh but also made me think about my own openness toward the year ahead.

Hafiz – A Divine Invitation

You have been invited to meet
The Friend

No one can resist a Divine Invitation.

That narrows down all our choices
To just two:

We can come to God
Dressed for Dancing,


Be carried on a stretcher
To God’s Ward.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Transitioning and Re-orientating Myself

Well I've survived a bit more than a week of novitiate. Some people say, "Well yeah Jenn, you're in California! Tough life, huh?" But actually, it does take a lot of getting used to. First of all, the pace is different. I haven't lived with people my age for 4 years. After a while you get used to living with sisters that are 40 years or so older than you. It's different because usually I have so much energy but there's no one around me to expend that energy. Now there's an abundance. It's not a bad thing on either side, just something else to get used to.

It feels quite different being in California also because normally I would be beginning a new school year and would have my classroom set up by now. I knew that it was time to move on and I think that God's got me in the right spot internally for this new beginning.

There's been a lot of orientation this week. Last Sunday, Kathy and I flew in and I think I was the 4th person here. There was a choice of bedroom to pick from and I picked the street side so I could get the morning sun. The folks on the other side of the hall get evening sun but they're enjoying a balcony as well. The at-home directors stayed with us until Wednesday and it was good to meet everyone and see who they've been working with. The Orange sisters here are all so supportive of us and welcome us all the time, its a great energy around here. After the at-home directors left on Wednesday morning, we were able to have house meetings and get acquainted with each other a bit more. So far, I've been to Target a few times in order to make my room my own. If it's going to feel like home, it's got to have some "Jenn" in it even if I'm not sitting in here. It's funny because during the short time that I was in Chicago, I was trying to make that space mine and trying to find a place for all my belongings. Here, I've got TONS of storage space and nothing to put in it. Wake up call about simplicity but I think I finally got rid of the echoing sound... boy was that a lonely sound!

This weekend there's a street fair just down the road. We went there on Saturday and found that they have food and are selling things originating from every place that you could possibly imagine: Greece, Denmark, Japan, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, etc. It was a great time!

Also visited Seal beach for an afternoon. What a different setting! I've spent most of my "big water" days on Lake Michigan and also was at Cape May last summer. This beach is so different, the beach itself is about a quarter mile between the houses and the water. The sand is practically black with gold flecks all in it. Really different but it's a very reflective place that I think I will frequently occupy.

Thuy, the novice from right here in Orange, made us Vietnamese Spring Rolls this week for dinner. Really good!

This week we'll be visiting the different ministry sites that are available. They include:
- one-on-one visits or sacramental preparation at Juvenile Hall
- 2nd grade aide in a Hispanic area school called St. Joseph
- working at Mary's Kitchen which is a place that provides food and shower facilities to the homeless
- working at Thomas House, a homeless shelter for families
- helping out a the Regina Residence which is a building attached to the Orange motherhouse for the retired and assisted living sisters
- volunteering at L'Arche Wavecrest, a facility which people with disabilities and their assistants choose to live and work together.

So I think it will be a full week. I hope to be as attentive as possible to the Spirit's movement this week as I decided which ministry I will participate in for my 8 month stay in Orange.
Will write soon but feel free to comment or browse at pictures between now and then!
Pictures of all the novices are on the right side for your perusal. In a short time, the Federation website will have these pictures will accompanied by biographies that we wrote this week. If you don't know the Federation website, a like to it is on the right.

Monday, August 18, 2008

The countdown begins...

Well it's been a little while since I've updated... which means that there's a bit to share.

Last week Friday, Kathy, Bee Jay Ciszek and myself flew to Wichita for Susanne Daniel's final vows. We went a bit early because there was a surprise birthday party for Karen Salsberry. Happy 40th KAREN!!!!! It was a great gathering of probably 25 people from 6 different community (if you separate the 7 of us for a moment, take some and add a few other communities). Ann Letourneau provided a prayer after dinner and all of us sat in a big circle and blessed, with grateful hearts, the life of Karen. I felt so much energy in that circle from God and from our community of hearts!

One of the novices that will be joining me in California is 25 year old, Julie Christensen from Concordia. For about 8 months now Julie and I have been talking through emails and over the phone but had never met each other. We shared pictures of each other over the internet and were able to share community living through the eyes of the 25 year olds. Since Concordia is only 2 hour north of Wichita, I encouraged her to come in and visit but it didn't seem like it was going to happen because of her schedule at the time. While we were eating dinner at Karen's party, there were sisters asking me about the 7 novices that I was going to be with and in walks Julie through the kitchen. My mouth fell WIDE open as I pointed at her in disbelief! What a great surprise for me. I wonder if the evening was more of a surprise for me than Karen? So now out of the 7 other novices, I've met 6 six so I'm not so apprehensive about the idea of "meeting new people and living with them".

Since my last post, Sister Peter Mary from LaGrange died. The communal heart in LaGrange remains heavy after her funeral today. I was able to thank God for her life as well when I was invited to help sing in the choir at her funeral. The LaGrange community continues to carry on their tradition of gathering in the chapel the evening before the funeral to share stories of their experience with the deceased. Some of the stories shared lifts spirits by showing the humorous side of life (in this case) with Peter Mary and others show the human side and the occasion where God made God's self completely visible in the moment... these are the ones that the kleenex comes out on. I never sat down with Peter Mary to talk but I definitely think I have a great picture of her from the sharing. She was all about vocation and formation work. In fact, Kathy, who worked with her in that capacity said that when she visited Peter Mary once in the hospital, she mentioned, "The new novice is here". Peter responded, "Oh yeah, Jenn." It's nice to know that even though we didn't know each other well that she still was involved in the vocation/formation news of the community. I feel as if I have another one to pray to look out for me on my journey. Rest in peace, Peter, may we continue to hear your contagious laugh when we start to take life too seriously.

Only a short period of time before I'm on the plane to California. Before that time, I'll be visiting my family once last time and will need to find the time to pack. I had a dream last night, I was starting to pack my suitcases and decided that I would watch a movie with a friend. I fell asleep watching the movie and when I woke up we were really late to catch the plane. I started saying, "But I have to finish packing! One suitcase is packed but the other one's only half packed." I almost started to cry because all of this was too rushed for me. Then someone said, "Forget it, zip it up and let's go! We have to go!" So off I went crying with half a suitcase packed. I shared this story with Kathy Sherman today and she said, "That's just God telling you that you have everything that you need already," as she pointed to her chest. Thanks Kathy! She's so right, then I came home and read today's gospel:

A young man approached Jesus and said,“Teacher, what good must I do to gain eternal life?”He answered him, “Why do you ask me about the good?There is only One who is good.If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.”He asked him, “Which ones?”And Jesus replied, “You shall not kill;you shall not commit adultery;you shall not steal;you shall not bear false witness;honor your father and your mother;and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”The young man said to him,“All of these I have observed. What do I still lack?”Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go,sell what you have and give to the poor,and you will have treasure in heaven.Then come, follow me.”When the young man heard this statement, he went away sad,for he had many possessions.

Wow, wake up Jenn! It's funny what God can teach you through a dream if you pay attention!
Peace to each of you!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The Spirit doesn't just lead us to "rearrange the deck furniture on the Titanic"

Yesterday afternoon, I arrived in Tipton, IN for a meeting with Marty McEntee. Usually while I'm in Chicago, I will be having two class days with Kathy but this week we planned a history class. Since the congregation is in it's infancy, the best person to go to is Marty (whom some affectionary refer to as Mother Marty). Marty was the president of the Tipton congregation which sparked the discussions that started to take place. Around 2000, the Tipton congregation was looking at possible changes to make to their community. They decided that they needed to look further at three options because they knew that the Spirit was not leading them to become one of the "dying breed". During community meetings, the three options they looked at were a merger, autonomy or a union with one or more other communities. In the midst of all of this Marty had come to build relationships with leadership folks in LaGrange and Wheeling at first and then more leadership members from the heartland region came to enter into their dialogue which turned into talks about reconfiguration a few years later.

It was a great two days with Marty! She was able to explain things step by step and show me who God involved throughout the process to make the congregation what it is becoming today. I was surprised when Marty told me that there wasn't a dream inside her mind that she went after. Instead, it seems to me that Marty saw a need within her congregation and allowed the Holy Spirit to work and get creative. When the sisters got their hands dirty, they were able to bring about a new zeal within more people than the 30+ Tipton sisters that said "Yes" to the Spirit's call. I never enjoyed history class very much when I was in school but this adventure I definitely enjoyed. I was able to talk to someone who was part of the history making behind the scenes. Living history is always much better than the kind you find in the books and I feel like to varying degrees, we're all a part of the living history.

Last night, Marty, Theresa MacIntyre, Veronica Baumgartner, and myself went out for dinner and went back to Marty's house for dessert. Was a great way to end the night of CSJ History 101!

I picked the title of this post because Marty said the quoted portion a couple times during our meeting. I'm always looking for new ways to express things with imagery and this is the best I've heard in a while. It seems to me that the Tipton congregation had the option of "rearranging the deck furniture on the Titanic". They saw that they weren't going to last much longer being an independent congregation and they could have just kept shuffling the leadership pool until there was no one left to lead. Instead, each sister was willing to surrender their identity of "Sister of St Joseph of Tipton" and found that they could still continue their identity of "Sister of St Joseph". That's what each of the sisters of the seven communities had to do and because of that, I can say that they've brought me new life as much as they have themselves. Thank you to each one of you for the tears, the sacrifice and the love that you put into this new congregation so far. We have hope, a new "fiery" zeal, the blessing of the Holy Spirit and also more compassion for each other. I learned a lot with Marty and have come to a knew appreciation of what it means to think BIG with the Spirit.

I hope through the CSJ example, others will learn to stop "rearranging the deck furniture on their Titanic" and think bigger!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Wow!! What a weekend!

What a fabulous weekend of beginning and celebrating commitment. I could feel the walls of Nazareth and my heart swelling with all the love and support that was in that building this weekend. Many sisters were home and sisters from the other centers joined us for the celebrations of my novitiate ceremony and our jubilee celebrations for those in religious life for 50, 60 and 75 years. It was a very busy weekend with all the parties, socials, programs, ceremony and liturgy!

For my entrance into novitiate, sisters from the Cleveland, LaGrange, Wheeling, and of course Nazareth were all present. In fact there were a couple of sisters from Cleveland that came up for the ceremony and I hadn't even met them previously. That's what community does in your life though. You realize the spirit and heart that is in those around you and those with the same initials after there name and though you've never met, you share the same experience and are able to be a support and a presence without even knowing names. I thought a lot of those sisters that traveled all that way to celebrate my day, even for a short time!

During the ceremony, I think I was called up 3 times in front of all who were gathered and just looking out towards the people made my heart expand with their prayers and support. All of the innumerable hugs will definitely last me quite a while.

Some sisters requested that I make available the responses to Marie's questions that I answered during the ceremony. Below you will find those but before I do that, I just want to thank everyone that was with me whether is was with their physical or prayerful presence.

Marie: Jenn, What do you ask of the Congregation?

In this period of novitiate which the community and God have invited me to, I would ask from my sisters: prayers, support and encouragement. Relationships through both prayer and presence are the things that have helped me to see God within myself and in this community. I would hope that your words of encouragement would continue to help me say “yes” to all that God plans on my journey.

Marie: What has brought you to this decision?

I can’t say that I alone am responsible for this decision to continue my journey in religious life. There have been struggles (and I would guess there will be a few in the future) that make me realize how counter-cultural this life is. There are times that I’ve allowed God to say “yes” for me when I couldn’t say it myself. I know that each struggle, each joy, each lesson-learned, gives me more strength to allow God to keep working in my life. I know that this period of novitiate will allow me the opportunity to build a deeper relationship with God. This is the “something more” that I started to search for before coming to this community. The desire to deepen and strengthen this relationship is what brings me to say “yes” with God today.

Marie: Jenn, What has drawn you to the Congregation of St. Joseph?

In my 7-year introduction to the Sisters of St. Joseph, I have experienced being one with the God-given Spirit for authentic life that runs through this community. As my family is realizing, this lifestyle is very different than the American culture we are used to but that difference is what attracted me. I have seen the Spirit of humility and hospitality at work when sisters are in relationship with others both in and outside of the community… welcoming others and putting them at ease. There is also an honesty that CSJs live out of that allows them to be open to God and to the Spirit as they live their day to day life. I have also found that a Sister of St. Joseph’s energy comes from the time that they are able to have alone and with God. This energy allows them to live life to the fullest and with enthusiasm while being aware of God’s continuous presence. These are characteristics that I desire to have as a part of myself. I have found that I can grow in these traits with this community and also be focused on the presence of God throughout life.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Why CSJ Namaste?

Well, you may be wondering about the title "CSJ Namaste".

I think the first part may be self-explanatory to many but if you're not sure... it stands for Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph of which I belong to.

The other part, Namaste, is a Hindu-Sanskrit word that means things like this:

- "I honor the Spirit in you which is also in me."
- "Your spirit and my spirit are One."
- "That which is of the Divine in me greets that which is of the Divine in you." (

and I think the coolest is:
- "I honor the place in you in which the entire Universe dwells, I honor the place in you which is of Love, of Integrity, of Wisdom and of Peace. When you are in that place in you, and I am in that plan in me, we are One."

I have heard of this greeting before and knew it was of another culture but was truly introduced to it at one of our CSJ gatherings. I love this word because of it's many meanings. You don't say "Namaste" as a quick hello while you're rushing past someone. It requires an internal slowing down and being. It isso much related to the "dear neighbor", which CSJs talk about so frequently. The idea is about us all being one and treating one another as God's creation and as an extension of some part of ourselves. This 2-year period of novitiate will bring about an internal slowing down which can (I hope) allow me to find God in everything, everyone, and every experience. My heart is drawing closer to all of these ideas and I hope that this blog/journaling will reflect/honor this process of getting closer to God in and around me... as well as keep you up-to-date with what's going on in my life. Namaste!