“My yes to God is always, now, and forever.” These are the words of our Sister Alma who just made final vows on April 3. I just returned from the Philippines where I was able to be present with our 38 sisters there and celebrate the final vows of both Sisters Alma and Salvacion.
These are two women who have recently been through a very intense discernment and came to be sure they wanted to give their whole lives. They said the formation years haven’t always been easy, and there are certainly ups and downs, but they both knew this was the right step. I could see their excitement as the ceremony approached and was witness to their deep joy that day.
As we chatted the night before the ceremony, they could both articulate clearly what the vows mean to them. Alma speaks of her commitment as a covenant with God and as a commitment to serve God and the people of God with joy.” Salvacion sees her vows as “a manifestation of God’s mercy and compassion.” They are her way "to love and serve selflessly now and forever." Both sisters live lives of direct service, deep prayer, and community.
How would you describe your “yes” to God?
Blessings of the Easter Season,
This week we feature guest blogger, Sister Ann Romayne Fallon, OP, Holy Rosary Chapter Assistant.
It will soon be 70 years since I said “Yes” to God and responded to his call to life as an Adrian Dominican Sister. Actually, I was blessed with an early awareness of where this journey might take me and why I gave it much consideration, especially during my secondary school years. Looking back, I know this call was initiated by these remarkable women who nurtured my desire to learn and an even greater desire to become a teacher. My love for school was strong and kept the dream alive.
Ultimately, it was the wonderful spirit of these sisters that opened the door for me and encouraged the process of discernment toward this exciting and life-changing possibility. I found myself mentally exploring what it would be like to be sent to unknown places whenever and wherever needed and, of course, not fully realizing the great challenges that would be required in order to serve God’s people in the footsteps of Dominic. But nothing daunts those who are ready to take on the world!
With the support of faith-filled parents who swallowed their fears and allowed their oldest/recent high school graduate the freedom to follow her heart. As a result I have made a commitment to this incredible mystery that calls the heart to discipleship and the discovery of the difference between the “wisdom of the world” and the “wisdom of God.” And I have never looked back!
Religious life has granted me countless blessings and provided many opportunities to deepen my spiritual life, to live and enjoy the gift of community, and to be granted ministerial assignments that touched the lives of thousands of young people and helped them to recognize their mission to make our world a better place for others. A challenge that continues to be mine as well.
Several years ago, I was at a meeting that had several different religious traditions represented. People were invited to conduct a prayer service that would help the others learn about that faith. A Catholic Deacon decided to do a foot washing service.
I can still remember the silence, the sense of holiness, and the tears gently running down the cheeks of those who had never experienced this ritual before – they saw this man slowly pore water over their feet, cup the water and use it to bathe them, softly dry their feet, and end by giving a kiss to each foot.
This gesture requires trust and vulnerability on the part of the recipient and generosity and care on the part of the giver. We think of Pope Francis washing the feet of inmates. I recall a friend who used to wash feet at a homeless shelter. It is an intimate moment. It shows in a visceral way how Christ asks us to love one another – both in the giving and in the receiving.
In a way, the paths we choose, in our relationships and in our ministries, are a response to the question: “Whose feet will you wash?” What is your life’s response to this question?
There is a beautiful prayer called the “Breastplate of St. Patrick.” In honor of his feast day, I invite you to listen to a beautifully sung version of it here.
The lyrics are below. Take some time to let the words wash over you. Picture the images. When you get to the part about Christ, you might even try movement to match the words. That is a way of praying with your body.
After you have prayed, ponder by what power you arise. “I arise today through…”
I arise today through the strength of heaven
Light of sun, radiance of moon
Splendor of fire, speed of lightning
Swiftness of wind, depth of the sea
Stability of earth, firmness of rock
I arise today through God's strength to pilot me
God's eye to look before me
God's wisdom to guide me
God's way to lie before me
God's shield to protect me
From all who shall wish me ill
Afar and a-near
Alone and in a multitude
Against every cruel, merciless power
That may oppose my body and soul
Christ with me, Christ before me
Christ behind me, Christ in me
Christ beneath me, Christ above me
Christ on my right, Christ on my left
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down
Christ when I arise, Christ to shield me
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me
I arise today
“I didn’t realize it was so beautiful here!” “Wow – you have so much going on; I had no idea!” Those were just a couple of the comments we heard last night as we held “An Evening with the Adrian Dominican Sisters,” and invited the local community to spend time with us, tour the motherhouse, and visit displays of the many activities in which we are involved. It was a great event.
Even in our small city, where we have had sisters since 1884, there are people who don’t know much about us. As human beings we need to connect, to meet face to face at times, to really encounter each other in the flesh, in order to really meet each other. We just get a better sense of people and their reality when we show up. That’s why Jesus said to his first followers, “Come and see.” He could have only talked and talked to them, but it was in journeying with him that they truly came to know him and his mission.
If you have a sense that you may be called to religious life, after you have done the e-mails and the calls and it still seems to draw you, but you are not sure, the next step is to “come and see.” Almost all communities of sisters, brothers and priests have this option. The next Adrian Dominican Sisters’ “Come and See” is April 15-17. Click here for more information.
What is God inviting you to “come and see” in your life?
Would you like to attend a nine day meeting with 200 people during which you have to discuss, come to agreement, and make decisions that affect your life for the next six years and beyond? Not only that, you want to do it in a spirit of prayer and with a desire to follow God’s will. On top of it, the people you are with aren’t simply colleagues, but the very people you have committed to share you life with.
We just did it. We just had a General Chapter, which is pretty much what I describe above. And we are still here, possibly more united, having taken time for silence, for prayer, for deep listening, for heartfelt discussion, for putting the common good ahead of our individual agendas, and for fun and laughter. That’s how you discern God’s will with 200 people. You have to invest yourself and let go at the same time. You have to listen for the voice of God in your sister, in small groups, in large groups, and in the words of prayer and scripture. You have to care deeply and let go in freedom.
A gathering like this is an act of trust in God and in your sisters.
Have you lived an experience of this type of large group discernment and trust?
Sometimes we think we’ve figured out a future direction, that we’ve discerned something, but than the other people involved don’t come to the same conclusion. It’s rather unsettling and can be very confusing. You can decide that you want to spend the rest of your life with someone, but if they decide they don’t want to be with you, you obviously can’t force a relationship! This is true for a friendship, a job, and even a religious congregation. Discernment is a two way process – we do all we can to be faithful to God’s desire for our life, and then we hold it lightly. We need to leave God, the other person, and even ourselves free.
We are coming up to a General Chapter, a meeting held every six years in which we make decisions about our future direction and elect new leaders. We have been actively engaged in discerning for almost two years. No doubt many of us sisters will arrive with a strong sense of where we need to go in the future. And no doubt these ideas will not all be the same. We now will be called to discern together, to hold lightly the ideas that we bring and to hear the voice of God in the other.
Discernment is always bigger than “me and God.” What are the other voices you need to attend to in your own discernment?
At dinner the other night, one of the Sisters said, “My spiritual director asked me, ‘So what does Lent mean to you?’ So now I want to ask each of you.” We each shared our thoughts. It was a good discussion and here are some of the meanings we had:
- It’s like a second chance, a deeper commitment than what I did for Advent.
- A time to slow down and get closer to God, to take time to listen to God.
- A time to take on new practices so I grow in my faith and as a person.
- A time to be more aware of others.
- I try to ask God how God wants me to pray in a new way, what God wants me to give up, and what God wants me to give.
We reflected that sometimes these Lenten practices are for a time of six weeks and other times doing them can lead us into a new life pattern. All of us had the desire to grow, to become more who God made us to be.
What does Lent mean for you? What is God saying to you these Lenten days? Jesus prepared for his public ministry by spending forty days in the desert listening to God and being very aware of all the inner and outer temptations facing him. He grew strong and came out ready to take on a new way of being. What do you need to do to prepare for what God is calling you to do and be?
Pope Francis spoke movingly at the closing Mass of the Year of consecrated life on February 2:
“Consecrated men and women are called first and foremost to be men and women of encounter. Vocation, in fact, is not motivated by a project that has been planned ‘at the drawing table’, but by the grace of the Lord who comes to us through a life-changing encounter. Those who really meet Jesus cannot stay the same as before. He is the novelty that makes all things new.”
Have you encountered Christ? How has that encounter called you? Changed you? It’s not a one time event. As people of faith, we keep encountering Christ and, as with any intimate relationship, it grows deeper and matures over time.
Sometimes this relationship asks a lot of us, but we can respond out of the strength our encounters have given us. Pope Francis speaks of those who have faced these challenges: “They did not stop before the obstacles and misunderstandings of others, because they kept the wonder of their encounter with Christ in their hearts.”
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Sister Tarianne DeYonker, OP
Sister Mariane Fahlman, OP
Adrian Dominican Sisters
1257 East Siena Heights Drive
Adrian, Michigan 49221-1793
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Get out your bell-bottoms and platform shoes, because DISCO is here!
Okay, so it's a little less dancing, a little more talking... Sisters Lorraine Réaume, OP, and Sara Fairbanks, OP, have a video series called DISCO (Discernment Conversations): Dancing with the questions of life!