Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Reflection on the Emmaus Story

Today's gospel is one of my favorites--the account of Jesus, after the resurrection, meeting two of his disciples on the road to Emmaus. They don't recognize him and he knows it. But...patient as only God can be patient, Jesus listens to their complaints and tries--without actually coming right out and saying who he is--to give them clues to the reality of the resurrection and what it means in their life. I wrote a poem many years ago--not really because I felt called to do so but because I was asked to write something about this theme for a special liturgy we were having. Somehow the Spirit was with me because it has, over the years, been a reflection that has helped me when I least expected it and, based on comments I've received, has helped and been meaningful to others. I do think that some times God works in really strange ways--and that God has a great sense of humor!


Emmaus Reflection

I walk my life…
Emmaus bound…
Side by side a God
Whose touch I’ve felt in varied grace-gift ways.
And yet – at times –
Dismayed…
Distraught…
Distressed…
I cry—fear-filled—
“I had hoped…
“I had hoped…”
and mourn, because—it seems—
A God all-giving does not give…
A God all-present is not there…
A God all-loving does not touch…
 

And then
In tender tones that mingle
Love
And understanding of my foolish ways
And question why I am so slow to understand,
My gentle God reminds me
Of the gift that I have been…
The presence
Of the God-ness I have shared…
The touch of God
That flows in gentle rhythm
Through the music of my life.
And so…Emmaus-come…
I know my God…
                                                                                      
                                                                                         Ann Marie Slavin, OSF

 

 

 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Good Friday Reflection


Good Friday

 Remembering a God who hurts,
Who knows the tearing pain of lash,
The agony of sharpened thorns
And nails that rip the flesh
Unleashing rivers of a Godly love
In blood,
A God
Who knows too well the searing pain
That tears the heart—
The pain of dearest friends
Who did not understand
And slept while danger lurked,
Who bruised the heart
With smiling lips and friendly kiss
That hid a greeter’s greed,
Who promised, “I will serve,”
Yet claimed aloud, “I know him not.”
 My God of Love,
My God who hurts,
Remind me of the days I caused you pain,
The days when love was scarce—
When promises were made
With half a heart;
Remind me of the days
When I, too, slept
And did not understand
Your love was mine to share,
The days I smiled and said
“I will!”
But all too soon—
My courage on the run—
Announced defeat in whines that claimed
“I can’t.”
Forgive me, God of Love
And let my Friday pain
Arise with you on Easter morn,
My God of Ever New.
                                                       Ann Marie Slavin, OSF
 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Holy Thursday Reflection

As we prepare to celebrate Holy Thursday, we recall the Last Supper when Jesus blessed bread and wine and invited his apostles to eat and drink, saying "This is my body; this is my blood." We relive this sacred moment each time we share in the Eucharistic liturgy. Sometimes, as I get older or as I watch others go through a difficult time, the meaning of Eucharist takes on a whole new level of meaning. Perhaps at these times, it is possible to say with Jesus, "This is my body, my blood, that I can offer in some way--in its weakness, in its suffering, in its imperfection."

Eucharist
 
"This is my Body
Which will be given up for you.
This is my Blood
Which will be shed for all."
 
So you spoke...
And so your words echoed down the centuries,
Sustaining us,
Saving us,
Giving us hope,
Filling fear-filled lives with strength and awe
We cannot fully grasp--
That God-in-Love
Had Body broken
Blood spilled out
For creatures such as we.
 
this is my body...
breaking down,
taking turns and twists
that planning did not plan.
this is my blood...
lacking substance,
lacking strength
to foster healing's growth.
 
take them,
God-in-Love,
weakened body,
weakened blood,
gifts returned to you who gave as gift'
take and use my lack,
my fear,
as gifts for hearts that cry for strength
and love.
 
                                               Ann Marie Slavin, OSF


Monday, April 14, 2014

Updates from Haiti!

T
his is Sr. Vicky's latest update from her work in Haiti. Next month she will be returning home for the a few months but expects to return to Haiti in July or August.
 
March 17, 2014
Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!  Today is not a big deal here in Ferrier.  I guess that’s because there aren’t too many Irish Haitians walking around.  However, this afternoon I had a little treat that really made my day.  As I was studying my Kreyol upstairs, I heard a lot of commotion outside my window.  When I looked out I saw a group of the village children forming their own little band.  They had found some sticks and some big bamboo branches, and they were marching around making lovely music. Sr. Eleanor came outside, too, and helped me to get them together for a picture.  We had a lot of fun and topped it off with some “bon bon chokola yo” (chocolate cookies)!  Jesus really knew what He was talking about when He told us to become like children.  They really know how to enjoy the simplest things in life!

Above and below: Haitian children entertain the sisters with their "found" musical instrument.
 
March 19, 2014
Happy St. Joseph’s Day!  Today was a very important celebration for the Catholic Christian people of Pestel and the surrounding villages because our central parish in Pestel  is St. Joseph’s Parish.   Many people did not go to work, and many schools were closed.  Everyone was dressed in their Sunday finest.  There was a very long procession to the church made up of directors of chapels, students, deacons, and priests.  We had the traditional  liturgical dancing done by the boys and girls in the parish.  They were dressed in yellow and white, colors of the Vatican flag.  The girls danced while the boys waved yellow flags.  Sr. Fidelis was very concerned about that, especially when one of the parishioners in the front row had to duck just in time to avoid being walloped by a flying flag!  There were about  twelve priests concelebrating along with a young deacon who will be ordained this coming April.  The church was packed and the choir did a great job with the music.  The liturgy ended around 11:20, but the  “Mesi’s” (thank you’s) to all who contributed--financially and in every other way--went on until after noon.  It was a lovely liturgy but when we got home, it took a couple hours to recuperate! 

Srs. Eleanor, Jo, and Fidelis enjoy the liturgy on St. Joseph's Day.
This beautiful little girl is all dressed up for the feast day but the celebration was just a bit too long for her!
March 22, 2014
This evening around 9:30 we were all in our rooms.  I had just finished reading and began to fall asleep when all of a sudden  I felt  my bed shaking.  At first I couldn’t figure out what was going on but then I realized it was a “tranbleman de te a” (an earthquake)!  I sat up and began to get out of bed but then it stopped.  It had only lasted a few seconds but it was scary.  I heard Sr. El call to me and then all four of us were at the windows asking each other, “Did you feel that?”   Sr. Jo went on the internet immediately to check it out.  Sure enough, there was a “moderate” earthquake  near Pestel, in the area across from Les Cayemites  Islands.  It was only a 4.5 magnitude, thank God, and there was no damage.  Surprisingly, we didn’t hear any commotion in the village afterward, even though Sr. Fidelis said that it was the only  time she ever remembered experiencing an earthquake  other than the big one in 2010.  I thought that maybe, compared to that, it was no big deal for the people.  However, when I asked some of the Haitians about it the next day, they had felt it and they were scared.  Some of them ran outside.   It was just another reminder  about our fragile humanity.  We are all in God’s hands.!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Fast4Families: On the Road for Justice!

The following article was written by Sr. Betty Kane, our director of evangelical life services. Sr. Betty was one of three of our sisters who traveled with other member of Fast4Families to talk with local government officials about the need for comprehensive immigration reform.

Srs. Hope Bauerlin, Dominica LoBianco, and I took off early on April 2 to meet the bus in Exton, Pennsylvania. Why? We represented all of the Sisters of St. Francis and Franciscan Action Network (FAN) on the Fast4Families bus. We gathered with women and men who were core fasters as well as those fasting for the day. I met three people with whom I had fasted in the tent on the Mall. It was great to be with Lucy, DJ, and Sue once again. We also met Maria Sotomayor, a Neumann graduate. She reminded us that when she told her story for the first time in Our Lady of Angels Chapel, she had been very nervous and scared. Now she is a community organizer working with Pennsylvania Immigration Citizenship Coalition! Everyone who gathered was an activist—some for the first time and most who have justice as their ministry.
 
(L-R) Srs. Dominica, Hope, and Betty leave the motherhouse to drive to Exton to meet the Fast4Families bus.
 
You may have seen pictures of the Fast4Families bus on FAN’s website. The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) provided the bus, driver, and staff who made our journey delightful. When street space or parking space was limited, we traveled by van or cars. But the bus made the statement and it certainly was easy to see what we were about.

We met with staff members of two republican representatives (Patrick Meehan and Jim Gerlach)—the representatives themselves were in Washington. Our group represented many organizations and faiths: Unitarian, Evangelical, Jewish, and Catholic. In addition to the three of us, women religious were represented by one Sister of St. Joseph and one Bernardine Franciscan. One Japanese man shared his experience of being rounded up—together with his parents—and sent to an internment camp during World War II. We each gave our input and left the representatives with the following urgent request: “Don’t wait. Vote for compassionate immigration reform.”

(above and below) Waiting to meet with staff members of Rep. Meehan and Gerlach--the signs indicating clearly who they represent and what they are asking for.

Our journey also took us to Norristown where there is a large community of undocumented immigrants. There we met with Commissioners Leslie S. Richards and staff member Lee Soltysiak. Both were very aware of their county’s population and of the efforts they were making for them—even connecting with groups for funding to help the immigrant community. While in the Norristown area, we met with state representative Matthew Bradford. He was definitely on board with immigration and with both the federal and state needs. He also provided us with supper—bottles of cold water were on the conference room table for us!

 Outside Rep. Bradford's headquarters

Our last stop was Villanova University. There our delegation grew with students from Neumann University and other interested parties, coworkers of the groups we represented, and a few folks who just wanted to know what we were about. We gathered on the steps of St. Thomas of Villanova Church which is visible from the main street. With the bus parked up on the hill next to the church and our own highly visible position, it was obvious the spot was well chosen. But our gathering was not for show. We were about justice for those who have to live in the shadows because they live in fear. We listened as individuals told their stories: stories of success from the young who received their DACA papers and are now assisting other youths; stories about the New Sanctuary Movement and its faith-based Gospel approach to immigration; sad stories like that of DJ Yoon’s mother from Korea illustrating how long it takes for people to come to the U.S. and be reunited with family members. And we prayed—led in prayer by an Augustinian priest and a rabbi. The experience was definitely one of interfaith action for immigration.
 
It was a long day but as the group waits on the steps of St. Thomas of Villanova Church they know the satisfaction of having worked and spoken as a community of people united in prayer and action for a just cause.
 
It was also an experience of relationship. Meeting both folks from the past and new acquaintances was refreshing. Being with Alison, Victor, and Justin, the woman and men from SEIU, was another reminder of how much we need one another. Meeting staff members who were so willing to listen to our stories—even though they work for representatives who are not actively in favor of immigration at this time—is a reminder that our work and words have to be shared over and over again so change can happen. We energized each other with our stories, listening to each other, fasting together. In community—even temporary community—there is great strength and lots of laughter. 

Immigration united our hearts, fired us to weather the rain and the cold, and warmed us with sunshine in the afternoon. Immigration reform had us chanting outside Rep Patrick Meehan’s office, asking for “education—not deportation!” Other chants were voiced in Spanish—which I sort of mumbled! People joined us for a time, had to leave to go back to work, and then returned to join the group at Villanova. We were a living organism, fasting for immigration reform and definitely blessed.

 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Meet Sr. Clare Agnes Conforti!


Anyone meeting Sr. Clare Agnes Conforti for the first time would probably describe her as a quiet, soft-spoken woman—maybe even a bit shy. But one would need to be around her only a short time to become aware of her great—and quick—sense of humor and the fact that she is a veritable powerhouse of energy. For many years Sr. Clare was a Franciscan Sister of Ringwood, a congregation she first met when she made her First Communion at St. Francis of Paola Church in Brooklyn. That early childhood connection continued through her ongoing involvement in parish activities—right up to her entrance in 1955. When conversations about a merger between the Ringwood and Philadelphia Franciscans began in the late 1990s, Sr. Clare was a member of her congregation’s general council and so was actively involved in the various merger committees.

During much of her years in religious life, Sr. Clare ministered in elementary education both as teacher and principal, in congregational leadership, in formation, in spiritual ministry as retreat coordinator and spiritual director, and in social work. In 2011, knowing that the school where she was working was closing and that the Ringwood property was being sold, she planned to move to the motherhouse in Aston and began discerning where she would minister. Receiving a “chance” invitation from Sr. Christa Thompson to work at the Spiritual Center, Sr. Clare sent a resume without even knowing the job description. “I left that in the hands of God and accepted,” she explained. But she had an additional ministry search in mind as well. “My personal passion is to work with those who are poor,” Sr. Clare explained. “I inquired about going to someplace close to Aston and found Anna’s Place. Happily I am involved in assisting in some way with both the spiritual and bodily needs of God’s people.”

Sr. Clare’s work in the spiritual center involves coordinating the use of our five hermitages. Tasks involve not only taking reservations and recording payments, but also being on hand to greet visitors, providing a short orientation for first-time visitors, keeping track of needed repairs and supplies, and cooperating with the housekeeping staff. However, she finds great personal blessings in the ministry. “I’m involved in providing a place for each person to find God,” she explained, “a place to have precious quiet time to be in peace.” She recalled one man who, at arrival, couldn’t understand why his wife insisted that he attend a hermitage weekend. The next day he called and told her simply, “I found God!”

 
For Sr. Clare Agnes, the telephone is an important vehicle for scheduling visitors to the hermitages and for sending voicemails to the congregation announcing the death of one of our sisters.

Sr. Clare Agnes logs in to the hermitage calendar to check available openings and to check on arrival time for this weekend’s guests.
Sr. Clare continues to be a weekly volunteer at Anna’s Place, helping to prepare and serve lunch for the guests. The staff is never sure just how many folks will come and often there is concern over making sure the available food supply will stretch. But Sr. Clare enjoys the opportunity to chat with those who visit. “Their smiles, hugs, and gratitude are more than rewarding,” she explained.

Sr. Clare gets supplies lined up for the guests who will be coming to Anna's Place for the weekly Thursday lunch.
 
Sr. Clare and Sr. Kathleen Swan, another of our sisters who volunteers at Anna's Place, are ready to greet this week's visitors.
 
Srs. Clare and Kathleen stop for a chat with some of the guests of Anna's Place.
 
The perfect end to a day at Anna’s Place—a hug from one of the smallest guests.
Now just in case that’s not enough to keep her busy, Sr. Clare also helps out the pastoral services staff as part of the rotation team sending voice mails throughout the congregation announcing the deaths and funeral arrangements for our sisters and their relatives. Relaxation? Yes, she does,  indeed, enjoy a number of activities in her spare time. “I enjoy walking, reading, listing to music, doing crafts, and exploring different recipes,” she said. That last—recipes—is particularly significant because Clare is an excellent cook and enjoys sharing that gift with others. She was actively involved with the sisters in her unit in preparing and serving the Irish Tea for the winners of the foundation’s golf outing auction item.

A busy woman? Very definitely—but perhaps Sr. Clare can best be described in her own words.
“I make efforts to bring joy to others,” she once wrote. “I try to be down-to-earth, knowing my limitations while working hard to be as faithful as possible to my Franciscan calling.”   

 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Mini-Sabbath Focuses on Ending Gun Violence

A few weeks ago we hosted a group of approximately 60 people at our motherhouse in Aston for a Mini-Sabbath ritual memorializing the 32 men, women, and children from Delaware County who were victims of gun violence in 2013. The gathering was held in our chapelAttendees included a number of our sisters as well as guests from various parts of Delaware County. The service was actually one of many similar vigils held in churches, synagogues, and mosques throughout the country that same weekend—each calling attention to the need for an end to gun violence. These gatherings were one facet of a number of efforts organized by Heeding God’s Call, a national organization focused on drawing attention to the ongoing problem of gun violence. Several of our sisters have been participating in the Chester Delco Chapter’s ongoing efforts to persuade the owner of a local gun shop to adopt a code of conduct to prohibit straw purchases of guns. Anna’s Place in Chester is a member of the local chapter and, in association with our congregational advocacy committee, sponsored the Mini Sabbath.  

The program, prepared by Srs. Maria Orlandini and Jean Rupertus, featured a variety of speakers. Sr. Marie Lucey, director of advocacy and member relations for Franciscan Action Network (FAN), shared a reflection on John 14:27 (the Last Supper discourse) and called attendees to work for peace on all levels. Several of the presenters spoke to the issue of gun violence from very personal experiences. Bryan Miller, executive director of Heeding God’s Call, became involved in advocating for an end to gun violence after his brother, a law enforcement officer, was killed in a massacre at a Washington, DC police headquarters. Movita Johnson-Harrell, shared the story of her son—a victim of gun violence. Similarly Rev. David Townsend, described the tragic loss of Anthony, his young son, who was kill as a result of gun violence.

 Leaders of the Mini-Sabbath, Sr. Jean Rupertus, Sr. Marie Lucey, Bryan, Miller, Movita Johnson-Harrell, and Rev. David Townsend, join the congregation in a blessing for the victims of gun violence. 
 
 Bryan Miller called participants to action to end the trauma and despair caused by gun violence.
 
Movita Johnson-Harrell (above) and Rev. David Townsend (below) shared stories of their children who were victims of gun violence.

 A group of Neumann University students also participated in the program. At one point in the program, these young women and men were involved in a memorial ceremony in remembering those who had died as a result of gun violence. As the names of the deceased were read, 32 pairs of shoes were placed around a display of candles, each pair and each candle representing one of the murdered individuals.
Neumann University students joined in creating a memorial commemorating the men, women, and children—victims of gun violence whose shoes will never be filled.
 
 The Mini-Sabbath ritual spoke a clear message to those who were present. However, the event leaders made it clear that efforts to eliminate gun violence are not complete. In addition to ongoing outreach to the families of victims, participants were reminded that ongoing advocacy is necessary: vigiling and dialogue with gun shop owners, public vigils at sites where murders took place, and continued dialogue with state and national leaders.
 
Sr. Maria Orlandini led participants in a pledge to contine advocating for a “day when guns and weapons of destruction are transformed into instruments of healing.”
 

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