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Posts tagged ‘spirituality’

Monthly Meditation: August 2012

It seems the 2012 presidential election has gone into full swing here in the U.S. You can’t turn on the TV or radio or hop on the internet without hearing political commentary or seeing a political ad. So this month we are focusing our meditation and reflection on how we find what is right and just–and how we experience God–in the midst of all the political rhetoric. Take a few minutes to reflect and then consider these questions: Where do I feel God is in the midst of the 2012 presidential campaign? Where in my life do I see and experience the multifaceted and multicolored issues? How do I let God’s light shine on them? How am I called to bring forth love in these issues? Share your thoughts below in our comments section. We want to hear from you!

Monthly Meditation: July 2012

We don’t know what the weather is where you are, but here in the Northeast, we’re sweating it out through the dog days of summer! That got us thinking about a cooler time for this month’s meditation–Christmas! After watching, we invite you to reflect and share your thoughts below by clicking here. Here are some questions to get you started: Do you see the reminders of Christmas around you? What are they? How are you able to allow the “Light” into your life? What are the ways you can celebrate Christmas every day of the year?

Monthly Meditation: June 2012

As you watch our June meditation, ponder the following questions and share your thoughts in the “Leave a Reply” box below. We want to hear from you! How can you open yourself to see the miracles in your everyday life? What are the miracles of life for you? How does God call you to be a light in the lives of others?

2011 Jubilee Celebration

Sister Margaret Farrell, SHCJ (M. M. Felicitas) celebrated her 60th Jubilee.

Last Saturday, 19 Sisters of the Holy Child Jesus celebrated their Jubilees with a special Mass and luncheon reception at St. Thomas of Villanova Parish Church in Rosemont, PA. Click here to see photos from the celebration. These 19 women have served as Sisters of the Holy Child for 75, 70, 60, or 50 years.

Sister Mary Ann Buckely, SHCJ, Leader of the Society’s American Province welcomed everyone to the celebration. Mass then began with Reverend Michael Olivere presiding and Cardinal John Patrick Foley presiding in chair. Cardinal Foley was taught by Sister Elizabeth Gorvin, SHCJ (M. M. Berchmans), one of this year’s Jubilarians, at Holy Spirit School and the two have remained good friends over the years. Father Olivere attended St. Lucy’s School in Philadelphia, where the Sisters of the Holy Child taught. His meaningful homily touched on the commitment and dedication of the Jubilarians. He noted that the significance of a milestone such as this is more about saying yes to God on the days when it is most challenging, not on the days when it is easy. During Mass, the Jubilarians renewed their vows in a church overflowing with their family and friends.

Combined, this year’s Jubilarians have served for more than 1,000 years. Their ministries have ranged from teacher to school principal to college president to pastoral care worker to administrator and to everything in between! They have served all over the world from the east and west coasts of the U.S. to Chile to the Dominican Republic and even to Africa. If you are interested in reading more about the lives of our Jubilarians, be sure to join our mailing list to receive the next issue of Actions, our biannual magazine, which will feature the Sisters celebrating their 50th Jubilees. The previous issue featured the Sisters celebrating their 75th, 70th, or 60th Jubilees. Click here to read that issue.

Congratulations to all of our Jubilarians! Your dedication and commitment have made a difference to more people than we can count.

Planning for the Future

Sisters of the Holy Child Jesus and lay leaders gathered for a weekend in Stone Harbor, NJ to discuss ways to ensure the Holy Child mission remains intact for centuries to come!

The world that Cornelia Connelly, Foundress of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus, lived in and experienced during her lifetime in the 1800s was vastly different from today’s world. Nonetheless, her ideals and vision endure and continue to inspire people around the globe today.

In April, the Formation Committee of the Sisters of the Holy Child Jesus (SHCJ) gathered together lay leaders of several of the ministries (i.e., Providence Center, Casa Cornelia Law Center) the SHCJ have founded, as well as members of the SHCJ administrative staff (i.e., Director of Associates, Director of Communications), to reflect on Cornelia’s legacy and the Holy Child mission. As there are fewer women becoming Sisters of the Holy Child Jesus today, more lay women and men are leading works that the Sisters have founded. As such, they are responsible for the ever-important task of ensuring the Holy Child mission remains in tact.

Meeting over the course of a weekend in Stone Harbor, NJ, the group pondered questions such as: 

  • What do we mean by the legacy and charism of Cornelia Connelly?
  • What is the meaning of Cornelia’s legacy for us in the 21st Century?
  • What are we learning from our current experience of forming leaders who are partnering with the Society in continuing its mission and spirit?
  • What are the questions and needs of someone coming new into the SHCJ ambience as a leader of a sponsored ministry? 
  • What are the implications of all of this for formation in the spirit of Cornelia today?

The final morning of the weekend was given to exploring several of the ideas and needs which emerged from the group’s discussions. Specifically these ideas included developing an orientation and in-service program for lay leaders of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus, developing new materials and resources, and taking stock of existing ones, and imagining a gathering of leaders of Holy Child ministries in the near future. Stay tuned!

Come and See

By Barbara Bartlett, SHCJ

After returning from Africa in February 2004, I moved to the Newton Street Community of Holy Child Sisters in Washington, D.C. While investigating possible ministries there, I came across a letterhead from Boys Town. I then discovered that there was a Boys Town facility quite close to the Brookland area where I lived.

In my final 10 years in Africa, I had served on the Justice and Peace Commission of the Archdiocese of Jos. As coordinator, I was particularly interested in human rights and children’s issues. My dream of an Archdiocesan children’s project became a reality thanks to a supportive team of young men and women. We worked for several years and, despite some discouraging experiences, were able to establish the Care for Children Project of the Archdiocese of Jos in Northern Nigeria. We had generous board members and were also fortunate in getting financial help from foundations and individual donors.

With this previous experience, I wished to continue working with youth in distressed situations, so when I saw the Boys Town letter I felt perhaps God was calling me to “come and see.” One Sunday morning, I did just that. After a 20-minute walk from our house, I met a young couple on the driveway of Boys Town. They were driving some of the boys to church, but they greeted me warmly and when I expressed interest in their work, they asked me to return the next day to speak to the director. I did return and, over the years, have become involved in programs there. As a volunteer, I am able to attend activities, give workshops and retreats to staff members, and serve on the local advisory committee.

This Washington-based Boys Town is one of 16 satellite campuses of the original one, which continues to flourish in Omaha, Nebraska. There are different programs offered by each. The one in D.C. is multi-faceted. It includes a shelter for short term care (one to two months in length), four family group homes whose residents can stay two or more years, a foster care program which recruits, trains, and monitors foster parents, and good parenting classes. Their newest project is preparing staff members to go to homes where interventions might be of assistance to its members.

I try to visit Boys Town monthly; it is not a “have to” experience. I may go to a group home for a meal with the family and boys, or attend an advisory committee meeting, or one of the various activities going on at the campus. Last December, I attended their annual tree lighting ceremony which included songs, recitation of some of the boys’ compositions, along with the lighting of the tree and refreshments in the homes and shelter.

An added surprise for me was the presentation of a certificate making me an Honorary Citizen of Boys Town. This framed certificate now sits on my bookshelf reminding me of my commitment to the program. It is often said that when there is involvement in a service project, there is usually more received than given.  This is true of my relationship with Boys Town. The two directors I have known, the two national directors (both Catholic priests), the committee members with whom I have worked, and the inspiring staff all challenge me by their dedication to their work. It is a privilege to share in these efforts. One of the committee members is an elderly naval chaplain who was one of Father Flanagan’s boys. It was he who was instrumental in bringing a campus to D.C.

A plaque now stands next to my certificate. It was given to me this Christmas, and its timeless message, “He ain’t heavy, Father, he’s m’ brother” now also serves as a renewed invitation to visit the nearby campus, once again to “come and see.”

I Thirst

By Sr. Terri MacKenzie, SHCJ

The theme of the 2003 SHCJ chapter was “Nourished from the Wellsprings.” The preparation committee asked if I would create some kind of reflective practices on water that could be used for an extended period of time. I wrote Water Practices for Chapter Preparation 2003, a small booklet for individual use during Lent that focused on finding God’s presence in all of creation, with a focus on water issues. This booklet was well received, and I continued to prepare such material for subsequent Advents and Lents that focused on various ecological and spiritual concerns. Parish and other groups now use these booklets. They have expanded in content and are formatted for group use, though are still usable by individuals. To save money, paper, and office time, we no longer print them, but offer them, free, to anyone who wishes to download them.

Because many parishes select their Lenten materials in the fall, we are making this Lent’s  program, I Thirst: A Lenten Journey from Desert to Garden, available now. It again focuses on finding God’s presence in all of creation, with a focus on water issues. The directions assist groups not familiar with this type of material. To view the eight page (standard print) version, click here. For larger print version, click here. Please print on sustainable paper.

A participant in the Lenten program on Soil in 2004 recently wrote: “The gatherings we had were truly transformational. I remember the experience/interactions often. Just last summer I set the earth (dirt) free; I had kept it in a special silver container. . . .”

EcoSpirituality Retreat

By Tese Currie, SHCJ

Many Sisters of the Holy Child, as well as two SHCJ Associates, attended the EcoSpiritualty led by Father Terrence J. Moran in June

The EcoSpirituality retreat that took place at the Saint Raphaela Center in Haverford, PA, from June 14 -19 drew 19 Sisters of the Holy Child Jesus and two Associates as participants. The director, Fr. Terrence J. Moran, was known to many because of retreats he had given at the Convent of the Holy Child in Rye, NY and at Holy Child Center in Rosemont, PA (as well as others all over the globe). He had chosen the title based on a quotation from the Foundress of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus, Cornelia Connelly: “I am Cosmic and the Universe is my home.”

He had thoroughly prepared his material in order to expand on this statement and help us deepen our appreciation for the care of creation as the context for living our SHCJ mission: to help others to believe that God lives and acts in them and in our world, and to rejoice in the divine presence.

From the opening session on, we were amazed at Fr. Terry’s grasp of Cornelia’s life and spirit and his masterful manner in illuminating her story through the unfolding of the universe story. We were all engaged in the process which included daily verbal and media presentations, rituals, faith sharing, quiet reflection and daily Eucharist. We appreciated Terry’s humor, ability to use what he learned about us, the Sisters of the Holy Child, in his examples, and well-prepared handouts. We listened to one another and to the earth in this sacred space of tree-filled grounds and the chapel with windows bringing inside the natural beauty of the surroundings.

The first day was devoted to finding both our home and God in the universe story. Two whole days were devoted to Cornelia in a cosmic lens with a focus on eight of her virtues: trust, simplicity, accepted suffering, reverence, zeal, discerning love, steadfastness and joy.

On Thursday, a deeper perspective on prayer was presented and, for those who wished, a visit to Red Hill Farm, an initiative of the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia which, from its six acres, provides food for 130 members as well as for the sisters. Friday centered on our ecological conversion after viewing the devastating video, “Earth and the American Dream.” As symbols of our renewed efforts, we placed our “green” commitments on a barren branch during the moving reconciliation ritual.

Our final day of quiet was spent in the company of Mary in her cosmic dimension and in a walk with Cornelia asking her help as we try to live out the fruits of these remarkable days.

Spiritual experiences always elude words, so this is but the outline of a week of profound probing of the heights and depths of our incarnational charism, the ever-expanding gift Cornelia left to us and to the world.

Visiting the Dominican Republic

Along with Sr. Peggy Doherty, Sr. Tese Currie gave a retreat at the Society's mission site in the Dominican Republic earlier this year.

In mid-April, Peggy Doherty, SHCJ (M. M. St. Thomas) and I were invited by Ann-Joyce Peters, SHCJ (M. M. Domina) to fly to the Dominican Republic to give a weekend retreat in Spanish similar to those we have been guiding twice a year for women from Providence Center. Peggy had been there before, but this was my first visit to which I looked forward eagerly, but with a bit of trepidation.

The experience was unforgettable: enlightening spiritually and challenging both psychologically and physically. I have returned with tremendous admiration for the work of our sisters, the Response-ability Volunteers, and their Dominican colleagues. They have provided an oasis in the batey where the Haitians, who had come to cut sugar cane, have been abandoned when their employers went bankrupt and left the country.

There was nothing there when Ann-Joyce arrived 15 years ago to begin a project under the auspices of the Jesuit FE y ALEGRIA program. Today there is a bright, well-staffed clinic under the direction of Sr. Kathleen King of the European Province. With special attention to mothers and babies, this clinic has helped improve the general health of the area. Beside the clinic is the Montesori School complex, the inspiration of Mary Alice Minogue, SHCJ (M. Grace Mary). Here the youngsters learn basic skills so that eventually that will be able to join the mainstream of their peers in the nearby public school. We had only one day to absorb all this activity, but I hope never to forget the smiling, grateful faces of all we met – in the midst of great squalor. There is much more that I did not see: the Associates who know and love Cornelia Connelly, the women’s workshops, prayer groups, etc.

Fifteen Dominicans (3 men and 12 women) made the weekend retreat, most of them members of the prayer group Ann-Joyce had initiated. We were able to spend two days at a Jesuit Retreat House right on the Caribbean. Peggy and I were pleased by the retreatants’ generous response to the theme, “Growing in Faith, Hope and Love.” We ended on April 18th with the Cornelian Prayer suggested by the Associates. Three final days at the beach gave Ann-Joyce a bit of rest (that she rarely takes) and for me, another view of this beautiful island. The mansions we passed on the way to the shore were such a contrast to the hovels of the batey.

I needed more than three days to sift through all my reactions to this very special visit. The oppressive heat, daily cold showers, frenetic traffic – all of which I found so daunting – are all taken in stride by our sisters and volunteers. More than WHAT they do, I was struck by the love and caring with which they minister to these very needy people. They do so with great joy, giving the Haitians a sense of their worth and enabling willing Dominicans to share in this ministry which is making a difference in people’s lives.

Not content with what they have already done, they have dreams of doing more – building a guest house where volunteer doctors and benefactors can stay, adding another classroom to the school, providing additional medicine and equipment for the clinic. Because FE y ALEGRIA has 72 other projects, it cannot be their chief source of funding. To continue this work and to allow it to grow depends on the generosity of friends. No donation is too small to help with their teaching, healing ministry.

To know myself loved by God as I am!

By Sr. Carmen Torres, SHCJ     

Twenty-eight years ago, I made a youth encounter retreat at Saint Raphaela Mary Retreat Center in Haverford, Pa. It was a life-changing experience! Prior to the retreat, I had started helping out at Visitation BVM parish’s CCD Program and youth group. Later that year, God’s grace moved me to respond to the call I had been so afraid of giving voice to and naming—that of a religious vocation. Three years later, I entered the Society of the Holy Child Jesus and became a Sister.     

During a recent youth retreat, Sr. Carmen Torres led young retreatants in an exercise where they created masks on one another.

Recently, I returned to Saint Raphaela Mary Retreat Center. This time, however, I came not as a young retreatant, but as part of a team that would guide 10 Hispanic teenagers through a weekend retreat with the theme, “Descubrete Joven en Cristo: Learn, Grow, Belong.” It was a time for the teens to learn and grow in their identity as Hispanic Catholics and deepen their sense of belonging in the Church.     

Amazing Realizations
When I made my first youth retreat 28 years ago, the leaders introduced the topic, “Why am I afraid to tell you who I am?” I still remember the filmstrip images: the clown, the body beautiful, and the bully—to name just a few. These images were representing masks that people wear when they fear that being themselves may not be acceptable to others, especially their peers. We used this topic again, but with new technology. We had a Power Point presentation and devised an activity where each of the teens created a mask as a way of visualizing both the person that, at times, they put on and the person they really are today. The teens were paired up and helped mold a mask on each other using “Rigid Wrap.” It was very messy, but lots of fun.     

When asked what it was like to have plaster on their face while the mask was being molded, they used words like scared, weird, and afraid it (the mask) would not come off. When asked what it was like to have the mask finally lifted from their faces, they responded with, “like I was free,” and “I was new, starting over again.” Isn’t that it? To know myself loved by God as I am! There is freedom in that kind of self-knowledge.     

Inspiring Support
As the weekend progressed, the teens heard from Fr. Gus Paleo on Hispanic Identity. Fr. Gus had them laughing, but also really thinking about their role as Catholic Hispanics in the Church—the potential influence they have on their peers. It reminded me of the words of the Foundress of my community, “Be yourself, but make that self all that our Lord wants you to be.”     

The teens also listened to witness talks by team members. Most impactful was the witness of a team member who is a teenager himself and a leader in his parish youth group. He spoke of his love for the Church and how the community of his parish surrounded him and was a support to him during the long-suffering and eventual death of his mother.     

Others (Msgr. Joe Shields, Sr. Marion Vincent, Fr. Tom Higgins, and Sr. Ruth Bolarte) came to the retreat to offer a word of encouragement and most especially their presence.     

The teenagers settled fairly quickly into the rhythm of the weekend. Those of us who led the retreat weekend were stunned the first night when we gave them free time at the end of the evening to play board games and instead they gathered as a group and started a discussion about what they believe and what it is like to share their love for God.     

The more things change, the more they stay the same
It was a weekend of abundant laughter, moments of tears, and an outpouring of God’s grace. Not much has changed since my own retreat 28 years ago. Young people still desire to grow in relationship with God. They still want to participate in the Church they name as their safe place. They still want their parents to tell them more frequently of their love for them. They still want to get to know and hear the life stories of those adult Church leaders that serve as inspiring role models. What a privilege it was to be witness to the glimpses of God at work in the lives of these youth.


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