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Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Social Media and Discernment

by Kate, discerner

Sister Mary Catherine Conway, D.C., and Kate prep
the Thanksgiving feast in Evansville.
Social media made a huge impact on my discernment.

When I first started considering religious life, I took the Vision Vocation Match quiz. It led me to almost a hundred communities. I spent the next few weeks poring over their websites. I didn't want anyone to know I was discerning, so I relied solely on online resources.

As I began to narrow down this impossibly long list, I dug deeper into learning about different communities. It wasn't until I had narrowed the list considerably that I contacted any vocation directors.

A few months later I was still feeling called to religious life, but had not found an order I felt truly called to, so once again I went online. By Google searching random keywords I had discovered thus far in my discernment process, I found a few orders I really liked, the Daughters of Charity included.

Once again I took this (much smaller) list and began to study them online. I checked websites, blogs, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram among other social media platforms. Being able to read back through old posts helped me understand not only the basics of the order, but let me see the charism lived out.

As I narrowed in on the Daughters, participating in the online retreats and discernment group helped continue my growth and understanding of the charism. By the time I met the Daughters in person in August, I felt I had known them a lifetime. Visiting various Daughters' houses and attending discernment retreats in Philadelphia, Evansville and St. Louis allowed me to see the Sisters live out the charism I spent so much time looking at online.

The initial social media contact gave me the courage to continue my discernment journey. I am so grateful for how active the Daughters are on social media, paying attention to new platforms and ways to evangelize.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Daughters of Charity on Mission in Kenya

by Sister Catherine Madigan, D.C.

The international group of Daughters of Charity
on mission in Kenya
"Karibu, Kenya" means "Welcome to Kenya!"

It all started with an invitation from the Vincentian priests in Nairobi who wanted the Daughters of Charity to come serve the Kenyan people. After going through proper channels, some Daughters came to explore the possibility of a mission in Kenya. In a short time, the Archbishop of Nairobi and the Bishop of Kitale diocese welcomed Sisters to come and work in their jurisdictions. With their approval and that of the Major Superiors of the Daughters, this became an international call to the worldwide community for English-speaking Sisters to volunteer to come.

And they came. The first four arrived in October 2001, and in January 2002 they opened two missions: Chepnyal and Thigio, small rural villages. Very soon other Sisters came from Ireland, England, Eritrea, the United States, Nigeria and Ethiopia.

The vision from the beginning was to be where Sisters would serve the people most in need and to form young Kenyan women to become Daughters of Charity. Soon the greatest needs surfaced in both places: water, nursery education, programs for mentally and physically challenged children, women's development, access to healthcare, attention to the elderly, purposeful activities for youth...the list goes on. More Daughters arrived and four more missions opened: two in Nairobi (Central House and Formation House), Kitale and Kiio. The hand of God was certainly there each step of the way. More needs surfaced and more funding was essential, and more personnel was vital for the continuation of the D.C. mission in Kenya.

It is now 2016, 14 years after the opening of the first two missions. The challenges grow every day: scarcity of food, jobs, water, and money for school fees, housing and healthcare. God continues to bless us in many ways. Ours is a world of singing, drums and dancing in church; donkeys and carts on the road; hard-working people in shambas (vegetable fields); very serious students whose grades determine their future education; extended families who live on the same compound; and people who live with trust in God.

We are inspired by the vision of the Sisters in seeking financial assistance from funding sources, graced with volunteers who share their expertise, supported by hard-working staff and collaboration with many groups in and out of the country. We are now about 20 missionary Sisters working alongside 17 Kenyan Sisters. We know we are doing God's work and God is working with us and through us.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

A Gift from a Friend

by Sister Catherine Madigan, D.C.

Daughters of Charity and staff working at the leprosarium in Carville.
(Photo Courtesy of the Daughters of Charity Provincial Archives)
Years ago, the Daughters of Charity staffed the leprosarium in Carville, La. Sister Catherine Sullivan was a Sister-nurse on staff. She shared this story I have never forgotten.

A generous donor every year gave money at Christmas so every patient would receive a Christmas present he/she had chosen. Sister Catherine went to each patient to ask which gift each of them would like. One older woman—let's call her Mary—who had been at Carville for a long time wanted a beautiful flowering plant. Sister Catherine was puzzled at the request because Mary was blind. She asked her, "Mary, why do you want a beautiful flowering plant you cannot see?"

Mary replied, "Sister, when people tell me what a beautiful plant I have, I can tell them a friend gave it to me."

Monday, December 21, 2015

Advent and Discernment: How Are You Being Called to Discern?

by Father Tom McKenna, C.M.

Father Tom, left, leads discussion at a Daughters of Charity
Advent Discernment Retreat in St. Louis.

In a conversation with someone who was trying to figure out what she wanted to do in life, I asked, "What is it you're doing to find out?"

She answered, "I'm listening for something, something my insides sense is there but hasn't quite come." Not a bad depiction of the inner moods of both the season of Advent and the process of discernment.

Advent, because it features expectancy. All its images cluster around the experience of waiting for something to happen—maybe better, someone to come. The star calling the travelers ahead in the night, the Baptist's insistent "prepare ye," Mary's deep pondering of what's ahead, Joseph pulled into the future by his dream—stories filled with prompts to be alert to what's out there and coming toward us. There's something real arriving, but it's not here yet. It's on the way, and all strain to hear its first stirrings.

Discernment, because it too tilts a person's attention toward the future. Picturing radio waves traveling across a dark ocean, the discerner is like someone sitting in an off-shore tower trying to tune into those signals just about to arrive. The listener is confident they are coming, but doesn't quite know the right frequency on which the reliable ones will come. She also has to work to discriminate the sounds from the static. Like Advent, it features a certain "listening forward," an expectancy of something good and solid on the way. And like Advent, it needs a particular discipline to learn to listen better and better.

The Advent/discernment disciplines? First, a trust something solid and fulfilling is coming. Not knowing exactly what it is, the discerner and the Magi sense the goodness and promise it contains. Second, attention. The searcher and Joseph learn not to slough off signals they previously tended to ignore. They tune in. Third, a patient willingness to engage that still cloudy intuition. The discerner and Mary ponder. They sit with it in the dark, give the message time to arrive and prepare the space into which it can enter.

And so the Advent and discernment moods. There's something coming over the horizon and I want to be ready for it when it comes. In the Scriptures, Zechariah's song puts lyrics to this very thing: "The dawn from on high shall break upon us." The discerner tries to stand in the kind of space that catches that first pink glimmer as it pushes through the dark.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

A Tale of Two Marillacs: A Christmas Story

by Sister Catherine Madigan, D.C.

Once upon a time there were two Marillacs: Marillac High School in Northfield, Ill. (which closed in 1995), and Marillac House in westside Chicago (continuing after 100 years). Daughters of Charity staffed both Marillacs. The high school was an all-girls school, and Marillac House staff served all the people in their neighborhood and beyond.

Christmastime was a time for the united effort of both institutions. Marillac House Sisters prepared a list of families in need, noting the names, ages, sizes and gift wishes of each member of the family. These lists they gave to the Sisters at Marillac High School. Each homeroom class was given a family for whom they would purchase the items on the gift wish list. Needless to say, procuring these gifts made the girls conscious of others and zealous in getting every item on the list and even more.

When the time came to gather gifts for every member of more than 30 families, a huge truck was needed. There was excitement in stocking the truck (made available by a Marillac father) and even more in unloading the truck. This tradition continued for many years, enriching both the givers and receivers. The high school girls made celebrating Christmas a reality for the families, and families knew there were people who were mindful of them. Both the givers and receivers thanked God.

It is now 20 years since Marillac High School closed, but the "girls" of these years are now the women who have banded together to remember not only Marillac House,  but have expanded their vision and mission to include also St. Vincent de Paul Center and St. Joseph's Services, all in Chicago. They learned a lot at Marillac High School and now use their wisdom, life experience and remembrance of Christmas sharing to commit themselves to make a difference in the 21st century.