Yesterday we entered the holy season of Lent. I was traveling on Ash Wednesday and it was interesting to observe who at the airport had ashes and who didn't. A woman sat next to me on the plane and said, "I see your ashes. My son is a first grader at St. Paul's in Westerville and he is so excited today because his whole class is going to church for ashes." A man then took a seat near us, and a gentleman who seemed to know him said, "Well, I see you've been to Mass!" "Yes, I went with the kids this morning. They said, 'Dad, you've GOT to go!'"
Religious women have always been on the cutting edge of anticipating and answering the needs of society. Many religious have also embraced the challenge in Pope Francis that we should be "women and men who are able to wake up the world." And so the question becomes, "How do we nurture and engage the next generation of young women to "wake up the world" as vowed religious spreading the joy of the gospel?" On February 18-19, 2014, over 25 congregations gathered in Chicago, IL to brainstorm and share ideas around continuing the hope filled process of promoting religious life in the 21st century. The event was sponsored by the National Religious Vocation Conference (NRVC) which is an important partner in the ongoing work of supporting vocations in the Church.
The recent "Come and See Retreat" became for a few days, the "WAIT and SEE Retreat" as we wondered, "Would those who signed up to attend be able to make it to the Martin de Porres Center with such bad weather criss-crossing the nation?" Planes and busses were expected from Connecticut, Nebraska, Texas, Virginia and central Ohio, but in the end, with only one cancellation, we put on our Ruby Slippers and went forward.
"Follow your dreams and give yourself to your passion! Give yourself to something greater than yourself, the Gospel, and ask yourself, "Can I be myself without excessive anxiety, and can I be myself in the company of the Dominican Sisters of Peace?"" These were just a few of the challenges Sr. Anne Lythgoe, OP, shared as she led all more deeply into the theme, "Discovering Home: The Wizard of Oz and Discernment."
Do you love running, soccer, biking? Reading? Listening to music? Praying? Dabbling with paints or in photography? Studying? Dancing? Spending time with close friends? Making a difference through service?
Are you aware of the times in your life when you are fully engaged in the moment?
Are you aware of the times when you are wishing you were somewhere else or doing something else?
One of my fondest childhood memories includes waiting excitedly each year for the annual television presentation of the "Wizard of Oz." Even as an adult it remains one of my favorite films. So, I was intrigued and excited when our retreat facilitator, Dominican Sister of Peace, Sr. Anne Lythgoe, OP, revealed that she would be using this enchanting movie as the theme for our upcoming vocation retreat! What possible wisdom can the tale of Dorothy's mythical journey hold for a woman in the 21st century trying to discern what to do with the rest of her life – especially if she is entertaining the thought of a possible religious vocation? What insights can Dorothy and her companions help reveal about God's call or "path" for her life? I think you will find they will be great guides for the journey!
Hi, my name is Sr. June Fitzgerald and I am a Dominican Sister of Peace. I am new to this Ministry of WelcomeTeam (aka Vocation Ministry) and am excited to have the opportunity to invite women to consider Religious Life and to walk with them as they discern their call. I am blessed, grateful, and amazed that God chose me to do this work – actually, I am amazed that God called me to be a Sister in the first place.
You see, I was not very religious growing up. Yes, we went to church and I had all of the sacraments but, that was basically it for me. I prayed to God when I needed something or was really sorry about something and didn't know how to fix the mess I was in. I even read the Bible on occasion but had a difficult time getting past Genesis. Ever have that experience?
Ana walked gracefully up the aisle holding her Christ Light aloft as the violinist played the processional song. We waited for her at the front of the church and were lifted up with the energy, joy, and enthusiasm of Ana and her procession of family, Sisters, friends, and witnesses that followed her up the aisle. They filed into the pews and the violinist, Ana's sister Lulu, joined us in the sanctuary where we would lead the music and prayer for this official Welcoming Ceremony for Ana as she entered our congregation, the Dominican Sisters of Peace.
Our view from the sanctuary, as leaders of prayer and song, took in the smiles and tears, the prayer and solemnity of this occasion. We were part of a centuries old ritual welcoming new members into a Religious Congregation with a simple ceremony of psalms, prayers, requests, and responses.
When was the last time you asked someone for something? When you sought something new? When you knocked on a door to enter a new place? As you imagine those feelings of anticipation, or perhaps are currently experiencing them yourself, think of Ana Gonzalez who will begin her journey with us as a Candidate on Saturday, January 18. She stands at our door and knocks.
Ana's journey and ours to this moment began long ago – at her baptism and ours. What we celebrate on Saturday is the intersection of her holy journey and ours. What a gift to welcome Ana!
As a novice, I thought that the less distracted I was at prayer, the more pleasing it was to God. As I have learned more about the presence of God in all of creation, I am more "friendly" to distractions. Sometimes I actually incorporate them as part of my prayer. For instance, if I am worried about someone, I place that person in God's arms. If I am preoccupied about a decision I have to make, I beg to see my situation with God's eyes. If I look outside and see snow falling, I praise God for this precious gift of creation. The snow might also remind me to pray for those who are homeless.
This week we began the O Antiphons (today, O Root of Jesse!), and they remind us we are getting close to the celebration of Christmas! There is so much anticipation, waiting, excitement, and hope associated with this glorious Advent season.