Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Rosary: A Path Through the Life of Jesus with Mary as a Guide

October is the month of the rosary. The rosary is part of the daily prayer of the Daughters of Charity. Each Sister usually prays the rosary privately, but may choose to pray the rosary together on retreat days or for special intentions. For myself, throughout the fifty plus years of my vocation, the daily rosary has been sometimes a blessing and sometimes a burden. A variety of factors have affected this. As I reflect now, it seems to tell a tale of the challenge of discernment, maturing, putting the accent in the proper places, and following God, rather than leading.

At present, praying the rosary daily is very much a blessing. I find the rosary an invitation to walk through the life of Jesus with Mary as my guide. I pray the four sets of mysteries in order in which Jesus lived them: Joyful, Luminous, Sorrowful, and Glorious. Somedays, I find time to pray all four sets of mysteries; on other days, I begin where I left off the day before.

There is something the same about every rosary prayed and something very different. Each rosary is a series of the same prayers: Apostles Creed, 6 Our Fathers, 53 Hail Marys, 6 Glory Bes, and a Hail Holy Queen. I think I have found the rosary a burden when I have focused on needing to get the prayers in. B

ut, I have come to realize that these prayers are merely the accompaniment to the gift that God gives in the meditation on each mystery in the life of Christ. And this is different every time! I find now that I generally do not think about the words of the prayers as I say them. My fingers simply slip over the beads which remind me when it is time to change focus and pray with another part of Jesus' life. In a real sense, it is God who is at work in the rosary; God who blesses my effort each day with insight and inspiration.

Several years ago, I made a commitment to myself to walk 10,000 steps a day as part of an effort to maintain a general health. I usually pray the rosary as I walk each day, and thereby reap a double benefit of physical and spiritual health. Sometimes, God's blessing comes through  person I greet as I turn a corner, or the laughter of the children in the school yard, or the aspen trees turning gold in the autumn, the sun on my back, the wind in my face. It is a blessing that the rosary opens me to God's presence around me. As I walk and pray the rosary, I am able to stop trying to figure things out and be attentive to God's presence in my life: not 100 percent of the time; I do walk with my humanity, after all!

The rosary is often called the prayer of the poor. To pray the rosary, one does not have to read, or be learned, or figure anything out. One simple has to walk with Mary through the life of Jesus. And Mary is always ready to walk with us! It is a blessing to be poor. I am grateful that the rosary is a blessing in my life; perhaps it will always be or maybe not. The important thing about prayer will always be: "Pray as you can, not as you can't." I pray that God may always provide me with the means of being aware of His presence and the reminder to allow Him to lead me. Amen!

Written by Sister Mary Frate, D.C.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

My Vocation Story

What is a vocation? According to Encarta English Dictionary, a vocation is "a strong feeling of being destined or called to undertake a specific type of work, especially a sense of being chosen by God for religious work or a religious life.

I wish to share my joy and enthusiasm for living the life of a Sister serving in the Church as a Daughter of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul. I met the Daughters of Charity when I entered Seton School of Nursing on September 8, 1953. I had three years of learning about them before I graduated and became a registered nurse. This is when I became convinced that God was calling me to join them. I admired the way they interacted so warmly and respectfully with all with whom they came in contact: patient, families, physicians, students, other personnel, volunteers, and those they served at the "back door" and in their homes who were struggling financially. Even more, how they were with each other.

Learning about their work all over the world was exciting, because earlier in my life, I had felt attracted to being a Missionary and I found that would be possible with the Daughters. I was happy that they valued service to the poor enough to take that as a fourth vow. I attended daily Mass at 5:45 AM each day and noticed how they also had prayers in common at other times during the day. I knew that their relationship with God was firm and happy. I was pleased to know that the Community had Sisters serving in most areas of the hospitals and schools or nursing, but also that they were in schools (grade school through college) and in multiple kinds of social works.

I have appreciated that my life of sacrifice and joy has been a full one, and that I and my companions do REALLY MAKE A DIFFERENCE  in the world. If you are attracted to a life of contemplation and action, we may be a good fit for you. I would encourage anyone interested in discerning a vocation to contact your parish priest and/or the community you feel attracted to enter!

Written by Sister Jean Ann Wesselman, D.C.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Life As A Missionary Daughter of Charity

I have been very busy with patient care and developing into the role of Medical Director of the hospital. I am learning a lot about how a health zone in a developing country works. It is all very interesting and sometimes seems a bit overwhelming, but I am glad to have Sister Marie Cecile, D.C. here to learn from. She is from Italy and has been in the Congo for more than 40 years. 

Our health zone covers an area of 14,000 sq. kilometers with a population of 150,000. There are 14 health centers, 18 health posts and one reference hospital which is run by our Sisters. The health zone does things such as monitor the number of cases of malaria, typhoid, meningitis, and other less common infectious diseases (pertussis, tetanus, polio, monkey pox, hemorrhagic fever, etc.) in order to be able to detect the beginning of an epidemic, allowing us to respond early. The health centers send their data on a weekly basis and our staff has a meeting every Tuesday to compile and analyze it.

Last year, our hospital received a grant from “Daughters of Charity International Project Services” to build a cement fence around our hospital. It serves to keep out the pigs, goats, and thieves. The fence also serves to keep our grounds confined. Inside, each of our patients must have a family member or friend who stays with them to help with their cooking, laundry, and other tasks.

Now, we have received another grant to build a new lab because the one we have is not large enough for our needs. The cement has recently arrived by boat and teams worked from 8 AM to 10 PM to unload and transport it to our storehouse. Some of the hospital staff have already begun working extra hours to make the bricks.

We recently received two new missionary Sisters, Sister Anna and Sister Theresa, in our house from Vietnam, bringing us to a total of 11 Sisters! One is a nurse and will work in the hospital while the other works in Social Services. On Holy Saturday, they prepared a type of egg roll. I never imagined eating egg rolls in Lukolela, but this just proves the richness of being part of an international community. What a beautiful example of the marvels of God!

Written by Sister Mary Felice, D.C., during her time as a missionary in Congo.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Formation's Scratchy Side

All of us entering this Vincentian Family have to go through what is known as “formation.” Formation: people being formed, shaped, molded – maybe better, being re-molded, re-shaped, and maybe even sometimes, re-formed! In all the ins and outs of this process, there’s an underlying question: what are you being formed for? What’s the endpoint of these different influences being put upon you?
A fundamental answer comes in this reading from Isaiah. Yahweh says that He wants the nations to “See My glory;” that is, “See My fullness, My justice, My radiance – or perhaps best expressed, “See My Aliveness, My Livingness.” And then Yahweh goes on to say how that will be accomplished. “I shall set a sign among them. And it is this sign (or signs) that shall proclaim My Glory among all the nations.’’ In one way or other, anyone being “formed” in the Vincentian Family is responding to a call to be one of these signs, one of these breakthroughs of God’s glory to all the nations.
And so the question: how do you do it? How does one become better able to take up that role and perform that task? How does the sign that you are right now, and the clearer one you want to become —  how does it come to shine brighter over the years?
Here we bring in the Letter to the Hebrews and its advice on Formation – and in this particular section its counsel on what might be called “the scratchy side of being formed.”
On the one hand, much of the process happens in graceful and smooth ways, say by inspiration and heartfelt imitation, by encouragement, by the validation of the gifts and talents you have, by the different appreciations people show for what you’ve done and who you are. This is formation felt like a silky, expensive, perfectly sized new shirt that fits you so snugly that it seems to breathe when you breathe.
But then. There’s also formation as rubbing-against, formation on its going-contrary-to-the-grain days.  This is preparation as a rough, scratchy, over-starched shirt into which you have to fit yourself in order to someday wear it more comfortably. In its pinching and its rubbing against parts of your skin, there’s a way in which over time it shapes you as much as you shape it.
And so in Hebrews. “The Lord disciplines His children… For whom the Lord loves, He disciplines; He gives His sons and daughters trials, even at times scourges them.”
And indeed, it doesn’t feel good, it’s not a cause for joy but rather of pain. But down the line, instructs the author, it pays off in “the fruits of righteousness,” in that child of God becoming more God-like, a clearer “sign of God’s glory,” here in this world.
The letter continues: “…so this is what you, who are to be God’s children, are to do.
– If in some way or other your hands are shaky and drooping, do what’s necessary to strengthen them.
– If your knees are weak, do what needs to be done to firm them up.
– If there are habits and attitudes in you that dim God’s presence coming through, that in the service of God’s Kingdom are lame and out of joint, then take the hard road of doing what you can to heal them – maybe better, havethem healed.”
As you can hear, Hebrews, at least in this section, is of the scratchy shirt school. What is it in my present way of operating, of coming at the world, of sizing up what counts more and counts less — that’s going to have to be reshaped if I’m to be a font of God’s glory in my world? What is it in me that needs sanding down (or building up) to have that God-light shine more brightly and convincingly through me?
To be clear, this is not an injunction to turn into a different person, to do violence to who you are down deep. That would never let the goodness of God that’s unique to you shine through. Neither is it a counsel to passively conform to some outside set of rules so you can “make it past inspection.” That wouldn’t be formation so much at it would be a long term exercise in people-pleasing and eye-servantry.  Rather, for all of us, it’s a matter of letting ourselves be somewhat vulnerable to the new, of being malleable in the face of the wisdom and experience of others. It’s to drop one’s guard, so that, however irritating that new habit or different attitude is, you let it rub against your old ways of seeing and doing – and hopefully sand them down into something more serviceable for being that beacon of God to your world.
Looking at things this way might seem overly negative. It might come across too much like the hard-nosed U.S. Marine pitch of saying we need a few good men and women, and to do that you’re going to have to tough it out to prove you are one of those. That is not the whole of the formation package. But for sure it’s a necessary part of it. It’s a person entering in with the attitude that there are things to be learned that will stretch me. And for us there’s a certain kind of fit required in the Vincentian Family, some of which the person has already, but some to which the person has to be fitted. Vincent and Louise make this point over and over.
These lesson is meant not just for beginners but for every believer all along the line, for both veteran and old and newly minted members of the Family of Vincent and Louise.  Formation is on-going, life-long. Nobody, short of Jesus himself, ever measures up to what it takes to be that “sign” of God’s glory in the world. Nobody likes being scraped and scratched in the process. And nobody does it entirely smoothly, with no sanding of the edges and sometimes even a little of the center. But without moving through this phase of the process, no one grows as much as he or she could have in that (sacramental) ability to be transparent of (and to) God. The chastening side is not the only side, but it’s real enough.  It’s as real as that correction and reproof which “the Lord unerringly sends to his daughters and sons.”
In back of this, however, is the underlying consolation. If being formed in its right sense happens, it’s not just us (and not even mainly us) who are doing it and letting it happen. From beginning to end, it’s The Lord’s doing. It’s the working of The Lord, flowing through those sometimes scratchy experiences we endure. It’s the Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ who begins the formation, sustains it, inspires it, and along the way shakes it up – moving the process ever further down the road.

So the message to each of us who is always ‘in formation:’ “Strengthen your drooping hands and your weak knees. Make straight ways for your feet. Let the healing Lord, working with your healthy parts but also rebuilding whatever is lame and disjointed in you, turn you more and more into that sign of His Father’s Glory shining out for all the nations to see.”
Content written by Father Tom McKenna, C.M., and published on FamVin.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Wholehearted Living

“When you leave a mission, the last thing you pack is your heart. When you arrive at your new mission, the first thing you unpack is your heart.” – Daughter of Charity saying.

How many times have these words been echoed in the life of a Daughter of Charity? How many times has a sister been encouraged by these very words as she transitioned from one mission to the next – feeling the heartache of leaving a mission she loved dearly, while moving forward to embrace a new way of serving.

This is our life. Wholehearted living with and serving those in need wherever we are sent.


In our lives as Daughters of Charity, we understand that all we do - our life in community, our prayer life and even our vows – they all exist for the stability of our mission – serving Christ in people who are poor. This has always been God’s design for the Daughters of Charity – since 1633.

Daughters of Charity spend their life on mission in so many ways. Some sisters minister in a particular field all their community life – for example, in healthcare, social work or education. Some sisters experience many manifestations of how their life on mission will look over the years. A few sisters are called to serve on foreign missions. In our lexicon, these are ALL examples of the life of a Daughter of Charity on mission.

Every Daughter of Charity begins that experience with her first sending on mission upon completion of the seminary (novitiate). We recently celebrated the sending on mission of two Daughters of Charity - Sister Georgina Severin, D.C. and Sister Truc Nguyen, D.C.

When they arrived at their new missions – we know the very first thing they unpacked.

Content written by Sister Lisa Laguna, D.C.