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Friday, May 5, 2017

A Rosary for Women

The rosary is a gift from Mary that invites us to reflect on the life of Jesus in a way that will draw us into the graces that are ours through His life, death, and resurrection.

As women, it is important for us to know that, in His life, Jesus noticed and cared for individual women. This helps to make it clear that Jesus will be and is now interested in us as woman and as women. There are many ways to focus our attention toward this knowledge.

As we pray the "traditional" mysteries of the rosary--joyful, sorrowful, glorious, and luminous--we can find a woman in each scene and enter into the mystery with her. For example, when meditating on the Presentation of Jesus in the temple, stand with Anna, the Prophetess and see Jesus through her eyes. At the Resurrection, be with the women who go to the tomb or with Mary Magdalene when Jesus reveals His resurrection to her.

The Gospels do not record for us many encounters of Jesus with women and even fewer conversations with women, but there are some precious gems to be treasured! The meditations that follow suggest five encounters of Jesus with women that can be used when praying the five decades of the rosary.

1. JESUS AND THE SAMARITAN WOMAN
This encounter begins with Jesus in need. He is tired and thirsty. He asks for water. The woman gives Him water and, already feeling respected by Jesus, she begins to "pick His brain" as it were about the differences between Jews and Samaritans. The conversation is a lengthy one in which Jesus eventually clarifies that "the day is coming and is here now when we will worship in one spirit and in truth." When the woman asks directly about the Messiah who is to come, Jesus reveals to her, a Samaritan woman, that He is the Messiah.

The conversation ends with the woman ready to change her life and reading to the village to share the good news. Jesus, too, has been nurtured by His contact with the woman. He is energized and alert and spends the rest of the day and the following two days teaching the people of Samaria.

We are each like the Samaritan woman in some way. What is Jesus asking from you? How does Jesus respect you? What does Jesus reveal to you? Can you allow your relationship with Jesus to change and energize you?

2. JESUS HEALS THE WOMAN WITH THE HEMORRHAGE
This cure comes in the middle of a very busy moment for Jesus. He has been teaching the crowds when He is approached by Jairus, an important man, to come heal his daughter. A woman who, for many years, has been resourceful, creative, and determined to find a cure for her hemorrhaging, dares to reach out to touch the hem of Jesus' cloak, believing this will cure her. And she is right! However, to her surprise, Jesus notices and turns to find her in the crowd. With some trepidation, she comes forward and tells her story. In a sort of "glad to meet you" gesture, Jesus commends her faith.

We too have faith and know that Jesus is God. We know He has redeemed us and can do all things. However, out faith is not intended as a distant gift, but as an invitation to a relationship with the God who loves us. Jesus looks for us in the crowd, wanting to bless us personally, wanting to hear our story.

3. THE CURE OF THE WOMAN STOOPED OVER (LUKE 13:10-13)
This is another woman who Jesus notices in the crowd. Many people are entering the temple to hear Jesus teaching. Jesus notices this woman who is so stooped over that she cannot stand up straight or raise her eyes to notice people's faces or to see the sky. Jesus calls her over, tells her she will be free, and lays His hands on her. She stands erect and begins to praise God.

How are you like this woman? What prevents you from standing for what you believe in? What forms of prejudice or ignorance narrow your vision? From what does Jesus wish to set you free?

4. THE CURE OF JAIRUS' DAUGHTER
Jesus follows Jairus to his home to cure his daughter even though others think the little girl is already dead. To her father, He says, "Do not be afraid. Have faith." To the little girl, He says, "Talitha koum! Little girl, get up." And the little girl gets out of bed and begins to walk around.

What about your "little girl," that spontaneous, careless part of yourself? Do you sometimes think she is "dead?" Overwhelmed by grown-up concerns? To your, Jesus says, "Do not be afraid. Have faith." And to the little girl, "Get up!" That little girl has much to give you and Jesus wants her alive and well.

5. MARY MAGDALENE
Mary Magdalene is mentioned by name several times in the gospels, though no with a lot of detail. We are told that Jesus cured her of seven demons, though the actual cure is not described nor is the illness defined. From the cure, we know Mary Magdalene to be a woman of faith. From her other appearances in the gospels, we know her faith to be strong. She is recorded to be at all the major events of Jesus' life, including His crucifixion, His burial, and is the first person to whom the resurrection is revealed.

Like Mary Magdalene, the details of our spiritual life may not always be noted nor acclaimed. This does not diminish our faith of the reality of our relationship with Jesus. All that Jesus does for us and through us enriches the lives of those whose paths we cross.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Casting My Lot

On January 7th, I made my vows for the first time. Some of my family was able to come to celebrate this next step with me. My mom's cousin, Mary Margaret, came to Emmitsburg from Kansas City for my celebration. After Mass, Mary Margaret came up to me and gave me a huge hug. With tears in her eyes, she said "I'm so proud of you! I've never seen so many joyful women in one place. I can see why you cast your lot with them."

In the weeks following my vows, Mary Margaret's words resonated with me. I thought of the Apostles leaving their nets to follow Jesus. The Gospel of Matthew tells us that, "Going on from there, [Jesus] saw two brothers, James the son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father, preparing their nets. Jesus called them and immediately they left the boat and their father to follow Him."

Like the Apostles, I chose to follow Jesus' call to me to leave my family of origin to "cast my lot" within the Daughters of Charity. I wanted to share the joy of Christ's presence in my life in a special way. In our vows, the Daughters pray, "In response to the call of Christ who invites me to follow Him and to be a witness to His charity of the poor, I ... vow to God, for one year, chastity, poverty, and obedience ... and to devote myself to the corporal and spiritual service of the poor."

Like all of the Apostles, I chose to cast my lot through God's call to me to be a witness with others to God's love. I chose to cast my lot with the example of the Sisters I live with, the Vincentian Saints and Blesseds, and the other smaller saints that have influenced my journey.

Story written by Sister Meg Kymes, D.C.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Provincial Office Goes Green

An energy audit was conducted at the Daughters of Charity, Province of St. Louise, USA Provincial Office in St. Louis, Missouri, a 30,000 square foot building. After several meetings with consultants, engineers, and facilities personnel, it was decided that the Provincial Office would take action to move forward in implementing improvements to conserve energy. The project was separated into three components--LED lighting, new roof, and solar array installation.

The first step to becoming more environmentally friendly was to replace the old bulbs with LED bulbs. During their 10 year lifespan, the LED bulbs will reduce the amount of CO2, saving 84 acres of forest, the consumption of 238 barrels of oil, and the consumption of 11,524 gallons of gasoline.

Next, a new Thermoplastic Olefin (TPO) roof, which has energy saving characteristics due to the white reflective material, was installed to accommodate the solar array.

Once the roof was in place, the solar panels were added. The 146 305 watt panels will provide power for the entire building including lighting, heating, cooling, and other electrical components. Facing due south, the panels provide supplemental power that can be switched between solar and Ameren UE power seamlessly when the sun is not producing enough light on rainy or cloudy days.

The conversation about significant energy savings began in August of 2015 following Pope Francis's Laudato Si. "As a Province, we have been taking time to discuss Pope Francis's encyclical Laudato Si and challenging ourselves to be more intentional about decisions that reflect our care for our common home," says Visitatrix, Sister Louise Gallahue, D.C. "The solar panel project and LED conversion are two concrete efforts of our 'walking the talk!'"

Provincial Councillor, Sister Mary Walz, D.C., adds, "Over the years, the Advocacy and Social Justice Committee has encouraged our Sisters to advocate for policies and practices that protect the earth. I'm thrilled that we were able to make this commitment to being better stewards of the gifts of creation!"

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

A First-Hand Account of the Diversity of Religious Life

The former chapel in the convent building at Our Lady of the Presentation Church years ago was subdivided into two small rooms, an informal entry/waiting area and an office.

Nothing extraordinary about it...except God's work still happens in that space.

Whereas the sounds of Mass or the silence of prayer once dominated, the musical notes of joy now fill the air. Under the auspice of Sister Brenda Fritz, D.C., the parish's music director, the convent has been transformed into the Presentation Arts Center, an arts ministry thriving in its first year.

The parish offers after-school music lessons in piano, violin, and guitar with the drums hopefully on the horizon. Through a partnership with Ritenour School District, high school students volunteer as teachers and International Welcome Center students can get free music lessons.

Religious sisters such as Sister Brenda, a Daughter of Charity, joyfully spearhead numerous vibrant ministries in the Archdiocese of St. Louis, filing vital roles in education, health care, social services, and more. These accomplished women live their dreams while serving the Lord.

Religious communities are working to fill those vital roles with several combining for a two-day vocation tour, the novely named "Convent Crawl" on Friday, February 17 and Saturday, February 18. Over 24 hours, interested women will explore how religious sisters live, pray, and serve in St. Louis. The convent crawl will include stops at the Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet, the School Sisters of Notre Dame, and the Franciscan Sisters of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. Sister Brenda's Daughters of Charity, Sisters of Mercy, Adorers of the Blood of Christ, and Society of Helpers will also participate, with several other communities as possibilities.

The sisters appropriated the term from "pub crawl" and adopted the social-networking and traveling aspects, like-minded people gathering and visiting multiple venues. Interested women explore multiple communities instead of just one on an individual order's come and see weekend.

"With an event like this, you'll get a bigger group, which is nice for the girls," said Sister Amy Hereford, CSJ, a lawyer. "They can go around with other women kind of thinking like they're thinking and build some relationships and support networks as well."

The sisters also collaborated for a weekend reflection and discernment retreat in November. Events such as the convent crawl and conceptually similar nun runs allow interested women to experience the diversity in religious life and charisms, which Sister Pam Falter, OSF, described as a "really important part of collaborative."

Sister Brenda's unique ministry ranks among many with accomplished women doing the Lord's work. The program grew out of the parish viability study, which showed it needed to shore up its outreach and young adult ministries. Sister Brenda oversees the new arts center, which includes "amazing art classes" for adults during the day and weekly quilters.

With the arts center, Sister Brenda is building on a bachelor's degree in piano presentation from Chicago's DePaul University--a Vincentian School--where she first encountered the Daughters.

"I felt like they were very balanced women," said Sister Brenda, who entered the community 29 years ago. "They worked hard, prayed hard, and had such a joy. I loved their community life. Of course, their service to the poor...Wow!"

At Presentation, Sister Brenda fulfills the community's charism by reaching out to families in need. Venezuela and Mexico are represented among her students, including Benjamin Delgado. With his mom and two brothers in the waiting room on a recent day, he played a piano in her office, just to the side of the canopy above the former altar space.

"It's only his second lesson," she told a visitor. "He's totally nailing it."

Story originally published by the St. Louis Review.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

A Reflection on the 400th Anniversary of the Charism of Charity

In January 2017, the Vincentian Family around the world will begin a year of celebration to highlight 400 years of the "Charism of Charity." In January 1617, two events changed the life of Vincent de Paul. The first happened in Gannes where Vincent heard the confession of a dying man who proclaimed his joy at being forgiven and made Vincent aware of how much the country people needed to have easier access to priests. From this began the effort to organize priests to preach missions to the country people. This effort grew into the Congregation of the Mission (or the Vincentian priests).

During this same year, as Vincent was serving as pastor at the country church in Chatillon, he was approached by some parishioners before Mass who told him of a family in which everyone was sick. Vincent preached such a heartfelt sermon about the need to reach out to help others that a large crowd of parishioners went to the family, bringing along food and aid. Vincent then realized the need to organize efforts on behalf of the poor and he began to write a set of guidelines. This effort grew into the "Confraternities of Charity." Today, these confraternities are known as the "International Association of Charity" (IAC) and are the largest and oldest group of volunteers in the Church.

I recently had the privilege to participate in a month-long Vincentian Session at our Motherhouse in Paris, studying, praying, and reflecting on the lives of St. Vincent de Paul and St. Louise de Marillac. One day of this session was spent in Chatillon, visiting the church where Vincent preached the sermon that was the beginning of the IAC. As I prayed in that church and walked around it in pilgrimage, two things that I have known all of the fifty years I have been a Daughter of Charity took on a whole new meaning to me.

The first was that Vincent's first organized work of charity was the creation of a lay organization to serve the poor. As I looked at the stained glass windows in the sanctuary of the church which depict Vincent giving the women of the first confraternity the rule which he had written, I was struck by how God's Providence began, through Vincent, to empower and inspire the laity to service in the Church. Then, I recalled that 300 years later, the Holy Spirit, through Vatican Council II, sought to restore the laity to their position of leadership and service in the Church.

The second realization I had was that it was not until 1633 that the Daughters of Charity were established as the first community of religious women to serve actively outside the cloister. St. Vincent often reminded the first Daughters that he never thought of founding a religious community, that it was God who founded the Daughters of Charity.

These pondering gave me a new appreciation of God's presence and action in our daily lives. I pray for the grace to be attentive to God's presence each day, just as St. Vincent was!

Written by Sister Mary Frate, D.C.