Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Vita Consecrata--Consecrated Life


 A significant dimension of religious life is involved in apostolic activities, also referred to in religious life as our ministries.  I would like to feature another member of my religious community, Sister Mary Ellen Joyce. Sister Mary Ellen is a certified long-term care chaplain endorsed by the National Association of Catholic Chaplains (N.A.C.C.). Her role as Chaplain is to be present to residents, their families and the staff at Franciscan Oaks Health Center in Denville, New Jersey.  Her ministry encompasses three levels of care: independent, assisted living and those who need around-the-clock nursing care.  She conducts weekly communion services, scripture study and prayer.  Her responsibilities also include preparing weekly faith-based reflections, holiday customs and trivia and the creation of a Christmas pageant.

Her creativity exudes all of her work. Here is a segment of one of her Scripture trivia games:

·         Who had the highest sodium level recorded in scripture?

·         What is the sign of God’s covenant?

·         What ritual meal is eaten just as it was in scripture?

·         What horse-drawn vehicle wheels clogged during the chase?

·         Who could have been on a biblical “Ricky Lake show”?

o   He was his father’s favorite.

o   His brothers hated him.

o   He was abused physically and emotionally.

o   He was seduced by his employer’s wife.

·         Whose name in scripture means “I drew you out of the water” (His mother could have been in Martha Stewarts basket class)?

·         The Queen of Sheba probably had the largest ____cabinet in the world.

·         Where in scripture do we read about a possible entry into the “Ripley’s Believe it Or Not” most incredible fish story?

·         Before Mr. Ed. We hear of a talking ______in the book of Numbers. Sorry Mr. Ed!

 If you love God above all, hunger to know, cherish and delve into the Scriptures, are creative, want to serve people where they are at, enjoy being involved in Church Ministry, in helping the poor and/or working for peace and justicve in our world,  strive to grow in intimacy with the Lord, want to dedicate your entire being to the Lord alone, hear a small inner voice inviting you to consider religious life, perhaps religious life is for you.  I invite you to browse our vocation website, www.becomingasister.org. and fill out the self-quiz.







Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Discernment: What Mary Magdalene Teaches Us


In today’s Gospel, John 20: 11-18, Mary Magdalene has gone to the tomb looking for Jesus.  She finds the tomb empty. Jesus’ body is gone.  Overcome with grief, she weeps outside of the tomb.  Two angels appear one at head and the other at the feet where the body of Jesus had been. They question Mary: Why are you weeping? She turns around and sees Jesus but thinks he’s the gardener. He also asks her why she is weeping. She says to Him: “Sir, if you have taken Jesus’ body, please show me where it is. I will take care of it.” And Jesus says: “Mary”!  When he speaks her name, she recognizes the Lord and responds in Hebrew “Rabouni,” which means “Master.”
How did Mary discern that the gardener was Jesus? How was it that she recognized the gardener’s voice as the voice of her Master?

First of all, Jesus is looking for/waiting for her. If He were not seeking, she would not find.  Second of all, Mary is engaged in the discernment process, which we might outline, in this instance, into eight significant steps:  1) She is actually looking for Jesus.  2) She  wants to find the One she has lost, even if all she finds is his dead body.   3) She wants to serve Him, give Him something, namely, in this case, a proper burial, one that shows the deceased the respect that is deserved.  4) She allows no one to distract her, neither the angels nor the gardener.  5) She is focused.  6) She knows for whom/what she is looking. 7) She does not give up until she finds the One for whom she is thirsting, hungering, longing, desiring! 8) She personally encounters the Risen Lord—this personal relationship with the Lord long preceded this finding of Him in the  emptiness of her life at that point in time.
What about you and me? Are we actually looking? Do we really want to find Him? Are we willing to be of service, to give of ourselves no matter what the cost (Mary Magdalene could have been arrested, put to death as Jesus was)? Do we shut out distractions and stay focused? Do we know for what/whom we are looking? Do we persevere in looking? Have we developed a personal relationship with the Lord in the first place?

Monday, April 21, 2014

Vita Consecrata: Consecrated Life: Bringing fuller life to others


The tagline of my religious community is “to bring fuller life to others.” In 2012, October 7-28, a group of us Sisters met in Rome, Italy for a General Assembly to address a related theme to “bring fuller life to others.”  At that Assembly, the following Mission Statement was adopted: 
The Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother participate in the mission of Jesus to bring fuller life to others by revealing the love of God for all, especially the poor.
All of our Sisters strive to carry out that mission statement. I would like to feature the Franciscan Institute for Personal and Family Development. This ministry was developed by the Caribbean Sisters in 2001 as a corporate iteninerant ministry that serves several islands. For example, from July 2010 to February 2014 26 parishes, 40+ schools in Trinidad alone participated in Common Sense Parenting Courses  and 37 schools participating in "Parenting for Literacy" programs.  The Common Sense Parenting program along with other courses in self-esteem building, anger management and communication skills have also been taught in schools on several islands. These courses are offered to parents, students and teachers in all participating schools, not just to the students.
The director of the program is Sister Julie Marie Peters, a Family and Marriage Therapist.


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Discernment: Does God give a sign?


Does God give signs?  In my work as Vocation Director for the past six years, I am amazed at how often inquirers receive signs that God may be calling them to religious life.  Religious life and its call, of course, is a mystery.  So, too, are God’s will and His way of revealing it.  St. Paul states this fact in Eph 1: 9-10:  “God has given us the wisdom to understand fully the mystery, the plan to be decreed in Christ in the fullness 9of time; to bring all things into one in him, in the heavens and on earth.”  That plan is union with Him.  Many inquirers states that they long for and want to grow in intimacy with the Lord and t5hat something within them is calling them to seek “the more” that only God can give.  Many desire to serve the poor and be involvewd in Church ministries.  These desires come from one’s deepest self, the God-self.  Signs of their God origin are an unshakable peace, a peace the world cannot give, and a conviction that nothing is impossible with God.  That this call is from God is usually first confirmed by an “outsider” who says to you: “Ever thought about a vocation to religious life or the priesthood. Go9d may be calling you.”  Another sign of this call’s authenticity is an unspeakable inner joy, a love that is irresistible.

Trust: God is at work!



Religious life is about serving the Church in a variety of ways.  The chapter on “Apostolic Service” in the Constitution of the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother opens with a quote from Micah 6: 8: “…and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”  That statement applies to so many of my senior sisters, women religious who did great things for the Lord without recognition of their efforts. Nor did they ever toot their own horns, so to speak.  These were and are humble women, women who gave their lives for the poor and oppressed, who did whatever was asked of them by their superiors.  One such woman was Sister Kiliana Jakubowski, a woman from Germany, an orphan, in  fact.  She was principal of the convent high school and president of the junior college in Milwaukee, WI,  when I entered the community back in the 50’s.  In the 60’s she was asked to lay the groundwork for our missions in the Caribbean and in Brazil, traveling to those countries and, for Brazil, learning Portuguese in her advanced years.  She was passionate about preserving the history of our community. That passion led her to writing the first community history book as well as translating five volumes of meditations given by the first spiritual director of our community, Msgr. George Jacquemin.  As an aspirant, postulant, novice and three years into temporary vows I was the one who typed and mimeographed those five books: the one history book and the four volumes of meditations.  Her motto that she passed on to me was: All for the glory and honor of God. Truly, that was the passion that drove her to say “yes” to all God asked of her. It is that motto that underlies the humility of so many of the Sisters that have gone before me. It is also the motivation that prompted their obedience to their superiors and ultimately to their God.

Thursday, April 3, 2014


 Are you wondering to which vocation God is calling you? Is it marriage; and, if so, how do I find my future husband/wife?  Am I being called to consecrate my life to God; and, if so, to which religious community?  Could I being called to the single lifestyle? How do I find answers to those questions? First of all, I need to go to God.  I need to be seeking God’s will, not mine. Sincerely, I need to say to God: “Not my will, but yours be done.”  Then I need to say: “Here I am, Lord; I am coming to do your will. Show me. Open my eyes to see, my ears to hear and my will to follow.” Sit in the stillness and be attentive to the Spirit praying within you.  When you mine wanders, come back to  gently to listening (use the word “Jesus”).  Do this for 3-5 minutes every day.

If you feel called to marry, ask the Lord to put you in touch with your future spouse and to give you the courage to search for the right person. If you feel called to religious life, search the web. Study the charisms of different religious community, attend their Come and See programs or arrange for a discernment session with the vocation director (this could be a day retreat or several days of retreat.
If you feel called to the single lifestyle, ask the Lord to reveal this gift to you and to fill your heart with peace, if that is the vocation to which you are called.




Religious life is a gift to the Church.  Every person called to consecrate her life to the Lord comes with a variety of God-given gifts. The gifts we each receive from the Spirit are given for the purpose of bearing fruit on the “tree” of the religious community planted in the Church’s vineyard.  The community and the mission of that community grow stronger through the ministries of each person called to that community of faith.  Over the next months, I will reiterate the gifts God has given to the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother in its membership. 

Let’s begin with Sister Thomasina Gebhard, who has a doctorate in social work. She is Director of Partnership for Social Services Family Center in Franklin, NJ.  The mission of this organization is to provide social services that address the needs of individuals, families and groups, especially the poor, to advocate for justice and to convene other persons to do the same. Each year more than 36,000 individuals and families take advantage of it clinical, educational and community service and action programs.   The agency offers special services to emotionally troubled children, adults, aging persons, unmarried parents, residents of urban housing development and non-English speaking persons.

Her work in collaboration with a lay staff furthers the mission of Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother, who “participate in the mission of Jesus to bring fuller life to others by revealing the love of God to all, especially the poor.”  We have been doing this since 1883!