Sunday, April 8, 2018

Spring '18 Gathering

This weekend a group of Future of Charity members gathered near Cincinnati, Ohio, to spend time in prayer, companionship and recreation, and to remember our dear Sister Marie Flowers who joined the saints in heaven almost six months ago.  We thank everyone who held us in prayer during this sacred time together.

Celebrating the beautiful life and spirit of Marie!

Check back soon for more reflections from our bloggers!

Thursday, March 15, 2018

New Wineskins

by S. Andrea Koverman, SC Federation Temporary Professed

Click HERE to learn more about Andrea

Click HERE to learn more about the SC Federation

“I can’t have my sisters going to Washington in old wineskins, now can I?!” These were the words our sister in community, Annie Klapheke exclaimed as she used her sewing skills to reconfigure the t-shirts some of our sisters donated to our cause. As people who know me are already aware, I took part in the Catholic Day of Action on the Hill in Washington, DC on February 27th along with two other SCs, Tracy Kemme and Jean Miller and one of our Associate Members, Deb Rose-Milavec. It has been well chronicled, which was the whole point of being there-to draw attention to and escalate the pressure on the speaker and members of congress to enact a clean Dream Act (You can watch it here, and read about it here). The expiration of DACA has since come and gone without our demands being met, but as in all social movements, every little action contributes to achieving the final goal
S. Jean Miller, S. Tracy Kemme, Associate Deb Rose-Milavec,
and S. Andrea Koverman
by helping create the conditions that eventually let it happen.

My discernment was pretty quick as I felt an immediate response to the call of standing with and for our immigrant sisters and brothers in such a prayerful and public way. My frustration and disappointment in our government to act justly on behalf of the “Dreamers” pales in comparison to how they feel at this point. Despite letter writing, phone calling, meetings and demonstrations, the promise of finally passing legislation that would protect these young people has not been fulfilled. No one can argue the fact that they did not consciously break any law. They have been raised and educated in American society and hold American values. They are working, studying, raising families and contributing to our communities. They trusted the government when they were promised that if they came out of the shadows, provided all the required information, passed extensive background checks and had stayed out of trouble that they would be protected and welcomed into society. Instead they continue to be forced to live in a state of anxious vulnerability in what has become another demonstration of our broken political system. Rather than working together to pass the legislation that the majority of Americans clearly support, the politicians are now using that knowledge to play political games with each other. The Dreamers have become a collective bargaining chip for politicians to push for unpopular agenda items that would otherwise likely fail. Would I go to DC and voice my opposition to such injustice even at the risk of arrest? You betcha. It was a moment of truth for me to refuse to comply when ordered to move along, to stop raising my voice in objection to the failure of congress to act. It was symbolic of our commitment to this cause and to communicate in no uncertain terms that we will not stop the campaign for a clean Dream Act until it is finally passed.

The reference to new wine in old wineskins stayed with me throughout the experience and continues to rumble around and resurface in my times of reflection and prayer. It is such a fitting analogy to being a religious sister in this my time and circumstance because we are in a state of such dramatic transformation. From the moment I dipped my little toe into the pool of consideration about choosing this way of life, I have been asked the question, “What do you think is the future of religious life? What do you see when you imagine the future as a sister?”

Though definite themes have surfaced such as living in community, sharing in common ministry and being radically responsive and open to whatever we feel God calling us to, the tangible specifics are not ours to see so clearly as would make us comfortable. It is part of our calling not to have all the answers, to remain uncomfortable and dependent upon God to reveal what and how we can be of service in furthering the mission of love in the world when God so chooses. Those specifics will be the new container, the new wineskins.

Journeying Together in 2017
What has become clear to me is that the substance of what is put into the wineskins is not something new. A fresh batch yes, but not a completely new substance. This revelation was affirmed at the last (and only the 2nd) meeting of a subgroup within my community we call, “Journeying Together.” It is composed of members who entered after 1980 and are under the age of 70. We gather to share the journey of moving into a new reality of religious life. One in which there is a shift from a large membership and traditional ministry to one that is small but hopefully nimble and responsive to the signs of our times. It was an intimate weekend during which we focused not on the “what” of our lives but on the “why.” Sister after sister shared their personal call and named the sacred why that God planted in each of their hearts. And collectively, our communal why crystalized. We articulated the passionate response to God's invitation to be co-creators of the kindom that connects each Sister of Charity of Cincinnati across the expanse of time, from Elizabeth Seton all the way down to our newest member, Whitney Schieltz and with every sister in-between. That is the consistent substance that God is pouring into the new wineskins of our times.

It strikes me that our experience in DC was a beautiful illustration of the evolution of religious life, the new building upon the old. Not too many people initially responded to the call to participate, and I asked our Jean Miller, who is about 84 years young if she had thought about coming. She said that she had been dealing with some dizziness, but it seemed to have passed. She expressed a little concern that she might not have the energy, but if Tracy and I would be with her, she thought she could do it. Jean is one of those classic social justice sisters that are such an inspiration new members. We got to learn about some of the work she has done with and on behalf of immigrants during formation. I was thrilled that she would join us! That was a bit of the “old” joining the new. Something else that symbolized an aspect of the transitioning occurring in religious life was having our associate, Deb Rose-Milavec join us in the demonstration. She also responded to the call for women religious to participate in possible civil disobedience not as a vowed but an associate member of our community. We know and celebrate that the associate membership will continue to take shape and grow in deepening relationship with vowed members of congregations.

S. Annie working her shirt magic
The four of us were all set to go, but we needed a “team shirt” with our congregation’s name on it. With no time to have anything new printed, we remembered that our sisters were regular participants in the annual protests at the School of the Americas for years, and we had often seen them sporting bright blue t-shirts displaying our community name and the saying, “Peace grows from Justice.” Perfect! An all-call posted on our intracommunity email produced a rapid response in shirts, and were given even more upon a visit with our sisters who live in the Bedford, Ohio area. Annie worked magic with her sewing machine and suddenly we had shirts to wear to champion a new cause that had been worn by some of our senior sisters as they championed an older one. I felt clothed in the spirit of my sisters through the nearly two centuries since we were founded as I marched, sang and prayed with the ones of today. It was beautiful!

In the process of evolving into the “new wine” of religious life, I encourage you to let all the ingredients of new vision, direction and energy ferment and bubble up while being grateful for the container of religious life that always has been able to accommodate such expansiveness, allowing us to live that out it the unique way that we have been called! Hazard yet forward!

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Belonging To One Another

by S. Romina Sapinoso, SC Federation Apostolic Novice

Click HERE to learn more about Romina
Click HERE to learn more about the SC Federation

The Winter Olympics finished last Sunday and though I missed the closing, the opening ceremony was one of the best I’ve seen in years. The Olympics always excite me not just because we witness the incredible talents and gifts of individuals representing different countries. Neither is it special only because of the amazing stories behind the athletes who have worked their whole lives preparing for their chance to be on the biggest stage in sports. To me, it is remarkable because of the way it brings humanity together to celebrate everything that is good about us as a collective human race. It always makes me emotional when I see what a mosaic of wonder humans are when labels, tribes and country are set aside and all march together side by side in jubilation and peace.

Shortly after the opening ceremonies, I was at a rehab facility and the therapist engaged me in small talk. He expressed his disapproval of athletes who were raised and trained in one country and later go on to the Olympics to represent another. He said, “I guess they have dual citizenship or something. I don’t think that should be allowed.” I very casually mentioned to him that I was about to reclaim my Filipino citizenship after losing it last December when I became a naturalized U.S. citizen. He seemed a bit surprised by this unexpected revelation though we went on with our conversation about the games without any tension or trouble. This moved me
Filipino. American. Human!
to reflect on how people in general identify countries, ancestry, languages, or “tribe” so to speak, as a primary and sometimes sole identifying aspect of who a person is, where and to whom they “should” belong. I do not mean to ignore, disregard or minimize in any way the richness of culture and diversity brought by different people. This should always be acknowledged and used to build just communities with one another. I simply mean to point out the complexity of people’s identities and how our attachment to labels keep us from realizing deeper truths about who we are.

A few days before my naturalization ceremony which officially switched over my citizenship, I remember thinking how weird it was that from one day to the next, I turned from Filipino to American. What does that mean? Does that fundamentally change who I am? The rest of my family, relatives and so many friends are Filipino. I’m the same person they know, born and raised in the Philippines. I will always speak Tagalog and Capampangan. Yet, America has also been my home for the last fifteen years. The friends I’ve met here, the work, school, church and congregational community members whom I’ve lived and ministered with also shaped who I am today. I use English more adeptly and I’ve added Spanish to my list of languages. What does it mean to be Filipino? Or American? Or does it matter in this case?

I carried this pondering with me to ministry where I spend two hours twice a week with the most
resilient students I’ve ever had in my life. I teach English as a Second Language at Catholic Charities to refugees from many parts of the world - Nepal, Bhutan, Syria, Dominican Republic, Guatemala,
Food shared with me
by my Nepali students
Congo, Jordan, etc. We laugh and share with one another as we go through the immigrant experience and the struggles to learn English together. A month or so ago, I offered a ride to one of my Nepali students who was concerned about missing her daughter’s dismissal from school. The amount of time it took to ride three buses from Catholic Charities to her house would certainly get her home late but because I gave her a ride, she cut at least two hours from her travel time. She adamantly refused to let me leave without having a meal with her and her husband. I was so touched by her gesture and by the generous (and delicious!) Nepali feast I was privileged to share with them that I couldn’t help but keep pondering the question of who I belong to. Am I just Filipino? Am I just American? Do I not also belong to this wonderful Nepali family who blessed me with their company and their food on this holy ground that is their home?

Without question, there has been much polarization not just within people in the U.S. but everywhere around the world. In Europe, there is growing weariness and even hostility towards immigrants and refugees on top of tense attitudes towards minority groups already settled there. Among my own family members and friends in the Philippines, political divisions have ensued and “fake news” accusations fly around as freely as they do here in the States. It gives one a heavy heart to read opposing Facebook comments about gun control, the refugee crisis, immigration, taxes and government budgets. I cannot say how many times, I’ve seen a meme or have read a phrase to the effect of, “needing to help our own first or look after Americans before outsiders.” I have to ask, “Who is our own?” Holding my recent reflections and questions in my heart, I go back to Mother Teresa’s words, “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”

Going back to the recent Olympics, my most favorite story was the end of the men’s freestyle cross-
The Olympic cauldron
country skiing. I was moved by it not because of the competitors who won the medals but because of those who finished last. The headline of the Washington Post read, “Thirty six minutes after the gold medal was won, the Olympics happened.” Mexican skier German Madrazo crossed the finish line as number 116, the very last place in the race. There, waiting for him standing shoulder to shoulder, were his friends and training partners - the other late finishers from countries where there was very little snow - a Tongan, a Moroccan, an Ecuadoran, a Portuguese, and a Colombian. Together they cheered on Madrazo, handed him his beloved Mexico's flag and carried him on their shoulders as soon as he crossed the finish line. Their joy in finishing the race, in the very last places, was just as overflowing and intense as that of the winners. Ultimately, they all knew they belonged to one another, regardless of the country they are from. They waited and cheered for the very last person, their friend who belonged to them, even if it meant staying long after everyone else has left. It was a triumph not just of one country but for of all.

Pardon the wild thoughts on this blog post that went all over the place. I will close with a couple of quotes that hopefully tie them all together. From the movie Black Panther, I quote the words spoken by T’Challa, the king of Wakanda to the assembly at the United Nations. “There is more that unites us than separates us. In a time of crisis, the wise build bridges and the foolish build barricades.” I also quote St. Paul from Galatians 3:28-29. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

May we always remember to whom we belong!

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Love In Lent

By Sr. Judy Donohue, SC Federation Temporary Professed

      Click HERE to learn more about Judy

      Click HERE to learn more about the SC Federation

Today, Ash Wednesday begins the wonderful though challenging season of Lent. Lent means spring, a time of new growth. It is exciting for me to focus on doing a positive action for Lent instead of giving up something. Maybe this Lent I will try to smile at 5 people a day, or create a gratitude list each night of 5 things. Whatever I can do to make my day more life-giving.

We are also celebrating one of my favorite Holiday’s, Valentine’s Day. When I think of Love, I see how important perseverance is to a maturing and developing love of others. Jesus’ 40 days in the desert was an act of perseverance to the call of God to stay the course. His examples inspires me when times get tough to keep plugging.

During Lent we persevere through the seven weeks of spiritual growth toward closer relationships with God and others. I have found it a great challenge and of significant value to persevere in my relationships at work, family and community life. Sometimes I want to give up when I have little hope, yet something happens, God gives strength and I learn to press on. Although it’s hard for me to change a behavior or to develop a new area of growth, it makes me become a better person.

One way to curb my strong penchant to judge is in giving others the benefit of the doubt, to believe the best in a person. I need relationships to help me grow in communication, love and humility. I’m learning one value of community is being there for each other. To stay committed through the good times and bad. To be vulnerable in sharing your weaknesses. Each day my awareness of building community is evolving. I pray to be open to all God sends me in loving others this Lent.

What is community for you? I see it’s different for different people.

This Valentine’s Day we remember those we love. May we also remember how much God loves us and that God’s love is a tender, kind and intimate love. This is very encouraging. May this Valentine’s Day strengthen our love and perseverance to love the creator of all LOVE.

Happy Lent and Happy Valentine’s Day!!

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

I Can't Be Me Without You...

By Sr. Whitney Schieltz, SC Federation Canonical Novice

Last week I joined other novices in St. Louis for a workshop on sexuality with Sr. Lynn Levo, CSJ.  Among the many dimensions of this subject, we learned that sexuality is about growing into communion and wholeness in and through relationship.  As Sr. Lynn reminded us throughout the week, “I can’t be me without you, and you can’t be you without me.”

symbols used in a social atom
In order to reflect upon the relationships in our lives—those that help us become more fully ourselves—we were each asked to draw a social atom.  Beginning with a blank piece of paper, we drew a symbol in the middle to represent ourselves.  Then we reflected on the question: What are the significant relationships in my life right now?  It was up to us to define what constitutes a “significant relationship.”  Using circles for females and triangles for males, we added symbols to the page to signify our family, friends, community members, etc.  Inside each shape we wrote the name of the person symbolized; and even deceased persons with whom we still feel connected could be included.  Other shapes we used were a circle/triangle combo to represent God and squares to represent groups of people.  The closer a symbol is placed to the center, the deeper we feel in relationship to that person or group.

Once we finished drawing our social atoms, Sr. Lynn had us ask ourselves to complete two thoughts: “I notice…” and “I’m feeling…” Some people noted the imbalance of female and male relationships, while others noticed that their family members were not the closest people to the center.  And the feelings people shared included joy, gratitude, surprise, sadness, and many more.  It was incredible how many awarenesses rose out of that simple activity.

example of a social atom (use names inside your symbols)

So now I invite you to make your own social atom.  Don’t overthink it.  Don’t worry about forgetting someone or about how close to place them.  Follow your first instincts.  And remember, this is about your significant relationships now, not what they used to be or what you hope they will be.  Then take time to sit with the result and ask yourself what it tells you about yourself and the people around you.  How does it make you feel?  Why?

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Intentional Community for the Future (and Present)!

By Sr. Tracy Kemme, SC Federation Temporary Professed

      Click HERE to learn more about Tracy

      Click HERE to learn more about the SC Federation

Growing up, I can assure you: I never imagined that I would spend my adult years living with inter-generational groups of women.  So how did it come to be?

Ecuador 2008

Ten years ago this summer, I traveled to Ecuador as an international volunteer with Rostro de Cristo.  I knew that part of the experience would be living in what they called “intentional community,” but it honestly wasn’t the component that attracted me.   I wanted to serve others, practice Spanish, and grow in my faith, and doing that while rooming with other young people seemed like a good idea.  I quickly discovered that intentional community is more than sharing a roof and a bathroom.  It was a commitment to each other that transformed all of our other commitments.

In the early stages of building life together, community was easy, exciting, and joyful.    Of course, the honeymoon period ended eventually.  Sometimes, intentional community drained me.  After a long day of ministry, the last thing I wanted to do was sit around the dinner table for a long time and talk.  Sometimes, it broke me.  Sharing life in such an intimate way showed us our rawest selves; this vulnerability could be freeing and painful.  But once I felt the rhythm of intentional community for several months, and then years, I began to see its power.

Through the high points (celebrations and laughter), the low points (disagreements and tears), and all the mundane in between (peeling potatoes and brushing teeth), God was able to build something beautiful among us.  Communal prayer and sheer, stubborn fidelity sustained us.  When our time together in Ecuador came to an end, we knew we had become part of each other.  Intentional community was not for the faint of heart, but in the struggle was salvation.

After Ecuador, I moved into Casa de Caridad on the U.S.-Mexico border with Sisters of Charity Carol, Janet, and Peggy, who had been cultivating their intentional community for almost twenty years.  I was the recipient of their warm hospitality, a value central to their common life.  It was a new challenge, living with women of different ages, backgrounds, and levels of commitment.  But again, I found that the difficulties on any given day were part of a mysterious process of collective growth and transformation and that our commitment to one another bore more than enough laughter, joy, fun, mutual support, and love to go around.  

Three years later, Sisters Carol, Maureen, Nancy and Terry welcomed me just as generously into their community in Cincinnati.  They even moved to a new home with extra space to be able to do so!  With them, too, I found a treasure.  Their long commitment to one another had yielded love and deep wisdom that filled our home.


These relationships were what ultimately allowed me to say, “Yes!” to religious life.  I could serve and minister in a myriad of ways as a married or single woman, but I knew God was calling me to do life as a woman religious with other women religious in intentional community.

Current intentional community
Now, I can hardly believe it, but I’ve lived in intentional community for ten consecutive years.  I can’t picture my life as a sister without it.  It is the place where I grow into the best version of myself and know that I am loved even on the days when I fall short.  It’s the place where I learn how to love others just as they are.  We have a built-in, in-home support system and a bond that runs deep no matter how much we like each other on any particular day.

We share our spiritual lives, enriching each other with insights and ways of praying we’d never come to on our own.  We reflect together on the world and on our call to be agents of justice, and we show up together at Mass, marches, vigils, and other community events.  We encourage one another in ministry, and we walk together in continual discernment.  We become extended members of each other’s friends and families.  And, of course, we celebrate, play, get silly, and make memories we’ll still be laughing about years from now.

Intentional community takes extra work but it bears wondrous blessings over time, like a delectable homemade pasta sauce that requires lots of initial elbow grease and hours of simmering to yield rich flavor.  For the future of religious life, this kind of community is essential.  Which means that it is essential now.

My current community has made it part of our covenant to be a house of hospitality and discernment.  We recognize the gift we have found and want to share it with others, whether a young woman seeking God’s call, a partner in ministry, or a refugee in need of shelter.  And so, we are faithful to our commitment, as God is unfathomably faithful to us.

For your reflection:

An important part of intentional community is a commitment to growth and renewal.  A few Sundays ago, our intentional community gathered to reflect on our life together for 2018 using Jean Vanier's writing as inspiration.  I offer you the quotes for your pondering:

*It is when the members of a community realize that they are not there simply for themselves or their own sanctification, but to welcome the gift of God, to hasten God’s Kingdom, and to quench the thirst of others, that they truly live as community.

*We shouldn’t seek the ideal community. It is a question of loving those whom God has set beside us today. They are signs from God. We might have chosen different people…But these are the ones God has given us, the ones He has chosen for us. It is with them that we are called to create unity and live in covenant.

*Perhaps the most essential quality for anyone who lives in community is patience: a recognition that we, others and the whole community, take time to grow. If we are to live in community, we have to be friends of time.

*The process of becoming a community happens when the majority of its members make the transition from ‘the community for myself’ to ‘myself for the community.’

*Community is established by the simple, gentle concern that people show each other every day. It is made of the small gestures, all the services and sacrifices which say ‘I love you’ and ‘I’m happy to be with you.’

*Community is the place of forgiveness. There are always words that wound, self-promoting attitudes, situations where susceptibilities clash. That is why living together implies a certain cross, a constant effort and an acceptance that comes from daily and mutual forgiveness.

*The gift of community, of unity, will come only when all members of the community are truly themselves, living as expression of God’s love within them in the exercise of the gifts He has given them. The community becomes one because it is fully under the influence of the Holy Spirit who unites it.

*When it begins, a community is like a seed which must grow to become a tree. As it matures, and becomes a tree that bears fruit, it also must be a place where birds of the air can come to make their nests.

*A community which prays together, which enters into silence and adoration, is bound together by the action of the Holy Spirit. God listens in a special way to the cry which rises from a community.