Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Celebrating Our Vows: Sister Whitney

As we prepare to renew our vows this year, three Sisters share their perspective about our annual vow renewal. Read the first two posts in this series by Sister Joanne and Sister Meg.

Part III by Sister Whitney Kimmet, D.C.

Sister Whitney Kimmet,
2 years vocation
As a young Daughter of Charity, I love Renovation (Vow Day). Early in my discernment, a Sister jokingly referred to annual renewal of vows as our "escape clause." That could be true, but after several years of being with the Sisters during Renovation, I've come to see it more as a "strengthening clause." I've seen the grace that comes with making a formal request and a conscious choice to re-commit for another year, especially as the Church celebrates the Annunciation and Mary's own "yes."

At two years vocation, even though I have not yet made vows, during the formation process I've experienced a similar cycle of reflection, request, commitment and grace. It is a powerful, challenging, beautiful rhythm in our lives as Daughters of Charity. During Renovation, that cycle culminates in an almost overwhelming sense of community-wide joy as each Sister emerges from holy discernment to give her "yes."

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Celebrating Our Vows: Sister Meg

As we prepare to renew our vows this year, three Sisters share their perspective about our annual vow renewal. Read yesterday's post by Sister Joanne and check in March 25 for the last post in the series.

Part II by Sister Meg Kymes, D.C.

Sister Meg Kymes,
4 years vocation

When I was beginning formation with the Daughters I was invited by the local community I lived with to come to their Renovation (Vow Day) Mass. I remember sitting in the back of the chapel surrounded by the Sisters I lived with and other Daughters from the area. After the homily the priest invited the Sisters to renew their vows. All at once everyone in the chapel, except for me and the priest, stood for a few moments, not saying a word, then sat down again and Mass continued. I thought to myself, "What just happened?"

Today, I am a Daughter of Charity, but am considered "under vows," which simply means I have not yet made my vows for the first time.* Most days my life doesn't look any different from the other Sisters I live with. I wear blue and white just like they do, I go to chapel and pray the same prayers they do, I go to my ministry every day. Nothing seems different at first, but I can't vow my life to my Lord like my Sisters do. I have signed over everything I owned before I came to the community and feel like the vows are part of my life, but I can't pray the same words they do every March 25. Instead I try to live out the vows to the best of my ability by practicing chastity, poverty, obedience and serving my masters, the poor, as my Sisters do.

On March 25, I pray for my Sisters around the world renewing their vows and pray to our Lord that when my time comes, I can say my own vows to the Lord and mean them with my whole heart.

*Daughters of Charity are 5-7 years vocation before they make vows for the first time.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Celebrating Our Vows: Sister Joanne

As we prepare to renew our vows this year, three Sisters share their perspective about our annual vow renewal. Check in March 24 and March 25 for more posts.

Part I by Sister Joanne Vasa, D.C.

Sister Joanne Vasa,
39 years vocation
March 25 is the Solemnity of the Annunciation, the feast day that honors the angel's announcement to the Blessed Virgin Mary that she was the one chosen by God to bring Jesus Christ into the world. This is also the day thousands of Daughters of Charity around the world renew their commitment to a life of service of the poor, poverty, chastity and obedience. As a Society of Apostolic Life, the Daughters make annual, simple vows. This is not simply a refreshing of an original commitment, but rather a new pledge each year.

One of the ways I imagine the vows of the Daughters of Charity is to think of them as "pillars" that support my ministry and everyday life in the community. From the early days of the Sisters in the 17th century, the vows were seen as a framework to support them in their efforts to serve the poor. Making vows was a way to ensure the way of life and ministry of the Sisters would continue and not weaken with time.

How does this happen for me today? I think of poverty, chastity and obedience as three supporting columns and my service of the poor as the surface or "arena" where I respond to God's call each day. In fact, these structures are so much a part of my everyday life I often forget their impact on me. The time of vow renewal puts them front and center. Poverty is a commitment to embrace a simple lifestyle and a means of being in solidarity with poor persons around the world. Chastity places the person of Jesus Christ as first in my life and ensures all other relationships flow from that primary one. This makes me more conscious of how I proclaim the power of this relationship in each interaction as a celibate woman. Obedience–not a popular subject these days–challenges me to offer my service for the common good of the people I serve, the Church and the community. This means I choose God's will freely, no matter the cost. These three pillars are not so much "what I do," but really form the fabric of who I am as a Daughter of Charity. It's one package!

In my ministry I encounter persons who are homeless, people seeking a deeper relationship with God and our own Sisters discerning God's call in their lives. What I notice in these three diverse populations is they have something in common: They have a strong desire to be "at home with God." For me, the vows are an anchor around which I can extend myself in service to each person, confident in the way God will be present. Promises give stability and purpose. If I can be a source of encouragement and a person who deeply listens, then the vows are doing what they do best: giving meaning and direction to my life.

I am grateful for the vows because they both test and stretch me; they affirm me some days, but most often they remind me authentic gospel living does not come without cost. I pray for the grace to continue letting them provide the basis for "washing the feet" of those I serve.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Remembering Sister B

The following are excerpts from the homily for Sister Beatrice Wise, D.C., at her memorial mass in Baltimore by Father Paschal Molino, O.S.B.

When asked to describe Sister Beatrice to someone it was a nearly impossible task, but then I began to ponder how to best describe her. I thought long and hard about it and I thought maybe the very best way to describe her was to pray the 23rd Psalm.

Psalm 23 reminds me totally of Sister Beatrice as it is a song of affirmation... It is a song of comfort in a time of grief, a reminder of when things look darkest that God is with us and cares for us as a shepherd cares for sheep. Sister B...sure was a bearer of all those things.

Sister B was certainly affirmation to those who needed to be affirmed.

Comfort to so many in their time of grief...her presence at a wake or funeral brought great comfort to so many. If you were in the office and overheard her on the phone she would give out pearls of hope and comfort to the forlorn, the sick, those in mourning.

In times of stress she restored our hope. There she was with her bottle of holy water she kept on her desk, her jar of coins when someone said something crude, rude or uncomplimentary–"That will cost you a quarter," she would say–and then you'd get sprinkled.

One day I gave her $5 as a downpayment and I said, "Get ready because I am really very upset today over this mess." Out came the holy water and she said, "Just sit right down here and we will pray about it."

I can say Sister Beatrice was certainly a good shepherd to those whom she ministered. If she knew someone was in distress, she was tireless in pursuing a solution or assistance for that person. When we would go over to church for noon day prayer each day, she would recite a litany of folks in need who needed prayer. She kept a list day to day.

Sister Beatrice had a truly close relationship with our Lord and his Blessed Mother. She always wore her Miraculous Medal and promoted devotion to our Blessed Lady. Comforter of the afflicted, hope of sinners, she knew that closeness to God and brought it with her to those she dealt with each and every day. When you sat and talked with her you thought you were the only other person in the world and she was truly interested in you and she could feel for you and with you when you were down or just needed a shoulder to cry on.

I certainly will be remiss if I overlooked the fact that as a good shepherd, Sister B was interested in not only the spiritual side of things, she was very much into the human side of things–her great love of nature. When we hear of green pastures, we could easily switch to the green of the baseball field. Oh, how she loved those Orioles. Her collection of memorabilia from the Orioles took up more than 20 feet of our office wall and all around her desk. Then there was Cape May beach, especially the ocean and swimming...the great stories of her swimming, her great love of the outdoors. How she would relate her evenings on the second floor back porch of her room on Alto Road and how she loved the peace and beauty of that place. There the house was built on a hill–when sitting on that porch she was up in the trees.

There are always going to be challenges, perhaps none greater than the loss of a loved one–our earthly companions, the ones who have walked most closely with us in this world. When things were not going well you can be sure B was there right up front defending someone in trouble or someone having a bad day.

Now I'd like to read a few lines from Sister Beatrice's autobiography:

One example of the great gifts this ministry brings is the following: I had the privilege of visiting with a Seminarian and parish nurse for one of our needy, handicapped parishioners. She (the parishioner) had no tongue, therefore she could not talk. A stroke had prevented her from writing and her sight was rapidly declining. We visited her and comforted her by our presence, prayed with her and gave her the Eucharist. The nurse gave her a flu shot. Then in the tiny room we all joined hands and danced in a circle to the tune of “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing.” Are there any gifts equal to that gift? Why am I filled with gratitude!

What more can I say but that we give thanks to God for the life and service Sister Beatrice gave to each of her many venues of service with such joy and hope, and for all those she touched and by whom she was touched in her 76 or so years as a Daughter of Charity. Thank you, thank you, thank you! Sister B, we love you and now we call on you as another of God’s angels to watch over us from above.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Too Far Gone: A Story in Ministry

by Sister Liz Sjoberg, D.C.

I work in the overnight emergency program at Marygrove, an agency in St. Louis that serves abused, neglected and homeless children and teens. The kids we see in our program are ones experiencing a major crisis, such so that they cannot live in their family home or foster home anymore. Their stories are heartbreaking and dark.

One of the girls at Marygrove shared poems she wrote about her experiences. We'll be sharing three of them over the next couple of weeks. Please keep Marygrove and the children we serve in your prayers.

Too Far Gone

They tell you to stay strong, but you can only stay that way for so long
They tell you that you can make it another year, but I don't think I can while I'm here
In a shelter for a second time, I just want to be free and take the life that's mine
People say disrespect will get you nowhere, but to be honest I don't really care
Caseworkers think sending you away will make you better; it just makes it worse but to them it doesn't matter
These experiences put more damage into my heart; if they want me to change that's not where they should start
I just want my choices to be heard, then maybe my life could move forward
The girl who changed and is happy–I want to be that one, but it's too late; I'm too far gone