Monday, June 30, 2014

Birthday Blog: Begin Again

“Begin again.”

My orchid saying, "Happy birthday!  Celebrate life!"
These two little words bursting with Buddhist wisdom popped into my mind this morning as I awakened to my 28th birthday.   When I came downstairs, I saw that a third blossom had opened on my recently dormant orchid.  A birthday is always a good reminder of life’s goodness and generative possibility!  As I look back over the last year and give thanks, I am also grateful for the way life always lets us start over, reinvent, recreate.  I am humbled by God’s refreshing love and excited by the new being born in and around me.  I suppose the phrase is also appropriate encouragement for a negligent blogger.  Today I "begin again" with high hopes for more consistency next year in this Diary of a Sister-in-Training! J

Happy Novices after
completing our Canonical Novitiate
More than my birthday, this week also marks a new beginning on my journey of religious life.  Andrea and I finished our canonical novitiate last Friday and are now onto year two.  Just as a refresher, the canonical novitiate is a year-long process that all religious experience in their formation.  It is a time focused on solitude and prayer and becoming deeply rooted in God’s love.  Over the last year, we have had classes three days a week in Spirituality, Theology, Scripture, Church History, Sisters of Charity History, and much more.  On Tuesdays, we each served at a ministry site, and Fridays were set aside as our Sabbath Day – a time for processing, relaxation, and prayer.  We’ve also spent time visiting Sisters at the Motherhouse, participating in congregational events, and cultivating intentional community here at our home, Bayley House.

Since I last wrote in March, we’ve followed the above rhythm with just a few additions.  In May, we participated in the Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon with other religious in the name of Peace, Justice, and Vocations.  Later in the month, we went on a week-long silent retreat at Milford Jesuit Spiritual Center.  On Memorial Day, we participated in a Choral Reading about the Sisters of Charity who nursed in the Civil War.  Throughout June, we finished up with several evaluations that encouraged us to reflect on where God has led us throughout the canonical year. 

Andrea and myself go back to the 1860's with some of the
other participants in the Civil War Commemoration Service
Sisters and future Sisters at the
Flying Pig Marathon, May 2014
It was a year filled to the brim with wondrous learning experiences and people who shared their gifts and love with us.  It was also tough.  The time and space spent in prayer lends itself to much introspection and reflection, and lots of “stuff” quite naturally can arise.  Externally, I have been fed by the wisdom and love of my Sisters.  Internally, it’s been an intense journey, but one that has taught me more about God’s incomprehensible love.

I do feel ready to begin again!  We are a few days into the second year of Novitiate, called the Apostolic Novitiate, which will also happen in Cincinnati.  Not all congregations have a second year; it isn’t required as the canonical year is.  Our congregation has found it to be a helpful time of discovery and transition into full-time ministry.  As you probably guessed, the word "Apostle" comes from the idea of being sent, so the apostolic year is more focused on being out in the world.  The year will center upon ministry and discovering further how God calls us to serve as Sisters of Charity.  We’ll also still have a Sabbath Day to continue integrating the gifts of contemplation and action.  If God keeps the call comin', we’ll make first vows next summer, so we will also spend intentional time in vow preparation throughout the apostolic year.

God has stirred up some exciting opportunities in ministry for next year!  I’ll be working as an intern at the Archdiocese of Cincinnati Social Action Office.  Each year, the Office offers this position in conjunction with the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), the U.S. Catholic Bishops’ anti-poverty campaign.  I’ll be helping to administer CCHD grants, supporting local grassroots groups making change in their communities, educating about Catholic Social Teaching in parishes, working for immigration reform and care for creation, and perhaps other things!  I’ll also be writing a once a month for the Global Sisters Report, a project of the National Catholic Reporter.  Three other young Sisters and myself make up the Horizons column, a place for newer religious women to share their thoughts, reflections, and experiences.  You can read my first two (and future) columns here.

When Dan and Patty Kemme first held me in their arms on June 30, 1986, they could never have predicted that I would be here on my 28th birthday!  This gift of life is full of God’s surprises, and all of them way better than we could’ve conjured up on our own.

Bayley House with Novice Director during the last
night of Canonical Novitiate: Sisters Andrea, Donna, Tracy, Nancy,
Maureen, Terry, and Carol
During the closing of the canonical novitiate last Thursday night, we prayed with a reading that was included in the Opening of Novitiate Ceremony one year ago:   For this reason I bow my knees before the Creator,  from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that God would grant you, according to the riches of God’s glory, to be strengthened with power through the Spirit in the inner self,  so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3: 14-19)

 As I embark on a new year of life and a new step toward becoming a vowed Sister of Charity of Cincinnati, I am reminded that all of life is really a love story, leading each of us more profoundly to the heart of God.  It is God’s love that brings us into being, that sustains us, that calls us forward.  It is God’s love that wakes us up each morning with opportunities for new growth and new birth.  A fellow Sister gave me a card this morning that reads, “Today is the beginning of the best part of your life.”  True dat, Sister.  This day and every day, God, give me the grace to “Begin again!”