Friday, February 26, 2010

Therese Higgins, CSJ, woman of wisdom, grace, courage

This past week Sister Therese Higgins, CSJ, a woman of wisdom and grace, a woman of courage made strong, went home to God. Her many accomplishments will live on wherever she ministered. At the wake yesterday, I met a friend who is now a Benedictine Monk. Sr. Therese taught him in elementary school back in the 1950s and they kept in touch.

I will remember Therese not only for all the accomplishments written about in today's Boston Globe obituary but also because she wrote the words to the Alma Mater of Fontbonne Academy. Sister Therese was a founding faculty member of Fontbonne Academy. As an alumna of Fontbonne, this song is in my veins. I often think of it as an early mission statement for the academy. The song continues to be sung at school prayer services, assemblies, graduation, etc. Here are the words:

We come seeking living waters                           Of wisdom and of grace.
We are searching for deep draughts of knowledge,
Ideals to embrace.
Come let us sing.
We have found the good fountain,
Rich and clear are her streams,
Enhancing us with her beauty,
Giving life to our dreams.
Through our veins flows the truth she is teaching,
Truth that we now may give.
No land is too far for our reaching.
In us Fontbonne shall live.
Come let us sing,
For our hearts are filled with laughter,
On our lips there is song.
We are women of courage,
By this fountain made strong.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Soundings Update from the Sisters of St. Joseph

The latest issue of Soundings Update is now available on our Boston CSJ Website. On February 12, The Women's Table, a ministry of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Boston offered a workshop called "Walk in My Shoes." This issue reports on that event. There was also an article about the event on the front page of the Allston-Brighton Tab just follow the link for the full story.

The Women’s Table, a women-to-women resource center of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Boston, empowers women from all walks of life through education, social support, holistic health, spiritual development and outreach.

Our Paschal Triduum liturgies are also advertised in this issue.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Maxim Monday: Maxim 3 "Empty yourself continually..."

Empty yourself continually in honor of the Incarnate Word who emptied himself with so much love for you. (Phil. 2:7) Make your commitment to live in the practice of the most sincere, true, and profound humility possible to you. Do so on all occasions, to everyone but especially to God, from whom must come all the blessings of your Institute. Maxims of the Little Institute #3

This seems like an appropriate maxim as we enter into the first week of Lent. This maxim, which based on Paul’s letter to the Philippians, chapter 2, is a touchstone of CSSJ spirituality. The call to self-emptying love is not just something we do for Lent. It is a process that takes a lifetime. Years ago one of the priests at my parish gave a homily about Lent that I’m reminded of each time Lent begins anew. Basically he said that Lent is when we “Live for a Season” in the manner in which we are called to be living our Christian life all through the year.

This is not a negative thing. When Médaille says “empty yourself,” he’s calling us to let go of the inner “clutter” of our ego in order to be free to be filled with God’s love and grace. It’s a letting go that allows us to be completely free, completely human, free to be our best selves, free to be who God calls us to be. Self-emptying love is a life-long prayerful process of coming to know ourselves as God knows us.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Giving Voice & Commonweal about Oprah Show

There's been quite a bit of cyber-conversation about the Dominican Sisters who were on the Oprah Show a couple of weeks ago.

An article titled: Nuns are more than “no” appeared in dotCommonweal, a blog by Commonweal magazine's editors and contributors. It linked to another response from some Catholic sisters who are part of a group called Giving Voice .
In the introduction to their Open Letter to Oprah they write:
A group of us were chatting on Facebook that it would have been great if Oprah had shared the story of other ways of living religious life on her show focused on religious life, February 9. So, we decided to draft an Open Letter to Oprah from younger women religious.
Here is a link to the YouTube videos of the show.
Dominican Sisters of Mary . This link goes to Part 1. There are four parts. Links to the others can be found on the right of the first video.

The Open Letter from the sisters of Giving Voice concludes with:
We would love the opportunity to share more about our lives of prayer, community and ministry on a future episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show. We would gladly speak with you, invite you to experience our daily service, or help broaden your viewers’ understanding of religious life in any way we can.
The Commonweal article concludes by saying:
Discovering that there’s more to a sister than what she wears and what she doesn’t do may be broadening, but it doesn’t make for good daytime TV.
But who knows? Perhaps in the weeks and months ahead what the sisters who are part of Giving Voice are offering may become a reality!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Maxim Monday: Keep an ever free heart

Maxim Monday – Maxims 53 and 54

“Keep an ever free heart…”
…declare with a generous heart, never to yield in anything that would be against God’s will.
Since yesterday was Valentine’s Day, it seems appropriate to reflect on these two excerpts from Maxims 53 and 54. In calling us to “keep an ever free heart” it seems as if Fr. Médaille is inviting us to keep our hearts open to God’s desire for us. When things don’t seem to be going your way, let God sort it out.

In the very next Maxim Médaille uses the term “with a generous heart.”  He then goes on to encourage us "never to yield to anything that would go against God's will." Today we might say, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” We all know that sometimes this is easier said than done. But we need to keep reminding ourselves that this is what we're called to do and be; and encouraging one another in living this Maxim.

During this past week, Sisters of St. Joseph from congregations across the country who do vocation outreach and those who minister with newer members have been meeting together. By newer members I mean women in the various stages of becoming a sister: pre-candidates, candidates, novices, and initially professed. The heart pictured here was one of the symbols used during our gathering.

In my personal prayer each morning I had been reflecting on these maxims. So when we were together, I couldn’t help but notice how these sisters live the message of these maxims. It’s been a real gift to be among these women and witness their zeal for work which they are about.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Soundings Update...Pat Lambert, CSJ...and more

Our latest issue of Soundings Update is now available at
In this issue you can read about what goes on behind the scenes to prepare the Weaving Relationships Retreats for the CSSJ Federation Atlantic Region. There are also a few events coming up that are open others. If you're in the greater Boston area, you may be interested in participating in one or more of these events.

On another note: There is an article in today's Boston Globe about one of our sisters who passed away this week. Her name is Sister Patricia Lambert, CSJ. The article is a wonderful tribute to her life-long committment to advocating for the poor and marginalized.  

During the last couple of days, I've received countless email from friends and colleagues nationwide who are commenting about a segment of the Oprah show that aired on Tuesday. While these comments have been quite mixed, one colleague sent a link to a blog by one of her sisters that I'd like to share. It's titled: Oprah and the Nuns: What Was Missing?

Monday, February 8, 2010

Maxim Monday: Quietly Await-Maxim 84

I explained earlier that I don’t intend to go in order with these reflections on the Maxims of the Little Institute of Jean-Pierre Medaille. This week I’m offering Maxim 84 for your reflection:

Never go ahead of grace by an imprudent eagerness, but quietly await its movements and, when it comes to you, go along with it with great gentleness, humility, fidelity, and courage.
This is one of my favorite maxims. Many years ago, I wrote a song based on this maxim and it’s been sung over and over by our sisters. Several years back a co-worker actually invited me to sing this at her wedding. Here is my adaptation of Maxim 84:

May you quietly await the movement of grace, and when it comes move gently with humility, fidelity, and courage.
The major reason for the adaptation was so that the message of this maxim would blend with the melody that grew in my head and heart around these words. That said, this maxim is one I live by in the most ordinary moments of my life. In those moments when I feel stretched to capacity with a “to do” list that is growing, I hear God saying, “never go ahead of grace.” Over and over, Médaille cautions us about “imprudent eagerness,” or “over-eagerness.” How often in our need to get the next task checked off our list of things to do, do we become “over-eager” rather than going deeper and letting God’s grace move within us? In the moments when I do go deeper and “quietly await” God’s grace, I find that is when I can, indeed, enter into a situation with humility, fidelity, and courage.

Several years after I wrote this song, I was on retreat in Madison, CT. Retreatants were being encouraged to use all our senses for prayer and perhaps even draw or paint as a way of reflecting. That’s when I began creating Mandala designs. The first one I did used the words of Quietly Await and is pictured here. This is scanned from greeting cards that we made for a craft fair for our congregation.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Maxim Monday: The Aim of Your Vocation [Maxim 1]

For the past three Monday’s I’ve reflected on the general structure and spirituality of  the Maxims of the Little Institute written for the first Sisters of St. Joseph by Fr. Jean-Pierre Médaille, SJ. This week I’ll begin a weekly reflection on a particular maxim or part of a maxim. Some maxims are quite long. Others very short. I don’t intend to go in order. But for this week, I will reflect a little on Maxim 1.
Keep always in mind the aim of your vocation which is sublime; and never do anything which contradicts the commitment to a life full of modesty, gentleness, and holiness.
The word “aim” points toward the essence of our vocation. It is “sublime,” that is to say mystical. But it’s a mysticism lived out “with our feet on the street” [to quote Marcia Allen, CSJ]. Our vocation is lived in the midst of the here and now. In aiming at what is essential, we are always moving toward, always seeking “the more.”

Médaille also speaks of “gentleness.” In the original French the word used here is “douceur.” It’s a gentleness that seeks harmony, balance, right relationships. If Jean-Pierre Médaille was with us today he might encourage us to bring the relationship of God and humans together in the midst of this suffering world.

During the next few days, take time to ponder,
How am I keeping all the pieces of my life in balance so as to stay focused on what is essential?