“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.”
This week's reflection comes to us from Marilin Llanes. Marilin is a Bilingual School Psychologist in Chicago, and is currently a candidate for readmission.
The doorbell rang at my family home, and I opened the door. Behind me comes my mother shouting over my shoulder to this stranger (at least in my eyes), “Adelante! Estás en tu casa!” – a greeting similar to “come on in and make yourself at home.” There was an air of warmth and joy in the room as we greeted each other with the customary hug and cheek kiss. I was reminded of the passage from Matthew 25:35, “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”
It’s the middle of the day I’m sitting quietly at Cor Gesu Chapel in my freshman year at Barry University, when I hear a voice from the pew behind me. I turned around and there was Sr. Alice Joseph, fondly known as A.J. She asked me something like, “Have you given any thought to becoming an Adrian Dominican Sister?” Our eyes met, and I was speechless not knowing what to say to her. Then from somewhere in me I told her that I frankly had not given much thought to religious life (at the time I was in a serious relationship), but out of respect for her I would think about it. This invitation changed and transformed the course of the rest of my life. The words of St. Catherine of Siena from “The Letters” best summarizes it, “… no matter what happens, we know that everything is done with God’s providence and tremendous love.” A belated thank you to Sister A.J.
The gift of welcome and the wisdom of invitation are transformative movements in my faith journey. Now, I want to practice them with you. Welcome/Bienvenida… Come And See Adrians (C.A.S.A). Peace be with you.
This week's blog comes to us from Sister Anele Heiges, OP, Vice President of the International Public Policy Institute, NGO at United Nations, NY/ Professor of Global and Universe Education and Mentor of Young World Leaders.
As a young woman in late teens growing up in Santa Cruz, California on the Pacific Coast, dating interesting young men and thinking of the future, my inner self was asking, “Why was I born?” Happy childhood memories of riding ocean waves on my doctor-father’s shoulders rode quietly at anchor. While bobbing in the ocean he and I conversed about how it joined other big and little pieces of water and touched the lands of many people on earth. He inspired me to find ways as a service person to relate with those people and also respectfully learn from them. A global soul was softly being nurtured by God.
After Holy Cross High School, the question of, “Why was I born?” finally yearned for a global service response, but how could that happen? God’s Holy Spirit kept luring insistently at hours of day or night. I dialogued with good people of different nationalities, life-callings, and various groups of Catholic Sisters. The consistent openness of Adrian Dominicans and their expansive worldview that came from prayerful spirits stole my heart. They were mostly happy people. Finally some of them kindly invited me to give their way of life a try. After prayerful thoughtful times in a deep inner place of listening, I accepted God’s call extended through exquisite Dominican women.
After going to Adrian, Michigan, I learned with other new Dominicans about our life, mission and the worldwide beauty of living in community to work toward bringing more justice, peace and integrity of creation into our world. Wise people tell us that God creates ways to ease people onto their life path and engage them in that process. Early assignments with indigenous peoples in Arizona schools taught me about how humans and all life share in universe and earth consciousness. Then years of college and university ministry were mingled with visitors from the United Nations. They extended invitation to New York to engage there in creative world service. The Adrian Dominicans lovingly helped me accept that invitation after prayerfully discerning God’s true call to global service that had been nurtured years before.
Life’s learnings from Dominicans and other groups, including indigenous peoples, have taught me the following: “Weave beautifully your small thread in the grand tapestry pattern which was laid out for us by the God of heaven.” (Turtle Island Grandmothers Council)
With heart overflowing with gratitude, I thank our Sisters for loving companionship in community living and service to the world. Likewise Dominican women did for me years ago in Santa Cruz, California; I here invite interested readers to give this life a try. It can be wonderfully surprising. I am praying for you.
Guest blogger Sister Mary Soher, OP, is currently the Co-Director of National Catholic Sisters Week. She is based at St. Catherine’s University in St. Paul, MN, and travels extensively to raise awareness about Catholic Sisters.
Just before the start of the Year of Mercy, I heard a gospel story that I do not remember having heard before. It’s the story of two blind men in Matthew’s gospel who asked the “Son of David” to have pity on them. When asked if they believed that Jesus could do that, they answered, “Yes Lord,” and Jesus said “let it be done for you according to you faith.”
It is a beautiful story, for them, but it made me wonder if I have enough faith. I let the thought roll around my mind and heart for awhile, and then a familiar gospel passage came to mind, that of the mustard seed.
Jesus tells his disciples, both then and now, that if we have faith the size of a mustard seed, we could tell a mountain to move and it would. I only need to have enough faith to let Jesus into my life, a seed-size amount, and then the wonders begin.
My discernment of religious life was sort of like that. I had an interest, a wondering about religious life, but I also thought I knew what it was and that it wasn’t for me. However, the thought, small as it was, would not go away – I needed to find out what was religious life really was about before I could decide if it would be life-giving for me.
I let the thought or call settle into my inner self and began the journey of learning more. Step by step, sister by sister, conversation after conversation, I began to see that there was indeed a direction for me to become my best self and develop a deeper and ongoing relationship with an incredibly merciful and loving God.
If there is the slightest bit of interest, of wondering, of longing, do not be afraid. Start a conversation, ask your questions, think about the responses you get and the feelings you feel. Have faith that whatever you need, God has already given to you all that you need and will continue to do so.
Something about the start of a new year gives us hope -- a chance to start again, make better choices, set up new, healthy patterns for our lives. At least that is how we start out. We may think of all the little and big things we want to change in our lives and make resolutions, but then life happens and those changes often don't occur.
Some good discernment can help us with that. We know we can't change everything all at once, and God doesn't ask us to. Also, although we may want to change something, we may desire even more a habit or attitude that is holding us back from attaining our truest desire. Perhaps this something has a hold of us.
Discernment can help us go deeper. Ask yourself, "What do I really want to change in my life?" Then pause and ask, "What is under that? What do I really want to change?" Keep going as many times as you need to get to the core. It is only by going very deep that you can find out what you truly desire.
Another path is to share with God all the things you might like or hope to change. Then sit in silence and ask God to show you which of these is the most important for you to change now. Be open to what God might show you. It might even be something that wasn't on your original list.
Discernment involves going to the deepest place in our selves and being open to the God of surprises who dwells within us and beyond us.
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Adrian Dominican Sisters
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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!