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!