discernment - Related Content

I have no magic words

Thursday, November 3rd 2016 3:16 pm
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

Traveling across the country, meeting a variety of people in and around the world of discernment, I encounter two questions—open ended, probably pervasive in all aspects of life—time and time again:

“How long will this take?”

“How will I know?” 

clock-morguefile.com

Photo credit: moguefile.com

And I've actually been faced (more than once) with the plea, “Can’t you just tell me what to do?” 

Of course, I have no direct answer to provide to a discerner of religious life, no magic words to give. Discernment carries mystery within it. It’s not a step-by-step process that if followed will yield a nice shiny product of a vocation. It’s the industrial model that one has to let go of. Each step is different and what worked for someone else may not work for you. There is no assembly line cranking out one-size-fits-all discernment t-shirts.  

Timing is another open-ended aspect that varies from person to person. Comparison is not helpful. You may have started a discernment process at the same time as someone else and their movement may appear to be faster or slower. But it’s not a competition. Running or dragging your feet to keep the same pace as someone else is not an authentic experience. Trees, each having within itself a sense of when it’s ready to let go of its leaves, are an excellent example of this statement. Two trees of the same variety planted side by side sometimes have totally different timings; one drops its leaves early and the other may hold on for a few weeks longer. In the end they will both move on in the season, just not dependent upon each other. It is humans who place judgment on the difference.

Questions to ponder this week…

Are you more concerned about the getting there and the need to know the answer than participating in the unfolding of your discernment experience?

How are you comparing or competing in your discernment? 

Are you finding more questions? Click here to view resources for discerning religious life.

Discerning Religious Life? Consider the power of a good question…

Thursday, June 21st 2018 12:30 pm
Sister Amy Taylor

 

We learn by asking questions…lots and lots of questions.

Recently, I was on an airplane across the aisle from a young child traveling with his parents. He was about four years old and bursting with questions. One after the other he would ask questions of his dad and, with great interest and patience, his dad would answer each of them.

Airplane in sky

Photo credit: Pexels

At the end of the flight another passenger turned to the father and remarked how he enjoyed hearing his conversations with his child. Then the passenger turned to the child and said “I think your new name should be ‘Why,’ because you have a lot of ‘why’ questions.” The parents laughed and we all went our separate ways. I walked away impressed by how this four-year-old was already navigating the vast world around him, even at 30,000 feet! 

The value of questions you have in discernment

When someone wants to learn more about membership with our congregation, we receive and answer some common questions time and again. Let’s take a look at the most common questions to arise during discernment of religious life.

What are the sisters’ ministries today?

I remember asking this question of congregations I wanted to research further, during my discernment of religious life. The goal was to see whether my interests and areas of expertise would fit within the congregation’s ministry. It was a way for me to prioritize potential congregations. My hope was to shrink the list from hundreds of congregations down to a few, so that I could research them in depth. It helped, but over time, I discovered there were other aspects to consider.

Now as the Director of Membership, the information I offer includes more about the congregation’s spirituality, mission, prayer life and community living. Many congregations have similar ministries, but each of these particular aspects affect how ministry is conducted. For example, Franciscans, Dominicans and Ursulines are rooted in education, yet how they teach is different. To see evidence of this, just ask former Catholic school students to describe the congregation of sisters who taught them. You will hear how the type of congregation influenced their education. Differences also arise in the celebration of patronal feast days and core values. Each congregation has its own “sub-culture” in the wider scope of religious life within the Catholic Church. If you have a relationship with a few congregations and they have similar ministries such as education, ask about the different ways they serve that field. Here are some examples.

 

How does this congregation define educational ministry?

As you discern religious life, you want to make sure you are aligned with the congregation’s philosophy of educational ministry.

 

Is it possible to observe or volunteer with a sister for a day, to witness ministerial life?

Spending a day with a sister is a valuable way to get a sense of what it is to be a member of that congregation.

 

High school students spend day volunteering with Sister Lucy in organic garden

High school students spend the day volunteering with Sister Lucy in the FSPA organic garden.

 

Do women religious in this congregation serve outside the U.S.?

If you are interested in a ministry abroad, you may want to seek out congregations with sisters who serve outside the U.S. If, however, you would prefer to stay stateside, this question enables you to hone in on communities that focus on serving in the U.S.

 

Do sisters from this congregation work in public or private school settings?

Perhaps you have a preference on what kind of schools you’d like to serve. This will allow you to find the appropriate fit for your personal calling.

 

Do these sisters work in bilingual classrooms?

If helping immigrants, refugees or other students who speak English as a second language, you may want to ask this question to find a community that works in bilingual classrooms.

 

Asking the right questions will help you find the right community for your religious life

 

Each answer will show how congregations differ. Consider how these nuances will play a role in your ministry. Is there room for your own growth over time? Can you transition to a different grade level or into a different ministry with education experience? Is there flexibility?

 

We should all be as curious and brave as that little boy on the airplane, asking questions of his father. Questions bring clarity to what, on paper, looks simple. You may be surprised to discover that a congregation you weren’t sure about is the better fit.

 

How will you know if a vocation to religious life is a call for you?

Reserve your complimentary copy of “Discernment of Signs Along the Way: Your Story of Service in the Catholic Church,” a 24-page reflection journal with guides, questions and connections. Email membership@fspa.org or call 888-683-3772 for more information.

 

What if it's you?

Thursday, May 4th 2017 10:00 am
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

Every now and then the concept of which came first—the chicken or the egg—pops into my mind, particularly when I am pondering something mysterious. I often allow myself a few moments to think about the possibilities but, as of now, I have yet to come up with an answer. As both are important, does it really matter which one was first? I choose to acknowledge that, in a world of fact finding literally at our fingertips, living with a little bit of the unknown is nice.

As I consider the mystery of how each person in the world discovers their unique vocation, I am intrigued. Almost overnight the world grows in complexity and innovation with new career options to explore, intriguing paths to follow. And within the infinite array of possibilities it’s remarkable each time someone says “yes” to their calling in life. It’s incredible when someone says “yes” to discernment.

One of the indispensable tools to use while discerning religious life is prayer. Praying to God for guidance and inspiration is essential. Friends and family also pray for discerners. The circle gets even wider when you consider that the whole Catholic church is praying for you too.


full-Mass-chapel

Mary of the Angels Chapel (image courtesy of Viterbo University)

It’s challenging to absorb the fact that people you don’t know, who you may never meet, are supporting your discernment through prayer. Each time a petition is read at church, prayer circles meet and parents pray for their children, vocational journeys are in motion. You may be unaware of the prayer surrounding you, but it’s there. 

Formally, across the world, parishes will join together on May 7 and pray for all discerners as we celebrate World Day of Prayer for Vocations. As communities access the needs in their cities they may pray that you are the one to come and serve; that your specific gifts and talents are the answer to their search for help.

What if it’s you they’re praying for? Are you prepared to say “yes” and choose life as a sister, brother, priest, deacon or lay minister to serve the people of God? Are you willing to also pray for others to join you?

This week, pray for openness to attune to the needs of the world. As you join your faith community in praying for vocations, ask yourself if the petition is spoken for you.

If so, how are you going to respond?

Awake and ready in discernment?

Thursday, December 1st 2016 10:00 am
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

Why is it that when we are excited about tomorrow it’s impossible to fall asleep? I can’t tell you how many nights I’ve watched the clock move slow as molasses towards morning and birthdays and holidays; community celebrations and time with family and friends. This past Sunday, as a church, we entered not only a new year but a season of waiting. The old adage circles in my mind: the more you wait the better it will be. While I am sure this is true sometimes, I can also be impatient and yearn to know now. My favorite Advent song is Patience, People by John Foley, SJ. It reminds me that how I wait is just as important as the waiting. 


Advent-wreath-week-1

Photo by Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

Advent has a dual focus of anticipation and action. It takes a lot of hard work to prepare your heart for Christmas; more than fragrant words of holy intention. Making space takes effort. Under the softened warm glow of preparation is the commitment to make things happen. 

On the first Sunday of Advent we hear the words of the Prophet Isaiah and the Gospel of Matthew, each offering insight into this time of eagerness. Isaiah is the prophetic alarm clock awakening sleepy believers. With strong words he clamors above the din of lukewarm following. His message streams across divisions calling for unity and inviting us to walk in the ways of the Lord. Reverberations ring as the call for change clashes against the comforts of routine and acceptance. 

Where do you find yourself as you reflect on the sword and the plow? Are you willing to pound your sword into a plow to cultivate ground for your discernment and co-create with God?  

In the Gospel Matthew also shares sage advice: don’t be distracted and caught unprepared; be ready. When waiting, it’s easy to get distracted and lose focus. There may be less time than you think. 

For all the wisdom and guidance Isaiah and Matthew provide, what is your attitude, in discernment, as you wait on God? When was the last time you pleaded with God to show you the way … "Now!"? Did you shout in anger? Threaten with an ultimatum? Storm away; frustrated because your discernment seems perpetually unresolved? 

And so, this Advent, I invite you to take the opportunity to prepare your heart, to welcome the wakeful nights of uncertain discernment you’re experiencing right now. 

Are you willing, in this moment, to wait?

 

Service Saturday: mutuality at its core

Thursday, January 26th 2017 2:15 pm
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

Most Saturdays, especially those overshadowed by rain and cold, are prime sleep-in opportunities for college students. Yet at 8:30 a.m. last weekend more than 60 from Viterbo University came through doors of St. Rose Convent with light and joy to join FSPA in a day of service projects. The energy and excitement was contagious as participants eagerly grabbed fabric to make blankets and dry ingredients to package instant soup in jars, ready to share their joy of life with others.

student-volunteers

Service Saturday students from Viterbo University at St. Rose Convent

Collaboration between the Viterbo community and the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration on behalf of serving others was the theme dubbed Service Saturday. As FSPA director of membership I co-coordinated the event with Kirsten Gabriel (director of Viterbo's service learning program) who reminded everyone of the mutual transformation that is possible when we enter into service with open minds and hearts.

student-Sister-Esther-making-valentines

A Viterbo student makes valentines for veterans with Sister Esther Leis

Sister Antona Schedlo reiterated the importance of service as it contributes to mission. Sharing her vocation story and commitment to the mission of FSPA, she challenged everyone to follow their dreams and take time to ponder how far they are willing to go to reach them. Her goal as a young sister was to serve as a missionary and, although it took more than 17 years, she did make it to the mission fields of her dreams in El Salvador. She invited participants to look beyond the projects of the day into the deeper reality of serving others throughout their lives. The activities are more than tasks to complete: sewing mittens to donate to The Salvation Army is a way to stitch together the stories of those in need and letting their lived realities change your outlook.


students-with-mittens-made

Two of the many pairs of mittens knitted that day

Heads nodded as the wisdom of Sister Antona’s thought-provoking statements took root. More than hands were busy later that morning as students pondered the deeper meaning of packing hygiene bags for homeless, frosting Valentine cookies for a local shelter, writing letters of care and encouragement to people they don't know nor will see face-to-face.

You could almost hear them wondering what it's like to walk in the shoes of someone in need. What lessons do they teach? How are both parties changed in their awareness? The Gospels are filled with stories of Jesus accompanying others in good times and challenging ones, inspiring the disciples not to impose power but to walk with the people. St. Francis of Assisi learned this lesson by taking time to accompany the lepers; observing and then taking action.

Discernment has such mutuality at its core.

It takes the willingness to learn and grow along the journey of life. Sometimes it means relinquishing control and letting God provide the lesson—vulnerability offered for those willing to let the experiences of service sink in.

How can the idea of collaboration shed light on your discernment journey?

Are you open to the idea that God co-creates with you the future?

Want more inspiration for service and discernment? Check out the recent Global Sisters Report article "Oh, the places you'll go if you collaborate."

Listening with a discerning ear

Thursday, May 26th 2016 4:05 pm
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA


Brick house
Photo credit: Flickr

This is the time of year that many people move into a new house or apartment. Winter has passed and spring is slowly giving way to summer. I have noticed the abundance of moving trucks on the roads. Each time I have moved into a new home I spend the first night aware of each bump, clang and creak as I am not yet familiar with the sounds in my new environment.

After a few weeks I become quite accustomed to the sounds and somehow block out what was once so startling. Only when guests arrive and mention some of the sounds do I realize how comfortable I have become.

  stacked moving boxes
Photo credit: Flickr
In discernment, sometimes the clangs and creaks we hear are distractions that easily lead us away from focusing on what is in front of us. It is a gift from God to be given the grace to listen for the guidance we need to lead us to the next steps on our discernment journey.

The passage 1 Kings 19: 1-18 has served as a touchstone for me in discernment. It is the story of Elijah listening for what he is to do next. Sometimes we have to wait in a state of contemplative silence to really know what it is that we are to do next. Rushing after something that makes a lot of noise? Remember, it may just be a big noise without substance.

As you walk in discernment this week, consider the noises in your life that lead you away from God. Are you chasing distractions?     

Distraction

Thursday, May 11th 2017 10:00 am
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

mind-full-or-mindful?

Some days are filled with fragmented energy: my attention is pulled in many directions and lacks the clear focus and interior motivation necessary to complete the tasks at hand. Perhaps it’s the fickleness of the weather or the simple fact that I’m daydreaming of the near future when I will take a break from my office and go on retreat. It is a challenge for me to keep both feet planted in the now and not run towards a time that is not yet here. The irony is that once I arrive at the retreat center, part of my time will be spent settling into the quiet and letting go of the work I left behind. The quiet is often disrupted as I laugh at myself and recall that no matter the location, I am who I am. Time passes in the same way; the difference is the means at which I move through it.

I believe what I’m describing is a universal experience. Most of us feel anticipation as we get closer to vacations and get-togethers without realizing it can overshadow the present day and appreciation of the gifts it offers.

There are lessons in distraction. Sometimes distractions can serve as light to the deeper questions in my life easily overlooked in everyday busyness—why am I distracted? What does distraction teach? We are taught from an early age to be productive, but what if the pathway to greater understanding is to accept and immerse ourselves in the times of interference; to welcome discovery of the creativity that can surface when we ask a different question of ourselves. There are times in discernment where distraction will be part of the journey; when the idea of exploring a back road to see what is out there rather than continuing on the well-worn highway may lead to insight. Perspective is gained when we allow room for newness of the experience to unfold and evolve over time.

And perhaps it is the influence of the Holy Spirit that gifts us with days of distraction so that ultimately we settle into the present.

Where did you experience diversion in your discernment?

What did you find within it?

Crisis reveals goodness

Thursday, September 14th 2017 3:00 pm
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

I have been captivated by the power of wind and water as Hurricanes Harvey and Irma have battered the southern coastline of the U.S. The destructive combination forces of wind and water hammered homes and businesses; cars were smashed into deadly chunks of metal and inches of water swelled to several, dangerous feet. Entire communities were engulfed. People were swept away by the current. 

It is difficult — in the wake of such devastation — to find light underneath the rubble.

But God has created resiliency in the human spirit. It seems for every crushing story I’m also finding one overflowing with compassion and care, ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances reaching out to help each other. Communities are rallying around one another for survival and living what it means to lose everything not as individuals, but as neighbors.

These stories don't end in loss: resurrection follows, new communities take shape through sharing values; people put aside self-interest and commit to the common good.


St-Rose-fire-bystanders

In December, 1923, the community gathered at the scene of the St. Rose Convent fire

Walking together — and sticking together — takes courage and conviction but also generates power to shape the future. I am reminded of the stories I‘ve heard, images I’ve seen, of a fire that burned a section of FSPA’s St. Rose Convent to the ground in 1923. Many people flocked to the scene and helped not only rescue sisters but also to provide comfort, food and shelter. The goodness of people prevailed and the convent was rebuilt by 1925. (And there is so much more to know about FSPA history!)


firefighters-St-Rose-Convent

Photo courtesy of "La Crosse Tribune"

And as a member of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, I know that my sisters will be here for me and I too will support them, not only in the significant life trials like death and ill health and transition of ministry but also in the day-to-day ups and downs.

This week, ponder how you have or might react when life changes in an instant. Do you reach out to help others or do you pull away and retreat?

How has your discernment revealed who is firmly by your side, committed to helping you create new beginnings during hurricane moments?

*Do you know someone experiencing discernment of religious life? We invite you to share this link, www.fspa.org/showmeasign, and join the conversation. 

Sister Amy: grateful for the ways I'm inspired to pray

Tuesday, August 8th 2017 3:15 pm
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

open hands

Hands open, ready to receive what God places in them

It is in the spirit of gratitude that I have invited my sisters to collaborate with me in this new series featuring original prayer by FSPA — Franciscan Way — as we celebrate our 140th year of round-the-clock prayer, perpetual adoration. The tradition of perpetual adoration has taught us many things; most of all that prayer has the power to transform our hearts. We become more like Jesus in what may appear to be silence but, just below the surface, is a world of intimate conversation and reverent listening.

We all pray in different ways. Sometimes prayer is communal and has a rhythm and flow to it; praying as an assembly at Mass, the liturgy of the hours or the rosary, and in other ways is spontaneous; a creative pouring forth of adoration like an overflowing faucet from the depths of one’s soul, finding expression in clay, paint, poetry, song or journaling. Prayer is not a one-size-fits-all experience: different pathways to prayer have the capacity to draw us closer to God in our own unique way. 

New ways to pray can be exciting for me, yet sometimes resting in the familiar words of the psalms or a prayer learned by heart refreshes my soul. I also engage in prayer while shaping clay on my potter’s wheel or expressing myself in some other artistic endeavor. I am grateful for all the ways I am inspired to pray.  

The image of prayer that comes to me is one of Pentecost (Acts 2: 1-13), each person hearing God in their own language. Their reactions are surprise and pure joy as they realize comprehension is happening in that moment. 

Have you experienced breakthroughs like this — feeling heard, listened to? Are you simultaneously trying to recall the conditions that helped you attain comprehension? 

A turning point came for me years ago when I was just beginning to discern religious life and desperately seeking a sign: proof that one way to pray or the other was right for my life. A wise, elder sister I knew challenged me, questioning "How are you listening?" Her words consumed my heart. She told me to go home, sit in my favorite prayer space, close my eyes and posture myself in a position of receiving by opening the palms of my hands—ready for what God would place in them. “It may take time, but wait for what you hear.” Doubtful, I went home and did just that. The answer I was seeking took months but the practice has become my pearl of great price ... my own treasure buried in a field (Matthew 13: 44-48).

Since then, I’ve discovered that even in conversation with others, I need to listen more than I speak. This is not my natural inclination as an extrovert who loves to talk; characteristically sharing my opinion without hesitation. I used to approach prayer the same way ... talk, talk, talk… thanks God for the chat … goodbye. Then I'd move on with my to-do list. Now I know that extreme chattiness can signal my stubbornness and resistance to listen. 

I have also learned in prayer to listen for council which, for me, means refraining from formulating an imagined response to a thought God has not yet spoken. Council also means that we make decisions together. I routinely sought council from family and friends, considering their thoughts in my decisions. But not always from God. I kept showing up to prayer and metaphorically sticking my fingers in my ears and complaining to others how God wasn't talking. But as I took in the advice I’d received those years ago I realized that the Holy Spirit is really good at getting my attention and inviting me to contemplation. It is powerful to sit in attentive silence — a practice I have incorporated into my life.

And so I ask you the same question I once received: how do you listen? How do you pray? What avenues to communication have you discovered in your journey? What would you like to share with your peers traveling the road of discernment?


Franciscan Way is a series featuring original prayer by Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration.

Sister Antona: comfort, joy and security in prayer

Tuesday, October 24th 2017 10:00 am
Sister Antona Schedlo, FSPA

 

hands-lit-candle-courtesy-freeimages.com

Image courtesy of freeimages.com
 

Prayer is very personal — it depends upon individual relationships with God. My prayer life changes as I get older. I don’t need so many prayer leaflets. Prayer has become a part of my daily life. Jesus is my constant companion. I speak to Him, question Him, thank Him, ask Him for pardon all day long no matter where I am or what I am doing. It is a tremendous feeling of comfort, joy and security. My life would be dull and lifeless without Him. I thank God daily for His companionship and love.

Franciscan Way is a series featuring prayerful reflection by Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration.

Sister Celesta: Prayer

Tuesday, August 15th 2017 10:00 am
Sister Celesta Day, FSPA

 

“Yipes! What’s happening?”  

Startling, surprising and scary … that’s when I pray fastest. I make a fervent request to get me out of this. I’m counting on a presence that I know is there, but I don’t always pay attention. When the helping hand comes, that’s my answer.

 hand-sky

Image courtesy of freeimages.com

It is the reality in which I am surrounded. It’s the community I am a part of. Scripture says that when Jesus was touched, power went out from him. It doesn’t make things perfect but it sure helps and I am a part of it.  

That’s how I pray.

Franciscan Way is a series featuring original prayer by Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration.

 

1,080 years of religious life

Thursday, February 8th 2018 4:20 pm
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

Today commences a new year of jubilation for our Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration celebrating 75, 70, 60 and 50 years of vowed religious life. These annual celebrations are known as jubilee. This afternoon, the festivities began with a party in honor of those residing at St. Rose Convent

Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration joined by Sister Sarah Nakyesa celebrate jubilee
Celebrating religious life are, left to right, Sisters Nancy Lafferty (60 years), Loretta Penchi (70 years),
Sarah Nakyesa (25 years and a guest of St. Rose Convent while attending Viterbo University),
Margaret Schmolke (70 years), Cormarie Wernimont (60 years) and Jean Kasparbauer (60 years)

Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration celebrate jubilee

Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration celebrate jubilee

Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration celebrate jubilee

 

We invite you to offer a prayer of gratitude for their many ministries, and to watch for future Show Me a Sign blog posts featuring jubilation reflections of personal calling to FSPA!

 

*Do you know someone experiencing discernment of religious life? We invite you to share this link, www.fspa.org/showmeasign, and join the conversation. 

A promise to build a new life upon

Thursday, April 6th 2017 11:00 am
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

I am fascinated by “Who Do You Think You Are?”, a cable television show on the TLC network. Each episode features a media icon who, through the assistance of genealogy experts, professors, librarians, historians, Ancestry.com and others, delves into their family history. No stone is left unturned as a camera crew follows the individual searching for their roots throughout the United States and, in some cases, around the world. Narratives of long-forgotten relatives leap from pages of documentation, becoming next clues in the ongoing quest for information; identity.

Story-by-story, the truth is revealed. While not all chronicles are happy or full of pride, knowledge of where they came from—documented on paper—gives a sense of connectedness far beyond a code of DNA.

Today’s first reading recalls one of our familial stories of faith; a touchstone of generations that came before us. Through other stories of Abram (who is renamed Abraham) we know he is advanced in age, at what seems to be the end, when he is promised generations and land. From this, a new life emerges for him. This is not a one-way contract: Abraham is asked, on behalf of himself and his descendants, to uphold the covenant—placing God as the center of his life and for all those to come.

It is in the quiet moments of prayer that Abraham receives the news that shapes not only his living years, but those spanning far beyond his death as well. And God keeps his promise: we see the fruits more than 2,000 years later each time we hear the genealogy of Jesus proclaimed from Matthew 1:1-17.

Deep moments of prayer are crucibles in which we enter into conversation with God about our life’s direction. Discernment calls each of us to make God the priority in our lives and to listen. Our covenant with God requires focus and determination to set aside anything that will distract or become a stumbling block to our full attentive presence. By choosing to distract ourselves from listening—particularly when we are called to rise to the potential already within us—we can hide from God.

As we prepare for Palm Sunday and the liturgies of Holy Week, may we remember our commitment to prayer and presence. Placed before us in the next few days are the stories that form who we are and what we believe.

In your prayer this week ponder …

What is the everlasting promise God is offering as you discern?

What will your “Yes” mean for you and generations to come?

A transformative moment

Thursday, November 16th 2017 10:00 am
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

Next week marks the beginning of travel for many as the Thanksgiving holiday approaches. Millions of people will board planes and trains and drive cars to gather with loved ones. Traffic, in one way or another, will most likely frustrate excited travelers dreaming of warmth and comfort once they arrive at their destinations. All of the stress melts away as joyful greetings and mouth-watering aromas greet each weary, nerves-worn-thin traveler finally crossing the threshold. This is the moment many dream of all year.


dinner-table

Image courtesy freeimages.com

Hours of love and care for guests start long before the time of celebration. Ingredients for favorite dishes along with a mix of new recipes are carefully considered as each cook desires to both satisfy and expand the horizons of guests gathered. The festive table beckons each person to linger amidst glowing candlelight as rich fall colors of gold, orange and brown compliment the trays of colorful foods nestled between gleaming, stark-white plates. Beauty intensifies as each person adds the gift of their presence around the table.  

Months of exile from one another fade as thankfulness for the moment grows. New memories are created and traditions of assembling grow deeper roots. Holiness pervades as the blessing initiates not only the beginning of the meal but also conversation laden with rich moments of the year’s harvest of blessings and challenges since last the group congregated. This is a eucharistic moment; bread is broken and life is shared. As we move beyond the static moment to see the mystery, we glimpse the transcendence of life.

Through the eyes of faith, holidays can become an experience of holy days and Thanksgiving highlights, in extraordinary ways, many of the markers of thoughtful discernment.

Gathering: moving outside of your own daily routine to join trusted friends and family and recognizing in new ways God’s activity in your life.
Contemplation: reflecting on blessings and challenges in your life.
Preparation: recognizing what you need in the moment, and also what the road ahead may require.
Beauty: being present to the moment at hand.
Abundance: recognizing that God provides more than we could ever consume.
Awareness: eyes wide open to the needs of others.

Food for thought this week as you prepare for your own pilgrimage to the banquet table …

How is discernment leading you to see beyond the surface meaning of an experience?

What are you thankful for in life and along your discernment journey?

Who will you invite to the table of your life?

*Do you know someone experiencing discernment of religious life? We invite you to share this link, www.fspa.org/showmeasign, and join the conversation. 

Beacons of hope

Thursday, December 21st 2017 10:00 am
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

Whether on a trip to visit a friend with a detour along the way or forging my continual pilgrimage through religious life, I rely on mile markers and signs to point me in the direction of my destination. The lighting of the third candle of Advent this week is a beacon as I traverse the remaining days of my Advent journey. Closer to my destination, I am filled with joyful revelation of all I’ve experienced so far as well as hope and anticipation for what lies ahead. Even the dark moments of pilgrimage are illuminated with the joy of the lessons learned and the deepening of relationship with God. Spiritual blisters are a symbol for me of the road walked, and the joy I discovered in risking the journey. I am forever changed by walking the pilgrim road.

lighthouse-beacon

Image courtesy pixabay.com

The prophet Isiah proclaims encouraging words to nations who have been waiting for a sign. The long awaited time is now — life is about to change. What have you been looking for on your road of discernment? Are you waiting for assurance, courage, perfect timing to ask questions? Healing, freedom, and vindication are at hand and it’s time to celebrate! Are you ready to seize the moment and be bold? God provides, not only for you and me but for all nations. This is no small promise. This is life altering, earth shattering news — joy beyond measure. We are headed for the celebration of the incarnation, Emmanuel, God with us as one of us! Darkness is vanished all creation revels in great joy!

In the Gospel, John the Baptist continues to point the way. He is the humble messenger who will not be dissuaded from his task; even as they try to twist his words in attempt to bind his ego and catch him in the trap they are laying, top officials will not stop his progress. John knows who he is and who has sent him on this journey. His pilgrimage of faith has led him through the byways of his heart and to the road of public witness, sharing the good news of Christ’s coming. God is John the Baptist’s signpost; he will follow wherever the journey takes him, through the joy and trials along the road of his own pilgrimage. In many ways this question of identity echoes in the heart of all discerners. So who are you? What do you stand for? What is your message? How does your life point to God?

As you continue your Advent pilgrimage this week I invite you to ponder the following:

-- What have been some of the joys and trials along your Advent pilgrimage?

-- How do you depend on God to be a signpost for you on your journey?

*Do you know someone experiencing discernment of religious life? We invite you to share this link, www.fspa.org/showmeasign, and join the conversation.

Sister Fran's Six Word Mission Story

Thursday, July 20th 2017 10:00 am
Sister Fran Browing, FSPA


teacher, certified, chaplain, present, grieving, Sister Fran Browning

Are you willing to share (post a comment below) your own Six Word Mission Story?

Sister Georgia: A morning offering

Tuesday, September 5th 2017 10:00 am
Sister Georgia Christensen, FSPA

 

cup-of-coffee

O my God, I offer you this morning cup of coffee.
As the steam rises upward,
So let all my thoughts, words and actions
Rise in praise of you today.
May the warmth of the cup, 
Transferred to my hands, be a reminder
Of the warmth and love I am to extend to all who I
meet today.
As I drink from the cup,
Let it be a sign of my willingness to share in the
“cup of salvation”
And offer my life to the Father as you did.
When I partake of the coffee
And feel it going through my body,
May it remind me of your constant love,
Ever filling me and giving me life.
Please bless me, my God, and make me good today.
Amen.

Franciscan Way is a series featuring original prayer by Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration.

Editor's note: as published in the "Viterbo University Book of Prayers"

Commitment doesn't emerge overnight

Thursday, March 30th 2017 12:00 pm
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

This is the fourth week of Lent; a time to re-examine the intentions you held at the beginning of the season. Have you followed through with your objectives? Have you formed a new habit that has drawn you closer to God, or has the challenge of your desired practice made it permissible in your mind to let the goal go rather than work through the obstacles to achieve it?

Today’s first reading, from the Book of Exodus, serves as an illustration through which to reflect the depths of our own individual behaviors; mannerisms that may lead to the construction of your own molten calf, drawing you away from God and back into comfortable patterns of living. Discovering an idol in your life can be disturbing, but also an opportunity to courageously face the truth of what lies at the core of the issue.

Idols don’t emerge overnight, nor does commitment to continually behold them. Examining the first moments of a dream in which you summoned up your own molten calf may offer insight into how to dispel such symbols. You don’t have to become imprisoned in behaviors that are not life affirming. It is possible to turn your life in all its complexity towards God. God celebrates each time we turn around and begin again, whether it is the first or the 309th time. Transformation is not just a Lenten devotion—it’s a life practice.

mountain-desert-courtesy-Amy-Taylor

In the desert of Scottsdale, Arizona, by Sister Amy Taylor

Discernment is a time of testing and choosing. It is a time to determine the values that will guide you not only in your decision, but also throughout your life. Are you ready to make good on your commitments allowing God--not a stagnant statue of your own creation--to be the form you follow? In times of difficulty will you call to mind God’s unfailing faithfulness and provision, especially when you walk in your own desert moments?

This week, look for the beauty that transformation offers.

Shake off statuesque habits that bind you.

Stretch into the new life that God calls you forth to this Lenten season.

Viewing relationships in a discernment eclipse

Thursday, August 31st 2017 10:00 am
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

There are some common experiences that every generation shares and become markers of life. For my parent’s generation it’s the recollection of “Where were you when you heard the news that President Kennedy was assassinated?” Before 9/11, the world event question that I related to was “Where were you when the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded?” It was during my science class as we watched the TV, set up with excitement for the landmark launch. That delight turned instantly to horror and grief after the shuttle exploded moments after take-off. My teacher rushed to turn off the TV and hurried us out of the classroom, taking us to the bathroom to distract from what we had just witnessed. Tears and shock were on our faces; teachers huddled in the hallway, whispering and wondering what to do. 


solar-eclipse

Image courtesy of freeimages.com

Another defining moment was upon us last week as a total solar eclipse caught the attention of many (as captured by “National Catholic Reporter” in this post-eclipse reflection). I was in the St. Rose Convent Adoration Chapel as slowly the stained glass windows darkened and the warm tones of color disappeared. The eclipse altered vision for those outside the walls of the chapel but inside, prayer continued and the Blessed Sacrament remained the same.


monstrance

FSPA prays 24/7 before the monstrance in the adoration chapel.

The eclipse has prompted an excellent question for discernment: where does your true light come from? What happens when obscurity of trial transcends as parents and friends try to dissuade you from pursuing religious life? Parents often dream of grandchildren; friends anticipate weekend fun, going out and dancing the night away. To them, religious life can feel like a dark choice — darkness of grief for what they will have to let go of. It's their own experience of a discernment eclipse.  

But just like a real eclipse, darkness only lasts a short time and light always returns. Most parents genuinely want their child’s happiness and letting go of fictitious grandchildren is all a part of the discernment journey as they too learn to envision it as their own future. Encourage them to go out and have new life experiences of their own.

Good friends allow room for the friendship to grow and change. Dancing slowly shifts to different activities, just as it usually does for everyone with changes in interests.   

God is always with you — even when it feels like you’re discerning in the dark. Learning to rely on God, on bright days as well as those filled with shadows, is life changing. The light is always there: you might just have to look through the lens of your heart instead of your eyes to see it. And perhaps your experience of an eclipse in discernment will be life-defining; a “Where was I …” moment. 

This week I invite you to ponder…

What kind of moments are defining your discernment?

What type of special glasses — lenses for envisioning religious life — do you need to see clearly a discernment eclipse?  

*Do you know someone experiencing discernment of religious life? We invite you to share this link, www.fspa.org/showmeasign, and join the conversation. 

Diamonds in our midst

Thursday, May 18th 2017 10:00 am
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

Twenty-six remarkable members of FSPA are celebrating their Diamond Jubilees, “commemorations that mark 60, 70, 75 and 80 years as a vowed Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration. The milestone’s namesake has me reflecting on the gem itself. Before I joined community I went on a cruise to the Caribbean. Because many tourists purchase gemstones while traveling there, the cruise company offers information about them (including reputable places to shop) to passengers prior to docking at each port. Though I wasn’t in the market to buy diamonds I was interested in learning about what determines their value: clarity, cut, carat and color—the 4 Cs.

diamonds

I realized that I didn’t know what it takes to get to the end product, the examination of the 4 Cs. I began by turning to the internet and submitted the question “How is a diamond formed?” While much of what I read was quite technical and far beyond my simple curiosity, I closed the search engine with a bit more knowledge. Diamonds need pressure, heat and time to form naturally. It takes work to make them attractive. They do not emerge from the ground gleaming and ready for sale.


Villa-jubilarians-Bishop-Callahan

Diamond jubilarians celebrated May 10 at Villa St. Joseph with Bishop Callahan

Each jubilarian has, in her own lifetime, experienced pressure, heat and time. There is resolve in ministry to do a lot with very little. Creativity and commitment to mission have guided each sister as she found ways to defuse heated situations that can occur, especially when working to promote Gospel tenants in which all those in need--not just a few--deserve care. Time is a gift each diamond jubilarian has had and not a minute has been wasted. Their lives of ministries have been in service to the whole spectrum of life from birth to death, serving generations of God’s people in schools, hospitals, parishes and spirituality centers (among others). Each encounter hones these women religious into sparkling gems.


St-Rose-Diamond-Jubilee-Mass

Fifteen diamond jubilarians were celebrated with Mass in Mary of the Angels Chapel on May 5

As I witnessed one of the recent FSPA diamond jubilee celebrations, watching the jubilarians process down the aisle of Mary of the Angels Chapel, the sun streamed through the stained glass windows and enlightened us to the gleaming examples they are as they live every day into their call to religious life. To conjure the image close your eyes and think of dazzling color and light dispelling all darkness, shining through a diamond. The commitment to prayer and service perpetually polishes their priceless lives. These are the diamonds we all can strive to imitate while retaining our own uniqueness. 

How is discernment glowing through you?

To shine like the diamond that you are, what rough edges do you need polished?

Sister Jean: Praying

Tuesday, September 26th 2017 10:00 am
Sister Jean Kasparbauer, FSPA

 

Sit, walk
Listen, speak
Mind, spirit
Body, heart


sunrise-lake-dock

Three-second focus
Come to peace
Three-second wander
Home to self

Loving Source of Life
Tender font of love
Turn to light eternal
Live in loving presence

Franciscan Way is a series featuring prayerful reflection by Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration.

Action vs. contemplation in discernment?

Thursday, October 12th 2017 10:00 am
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

Every year, a cycle of radical busyness invades my life. I brace for it and always persevere. Strategy is embedded in the pages of my calendar and I make defensive moves to try to protect time for silence, creativity, fun and rest in addition to ever-present action. It is easy to be consumed by all of the good things ministry and life offer. 

Perhaps it is divine providence that, just as I am experiencing this annual tug of war with my calendar, Martha and Mary arise in the Gospel reading (Luke 10:38-42). Recall for a moment the familiar story: Martha is busy and Mary appears idle. Mary is praised while Martha is chided. I don’t know about you, but this story has played itself out dozens of times in my life. The script for me goes something like this: I am running around from place to place accomplishing what I see are priorities while so-and-so puts up her feet and relaxes, appearing not to have a care in the world. Jealousy wins, I lose, and the scenario frequently repeats itself. Yet there are times when I’m like Mary and choose to slow down, spend time in contemplation, while someone else is running around looking at me as Martha surely did. 

Jesus-Mary-Martha-stained-glass-window

Image courtesy freeimages.com

The challenge is integration of both active life and of contemplative life. This happens for me when I’m working on something and I realize I need a break to refocus, or when I’m praying in Mary of the Angels Chapel and a new idea will suddenly occur to me. 

Discernment of religious life takes balance too. Discernment in action — gathering information, visiting communities and meeting with sisters — takes (and should take) a considerable amount of time and can feel like the most important part of the journey. But discernment in contemplation — praying for wisdom and direction, asking yourself what you are most searching for — is equally essential. It takes (and should take) ample time to sit in contemplation and consider what is in front of you.

This week I invite you to ponder… are both action and contemplation present as you think about your decision? 

Are you balancing these essential components for the discernment of religious life in your calendar?

*Do you know someone experiencing discernment of religious life? We invite you to share this link, www.fspa.org/showmeasign, and join the conversation.

Sister Juanita's Six Word Mission Story

Tuesday, May 9th 2017 10:00 am
Sister Juanita Hytry, FSPA


restless-call-inner-struggle-loving-surrender

Are you willing to share (post a comment below) your own Six Word Mission Story?

 

Finding mystery in the fog

Monday, April 11th 2016 11:29 am
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

fog over landscape

The weather here in Wisconsin has been a bit confusing lately. One morning it is sunny with unseasonably warm temperatures and the next it’s cloudy and flurries are blowing through the trees. And on several recent mornings I have encountered fog.

I find fog has a variety of effects on me: frustration and fear because I can no longer see what is in front of me; wonder as I watch it crawl across the Mississippi River; and inspiration when I see the first sunbeams reveal the beauty around me. If we are willing to acknowledge it, fog has the ability to be a gift and offer moments of transformation. It invites all of us to slow down and be present to what is right in front of us. When we walk or drive through fog, the way forward can be revealed in small sections of the roadway. We have to rely on that now moment—not what we see a few minutes down the road but what is right in front of us. We can’t spend time looking back or too far forward. 

Have you ever thought about how fog can be a gift found in your discernment journey? Discernment can be filled with many foggy moments: moments in which we want to see through it, to know what we will encounter. Fog can be a symbol of the mystery that we walk in each day as we discern the next part of our life journey. Perhaps in these foggy moments we can take time to pause and ponder what the now moment is inviting us to. 

Can you find your own mystery in the fog? 

Photo credit: Amy Taylor, FSPA

Sister Karolyne: God's sacred creation in morning and evening prayer

Tuesday, October 3rd 2017 10:00 am
Sister Karolyne Rohlik, FSPA

 

My greeting with the earth each morning is one of gratitude and love for the gift of a new day, and the prayer of Blessing and Goodness in the evening is with the earth’s presence. 


stars

Gazing and listening in the presence of God’s sacred creation — communion and Eucharist beauty, simple and natural and wonderful — create my deepest prayer. 

Franciscan Way is a series featuring prayerful reflection by Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration.

Sister Kathy: The cup and the tube

Tuesday, August 22nd 2017 10:00 am
Sister Kathy Roberg, FSPA

 

Morning breaks and the routine begins. Sip your cup of coffee and tune into “Good Morning America.”  Both stimulate the body and mind in their own way and can become habit forming – a must before one can function.

I personally have not adopted this habit but, really, I could say I have … a cup and a connection.  My cup of coffee is symbolic, as I sit with Jesus and taste and absorb his goodness and wonders. I routinely but purposely sit in my sacred space, away from the tube world of distractions, tuning in to an unseen world of “Good Morning Jesus” – my soul’s connection with the presence of God. The living Word stimulates my day, inspiring me to heart listen, carrying me into whatever may be. This routine is a must before I can begin to function.

window and rocking chair

Photo by Sister Amy Taylor

Yes, this prayer routine has become a habit but I know when I skip it, it feels empty. So each morning I take up this cup and carry it – knowing it will never be empty – and tune into “Good Morning Jesus.”

And I am energized.

Franciscan Way is a series featuring original prayer by Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration.

FSPA reflects upon World Day of Prayer for Vocations

Thursday, April 19th 2018 1:45 pm
Sister AmyTaylor, FSPA

 

The Catholic church will celebrate the annual World Day of Prayer for Vocations on Sunday, April 22, 2018.

Sisters Hennessey-Julia-Walsh-Eileen-McKenzie-FSPA-adoration-chapel

Sisters Sarah Hennessey, Julia Walsh and Eileen McKenzie pray in the FSPA Adoration Chapel at St. Rose Convent.

As we remember in prayer all who are discerning personal vocations, let us also encourage others to consider religious life as a sister, brother or priest and reflect upon discernment inspiration from Pope Francis' Message for World Day of Vocations, “...to be attentive to the details of our own daily lives, in order to learn how to view things with the eyes of faith, and to keep ourselves open to the surprises of the Spirit.”

Who are you praying for?

*Do you know someone experiencing discernment of religious life? We invite you to share this link, www.fspa.org/showmeasign, and join the conversation.

Earthquakes: when ground is no longer solid

Thursday, September 8th 2016 12:00 pm
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

cracked-pavement-earthquake

Photo courtesy of www.dreamstime.com

Earthquakes have shaken the lives of people from Italy, near New Zealand and here in the U.S. News stories full of destruction quickly circulated our world. I searched coverage for any small sign of hope in the rubble that littered the streets; glimpsed the good hearts of people like beacons of light, shining brightly in the darkness of pain and loss as everyone searched feverishly for those who were trapped. Sitting a world away in front of my computer, I cheered for the rescues and the fight of the human spirit even in the most horrendous of circumstances. I took stock of my own environment and wondered what elements of normal routine—working, playing, cooking and sleeping—erupted. When suddenly the solid ground beneath them trembled, forever altering their lives.

Long after the media lights go out let us continue to pray for those who will do the back-breaking work of clearing debris, who will make the heart-breaking decision to grow beyond grief and rebuild their lives. I can’t imagine the reassessment that must occur; the reevaluation that has to take place. Is the unsatisfying clutter that existed “before the earthquake” closely examined to see if its value “after the earthquake” is worth restoring?

Bigger questions often emerge out of the ruins with survivors: Why am I still here?

While many people will never experience seismic surges in the physical sense, most of us find ourselves in symbolic situations when the earth no longer feels solid or safe, when life shakes us to the core. The shock waves you’re feeling may come from within, might surface as a spiritual earthquake. And discernment can actually echo tangible reverberations. The landscape of your beliefs may quake, your deep-seated values exposed to the elements.

You may find cracks in what you thought were concrete foundations, and must make choices that align with your conscious and unceasing call of the Gospel. Walls once separating you from the needs of your neighbors may crumble to dust. A new mindfulness of global needs may emerge as discernment reveals new places of solid ground. There may also be aftershocks—discernment is not a onetime event. It calls for continual responsiveness and readiness for what becomes unearthed.

Could it be that shakings of your spirituality awaken you to what is perhaps buried in unconscious activity?

How has your life changed in the “after” time of a spiritual earthquake?

Grumbling through the desert of discernment

Thursday, March 16th 2017 11:20 am
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

Memories of science class came to mind as I prayed with Sunday’s first reading from Exodus. I remember using a balance scale and learning to weigh different objects; placing a rock on one side and carefully adding small weights to the other in order to find the balance point and calculate the item’s weight correctly. Odds were that I’d add too much and find, instead, a tipping point; causing the scale to clank and me to recalculate my strategy.

In Exodus 17: 3-7 the Israelites, having fled slavery and captivity in Egypt, are in the desert. They complain to Moses about thirst and longing for water. The Israelites have encountered their tipping point. They feel out of balance. Their complaints clanked across the dry earth.


desert-by-Amy-Taylor

In the desert of Scottsdale, Arizona, by Sister Amy Taylor

The people are safe from their captors yet, desperate for water, ache to go back. Forgotten are the heavy hardships of their lives in captivity. I imagine their minds clamored for the mundane and whatever small amount of comfort and control routine afforded in their lives. Constantly facing the unknown has made them weary.

It is difficult to have nothing to show for your efforts. Thrust is grueling in the desert. With every rocky, sandy step forward your foot feels like it will never come to rest.

This Scripture passage highlights the transitional energy of discerning religious life. It leads each person down a new path, leaving behind their own Egypt experiences. Grace shines light and awareness of the new freedoms gained by exiting Egypt. Often, as from the Israelites, complaints arise. I remember a few that escaped me in my initial discernment: “I feel like I don’t fit in with my friends like I used to … If my family is asking me questions that I don’t know how to answer for myself, how can I respond?” I felt too, at the same time, like I didn’t yet fully belong with the religious community I was discerning with. The relationship was just too new to calculate the gravity that was building.

Another great question that surfaced for me was “God, why have You called me to discern? … My life before this invitation was so much easier.” But if I was really honest I knew in my heart that I was carrying the internal tension of the almost, but not yet. The transformation of my life and relationships was already in process. It just took a few more months to see the results. I needed the time in the desert to learn the lesson of depending on God. Even to complain. It is only years later that I’m thankful for each of my desert experiences. As in most cases, time helps with perspective.

In discernment, we thirst for God to provide the cool waters of continual reassurance and direction. God hears our grumblings and often provides consolation. We are given the waters of friendship, understanding and companionship with others on the journey. Whether or not we understand these gifts as points of oasis is another story.

What is the "water" you thirst for in discernment?

How do your complaints shine light on the longings in your heart?

Happy 4th of July

Tuesday, July 4th 2017 10:00 am
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

Journey of Advent

Thursday, December 7th 2017 10:00 am
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

suitcase-scarf-camera-pixabay.com

Image courtesy pixabay.com

Do you like to travel? Have you ever been on a pilgrimage? A pilgrimage is a journey on which the participant commits to growing in faith, discovering lessons along the way and depending on God and the kindness of others to provide. This Advent season, I invite you to consider making your own spiritual pilgrimage, exploring the inner landscape of your heart in preparation for the celebration of the birth of Jesus. It will require making time in your life to explore the questions that are most important to you; those that can serve as a map through your heart. What do you most need in your life of faith this Advent season? How is your journey of discernment part of the pilgrimage experience? The journey inward has the power to shape how you encounter the world around you. The Scriptures of Advent are rich sources of inspiration and food for the journey. Are you willing to enter the passage?

Two experienced guides of navigating inner terrain are Mary and Joseph. Faced with a decree from Caesar Augustus to fulfill the mandatory census in Bethlehem, they began a physical journey. From the vantage point of over 2,000 years later we can also imagine that the trip would spiritually transform their lives. I imagine many miles punctuated with conversation about their dreams for the future and periods of quiet reflection to gather the vastness of what may lie ahead. Many prayers formed the ground on which they walked. They were dealing with big changes — a new marital relationship, preparation for a baby like no other, and the danger of travel. I wonder how vividly they recalled each of their experiences leading to the road: Mary and her encounter with the angel and Joseph’s dream that changed his mind.

Mary-and-Joseph-traveling-freeimages.com

Image courtesy freeimages.com

They chose to rely on God in all the uncertainty and challenge of not only this new spiritual pilgrimage, but also the realization of their unfolding pilgrimage of life. And watching Mary and Joseph each day, Jesus would grow into his own awareness of his humanity as they traveled.

In the first Gospel reading of Advent we see Jesus, on his own pilgrimage, taking a moment to pass on to his disciples the wisdom of cultivating watchfulness in their lives. He uses a story to try to get his point across. While they do not fully understand the journey that lies ahead, he advises them to be on guard; to know what you are about and what others around you are up to.

For us in our time, His wisdom continues to ring true. It is dangerous to be lulled into acedia; to think we have all the time in the world to be watchful … until we don’t. Pick up any newspaper or skim articles online to see stories of lives suddenly shortened. Time waits for no one. During the holiday season there is additional pressure and expectation and it's easy to see how the lure of inattentiveness beckons as an easier route; to let things go, put off until another time. Well, there may not be another time. What happens then? How can you take time now to be watchful, not only for the bad but for all the joy around you as well? Will you miss an experience simply because you were distracted?

What do you need to do in order to begin a four-week pilgrimage of faith this Advent season?

How will you be ready to begin the journey?

*Do you know someone experiencing discernment of religious life? We invite you to share this link, www.fspa.org/showmeasign, and join the conversation. 

Honoring service, goodness

Monday, September 3rd 2018 8:00 am
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

franciscan-sisters-fruit-bowl

Image courtesy of Pixabay

 

May this be a day of relaxation, renewal and honor of our gifts of service to the world as we celebrate Labor Day.

*Do you know someone experiencing discernment of religious life? We invite you to share this link, www.fspa.org/showmeasign, and join the conversation.

 

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 25th 2017 10:00 am
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

Merry Christmas to you from the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration.

nativity-scene-on-road

Image courtesy pixabay.com

May the joy of Christ's birth be in your heart today and throughout the year.

Intuition: an essential tool for home improvement and discernment

Thursday, September 28th 2017 2:00 pm
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

To me, do-it-yourself home improvement projects always sound simple and I typically imagine completing whatever the task in a short amount of time; achieving the perfect final product. My calculations are definitely hit and miss. This past weekend’s to-do was hanging new curtains, both homey and specific the needs of preserving warmth and saving energy. With all of the necessary supplies on hand we began by reading the instructions for installing the decorative curtain rod. Just four “easy steps” were listed in tiny text with an accompanying diagram. 

After marking the wall and pre-drilling holes for the brackets we were excited to see quick progress, yet it soon came to a grinding halt with simultaneous mutterings of “What do you mean it doesn’t fit?” and “The directions don’t say anything about what to do if only one side of the extension rod fits.” Ha … so much for four simple steps and the promise that all required was included. Maybe we should have called in a professional! 

Finally, we took a moment to pause and breathe (and laugh a little); tossed aside the directions and shared ideas. Within five minutes, by drawing from intuition where the directions failed, the new curtains were hung (perfectly straight!) with care. It was truly a do-it-ourselves project.

curtain-floor-light-pixabay.com

Image courtesy of pixabay.com

The experience was a great reminder that there might not be specific instructions to complete the perfect household project or for building the future, discernment included. When the details of discerning religious life don’t fit exactly into your life as you think they should, simple tools like breathing and pausing and allowing time to find your own direction are essential. The article “Do-it-yourself discernment retreat” published in “VISION Vocation Network” offers a Sunday-through-Saturday guide (like “Don’t leave it to the experts”) with simple steps to help you learn invaluable cross-over skills, to blaze your own trails and build experiences to religious life.

This week, I invite you to think of the ways you’ve used the skills of discernment in your everyday context of life.

What happened when you relaxed and thought outside the box?

*Do you know someone experiencing discernment of religious life? We invite you to share this link, www.fspa.org/showmeasign, and join the conversation. 

On the road of discernment?

Thursday, April 28th 2016 2:07 pm
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA


woman traveling in tour bus

Photo courtesy of www.dreamstime.com

 

Are you willing to go where discernment takes you?

Recently, St. Rose Convent was the unexpected destination for about 100 people traveling on a mystery tour. They arrived for Mass and were given a tour of Mary of the Angels Chapel.

Pondering their presence I began to wonder: “Would I get on a bus with people I don't know and go wherever it stops?"

Discernment can sometimes feel like taking a mystery tour. When I am discerning I’m not always sure where I’m going, and often times someone else is driving. That someone else may be God, driving me along as I listen in prayer, as community members invite me to new opportunity, as family and friends reflect what they have noticed in me. We are all traveling the mysterious journey of life as it unfolds.

As you reflect on your life ... what is your level of trust in situations when you feel like you are not totally in control, or when you can't see around the next bend in the road? Are you finding yourself on a mystery tour of discernment?

As we prepare for Memorial Day

Thursday, May 24th 2018 10:00 am
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

memorial-wall-poppies

Image courtesy pixabay.com

As we begin to contemplate Memorial Day, let us give pray for and praise to all who have died in service for their country.

And, today and every day, let us pray for world peace.

*Do you know someone experiencing discernment of religious life? We invite you to share this link, www.fspa.org/showmeasign, and join the conversation.

Hearts and ashes

Wednesday, February 14th 2018 8:25 pm
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

There are special occasions we all look forward to in life; days that we want to mark by dressing up and celebrating with a nice meal. As this Valentine’s Day coincides with Ash Wednesday (the beginning of the Lenten season), the upscale steak house dining reservation will be canceled for many. And in our Catholic tradition, we don't just choose to abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday but every Friday during Lent too. Such discipline is a call to remembrance, not a punishment; not a means to spoil one’s heart-filled holiday plans.

 

ashes-ash-wednesday-pixabay.com

Image courtesy pixabay.com

 

This break from romanticized tradition holds within it an opportunity and invitation to reflection as we gaze upon the image of Jesus on the cross. Can you see beyond the destruction of a life to forethought of unconditional love? Franciscans believe it is out of love that Jesus came to Earth in human form. Love is the motivating force from all eternity. What better time than on Valentine’s Day, when secular culture focuses on the idea of happily-ever-after love, to look into the depth of what love calls us to in its truest form. Can we see the ashes we choose to receive on our foreheads this Ash Wednesday to be a commitment to love like Jesus? As we hear the words spoken, as we receive the ashes, what does it mean to “turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel”? Does it mean to do more than avoid evil? Does it also call us to love and act justly? What does it mean to truly love another or a world full of others?

 

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San Damiano Cross

Jesus leads the way, showing us how to love. The Gospels are full of examples of reaching out, going further, and giving one’s all. They are lessons that show us love is not trite greeting cards but courageous, transformative action. Choosing to love another is more than an idea or an ideal situation.

I am reminded of Peter’s journey to learn to love like Jesus. Remember what you know of Peter — his call to discipleship, his accompaniment on the road with Jesus, his promise of faithfulness that he soon denies — to his post resurrection conversation with Jesus. Love was present in each experience, even in the most trying of circumstances. Peter is transformed in the action of learning and loving like Jesus and being loved by Jesus. It took courage, honesty, humility and grace to continue walking his own journey. Peter did not give up. His perseverance is an example for all of us.

As we begin Lent, let us call to mind moments in our own lives in which love for another or others stretched our hearts and offered wisdom for life. Recall the times, perhaps in your own discernment, that you became aware of the many ways our world is in need of generous people ready to love like Christ, discovering along the way that imperfections can be transformed when desire to be of service is present.

How do you choose to love like Jesus?

*Do you know someone experiencing discernment of religious life? We invite you to share this link, www.fspa.org/showmeasign, and join the conversation. 

Discernment: clothed in your own uniqueness

Thursday, October 19th 2017 10:00 am
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

Before I entered elementary school my favorite color was orange. It is a fact of my life story that I haven't recalled in years until I noticed my lunch today — cheddar peanut butter crackers, Cheetos and orange Crush  soda — consisted of mainly orange-colored food. I smiled as I happily ate my lunch and remembered the stories I’ve been told about a time in my life that was filled with joy and creativity: the preschool era in which my sense of fashion included mixing plaids, stripes and interesting colors (with orange ever present). In those days I ventured out into the world to preschool, the grocery store, the park or wherever else the daily routine led, clothed in my own uniqueness. And my parents have photographic evidence in our family albums to prove this early display of my personality.  

multicolord-socks

Photo courtesy of freeimages.com

Over 35 years later, this early lesson of creativity and boldness my parents fostered in me are two of my continual guideposts. There is always more than one way to look at a situation and often, boldness is required to be a prophetic witness in our world today. I am continually inspired when I read stories of challenges resolved by creatively thinking outside of the box: everything from clean water projects, new objects made of recycled materials (read about FSPA's Lady Jacoba Greenhouse, built from top to bottom of reused materials, on page 8) and innovative nonprofits meeting more needs with less revenue. 

Discernment, like religious life, is not always comfortable. It will require that you answer honestly with yourself about how far you are willing to go following in the prophetic footsteps of Jesus. Like Jesus you will most likely face judgement and ridicule for your beliefs or for those you choose to stand with. It will require the inner reserve that you have been nurturing since childhood to be your own person. Once again, remember your own holy stubbornness to make a stand when you see injustice. Call to mind the boldness of wearing orange when the world encourages blending in. 

This week I invite you to ponder ...

How do you creatively respond to the ever-changing world around you?

What life lessons from your own childhood guide you in discernment?

*Do you know someone experiencing discernment of religious life? We invite you to share this link, www.fspa.org/showmeasign, and join the conversation. 

Pray as you pray

Thursday, January 18th 2018 10:00 am
Sister Clarone Brill, FSPA

 

hands-rosary-pixabay.com

Image courtesy pixabay.com

I first learned to pray at home and was taught that prayer is important. Then, prayer was often spoken aloud. After entering FSPA, I experienced many prayers said collectively; sometimes spoken aloud together and others among gatherings of us yet prayed, in silence, individually. Early on in a retreat our director advised “Pray as you can pray and don’t pray as you cannot.” At that time, I relied on our meditation book for guidance. I also used prayer books. 

Now, in my ninth decade of life, prayer for me is much simpler. Often, I just relax mindfully in God’s presence and enjoy God with me and loving me. 

Of course, it is reciprocal.

Franciscan Way is a series featuring prayerful reflection by Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration.

Resolutions and reflection in discernment

Thursday, January 5th 2017 10:00 am
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA


“Optimism!” I declare to myself as I take in the sparkly white squares on my crisp, new desk calendar, making it officially 2017. As you turn away from 2016, perhaps scrolling to the new year on the screen of your phone, are you proclaiming your own resolutions?


calendar-pencil-freeimges.com

Image courtesy of freeimages.com

Sometimes the desire to successfully create change can be so rigid (and possibly borderline unrealistic) that even just the thought of failure leads to waning commitment or the decision to drop the idea all together. We can also cause ourselves to stumble over blocks of fast change and instant results. The successful goals I’ve reached in my own life happened because of perseverance. It has meant holding myself accountable for my behavior, but doing so in a realistic way. Some days on the calendar are better than others, but when I sit back and review them altogether I see progress. Or even a path to it. 

I remember a time, when I was teaching, that I met with the school’s principal in my classroom for my yearly evaluation. She gave me positive comments but also posed a peculiar question: was there a word I continually leaned on to move the class into the next activity? The word, I knew very quickly, was “okay” (although I was previously unaware of how it had become my prompt for each direction). That afternoon I asked my students to be visual aids during one of my class periods; to raise their hands anytime they heard me say “okay.” They willingly did, providing me with real-time proof that “okay” was firmly, subconsciously, engrained in my vocabulary.

That experience provided me with an essential tool for dedication to successful change: awareness. It’s an elemental devotion in discernment too. What consciousness are you bringing into discernment of religious vocation? What purpose will such tools help you achieve? Community can provide inspiration in commitment if you are willing to share with others personal attributions that may inhibit your discernment resolve. That said, have faith in the support of God and your circle of friends and family when you try something new. Trust—on the days you feel like you aren’t measuring up to your discernment aspirations—in the power of prayer; in visual cues from those around you.

So this week, I challenge you to write a letter to yourself full of your hopes, dreams, ideas and goals for the year ahead in your discernment. Save the letter in a safe place and set a reminder in your phone to read it after the next 365 days. If a year seems to long, try a month or two. It’s a simple but powerful tool to remind you not only of resolutions, but also the inspiration and desire and resolve you felt when putting pen to that paper—your aspirations for discernment in 2017.

~ Each year, FSPA invites the community to gather on New Year's Eve at our Mary of the Angels Chapel for a Blessing of Time Prayer Serviceall are welcome! A table graced with time-keeping devices represents the year ahead. Clocks, watches and calendars are blessed as icons that remind us where and when we are to be as God calls us to minister. New Year's Eve is the perfect time to review what has been and lean into what may come in the year ahead. In this way, our mission of heralding the Gospel is always at the forefront of our hearts and minds.

It is what we are called every day, throughout each year, to do.

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FSPA celebrates Blessing of Time in Mary of the Angels Chapel on New Year's Eve (photo courtesy of Sister Nina Shephard).

Sister Malinda's Six Word Mission Story

Tuesday, May 16th 2017 10:00 am
Sister Malinda Gerke, FSPA

 

Master-beckons-harvest-shown-take-me-Malinda-Gerke

Are you willing to share (post a comment below) your own Six Word Mission Story?

Sister Mary Ann's Six Word Mission Story

Tuesday, June 20th 2017 10:00 am
Sister Mary Ann Wiesman, FSPA

 

teaching-little-ones-comforting-elderly-Sister-Mary-Ann-Wiesman

Are you willing to share (post a comment below) your own Six Word Mission Story?

Sister Mary Ellen's Six Word Mission Story

Tuesday, June 13th 2017 10:00 am
Sister Mary Ellen Huebsch, FSPA

 

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Are you willing to share (post a comment below) your own Six Word Mission Story?

Sister Nancy's Six Word Mission Story

Tuesday, April 4th 2017 10:00 am
Sister Nancy Lafferty, FSPA


fourty-three-years-college-teaching-sister-Nancy-Lafferty

Are you willing to share (post a comment below) your own Six Word Mission Story?

Sister Rita's Six Word Mission Story

Tuesday, April 18th 2017 10:00 am
Sister Rita Mae Fischer, FSPA


standing-tall-serving-God's-people-Sister-Rita-Mae-Fischer

Are you willing to share (post a comment below) your own Six Word Mission Story?

Sister Ronalda: I need to live and love

Thursday, November 30th 2017 10:00 am
Sister Ronalda Hophan, FSPA

 

forest

Image courtesy freeimages.com

Some of my best moments in prayer come when I am walking. Once, I was on a road in the woods.  A grouping of tall pines with branches only at the top brought to my mind those who believe their presence lies “above” others. Another tree, covered in lichen, reminded me that I carry inner baggage that I need to get rid of. And I saw another tree that had been through a storm and the top was torn off.

My heart in the middle of my being is very important.

I need to live and love.

Franciscan Way is a series featuring prayerful reflection by Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration.

Sister Sue: nature is prayer

Thursday, November 9th 2017 10:00 am
Sister Sue Ernster, FSPA

 

rabbit

Image courtesy freeimages.com

I pray outside when I can. Being in nature is prayer for me. Whatever brings me closer to God — feeling God’s presence and love — is prayer for me. I prefer to take time in the morning to help ground and center me for the day; remembering all is gift from God. Being in nature (creation) is a reminder of God’s omnipotence, grandeur and beauty. The many flowers remind me of God’s love, beauty and fragility. Watching rabbits is always prayer. I am mesmerized by their actions, doing what comes naturally, yet showing energy, joy and beauty. Their twitching noses take me close to God. Instantly, creation is a small footprint of God’s capacity.

Franciscan Way is a series featuring prayerful reflection by Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration.

Sister Therese's Six Word Mission Story

Tuesday, March 21st 2017 10:00 am
Sister Therese Wolf, FSPA

 

signing-hands-proclaiming-God's-holy-word-Therese-Wolf

Are you willing to share (post a comment below) your own Six Word Mission Story?

This day of thanks and giving

Thursday, November 23rd 2017 10:00 am
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

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Image courtesy freeimages.com

May this day be a time of contemplation as you gather with family and friends and recall the many gifts God has blessed you with throughout the year.

Turn your back or open your arms to discernment?

Thursday, February 1st 2018 1:00 pm
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA


thinking-of-you-blanket

A fleece blanket, crafted and wrapped  with care for someone in need

Lori True composed and sings a wonderful song called “What Have We Done for the Poor Ones.” This past Saturday, FSPA sisters, Viterbo University students, staff and alumni took this question to heart as they spent the morning together making blankets, scarves, hats, cards, hygiene bags and affirmation jars to be given with care for those in need. For these volunteers, each project provided a personal pathway of understanding; a way to reach out to the forgotten and the vulnerable who Scripture reminds us to look out for. We are called to provide for the child removed from violent households, for the men and women who wander our streets with no place to call home, and the elderly who wait for a sign that they have not been forgotten. How would it feel to ceaselessly long for loving memories in a strange environment (instead of the horror of being pulled away from your family)? How would it feel to get frostbite because your coat can't fend off the bitter cold? How would it feel to endlessly sit, stranded in front of a window in a nursing home, praying for a sign that someone still cares you’re alive?

How do we see these neighbors as our brothers and sisters in Christ?

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Sister Fran and students cut fabric for scarves

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Hand-made hygiene bags filled by students for homeless teens

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Sister Carrie Kirsch and a Viterbo student weave hats

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Sisters Margaret Schmolke (left), students and Sister Margaret Wagner worked as a team to create a soft, warm blanket

The day called for all to weave together a sense of community support for those who are readily seen as suffering as well as for the hidden poor; to remember that the statistics we see on TV, newspapers and social media feeds are individuals — not nameless numbers from a census taken of a faceless population. Every digit is a flesh-and blood-person who has hopes and dreams for their futures too. When we put ourselves in the experience of others, compassion and care arise along with a desire to help. And we have a choice whether to see the suffering of humanity right in front of us ... or not. Will we live with eyes wide open or avert our glance, ignoring our brothers and sisters in need? 

Discernment also comes with this choice. Will you turn your back or open your arms to your call in life?

What will you do?

*Do you know someone experiencing discernment of religious life? We invite you to share this link, www.fspa.org/showmeasign, and join the conversation.

Walk with compassion

Thursday, April 13th 2017 10:00 am
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

What if my family isn’t Catholic? Meet Sister Sarah. [Video]

Friday, February 1st 2019 7:30 am
Amy Taylor, Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration


Welcome to another Show me a sign video premiere! And, World Day for Consecrated Life greetings to you (a day early).

We promised to introduce you to five Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration who share the joys and struggles they experienced in personal relationships as they walked their own pathway of discernment.

You met Sister Lucy.  

Today, meet Sister Sarah and her parents, Mary Kay and Thomas. Together, they discuss the common religious life discernment question, “What if my family isn’t Catholic?” Sister Sarah introduces you to her own eclectic family — from Methodist to Quaker and Catholic to Hindu (mix in a little Buddhism, too). 



Are you discerning religious life? Walking with someone who is? Connect with membership@fspa.org to be added to our future premiere list. You’ll receive a sneak peek of our future Show me a sign video premieres. 

What inspires Sister Janet about about religious life today?

Friday, March 9th 2018 10:00 am
Sister Janet Fischer, FSPA

 

In honor of National Catholic Sisters Week, Show me a sign posed the question "What inspires you about religious life today?" to women religious in our community. Here's what Sister Janet Fischer, a retired-yet-volunteering-everywhere-in-Claxton-Georgia Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration, has to say.

 

Sister Janet Fischer purple hat

Sister Janet engaged in "Lenten Gospel Reflections" (image courtesy Kadee Dasher)

 

As I recall I spent at least five or more years fighting God about going to the convent, about becoming a religious sister. Looking back as a Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration I now realize God could not have given me a greater Gift. There are so many things that continue to inspire me:

 

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Sister Janet joins St. Christopher Catholic Church's chili cook-off team for a cancer fundraiser (image courtesy Sarah Gove, "Claxton Enterprise").

 

~ The justice and peace issues that women religious are a part of: we stand with the folks on the margins of society.

~ The young sisters with their willingness to share their God-given gifts.

~ The simplicity of the life style and the concern for Earth and all creation.

~ The trust lay people put in me with their personal lives ... this really inspires me.

 

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Gleaning "inspiration," Sister Janet continues to serve the community of Claxton in retirement (image courtesy Connie Mitchell).

 

*Do you know someone experiencing discernment of religious life? We invite you to share this link, www.fspa.org/showmeasign, and join the conversation. 

Temptation and transformation in the desert

Thursday, February 22nd 2018 10:30 am
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA


The Gospel for the first Sunday of Lent makes me imagine a movie trailer for a film directed by Mark. He sets a pithy scene in the desert, features a cast of characters that include Jesus, beasts, angels and Satan. Jesus is on the cusp of an encounter with temptation as the teaser abruptly ends. The scene that fades to black is literally and figuratively bleak, leaving viewers to anticipate a film with a gut-wrenching ending.

But of course we are met with a plot twist when the rest of Mark’s story comes out: the desert doesn’t really lead to nothingness, it’s actually lined with steppingstones to discovery. His time in what seems like a wasteland strengthens him and, in a surprising turn of events, leads to emergent momentum of his ministry.

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Image by Sister Amy Taylor

Discernment of religious life invites each of us into our own metaphorical and perhaps even physical desert experiences. It’s a place of quiet austerity and simultaneous beauty, calling for revelation, commitment and creativity in a setting assumed to be isolated and daunting. Desolation can allow too much space in which temptation and deprivation can be found, but also make room for grace and gift.

As I prepared for my final vows, I found the desert was the perfect place to go on retreat. Walking in the dry climate, I was invited to be present in each step; cognizant of where my feet fell; watchful of snakes, scorpions and other desert wildlife that I don’t encounter in Wisconsin. Slowly, as I pondered the spectrum of colors that at first I only perceived as beige, the desert revealed some of its bright secrets. My fear of such “beasts” was transformed as I learned how these creatures help sustain the environment. Beauty of life, like the tiny flowers I discovered, flourished in what appeared to be a hostile climate.

desert-rocks-flowers-by-Sister-Amy Taylor

Image by Sister Amy Taylor

Jesus demonstrates that God guides us to explore the depths of a vocational discernment even in the most dreaded circumstances; is with us as we confront the temptations that threaten our fidelity to live in communion with God.

How is your fear or preconceived notion getting in the way of intentional discernment?

How has God surprised you and provided in your own “desert times?”

 

*Do you know someone experiencing discernment of religious life? We invite you to share this link, www.fspa.org/showmeasign, and join the conversation. 

Mary, Clare, a novice and an associate: discerning pathways to God

Thursday, August 16th 2018 10:00 am
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

This time in August marks the celebration of two wonderful and inspirational women of faith: Mary of Nazareth and St. Clare of Assisi. From this point in history, we can trace the pathways from each woman’s initial yes to the culmination of their lives, mapping what is possible with God. 

I wonder what their first days were like, after saying yes to God. When the angel left Mary and the Holy Spirit’s visit concluded, the reality of pregnancy (and not by her betrothed, Joseph) came to be. It was a yes that, at the time, was messy at best. 

Mary-of-Nazareth

Mary of Nazareth gazes down over all from the domed ceiling in Mary of the Angels Chapel. (Photo by Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA)

What were Clare’s thoughts after escaping her family home in the dark of night, only to learn that traveling the road she envisioned to religious life would take some time? Did she hold her breath as she waited for the convent at San Damiano to be prepared? Since cloister was required for all women religious at that time, barring her from serving alongside her inspiration, St. Francis, did she even for a moment lose faith? 

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St. Clare of Assisi (Image from the Basilica of St. Clare, Assisi, Italy)

Discernment calls for a yes followed by action. The journey requires stepping forward, bravely beginning new experiences without the security of GPS or traveler’s insurance. Homelands, friends, jobs and routines of life are turned upside down as a new adventure — perhaps one with uncertainty — beckons. 

Mary of Nazareth and St. Clare of Assisi are mentors and companions for two women who in the last few weeks have put their yes to God in motion. One as an associate and the other as a novice, they are both beginning the journey of incorporation with FSPA. As individuals, their paths are uncharted territory — where God will lead them is yet to be revealed. They, like Mary and Clare, will be invited to trust God and community and to share their gifts and talents as the way forward is co-created.  

As you consider Mary and St. Clare and two women who today are entering the next passageway of discernment, ask yourself:

-    Where do these pioneers, blazing their own paths to religious life, inspire me to go?
 

*Do you know someone experiencing discernment of religious life? We invite you to share this link, www.fspa.org/showmeasign, and join the conversation.

Discerning wisdom in words

Thursday, July 19th 2018 10:00 am
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

gate-woman-ocean

Image courtesy pixabay.com

There is a phrase my parents share with me every single time I go out the door: “Be safe, have fun, you know the rules … love you.” Whether I was a young girl heading to a friend’s house, a teenager dangling the car keys in my hand, a college student leaving for campus or an adult moving across the country to enter my religious congregation, I’ve consistently carried these sentiments out into the world with me. It has also inspired me to incorporate my own addendum — “make good decisions” — when bidding goodbye to family members and friends.  

Biblical scholars spend their lives parsing out the significance of each phrase and individual word of Scripture; reflecting on history, linguistics, cultural layers, intention of the text and for whom it was written. This intrigues me: since grad school I have enjoyed reading scholarly research as I find it opens new doors to my own understanding (and I challenge you to consult commentaries and make your own discoveries).

In Matthew 7:6, 12-14, I find that Jesus also offers his disciples rules for the road in diverse denotations of his words; perhaps lessons offered at different times yet gathered neatly in the Gospel into verses (passed down initially in the oral tradition before written and organized) for our reflection over 2,000 years later. You’ve probably all heard homilies on each of the individual verses but when we think of them together, they offer wisdom too. I’ve pondered in prayer what it all means to me in this moment of my life journey, and invite you to your own prayerful discernment.

In verse 6, “Pearls Before Swine,” what insight do I have to share with others who do not have my best interest at heart? Am I giving fuel for arguments rather than striving to find common ground?  

How am I abiding by “The Golden Rule,” not only because I want others to treat me nicely but to understand that we all walk on the earth together?

Looking through the famous “Narrow Gate” ask yourself, “how am I discerning the decisions I make rather than just blindly following others down the path?    

Discernment is about listening to God and also making a series of what you believe to be the best choices in light of what you are learning and value, asking questions as you go.

This week I offer a few more questions for you to ponder:

What phrases have become important on your discernment journey?

What rules you have learned or created on this path?

How does Scripture guide you as you discern?

*Do you know someone experiencing discernment of religious life? We invite you to share this link, www.fspa.org/showmeasign, and join the conversation.

Will I stay in contact with my family? Meet Sister Jacinta. [Video]

Wednesday, March 13th 2019 10:00 am
Amy Taylor, Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration

 

We continue to celebrate National Catholic Sisters Week and welcome Sister Jacinta Jackson to the Show me a sign video family! 

Like Sisters Lucy, Sarah and Dawn, Sister Jacinta shares her joys and struggles she experienced in family relationships as she walked her own path of discernment.

 “The time that I decided to join the convent … father thought I’d finally lost it. They were not exactly thrilled. Now, my father tells his friends ‘guess who my son-in-law is? The great Jesus Christ himself.’” And about her relationships with family around the globe, Sister Jacinta says, “There’s an ocean between my family and me so it’s important I don’t lose touch. I know week by week what is happening … I am up to date. I don’t feel disconnected from my family at all.”



Are you discerning religious life? Walking with someone who is? Connect with membership@fspa.org to be added to our future premiere list. You’ll receive a sneak peek of our future Show me a sign video premieres. 

Meet Sisters Lucy, Sarah and Dawn.
 

Let's celebrate 139 years of perpetual adoration!

Tuesday, August 1st 2017 10:00 am
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA


bell-ringing

Today, FSPA celebrates 139 years of perpetual adoration. As we rejoice and ring in another year of continuous prayer, we invite you to pause, reflect and pray with us.

Sister Helen's Six Word Mission Story

Thursday, July 6th 2017 10:00 am
Sister Helen Deppe, FSPA


sharing, Eucharist, God's, creation, Sister Helen Deppe

Are you willing to share (post a comment below) your own Six Word Mission Story?

Sister Katie: ordinary day, invitation to pray

Tuesday, August 29th 2017 10:00 am
Sister Katie Mitchell, FSPA

 

One of my most cherished ways of praying is eucharistic prayer, but lately I’ve been challenging myself to turn the seemingly ordinary routines of daily life into moments of deep prayer. 

invitation

Recognizing and encountering God in my daily life helps me see that intimacy with God is not separate from day-to-day life. Moments of deep contemplative prayer are accessible each moment of the day! The warmth of sunshine, going about my daily ministry, accepting disappointments, listening attentively to another, forgiving someone, experiencing joy and accepting what ought not to be, (as well as experiences of community, family life and friendship) are some of what I’m seeing as places of grace where God communicates in the deepest center of my being. For me it has also meant rereading my past with wonder and new eyes and seeing how God has been there in even the difficult moments. The most difficult of situations, the most humble of tasks, and the most ordinary of days are an invitation to prayer and to knowing the mystery of God at work in my life.

Franciscan Way is a series featuring original prayer by Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration.

Sister Arlene's Six Word Mission Story

Tuesday, June 27th 2017 10:00 am
Sister Arlene Melder, FSPA

 


all-things-possible-God-arlene-melder

Are you willing to share (post a comment below) your own Six Word Mission Story?

What will you bring to the feast today [and every day]?

Thursday, October 4th 2018 10:00 am
Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration Amy Taylor

 

Do the good -- globally -- today and everyday 

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Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration celebrate Transitus -- the passage of St. Francis of Assisi from death to life on the eve of the Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi -- in Mary of the Angels Chapel

In celebration of the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, may we each choose to reach out to our brothers and sisters in need around the world. As St. Francis said, "I have done what its mine to do. May Christ teach you what is yours." (LM 14:3)

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At The Salvation Army, Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration Karen Lueck, Eileen Lang, Helen Elsbernd and Ladonna Kassmeyer serve food to those in need.

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At the White House in Washington, D.C., Sister Marlene Weisenbeck (back row, center) takes action against human trafficking during a Human Rights Day prayer service (photo courtesy U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking).

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Sister Eileen McKenzie brings her mobile library ministry to many in Cameroon, West Africa (photo by Sister Eileen McKenzie).

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A homeless neighbor in Spokane, Washington, thanks Sister Kathy Roberg for the gift of a sleeping mat she wove out of recycled plastic bags (photo by Sister Sharon Bongiorno).

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Sister Julia Walsh leads a Camp Manito-Wish YMCA retreat (facilitated by Marywood Spirituality Center) for Our Lady of Lake Middle School girls in Boulder Junction, Wisconsin (photo by Dean Acheson).

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Inclusivity is proclaimed by Sister Karen Lueck at a Postville, Iowa, immigration raid commemoration service in 2018. 

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Hundreds of children in need received back-to-school backpacks, like the many filled with supplies by Sister Joan Weisbenbeck in La Crosse, Wisconsin. 

**Do you know someone experiencing discernment of religious life? We invite you to share this link, www.fspa.org/showmeasign, and join the conversation.

Sister Ronalda's Six Word Mission Story

Thursday, June 29th 2017 10:00 am
Sister Ronalda Hophan, FSPA

 

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Are you willing to share (post a comment below) your own Six Word Mission Story?

What inspires Sister Sue about religious life today?

Tuesday, March 13th 2018 10:00 am
Sister Sue Ernster, FSPA

 

In honor of National Catholic Sisters Week, Show me a sign posed the question "What inspires you about religious life today?" to women religious in our community. Here's what Sister Sue Ernster, whose vocation is to serve the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration as congregational treasurer, has to say.

I am thrilled to be in religious life during such an exciting time. With all of the changes occurring in our world the opportunities to shine in the realm of sharing our charism are limitless. Women religious everywhere are allowing the world to see the difference we are and can be. 

We are not constrained as before by institutions or society. In this ever-changing and what some may call crumbling world, we offer the gifts of hope, love and goodness. We strive to exude the blessings of sharing and relationship. 

Game-On

Sister Sue (standing next to the host) defers to her FSPA teammates during the community fundraising event "Game On!"

 

Sharing who we are and what we have, I believe, is key in this world of chaos. We offer contemplative and alternative, nonviolent ways of being in relationship with others. 

In the midst of the changing society, we have the opportunity to share our values with others in partnership and collaboration in ways not known before. Through these collaborative or partnering ways, we invite others to see and think differently. Growing in engagement inspires our world as it continues to evolve. 

S-Sue-Ernster-St-Nicks-Boot-Riverfront

Riverfront residents and Sister Sue gather around St. Nick's Boot, a Christmas giving program.

 

I am excited about collaboration, invitation, engagement, inspiration and evolution in religious life. We are branching out further than ever before, working with businesses and others to eradicate human slavery, mental health stigma and homelessness. As we engage others and gain partners in ministry, we also allow others to be part of and carry on our charism and mission. 

This time is blooming with opportunity, and craving what we have to offer.

*Do you know someone experiencing discernment of religious life? We invite you to share this link, www.fspa.org/showmeasign, and join the conversation.

Sounding the bell for 140 years of 24/7 prayer [video]

Wednesday, August 1st 2018 1:00 pm
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

woman-in-blue-ringing-bell

Sister Marguerite Bruening is one of several sisters and prayer partners at St. Rose Convent, ringing this bell in commemoration of 140 years of perpetual adoration.

Today we celebrate the beginning of our 141st year of perpetual adoration, ringing this bell 140 times for those full of unending prayer since Aug. 1, 1878, and once to commence a new year of round-the-clock adoration. May God continue to be the resounding bell in our hearts, guiding us in prayer and action in our world.

 

*Do you know someone experiencing discernment of religious life? We invite you to share this link, www.fspa.org/showmeasign, and join the conversation.

 

Sister Mary's Six Word Mission Story

Tuesday, March 28th 2017 10:00 am
Sister Mary Bates, FSPA

 

mary-bates-listening-wonder-taking-plunge

Are you willing to share (post a comment below) your own Six Word Mission Story?

Happy New Year!

Monday, January 1st 2018 10:00 am
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

Happy New Year to you from the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration.

Happy-New-Year-2018

Image courtesy pixabay.com

May the coming year be filled with inspiration as you discern your vocation.

*Do you know someone experiencing discernment of religious life? We invite you to share this link, www.fspa.org/showmeasign, and join the conversation. 

Sister Marian's Six Word Mission Story

Tuesday, July 11th 2017 10:00 am
Sister Marian Massman


smiles, exchanged, hearts, connected, life, blessed, Sister Marian Massman

Are you willing to share (post a comment below) your own Six Word Mission Story?

Sister Antona's Six Word Mission Story

Wednesday, July 26th 2017 10:00 am
Sister Antona Schedlo, FSPA


plane-mountains

Are you willing to share (post a comment below) your own Six Word Mission Story?

It's where I pray

Thursday, January 25th 2018 10:00 am
Sister Maris Kerwin, FSPA

 

window-pigeons-St.RoseChapel

Image by Sister Amy Taylor

One of my favorite places to pray is in my recliner in my room at St. Rose Convent. It sits in front of a window from which I can see the Adoration Chapel behind a variety of trees. The chapel mirrors stability in my life, and the trees as well as the shifting seasons remind me of change. All are important, and God helps to remind me that I need both. The occasional bird flying from one place to the other helps me to see that connection.

Franciscan Way is a series featuring prayerful reflection by Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration.

How will religious life affect my relationships? Meet Sister Dawn. [Video]

Friday, March 8th 2019 7:30 am
Amy Taylor, Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration
 
Welcome to another Show me a sign video premiere! And, happy National Catholic Sisters Week!


We continue introducing you to Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration who share the joys and struggles they experienced in personal relationships as they walked their own pathway of discernment.

You met Sister Lucy and Sister Sarah.

Today, meet Sister Dawn.

“Just because you’re a sister doesn’t mean your whole life changes,” explains Sister Dawn. “You’re still human. You enter into a deep relationship with your religious sisters … it’s a whole new family. And, initially it’s important to balance that time between your family and religious community.”
 



Are you discerning religious life? Walking with someone who is? Connect with membership@fspa.org to be added to our future premiere list. You’ll receive a sneak peek of our future Show me a sign video premieres. 
 

Imagination inspires vision in discernment

Thursday, September 7th 2017 3:05 pm
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

I appreciate and enjoy the opportunity to plan new experiences in my life. Preparation, for me, sparks imagination to envision what each new season as a religious sister — like the shift from summer to fall that we are living in right now — may bring. I trust that God will be with me each day (as we know from Jeremiah 29: 11-13), whether my plans come to fruition or unexpected events put me on a completely different route. 


winter-train-freeimages

Image courtesy freeimages.com

Such imagination, in fact, reflected light upon a particularly uncertain time in my life — during my discernment. I was in graduate school at the time and had spent my spring break visiting FSPA in La Crosse, Wisconsin. While spring was in full bloom at home it was definitely still winter 500 miles north at St. Rose Convent. The windows of the train I was riding frosted up and, wishing for a warm blanket, I tightened my jacket closer around my shoulders. How do people survive with so much cold and snow and ice?

blowing-snow-chapel

St. Rose Convent in La Crosse, Wisconsin

Later, while sharing my positive experiences with FSPA with my spiritual director, I also launched into my seemingly ordinary yet significant concern (to me) about the weather. She challenged me to engage my imagination. In addition to her ministry as a spiritual director she was also an artist and knew that imagination can be an essential tool. “What would it be like to live in a colder climate, where winters are longer and more severe? What would you need to live there?” She then asked me to reflect on my visit: was there heat in the building? Would I be warm and comfortable should I choose to discern there? Well … of course. 

Her questions helped me envision navigating a big change which surfaced as weather but, in reality, was also about experiencing a cultural change. That transition (which I wasn’t sure I really wanted) became a gift of God’s grace.

I’ve now survived several Wisconsin winters. I’m still not a huge fan of the cold and the snow but weather conditions have faded into the background of life (not at the forefront). And I now also know, in addition to visiting and learning about each community you consider, how important imagination can be in discerning religious life. It allows us to ponder life choices in a variety of contexts and consider exploring the invitation from God. Imagination is a tool that can help move us from fear to freedom.  

Who do you imagine you will be tomorrow, next week, next year? Who will you live and work with? What would it be like to move across the country, or internationally, to pursue your vision? What is the adventure stirring right now in your heart?

How is your imagination a tool in your discernment?

*Do you know someone experiencing discernment of religious life? We invite you to share this link and join the conversation at www.fspa.org/showmeasign.

Finding God at the wheel with Sister Laurice

Thursday, May 31st 2018 10:00 am
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

When I am inspired to learn something new, I look around to find someone who shares my interest. Many years ago, I desired to work with clay on a potter’s wheel. Several people suggested I talk to Sister Laurice, a retired art teacher and potter. Her creations were on display in our spirituality center, so I knew she had talent. She happily offered to become my teacher.  

S-Laurice-Heybl-pottery

Sister Laurice at work in the studio

Walking into the studio, it was clear to me that Sister Laurice was at home in such a creative environment. She nimbly picked up some clay and invited me to do the same. In minutes we were wedging it; clearing it of air bubbles and preparing it for the wheel. Foundation is important. Every potter needs to find their own rhythm and method that works best for them. If you want transformation, you have to put effort into it. With a twinkle in her eye she also suggested that wedging is a way to channel frustration; each thud of the clay against the table to pop the bubbles a great method to letting off a little steam. A small air bubble may seem like no big deal, but if left inside it can later fester into a bigger problem on the wheel. Like life, if something doesn’t feel right, don’t ignore it. Unresolved aggravation will surface sooner or later.  

As she explained each step, Sister Laurice’s practiced hands moved with ease on the wheel. In moments, her loaf of clay became a beautiful bowl. Next, it was my turn to try and follow the steps as she talked me through each one. I prayed that the lump of clay I worked with would miraculously look in the smallest way like one of her delicate, symmetrical creations. She patiently invited me to breathe and relax and to guide the clay, not chase it around the wheel. (I did a lot of chasing the first few weeks.) She encouraged me to be strong without force; to lean in but not so far as to fall off balance. When a piece dried and was ready for trimming she filled my head with the importance of clearing away the excess and making a strong foot. “A great shape is hiding. You just need to get a bit of the extra off so you can see it better. The glaze we will apply will highlight your attention to this detail.” As each snippet of advice filled my ears, my mind and heart moved beyond the practicality into the spiritual realm of the wisdom Sister Laurice offered. 

hands-pottery-wheel

Image courtesy pixabay.com

I came to see in Sister Laurice a kindred spirit, someone who also found God in creating. And for me, each new shape of clay mirrored my own transformation as a religious sister.  

Now, years later, working on the potter’s wheel has become part of my spiritual practice. The quiet hum is like a bell calling me to prayer. With each rotation, I concentrate on beauty even in the midst of challenges. Clay is a wonderful reflector. When I am pushing too hard it collapses; when I am not concentrating it becomes uneven and loses symmetry. Yet when I remember to breathe and stay present in the moment, I am amazed at the results. As the clay transforms before my eyes, it becomes an experience of oneness. Each piece holds a memory of my prayer that day — a call for newness, wholeness. 

Sister Laurice returned to the hands of her Creator on November 6, 2017. It has been a difficult loss. I choose to remember her when I sit at the wheel. 

S-Laurice-Heybl

Sister Laurice Heybl, FSPA

I am reminded of the experience of Sister Laurice’s mentorship, friendship and accompaniment today as we celebrate the Feast of the Visitation (LK 1:39-56). In the Gospel, Luke shares with us the story the encounter of Mary and Elizabeth, two pillars of faith. Elizabeth is a seasoned woman of devotion who has seen and experienced many things in her life. Bright-eyed Mary is enthusiastic for the adventures that lie ahead. Both women answer God’s call in their lives and find support and encouragement in one another as they discover the joys and challenges of fulfilling their yes to God. Each of these women share something in common and, at the same time, develop their own artistic way of living into the commitment they had each made to God. 

Mentors and friends can be helpful in discernment. They can offer wisdom from their experience and be a great listening ear when needed. 

Who have been the mentors and friends in your life, perhaps modeling a sense of being in discernment?

How has your discernment mirrored others, and how has your discernment been unique?

 

*Do you know someone experiencing discernment of religious life? We invite you to share this link, www.fspa.org/showmeasign, and join the conversation.

"Yes" to God's invitation

Thursday, June 22nd 2017 3:05 pm
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

Over the course of the last several weeks our congregation has celebrated the commitment of “yes” to God with the vow renewal of Sister Laurie Sullivan, profession of perpetual vows by Sister Kristin Peters, and Golden Jubilee celebration for Sisters Romana Klaubauf and Esther Leis. We all experienced religious life unfolding before our very eyes; witnessed what it means to walk on the Gospel-centered journey of life as a religious sister—all on different stepping stones marking the way.  

Sisters-Karen-Lueck-Laurie-Sullivan-renewal

Sister Karen Lueck (left) calls forth Laurie Sister Sullivan (right) to renew her vows. 

Sister Laurie opened our season of celebration by renewing her vows for three years at Villa St. Joseph surrounded by FSPA community members, many of whom she ministered among during her early formation days volunteering in spiritual care. For her prayer service she chose a Gospel reading about love. Sister Laurie has shown love to others guided by the spiritual and corporal works of mercy by accompanying patients in hospital rooms, feeding the hungry at food pantries, visiting the elderly in their homes, and nurturing spirituality as the coordinator of youth in a parish—each new place and ministry a reflection of her deepening commitment to religious life and her “yes” to God. Sister Laurie is following in the footprints of Jesus and St. Francis, moving to serve where she is needed. For her the Franciscan Gospel life has been eyes and ears open for the call to where God invites; feet ready to move. 

Sister-Laurie-Sullivan-food-bank

Sister Laurie, pictured here serving those in need at a food pantry.

 

Sisters Laura-Eileen-Katie-Kristin-Julia-El-Camino

From left to right, Sisters Laura Nettles, Eileen McKenzie, Katie Mitchell, Kristin Peters and Julia Walsh stand together on their Camino pilgrimage (photo courtesy of Sister Katie Mitchell). 

The open road has also been a call to Sister Kristin Peters who just returned from a pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago in Spain. As on some legs of her journey she was accompanied by her FSPA companions and on others she hiked alone, she discovered that her Camino experience mirrored religious life: you may walk with others but you also have to walk your own journey. Each step reveals insight. No one can walk for you, live for you. Sister Kristin's “yes” to religious life over the past 10 years has taken her to discover diverse paths to serve those with substance addiction and mental illness; to deliver, in ministry, help and compassion. She has ministered to many who others step over, walk past. It is no surprise that the image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd inspires her and is what she chose to guide her final vow liturgy. Sister Kristin listens and reflects the knowledge each person gains as they find their own way back into the sheepfold of our civic communities.

Sisters-Kristin-Peters-Blanche-Klein-ring

Sister Kristin receives her FSPA ring from Sister Blanche Klein. 

 

Sisters-Romana-Klaubauf-Karen-Kappell-corsage-pinning

Sister Romana Klaubauf receives her 50th Jubilee celebration corsage from Sister Karen Kappell.

A bit further down the road of religious life, Sisters Romana Klaubauf and Ester Leis shared their travel stories—their individual ministries—at a pre-jubilee pizza party. We watched a slide presentation of the sights they saw along their professions of 50 years, glimpsing decades of serving God's people and meeting new challenges in the changing landscapes of religious life. Mary of the Angels was filled to capacity as community members, family and friends gathered to witness their ongoing commitment. The readings they chose (Isaiah 43:1-10Micah 6:8 and John 10) tell their stories of faithfulness to God.

Esther-Leis-flower-procession

Sister Esther Leis processes into Mass held in honor of her Golden Jubilee.

These three celebrations were each unique in time and experience yet all pointed to the goodness revealed through the faithfulness of “yes.” The song “I Say ‘Yes’ Lord/Digo ‘Sí’ Señor” by Donna Peña and Marty Haugen has been moving in my heart and mind as I ponder the blessing each of these celebrations have been. They are witnesses to our world of faithfulness and commitment in good times and challenges. We all walk terrain smooth and bumpy; mountainous and flat. God is with us in each step, and every breath of life. 

This week as you consider your own location in discernment ask yourself ...

What are the celebrations marking my journey?

Is there a theme to my experience so far?

How am I relying on God?

Sister Anita: the soul searching question

Tuesday, October 17th 2017 10:00 am
Sister Anita Beskar, FSPA

 

A lake as calm as glass;

A circle of pine trees enjoying a near-perfect reflection in the fragile lake mirror;

And I am privileged to contemplate both from my aqua cycle perspective on the lake.

In this deeply contemplative moment, startling questions emerge within me:

- How could I know the mystery of "treeness" if all I ever experienced was its reflection?

- How could I feel, smell, throw my arms around a tree if all I knew was its reflection?

And I notice how the subtle and/or turbulent movements of the water affect this reflected image.


Trout-Lake-by-S-Anita-Beskar

Photo by Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

Then the soul-searching question:

Is this not the way that I know God and God Presence -- through God's reflected images? And how does my inner quiet or lack thereof affect the mirror of my life to reflect God Presence?

This, for me, is prayer: to invite my inner spirit into the quiet of God's Spirit so that in my inner quiet I may listen to find the courage and RESPOND.

Franciscan Way is a series featuring prayerful reflection by Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration. 

Prepare

Thursday, December 14th 2017 10:00 am
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

As we continue into second week of our Advent pilgrimage, two words have come into my consciousness —discipline and commitment. I am a bit surprised: I typically associate these nouns with Lent yet here they are, popping up in a different season altogether.

It is normally this time of the year when my calendar overwhelms me with the extras of the season like holiday parties, special meal planning, choir practices, decorating and gatherings with friends and family. Suddenly, the extra intentional prayer time I had started at the beginning of Advent vanishes and, racing out the door to another event, I glance longingly at my stack of Advent books. I am grateful for the experiences, yet also I realize there is an invitation to once again reflect on my priorities. Not all the events I attend are ones I want to or perhaps really need to: some are obligations; sometimes it’s hard to say no. Where is the discipline and commitment I started with on day one?

Sunday’s readings call me back to awareness. It’s not too late to prepare my heart. Maybe it’s time to recalculate my pilgrimage and choose another route. Perhaps there is a course less chaotic, immersed in more solitude. I envision a back road beckoning me to slow down and enjoy the Advent scenery.

Christmas-table-envelope-package-pine-cones-pixabay.com

Image courtesy pixabay.com

Part of making straight the path in my life means making time. It’s time to move some of the boulders in the roadway of my calendar that don’t provide joy and light. It’s time to look at all the possibilities of the next few weeks, set priorities and leave some room for the Spirit and surprises along the way.

In your discernment journey this week, what are the boulders in your path that need to be cleared to make a way for your relationship with Jesus? How are you preparing your heart for this Advent pilgrimage?

*Do you know someone experiencing discernment of religious life? We invite you to share this link, www.fspa.org/showmeasign, and join the conversation. 

Sister Margaret's Six Word Mission Story

Tuesday, May 30th 2017 10:00 am
Sister Margaret Wenzel, FSPA

 

family-support-call-FSPA-response-yes-margaret-wenzel

Are you willing to share (post a comment below) your own Six Word Mission Story?

New horizons ahead

Tuesday, August 22nd 2017 10:00 am
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 


packed-car

Image courtesy of outloud.com

This time of year brings a parade of moving trucks, SUVs and vans, packed to the hilt, making the trek to college dorms and apartments. Dreams of graduation dates and soul-fulfilling careers are loaded amongst the gear for each aspiring, college-bound student making the big move. But first, each person must begin their own pilgrimage of learning. Not yet an expert or familiar with the route ahead, these pilgrims must lean into the experience with eyes wide open. New professors, friends, and routines are opportunities to widen one’s world view. College is the time to delve into the questions of life!

St. Rose Convent shares a campus with Viterbo University. One of my favorite things to do during move-in weekend is simply watch students and families haul in carts full of supplies and, a few hours later, drag out about a third of what they moved in. And as a former campus minister, I recall routinely observing students once classes had started, stumbling along and mumbling to themselves “What? My professors are not going to remind me every day that I have an assignment due?” “Where am I, anyway?”

Whether or not you are a college student, I imagine you can recall a time in your life when that last question entered your mind. Perhaps you’re carrying it with you right now, on this new road of discernment — painstakingly aware that you do not know what in the world you are doing, where you are going.

I remember feeling that way the first time I visited a religious community and joined in Liturgy of the Hours — evening prayer.  I can almost hear the beautiful opening song, one I’d never heard before, sung in four-part harmony. But then all I could hear was lots of flipping pages, communal responses, more flipping pages, and my brain pleading with me to find the right response, to not speak out at the wrong time. “What in the world is happening?” Completely disoriented I begged God to guide me through this new experience. It didn't take long to find my voice.

Everyone has new beginnings and as summer slowly turns to fall, know that you are on your way to finding your feet in whatever stage — like discernment — is developing in your life. Don’t be afraid to jump in, to try it out, to see where you land. What would happen if you contacted the community whose website is open in your browser? What would it be like to go and visit and see first-hand what until now you only imagined in your mind about religious life? If the worst thing is getting lost during evening prayer, just look at the sister or brother near you and follow the best you can. Afterwards, share a laugh and ask what they remember about the first time they visited a community. A good sense of humor will carry you far as you continue to discern.

This week I invite you to ponder …

What lessons are you learning in your discernment that, until now, you didn’t have a clue were important to know? 

What would happen if you saw discernment as a pilgrimage? 

What are the questions you wish you had the courage to ask? 

*Do you know someone experiencing discernment of religious life? We invite you to share this link, www.fspa.org/showmeasign, and join the conversation. 

Sister Luanne's Six Word Mission Story

Tuesday, July 18th 2017 10:00 am
Sister Luanne Durst, FSPA


great, possibilities, rich, rewards, never-ending, sister luanne durst

Are you willing to share (post a comment below) your own Six Word Mission Story?

Sister Lucy Ann: expression of my time with Jesus

Tuesday, September 19th 2017 10:00 am
Sister Lucy Ann Meyer, FSPA

 

Prayer is the personal expression of my time with Jesus. I have found through the years that I move in and out of various expressions/activities that nurture my relationship with God. Scripture, music and movement remain my steady and usual practices. 

dancers-shadows

In recent years, poetry has taken on greater significance and challenged me at a more basic level. I have experienced deep and profound insights about “who” I am and “how” to live more fully into the mysteries of life. This poem by Hafiz, “Know the True Nature," reminds me of being surrounded in God’s love and the importance of forgiveness: 

Know the True Nature of your Beloved.

In 

His loving eyes

your every thought, word, and movement

is always, always, 

beautiful.

 

Franciscan Way is a series featuring prayerful reflection by Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration.

 

Freezing and thawing: potholes surfacing in discernment

Thursday, February 23rd 2017 12:30 pm
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

In the last few days we have been experiencing record-setting, spring-like temperatures, welcome gifts in what are normally snowy, frozen Wisconsin winters. Yet what lies beneath the ice-free roadways are side-effects of winter’s ills (seemingly worse this year) uncovered far too soon: potholes. Cavities in the pavement big enough, it seems, to swallow, chew up and spit out the tires on my car.

pothole-morguefile.com

Image courtesy of morguefile.com
 

These freezing/thawing streets on which we drive through snow and sunshine exemplify what rapid change brings, and the adaptations that even solid concrete is forced to make. Crews work diligently to fill in large stretches of encumbered roadways in between snow storms and bottomed-out temperatures, securing temporary fixes for much bigger issues: it will take more than a few shovels full of heated asphalt to really fix the breach of the once sturdy concrete.  

This process makes me wonder—in its own way, does a pothole break open greater insight to what we couldn’t see? 

Potholes can also emerge when you’ve just acclimated to navigating the already bumpy road of discernment. You may have become comfortable with your prayer routines, secured support from family and friends and be in great conversation with a community you’re interested in. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a figurative fissure appears, blocking your path ahead. Yet while a void in discernment (or even a series of them) can raise some anxiety it can actually spring forth opportunity for creativity. It may provide an opening for you to find your way around—a challenge that in earlier days would have forced you to make a U-turn. Detours may be necessary but, if you are willing to reflect and not run from a change, there are lessons each choice presents. 

Jesus showed us how to navigate such unanticipated challenges: how many times did he have to find another way to proceed with his message? His roadway of ministry was filled with angry temple officials, jealous rulers and nervous disciples, but also the growing faith of the people he encountered. 

What are the potholes that have surfaced in your discernment? 

Have you found a way around them?

 

These are our own Meribah moments

Thursday, March 8th 2018 10:00 am
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

It’s common for many people to run away, hardening their hearts to a possible call to religious life. Fear, anxiety and worry are sometimes overwhelming and leave little room for joy, wonder, curiosity and trust. The invitation to discern may come as a surprise — perhaps in a comment from a friend or coworker — leaving you reeling at the possibility. This happened to me. Or, maybe you are sensing an emerging awareness in the stillness of prayer. It can be a confusing time. More questions than answers may swirl in your head like...what does this all mean? Why me? What will others think about me? Will my friends still hang out with me?

rocks-heart-pixabay.com

Image courtesy pixabay.com

Each of these questions has implications not just for those who choose religious life, but for all life. At some point everyone finds themselves asking
“Who am I and what do I want to do with my life?”

Today’s psalm is a great reminder about the attitude we carry when we enter into a time of discernment and how each of us choose to respond when the way forward is confusing or challenging. This passage recalls a time of discouragement for our ancestors in faith, a time when they put God to their own test. Sometimes in discernment we also test God in attempt to know exactly what life would be like if we made one choice rather than another. An attitude that says in its own way “Prove it to me God!” 

These are our own Meribah moments.

What better time of year than Lent to turn once again towards God, asking for guidance and courage to prayerfully consider all of the vocational choices that are possible. Considering, researching and exploring are not in and of themselves acts of commitment. There are many steps in discernment and there will be time to say yes or no along the way.

How can the invitation to discern help you develop your own heart of flesh?

What do you hear in the words of today’s psalm?

In honor of National Catholic Sisters Week (which begins today), Show me a sign will feature a series of reflections by Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration surrounding the question "What inspires you about religious life today?" throughout the week. 
 

Sister Pauline's Six Word Mission Story

Tuesday, February 21st 2017 10:00 am
Sister Pauline Wittry, FSPA

 

food-service-chaplaincy-training-travel-world-Pauliine-Wittry-Show-Me-a-Sign

Are you willing to share (post a comment below) your own Six Word Mission Story?

Sister Rita Mae: painting as prayer

Tuesday, October 10th 2017 2:30 pm
Sister Rita Mae Fischer, FSPA

 


watercolor-crocuses-by-S-Rita-Mae-Fischer

"Crocuses" by Sister Rita Mae Fischer

At times, my prayer is in humming, groaning, rocking or walking. But the day I received word that my friend had died, my prayer was in painting crocuses. Just as for Christopher Pramuk, music for me is a metaphor for the spiritual life. And that day I found my refuge, my center, a certain kinship and hope, in water coloring. It was powerful. It was transformative. I could live in the liminal space among what was, what is, and what will be. Truly, life reverberates beyond death.

Franciscan Way is a series featuring prayerful reflection by Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration.

A new career in religious life?

Thursday, September 27th 2018 1:45 pm
Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration Amy Taylor

 

A common question that surfaces in vocation is this: can I change careers while serving as a Catholic sister? 

Yes ... it is acceptable to discern a change of ministry in religious life! The spirit is always at work within you and often leads you to new experiences -- perhaps the opportunity to care for the underserved of society -- that respond to the needs of the times.

catholic leads young adults across a street

Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration Katie Mitchell has traveled a ministerial path from teaching to faith formation.

Discernment of changing careers in religious life takes place within community. Together with others, you will examine the necessity of transition and consider the next steps to new ministry. This is part of the co-creation that is possible when you say “yes” to God’s invitation to serve his people. It is in the everyday experiences of walking with others that your eyes may be opened to see unmet needs.

Sometimes, additional education or training is necessary to change careers in religious life. In other circumstances, an open heart and willingness to learn from wisdom figures around you will provide all that you need to transition to a new way of serving. Many Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration have made ministerial moves as they've recognized their own unique gifts and talents to serve others.

It is impossible to predict what will unfold over the course of your life. Every day is an adventure and God is always full of surprises and invitations to grow and co-create with you. If you ask any sister, she will most likely say that her “yes” to religious life opened more doors than she ever imagined. 

*Like our new look? Stay tuned to Show me a sign for more surprises -- fresh reflections of the good news of vocations -- soon to come!

**Do you know someone experiencing discernment of religious life? We invite you to share this link, www.fspa.org/showmeasign, and join the conversation.

Discerning, igniting a revolution of peace

Thursday, October 5th 2017 12:00 am
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

The first thing I do each morning is check the news app on my phone. Before my feet even touch the floor I become conscious of the violence that has occurred while I slept — horror has erupted in our neighborhoods, wars continue to rage throughout many nations. I say yet another impassioned prayer for peace as I get up to begin my day.  

Yesterday, I rose with the anticipation of the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi. Francis, known to many as a peacekeeper and the patron saint of animals, woke to his own journey of life almost 800 years ago that was not filled with roses and rainbows. He lived in the middle of warring papal and city states where the feudal system was breaking down. Chaos ruled and many found themselves destitute, starving, and unprotected from the violence around them. I imagine that if there had been 24-hour world news coverage or instant, streaming internet video in his time, his world would in many ways mirror our own.   

St-Francis-statue

But Francis did not stand idle, watch the problems from a distance or hide from the world around him. God called him to go right into the heart of the system that was crumbling, urged him to move quickly to action. The invitation to “rebuild my church” was not some trite, easy task. It was an epic journey that would take Francis the course of his lifetime to navigate. For good or ill, he learned from success and I imagine much more from his failures. Perhaps in his early days, when he physically rebuilt churches stone by stone (as that is how he first interpreted God’s invitation), his isolation from social pressures and experience of quiet moments allowed him to discern how to be all of who he was before God. Eventually, as the story goes, Francis discovered that he needed to help people around him and started with the group he perhaps feared; the lepers.

Sister Eileen McKenzie reads a reflection of St. Francis by Brother Ruffino during an FSPA Transitus celebration in Mary of the Angels Chapel: "I remember how knowing Jesus and following in the footprints of Jesus was the one passion of his life."

Francis is a model and a light for our world today. He reminds us to reach out to help everyone in need, even those who make us feel uneasy, who we don’t understand and who we’ve previously chosen to ignore. He challenges us not to wait around hoping someone else will respond to the chaos around us. Light is even more contagious than darkness. What else could explain the thousands of silly, tug-at-your-heart animal videos on social media that so many of us tune out the troubled world to see? We are all looking for laughter and joy.

What would happen if, around the globe, we woke up to news stories filled with such love and happiness? A world in which individuals cultivate peace and positivity rather than fostering greed, hate and possessiveness?

Perhaps we could all begin our own revolution of peace.

Our collective wakeup call is here. How is your discernment beckoning you to be a light in our world today? How will you ignite a revolution of peace and joy in your corner of the world?

Where will your journey take you?

*Do you know someone experiencing discernment of religious life? We invite you to share this link, www.fspa.org/showmeasign, and join the conversation. 

Sister Clarone's Six Word Mission Story

Tuesday, May 2nd 2017 10:00 am
Sister Clarone Brill, FSPA


Ministering-God's-love-all-people-chapel-FSPA

Are you willing to share (post a comment below) your own Six Word Mission Story?

 

Empowering peace this Fourth of July

Wednesday, July 4th 2018 10:00 am
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

fireworks

Image courtesy freeimages.com

 

Happy Fourth of July!

Today and everyday let us light up the sky -- with bold goodness of prayer -- for peace and unity in our world.

*Do you know someone experiencing discernment of religious life? We invite you to share this link, www.fspa.org/showmeasign, and join the conversation.

 

Sister Sharon: Letters to God

Tuesday, September 12th 2017 10:00 am
Sister Sharon Bongiorno, FSPA

 

notepad-pencil-coffee-mug

My Lord and my God, I sit down to write this letter, very tired
and stiff. I may have over done it today. Thank you to Father
Sean who gave me the penance today to write a letter to You.
 

That is how it started. A letter to God turned out not to be penance at all. In fact it became a prayer in a way I never expected. So each night now, I sit down and write my thoughts, my hurts, my joys of the day. Sometimes the page gets polka-dotted with tears. Then -- as I sit and listen to God's response -- come more surprises.

Franciscan Way is a series featuring original prayer by Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration.

Sister Donna's Six Word Mission Story

Monday, April 24th 2017 10:00 am
Sister Donna Weber, FSPA

What did you say?

Thursday, November 2nd 2017 3:15 pm
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA


drinking-fountain-by-morguefile.com

Image courtesy morguefile.com

Amidst the world news articles online I recently came across the lighter read “50 Unique Words and Phrases From Each State That Only Locals Understand.” As an avid traveler, I was curious to see if I had encountered any of the words and phrases. I clicked through the first few slides, finding some familiar, but most were words I’d never heard before.

The article triggered a memory of experience I had while visiting La Crosse, Wisconsin, when I was first discerning religious life with FSPA. A few sisters took me down to Riverside Park, along the Mississippi River, just a few miles from St. Rose Convent. They pointed out the various attractions including the friendship garden, fountains and statues; where to buy tickets to ride on the big paddle boat. One sister pointed across the park and said “Over there is the bubbler.” All I saw was a drinking fountain. We both had a good laugh and “bubbler” was formally introduced to me as Wisconsin-ease for “drinking fountain.”

Evangelical councils: “These are the vows and practice of poverty, chastity, and obedience. They are evangelical because they were taught and practiced by Jesus Christ in the gospels.” At the end of the novitiate period and formal acceptance, women in the incorporation process first make temporary vows of poverty, consecrated chastity and obedience. 

Charism: “Each religious community has a charism which is a purpose, mission, and spirit inspired by the community’s founder.” The charism of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration comes from distinct eucharistic reference and devotion, inherited from St. Francis and our founders.

Novice: “A novice is a person who is formally admitted to a religious institute to prepare for eventual religious profession.” For FSPA, the novitiate period is two years in length and incorporates learning about religious life, vows, theology, church documents, Franciscan studies and many more pertinent topics for this time of vow preparation. 

Perpetual vows: “… the final vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience a person takes in a religious institute.” Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration who make perpetual vows do so during Mass — a public witness of consecration to God through their commitment of poverty, consecrated celibacy and obedience for life lived out in the context of FSPA community. 

Further traversing into a specific religious dialect — like that of the Franciscan family — vocabulary expands with terms like

-- Transitus: an annual Franciscan celebration marking the passage of St. Francis of Assisi from life on Earth to a life with God;

-- Pax et Bonum: Peace and All Good; and

-- common good: choosing action based not only on your own preferences but also taking into account the whole group or groups that will be affected by the decision.

Religious life is full of its own unique words and phrases, its own social dynamics that you’ll encounter because, as I did, you are journeying into a new culture. Also present are the plethora of cultures that many members of the community may have been raised in or ministered in.

Diversity is a gift, especially when we are willing to be curious and try to refrain from quick judgements.

This week, ponder how discernment is leading you to the edges of new cultures.

What are some of your cultural influences?

How does understanding some common definitions in religious life help you in your discernment?

*Do you know someone experiencing discernment of religious life? We invite you to share this link, www.fspa.org/showmeasign, and join the conversation. 

Sister Sarah's Six Word Mission Story

Tuesday, May 23rd 2017 10:00 am
Sister Sarah Hennessey, FSPA

 

staying, with, you, people, God, Sister, Sarah, Hennessey

Are you willing to share (post a comment below) your own Six Word Mission Story?

Tuning in to God, discernment

Thursday, September 21st 2017 2:30 pm
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

Often when I am looking for inspiration in my writing, I go to places that feed my soul. Recently, I was sitting in the back row of our adoration chapel, pondering what to share in my next blog, while the piano in the main chapel was being tuned. My thoughts were punctuated with the same note sounding over and over again. I could hear slight adjustments with each stroke of the key. Occasionally, a scale would plunk out. 

piano-tuning

The piano in Mary of the Angels Chapel undergoes the tuning process.

Curious, I went to investigate and had a short conversation with the man tuning the piano. I asked him a few questions about the process and was fascinated to learn that he begins by striking a tuning fork. He then plays one note on the piano, listening as he adjusts the tension on the piano wire to match the pitch, then tunes the entire piano by ear. He listens not only to the single pitch but also how it sounds in relationship all the other pitches too. He shared how the environment around the piano, like climate and season, also effects the process. There is never a perfect time to tune. 

This resounding experience inspired me to ponder how discernment has similar elements. We are all influenced not only by our own gifts and talents but also where we find resonance with others. Often in discerning religious life, questions arise like “How will I know which congregation is best for me?” or “What if the congregations I’m interested in minister in similar ways?” 

These are great questions. Even when connecting to congregations with like-minded missions, there are steps to take to learn more. Ask any of your friends or family members how they chose significant others.  A list of characteristics does not tell the whole story. Two people could have the same job, live in the same city, look similar physically and enjoy the same hobbies, but there are thousands of idiosyncrasies that define differences when you get to know them more deeply. Sometimes there is more mystery than explanation but, at some level, these couples have found compatibility with one another.   

It was the same way for me when I was exploring discernment. Each community carried individual tones and music of life. From all the possibilities, it took time to learn about the differences between apostolic, evangelical, monastic, cloistered and missionary congregations for women, not to mention the different rules of life each follows (like Franciscan, Dominican, Benedictine). Then throw in ministries similar, if not the same. 

And so I visited different congregations, finding similarities and also distinctions. Some congregations I liked and others I was ready to leave almost as soon as I arrived; not because the congregation was unpleasant but because my gut instinct let me know immediately that our views of the world were too polar opposite. 

There was a combination of factors as to why I chose to be a Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration. The more time I spent with FSPA I found that my goals, philosophies and beliefs coincided with many of theirs, and the viewpoints that didn’t exactly align invited more exploration as to why or why not. FSPA engaged both my mind and heart.  Although it was a mystery as to why a congregation several states away resonated more with me than those near to where I lived, I had to undertake my own pilgrimage of discernment. 

It reminds me of Abraham, having to make a journey to find his own home as he does in Genesis 12. God called him to leave the land that he knew and as he traveled he learned more about who he was. St. Francis of Assisi, our congregation’s founding inspiration, had to learn about his own journey of faith by first pursuing glory and honor through seeking knighthood but, along the way, learning his true call was to rebuild the church and be a champion for peace. It took both Abraham and St. Francis their lifetimes to live into the depth of their call from God. But they also had to take a step towards their calling and learn as they went. 

I can say that what first attracted me to my congregation is still present but what means more to me is the relationships I’ve been blessed with; the deepening of my own spiritual life, the ministry experiences that I never would have planned and the excitement that each new day brings. It was both exhilarating and daunting to take initiative that first visit but had I not my life would not be what it is — a completely, always surprising gift — today. 

This week a few question for you to ponder …

In what ways are you discovering that your discernment is not a simple, quick decision but a pilgrimage? 

How do you know when you resonate with someone or something?

*Do you know someone experiencing discernment of religious life? We invite you to share this link, www.fspa.org/showmeasign, and join the conversation. 

FSPA at RE Congress 2018 ... Rise Up!

Thursday, March 22nd 2018 10:00 am
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

Sisters-Amy-Taylor-and-Kathy-Roberg-at-Los-Angeles-Religious-Ed-Congress

Sisters Amy and Kathy greeted hundreds of people -- youth and adults -- at the annual congress for religious education in Los Angeles, California. (Photographer Victor Aleman)

Sister Kathy and I would like to send a shout out to all those we met at RE Congress 2018: Rise Up! while we represented the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration and vocations there. It was inspiring to see the diversity of ministries represented as we all came to learn and pray together. If you were unable to stop by for a visit and find out more about our community, please send any questions you may have through the comment section (below).

discernment-of-signs-along-the-way-book-cover

We look forward to hearing from you!

*Do you know someone experiencing discernment of religious life? We invite you to share this link, www.fspa.org/showmeasign, and join the conversation.

Where are we going?

Thursday, June 8th 2017 1:55 pm
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

Where are we going? When are we going to get there?

These are questions I recall asking incessantly, as a child, every time my family would get in the car and head out of our driveway for a road trip. Sometimes we had a plan and direction; others, we went out for an adventure and looked for signs touting interesting destinations and attractions along the road.

Life, I‘ve discovered, offers both of these experiences: sometimes I know exactly where I’m going but, more often than not, it reveals itself in the right place, at the right time. Yet I know that God is in everything—the things I plan and the surprises around each twist and turn.

Religious life is also a transformative road trip; each generation guided by its unique calling in the world. Some ministerial routes are planned according to congregational tradition while others are detoured to guide us to new destinations of need.

It reminds me of the story of the Good Samaritan, taking his own road trip. He had a plan when he started his journey yet when he came upon someone in need not only did his itinerary change but, I imagine, his heart was transformed too.

Creating-Our-Future

FSPA gather together to envision, plan for and celebrate the future of religious life.

This weekend, our congregation will come together for community days: a convergence of all FSPA ministries and experiences and ideas. Our hearts and minds are pointing to the future of religious life with the intention of our conversations and prayer to help us live into our now and what is to come. For, as Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration Eileen McKenzie writes in her poem “Rebirth” (published in a “Global Sisters Report” article on June 6), women religious are uniting on the road to the way:

 

Midwife

Midlife

Midway

Middlespace

Where are we?

Who knows?

We’re here.

Now.

That’s enough.

 

What’re we doin’?

We’re sharin’ and carin’

And rarin’ to go.

Go where?

Don’t know.

Haven’t been there before.

But we know the Way.

Caring and sharing

Questioning and praying

Laughing and dancing

Accompanying and crying

Witnessing and proclaiming

Healing and teaching

Trying and failing

Trying again and failing again

Learning

Finally

That there’s no “right way”

There’s only

The Way

And that Way is

Living and

Loving and

Dying and

Rising again to

New Life.

Where are we going again?

Don’t know.

Haven’t been there before.

But we DO know the Way.
 

As you walk your own road of discernment this week, reflect upon how you may be coming upon a turn towards religious life. Your gifts and talents may be precious fuel for propelling us into the future.

What scenery is catching your eye?

What needs are you discovering along the way?

How is your discerning heart transforming on your journey?


From wherever you are in the world, join us in a moment of prayer as FSPA meets to discern the future of religious life.

 

Watch Sister Eileen’s discernment reflection--her own journey to religious life--in the FSPA vocation series "Called."

Obituaries and celebrating St. Clare

Thursday, August 17th 2017 10:00 am
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

St.-Clare-statue-flowers

St. Clare of Assisi

Reading an obituary can fill us with tension and sadness; loss as well as insight and inspiration. I have read a lot of obituaries. As a former parish pastoral associate I have been present with family members as they carefully chose the stories and words for the final public statement about their loved one. I have shared in laughter and tears for life stories shared in the sacred experience of death. How do you explain a lifetime of love and care through good times and bad? How can words convey what the heart feels and recalls, from ordinary routines to extraordinary experiences? Death can be a revelation and a time of reflection of the contribution that every life makes in our world. 

Our loved ones live on in us when stories of their lives are passed from one generation to the next. Last Thursday evening, as we marked the anniversary of her death, our community gathered in Mary of the Angels Chapel to hear witness accounts of the Acts of Canonization of St. Clare of Assisi and stories from the "Legend of St. Clare." Over 800 years later, the witness of her life continues to transform our world and shape the Franciscan family.  

Sister Mary Kathryn Fogarty reads the reflection by Lady Benedetta from "The Legend of St. Clare"

St. Clare followed the light of Christ through the darkness of greed, corruption and abuse of power that left many people of her time discarded and unprotected. She refused to be a part of a system that would perpetuate division between rich and poor. Striving to live like her beloved, poor Christ she fought for the privilege of poverty for her monastery, refusing the bishop’s persuasion to allow it to be endowed. Endowment would bring power and influence, two agents she desired to avoid. St. Clare listened to the voice of her conscious until her dying day. Just prior to her death, she received approval for her community’s rule of life. St. Clare’s entire existence on earth was aligned with her love of Christ and serving the needs of all those around her. 

What are you willing to stake your life on? Is there a cause or group that needs your help? Is there a system that perpetuates violence or oppression in which change is possible? Are there others who have the same cares and concerns as you? 

How would being part of a religious community allow you to have support and encouragement as you stand with and work alongside your brothers and sisters in need?    

Discernment is a time to take stock, to ask yourself what you believe. Where is your conscious leading you? How will you be an agent of change in our world today? 

In the far off future, what will your obituary say about you? Will it share the ways you sought to serve others, courageously using your voice, your gifts, your talents?

Sister Betty's Six Word Mission Story

Thursday, July 13th 2017 10:00 am
Sister Betty Bradley, FSPA


call, blessing, community, education, mission, Christ-centered, Sister Betty Bradley

Are you willing to share (post a comment below) your own Six Word Mission Story?

Sister Georgia's Six Word Mission Story

Tuesday, April 11th 2017 10:00 am
Sister Georgia Christensen, FSPA


joyfully-serving-God-where-called-today-Georgia-Christensen-FSPA

Are you willing to share (post a comment below) your own Six Word Mission Story?

Life as a nun today: FSPA can relate

Thursday, August 10th 2017 3:10 pm
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

Sharing your desire to be a sister with family and friends can be challenging, especially if they only envision their teacher — wearing a habit — standing at the head of the class before the late 1960s after Vatican II when many religious communities chose to wear everyday clothing more reflective of modern times? “Refinery 29” recently published the article “What Convent Life Is Really Like In 2017,” and Show me a sign invites you to share the conversation with those around you who don’t necessarily understand what it means to live religious life — in life style and ministry — today.

 Sister-Winifred-teaching

Sister Winifred teaching at Aquinas High School in her habit

 Sister-Laura-teaching

Sister Laura teaching at Viterbo University today

"As is often the case with mainstream religions," begins the article in which Sisters of St. Joseph Karen Burke speaks to "faith, service and living as a nun," "misconceptions about sisters and their congregations abound."

First introductions often spark confusion as she says she hears, "'Oh, sisters don’t wear habits anymore?' or some other remark on her everyday outfit of jeans and a sweatshirt. While women in other orders may choose to wear a full habit, many congregations no long require it, the Sisters of St. Joseph included."

As Sister Sarah shares, we can relate

"Sister Karen tells us that the Sisters of St. Joseph has always worked in the fields of education and health care, but in the past few years they've concerned themselves with, of all things, environmentalism ..."

As Sister Lucy ministers, we can relate.

"Sister Karen describes her decision to leave her career as an educator as a "leap of faith," adding that it surely won't be her last. "Through my own faith and through my own prayer and spirituality, my life will continue to change."

As Show me a sign recently explored career changes as a Catholic sister, we can relate.

Amidst changes in religious life and the growing needs in our world one constant is sisters' commitments to follow the Gospel and serve those in need. Whether their service takes them to classrooms, parishes, spirituality centers, organic farms or liminal spaces of our borders, sisters will find a way to meet today's needs.

What do articles like these do to spark your imagination about discerning life as a religious sister? We invite you to share it and www.fspa.org with your family and friends and show them a sign of what it looks like to live religious life today.

Stepping into bright futures

Thursday, May 17th 2018 10:00 am
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

graduate-bridge

Image courtesy pixabay.com

As we enter into the season of graduation, may you take a moment of quiet to recall all the ways God has brought you to this milestone in your life. Every ounce of hard work and determination has yielded the results you now celebrate. Congratulations as you move forward into a bright future!

*Do you know someone experiencing discernment of religious life? We invite you to share this link, www.fspa.org/showmeasign, and join the conversation.

Sister Joanne's Six Word Mission Story

Tuesday, June 6th 2017 10:00 am
Sister Joanne Moeller, FSPA

 

Francis-provides-example-hospitality-all-Joanne-Moeller

Are you willing to share (post a comment below) your own Six Word Mission Story?

Sharing courage to walk in darkness and light

Thursday, February 9th 2017 2:40 pm
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

My time with television news at home or listening to the radio on my way to work has been full of sorrow and worry. There's been very little positive news woven into each broadcast. Sometimes I just need to turn it all off and pray for peace.

Yet I know, no matter what the issue is or where you may personally stand with it, it's important to be informed about what's going on in the world. There’s also intrinsic value in holding on to your heart in times that can feel overwhelming. God is always present: the way forward will be created as we all rally as a human family. When we watch for one side or the other to succumb to defeat we also lose sight of the Gospel call to love one another. Does love want others to lose in order for someone to win? Is being right more essential than being compassionate?

Is any of this uncertainty affecting your discernment?

I've yet to meet anyone who can say their time of discernment was filled with only light because, inherently, fear and discouragement are all around us; part of being human. But when we encounter situations that stop our progress even for a moment we can, and not just as an afterthought, invite God to come closer: to center us and walk with us and help clarify the call for us. Learning to rely on God's guidance is essential. And whether it be uncertainty of the world or religious life, sharing your disillusionment with close family or friends is also essential to finding light in oblivion. Faith, hope and love are the antidotes of fear.

And strength of character in the depth of your commitment is often revealed when you find ways to befriend your moments of challenge.

we-are-family-sign-karen-lueck

Karen Lueck, FSPA, joined a recent solidarity rally in La Crosse, Wisconsin

Our world is a wonderful example right now, because despite the gloomy surface-level appearance, joy continues. Couples fall in love, students achieve their dreams, and elderly see another generation added to their families. The human spirit cannot be contained. Love and joy will find ways to shine even brighter against the dark horizon.

How has joy triumphed over disillusionment in your discernment this week?

How will you bring hope to others?

Will you share your courage to keep walking, in a world of darkness, on the journey of discernment?


 

 

Sister Cormarie celebrates, contemplates religious life in jubilee

Thursday, April 26th 2018 10:00 am
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

Called to religious life and FSPA 50, 60 and even 70 years ago, our 2018 jubilarians are celebrating and contemplating. Show Me a Sign asked Sister Cormarie Wernimont — who embodies 60 years of ministry in dietetics, pastoral care and finance — to reflect on her discernment journey.

sister-cormarie-right-sister-esther-left

During a gathering at St. Rose Convent, Sister Cormarie (right) is congratulated for her jubilee by Sister Esther Leis.
 

SMAS: How old were you when you first thought about becoming a sister?

Sister Cormarie: I was in the second grade. My teacher, Sister Charity, FSPA, asked if I was going to become a sister. I had not thought of it, but this idea remained in the back of my mind all through elementary and high school. I prayed about it for a long time, and gradually became aware that this was my calling.
 

SMAS: What attracted you to religious life?

Sister Cormarie: It was the belief that this is my calling.

sister-cormarie-in-habit

Sister Cormarie Wernimont, 1958
 

SMAS: What do you recall about making your final vows and realizing that you were making a life commitment?

Sister Cormarie: I most remember my acceptance into the novitiate program, receiving a new name and the religious habit, and also my first vows. In my heart, my vows were final the first time I spoke them.
 

SMAS: What has been the most unexpected part of your life as an FSPA?

Sister Cormarie: My first mission was at Sacred Heart Hospital (now known as Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center) in Idaho Falls, Idaho. This was an area where, as a Catholic, I learned what it felt like to be a minority. There were many challenges. There were also blessings: we experienced the beauty of the mountains, rivers and Meadow Lake. Nothing ever tasted as good as pancakes cooked over an open fire up in the mountains.
 

SMAS: What wisdom do you share with a woman discerning religious life today?

Sister Cormarie: Pray. Try to be open to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Trust in God’s love and care.
 

*Do you know someone experiencing discernment of religious life? We invite you to share this link, www.fspa.org/showmeasign, and join the conversation.

Sister Cormarie's Six Word Mission Story

Thursday, July 27th 2017 10:00 am
Sister Cormarie Wernimont, FSPA


garden-workers

Are you willing to share (post a comment below) your own Six Word Mission Story?

Called to the right now of the journey

Thursday, May 10th 2018 10:00 am
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

I spend a lot of time in the car. I am usually in a hurry to complete my commute so that I can get to the tasks on my agenda for the day. I recently chose to walk to a meeting rather than drive. I figured the choice would take me about 15 minutes longer (give or take with parking). 

Moving through downtown on foot was really enjoyable. It was a sunny day, and pleasant to walk with just a light jacket. I greeted fellow pedestrians and noticed the surprise on their faces as they were momentarily startled from their own thoughts, muttering quick hellos in return. Somehow, whether driving our cars or walking down the street, many of us have been lured into fast-paced, silent, siloed commutes where our focus becomes the destination and not the experience along the way. 

driving-car-blurry

Image courtesy freeimages.com

This experience of encountering nature, people and the city unfolding before me has led me to reflect on Jesus and the stories we have from the Gospel of his travel with his disciples from place to place. He used the time on the road with his disciples to talk with them, to challenge them and to prepare them for the things that were to come. Their time on the road was not lost in the distraction of merely getting to the destination; the commute was filled with discussion, learning and perhaps time for comfortable, communal silence as they pondered the depths of their hearts amid the long, dusty miles of road. The road is also a place for questions and discovering new insights. 

woman-walking-nature

Image courtesy pixabay.com

It is rare that we take time to not just walk but to slow our pace and allow ourselves to become aware of the Spirit at work in our lives — when a walk becomes a gateway to prayer that soothes our souls and refocuses our vision. To choose to slow down rather than speed by we encounter nature, we look people in the eye rather than see a blur of humanity at 25 miles an hour. Walking is a contemplative practice. 

Discernment requires reducing your mental speed and paying attention. It is a time when we are called into a disruption of routine. God calls us to focus on the right now of the journey. We are invited to slow down, to connect and examine the experiences on the road and discover the wisdom on the way. 

What could happen if you choose to slow down this week?

*Do you know someone experiencing discernment of religious life? We invite you to share this link, www.fspa.org/showmeasign, and join the conversation.

Sister Esther's Six Word Mission Story

Tuesday, January 31st 2017 10:00 am
Sister Esther Leis, FSPA

 


FSPA-Esther Leis-listening-presence-compassionate-caring-responding-attentively

 

Have you enjoyed FSPA's Six Word Stories about vocation? Check out our new series, Six Word Mission Stories.

We invite you to share (post a comment below) your own Six Word Mission Story!

Praying for a blessed Holy Week

Thursday, March 29th 2018 10:00 am
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

May God guide our hearts as we begin the celebration of Holy Week.

franciscan-sisters-water-pitcher-basin

Image by Sister Amy Taylor

*Do you know someone experiencing discernment of religious life? We invite you to share this link, www.fspa.org/showmeasign, and join the conversation.

Sister Mary Myron's Six Word Mission Story

Thursday, March 2nd 2017 10:00 am
Sister Mary Myron Stork, FSPA

 

proclaiming-Christ's-message-Kentucky-Hollers-Mary-Myron-Stork

Are you willing to share (post a comment below) your own Six Word Mission Story?

Sister Sandra celebrates, contemplates religious life in jubilee

Thursday, May 3rd 2018 10:00 am
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

Called to religious life and FSPA 50, 60 and even 70 years ago, our 2018 jubilarians are celebrating and contemplating. Show Me a Sign asked Sister Sandra DeMann — who embodies 50 years of ministry in health care, parish ministry and social justice — to reflect on her discernment journey.

 

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Sister Sandra DeMann celebrates her Golden Jubilee at St. Rose Convent's Mary of the Angels Chapel in April, 2018.

 

SMAS: What inspires you about religious life?

Sister Sandi: For me, living religious life is a journey. You don’t always know what is going to happen. I am a person who enjoys living with mystery. I know that God is with me and will help me through all that I encounter. I don’t need to have all of the answers. I enjoy searching for them. I spent part of my life ministering in Africa — it was there I learned that miracles happen.

 

SMAS: What has been your favorite time in ministry?

Sister Sandi: I enjoyed my time in Africa, but also enjoyed working in rural Mississippi. I was the Catholic presence to a parish community that was established in the 1800s. Because of their location, they did not always have a priest assigned to their parish. It was inspiring to see how the people worked together to maintain their parish. It was an area that chose to do something about isolation. Different denominations worked together rather than separately, to provide for the needs of the civic community.

 

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Pictured far right, Sister Sandra joins a group of women religious in Nogales, Arizona, for the SOAW Convergence at the Border in 2016.

 

SMAS: What wisdom would you share with someone who is considering religious life?

Sister Sandi:  Prayer and trust is important. If you have a dream, follow it. It may not take you where you thought it would but trust the process. Spend time in discernment. Remember that it is a walk of faith, and you will be guided along the way.

*Do you know someone experiencing discernment of religious life? We invite you to share this link, www.fspa.org/showmeasign, and join the conversation.

Advent light and joy: the vocation that may shine from deep inside you

Thursday, December 15th 2016 3:00 pm
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

Can you feel the energy in the air as we continue our journey of Advent towards the celebration of Christmas? It reminds me of dragging my feet across the carpet and experiencing a small shock of static electricity when I touch another object or person. These little jolts serve as tiny wake up calls to the present—where I am and what I’m doing (which is laughing or shrieking, depending on the intensity of the charge).

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The Scripture passages for the Third Sunday of Advent are powerfully charged too. We hear from Isaiah (35:1-6A, 10) encouragement to rejoice all that we have been waiting for because it’s here. Put on your party clothes, play your favorite song and dance out of the pure joy of being alive today! Shake off any remaining fear and let it permeate your soul! Sure, you may get a few curious looks but who knows—maybe a spontaneous, two-minute dance party can reignite delight lost in the piles of paperwork, emails and texts. After all, joy is contagious.

This week, in the words of the Gospel of Matthew (11:2-11), concern is transformed into joy as Jesus sends John the Baptists’ disciples back to him with good news. I imagine them with effervescent excitement, in animated conversation, rushing their way back to tell John. But let’s stop and take a breath for a moment. This stretch along the road of Scripture is a great place in which to pause; to reflect upon and rejoice in affirmation you’ve received for endeavors you’ve poured your life energy into. How did you feel? Did you bubble over with excitement? I did, when I ministered as a pastoral associate. Each week during Advent, we invited parishioners to come through the doors and breathe; to take time to connect with God and set worry, the commercial hustle and bustle, aside. I’ll always cherish the witness to such joy I was so fortunate to experience.

The searing questions we hear on the lips of Jesus are held in tension with this sense of Advent joy. Caught in this whirlwind of emotions from somewhere deep inside there is opportunity for “Ah ha” moments. One can imagine the faces of those gathered around Jesus curling into smiles as they realize the joy of the divine secret revealed, and their own discovery of what this news means for their own lives. The gift and the receiving and the rejoicing already existed before them, just as it is for us over 2,000 years later.

We know that the joy we feel radiating from the illuminated candles of Advent can be found at any moment, all around us. Each ecstatic experience has the power to reignite the hope that lies—sometimes dormant—within us, and encounters of the divine can be conduits of discernment.  Stop and feel the current that powers your heart as you visit congregations and explore possible mission-motivated ministries—the vocation that may shine from deep inside of you.

So this week, as you take in the reflection of the light of Advent, let it illuminate all the joy in your life.

Where is the joy in your heart leading in discernment?

Can you see what triggers that eternal spark?

Discovery in discernment: breakthroughs of mind and heart

Thursday, January 11th 2018 10:00 am
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

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Image courtesy freeimages.com

I am fascinated with the brains of scientist and inventors. What keeps them in the lab testing and retesting and searching for the answers they long for? How do they resist boredom? How do they deal with feelings of failure? How does their determination lead them to take risks that most others would not even consider, all in the name of research? Do they draw a line in the sand? 

What I am certain about science, however, is that such curiosity can spark new ideas, leads to life-changing discovery. Revelation begins with a single question that evolves along the way by:

-    Experimenting, testing new theories.
-    Recording findings.
-    Looking for patterns.
-    Observing discrepancies in the data.
-    Consulting experts.
-    Making adjustments along the way.
-    Pondering.
-    Persevering.
-    Celebrating both achievements and failures as pathways to learning.

Discovery requires participation. Every observation calls for attention. Deep reflection is vital. Evolution of the question contains markers of change and integration of learning. Each reflection has the potential to reveal a new hypothesis to be explored.

I also know, from personal, life-changing curiosity, that such questions and methods and principles can guide you through discernment of religious life.

What may seem to be a naive question must really be the first: “What is religious life?” It is, as I’ve written about before, a culture all its own.     

With learning and reflection, do you feel a calling? 

In time, you may find yourself wondering “What could religious life be like with a specific community?” Living into that question will change as you go deeper into the discernment process. If accepted into a community the question could become “What is religious life for us as communally?” Throughout the years of incorporation the ultimate ask may surface: “Am I willing to make a life commitment to God as a vowed religious sister and in the context of this congregation?”

Try to take in your wonderings one at a time. Choose carefully how often to sit with them: daily, weekly or monthly time periods of reflection may continually stoke your excitement. How will your record your learnings along the way: a journal, a log, maybe even a spread sheet? It’s important not to lose insight you find along your quest.  

Each new year, just like each scientific hypothesis, begins with the potential to evolve into a lifetime of implications.

In 2018, what are the questions that could lead you on a year of discovery?

*Do you know someone experiencing discernment of religious life? We invite you to share this link, www.fspa.org/showmeasign, and join the conversation. 

Documenting discernment

Thursday, September 29th 2016 12:02 pm
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

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It is rare that I receive a handwritten note or card in the mail anymore. Such artistry has morphed into emails and text messages in which descriptive stories of elation or frustration are relayed in a series of emojis. “Fast and just the facts” has become the mantra of modern communication.

Social media, it seems, has also replaced the tradition of record keeping. Do proud parents still document baby’s first steps on paper? Do people still write down family stories, tucking them securely in Bibles and memory books? Or do we, more often, widely publicize every trivial moment (and favorite YouTube video) for instant consumption on Facebook? Post tweets that are here one second, gone the next? 

And what about journaling? I’m not talking about a 7th grade “Dear Diary” entry in which you scribbled “Today I ate a peanut butter sandwich for lunch.” Instead, intentional journaling can be an opportunity to pray through pen and paper; provide a canvas on which to capture and reflect significant events and ponder the various ways God is present in your day, your life, your discernment.

Some people choose to journal via computer; those more artistically inclined may draw to depict life events, enlightenment. For me, contemplation becomes part of the process when I slow my thoughts and allow the rhythm of my handwriting to set the pace of reflection. The more attention I give to details like the legibility of my handwriting, the further I’m drawn into the depths of reflection. And in the quiet moments of a journaling retreat, communication on paper between myself and God has come out quite clear. But no matter the method documenting discernment—taking the time to record and reflect on life through journaling—reveals to me connections I may ordinarily miss as I live in our fast-paced world of emoticon efficiency.

What is revealed when you slow down, stop texting, and record the words in your thoughts? 

Are you courageous enough to put them in writing? 

Does your discernment become more honest—real—when you see yourself on paper?

Author's note: Watch for journal retreat offerings (among many others) at these FSPA-sponsored spirituality centers: the Franciscan Spirituality Center (La Crosse, Wisconsin), Prairiewoods Franciscan Spirituality Center (Hiawatha, Iowa) and Marywood Franciscan Spirituality Center (Arbor Vitae, Wisconsin).

Above image courtesy of freeimages.com

Open eyes can change world views

Thursday, January 19th 2017 11:00 am
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

This week we celebrated Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He was a charismatic civil rights leader who offered a new vision for the United States; who gave to the world “I Have a Dream.” He dared to imagine a different way of living his life to promote change on behalf of millions of others—most of whom he would never know. Those who accept his public declaration of an attentive worldview can harness that power; declare and realize their own dreams.

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Image courtesy of freeimages.com

Throughout my graduate school classes, conferences and formation studies I have continually been reminded that where we stand has a direct correlation to what we see. If you choose to perch from a place of power in order to maintain power you will not see the horizon from the vantage point of those with little control over their struggling existence. It’s a paradox starkly reflected in the refugee crisis in our world. Each time I see a photo my heart is twisted by the pain and anguish I see on the faces of those unnamed and suffering and unsafe before my eyes.

It’s these images that remind me of one of my professors in graduate school, Carla Mae Streeter, O.P. She gave us an assignment to search magazines and newspapers for an image of a person whose vulnerability spoke to our hearts. She challenged us to keep the image in a place of remembrance throughout our studies to remind us of why we were students of theology, and what the Gospel calls each of us to do. This assignment was more than just a class requirement: it continues to be a lasting life lesson. Each time I enter discernment--from ministry to volunteer opportunity--I reflect on why I am discerning and choosing action. Will the choice before me reflect Gospel tenants?

Questioning motives and desires is an important part of discerning religious life. If the dream is driven by power and recognition it may dissipate quickly in the face of challenge; crumble under the weight of commitment. Following the call of the Gospel requires not only response to the needs of others before your own, but laying down your life for the world around you.

What do you see in your discernment dream? What heart-held image inspires you? Are you responding to a need in your community, or do you envision crossing borders and oceans to give your life and service in missionary fields? I am perpetually motivated by the founders of my own religious community who heard there were people in need in the United States. They left their family, friends and comforts of their Bavarian homeland in 1849 to follow the call God placed in their hearts. Their lives were transformed in the moment they said “Yes” and their work of collaboration and co-creation with God began. Proclaiming your own “Yes,” waking up and making your own dream a reality, has the potential to not only change your life but also the lives of those you serve. Experience in the encounters will teach lessons far beyond any you could have ever imagined if you're open to mutual transformation.

What if your dream is the one the world needs now?

Are you willing to take the next steps in your discernment to make it a reality?

Sister Marla celebrates, contemplates religious life in jubilee

Thursday, April 5th 2018 10:00 am
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

Called to religious life and FSPA 50, 60 and even 70 years ago, our 2018 jubilarians are celebrating and contemplating. Show Me a Sign asked Sister Marla Lang — who embodies 60 years of ministry in education, community leadership and spirituality — to reflect on her discernment journey.

SMAS: How old were you when you first knew that you wanted to be a sister? How did God get your attention?

Sister Marla: I was 13 years old and my 8th grade teacher Sister Mary Louis, an FSPA, invited me to consider becoming a sister.

 

SMAS: How did your family and friends react when you told them about it?

Sister Marla: My parents made it clear to us as children that they wanted us to become whatever we desired as long as it was about being “good” to ourselves. They were very affirming.

 

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Sister Marla Lang, 1958

 

SMAS: Did you explore or visit different communities before choosing FSPA?

Sister Marla: Another community invited me to visit but just didn’t entice me. They were too formal, I sensed. After much pondering, I knew making final vows as a Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration was a true calling for me. It remains so today.

 

SMAS: As you celebrate your jubilee, what do you recall as your most memorable moments as an FSPA?

Sister Marla: I truly enjoyed each ministry and each ministry prepared me for the next one I was led to:

  • I taught grades 3 through 8 full time for 11 years and then was asked to serve as a school principal and director of religious education, K-adult, for 10 years.
  • Those 21 years invited me to say “yes” to serving as a parish director in the absence of a resident pastor for 12 years.
  • All of these experiences led my FSPA sisters to ask that I serve eight years as community president.
  • Now, all of these ministries have enriched me to be with others at a spirituality center as a soul partner to many (serving in spiritual direction).

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Today, Sister Marla ministers as the outreach coordinator at Marywood Franciscan Spirituality Center in Arbor Vitae, Wisconsin.

 

SMAS: What has been the most unexpected part of your life as an FSPA? 

Sister Marla: I never dreamed I would be called to serve as the FSPA president. I grew up as a mid-Wisconsin farm girl. It almost took my breath away to be a part of three other leadership teams (with 10 sisters) — the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist, Sisters of the Third Order Regular of St. Francis and the Tertiary Sisters of Saint Francis. Together we were engaged in reconciliation FSE, OSF, FSPA process and companioning of an African Province of Sisters. The sharing of all this took place in Assisi, Italy before 365-ish Franciscan community leaders. It was a challenge and a blessing beyond my imagining.

 

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"It almost took my breath away," shares Sister Marla (pictured here, center) of her role with Franciscan communities gathered from across the globe to celebrate the Cameroon Common Venture -- Franciscan women of Africa.

 

SMAS: What advice would you give to a woman discerning religious life today?

Sister Marla: It is a gift of challenge and blessing beyond imagining when you put your whole self into your calling. Tending to discernment of the call requires prayer, guidance and openness, plus risking the goodness when found.

*Do you know someone experiencing discernment of religious life? We invite you to share this link, www.fspa.org/showmeasign, and join the conversation.

Transforming the power of snow

Thursday, January 12th 2017 10:10 am
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

Close your eyes and take a moment to walk around in your childhood memories of snow. Can you hear the crunching of the frozen earth beneath your feet? A deep breath brings a twinge of pain that quickly turns to relief as nights of prayers are finally answered for lovers of snow—it’s the first snowy day of the winter.

Mornings have never been easy or cheerful for me, except when anticipating a snow day off of school as a child. On these rare occasions in the southern part of the Midwest, such an event was a treasured experience. I recall racing past the breakfast table to turn on the TV, hoping against all that I held important in my childhood days to see the name of my school district scroll across the bottom of the screen as the newscaster seemed to drone on and on about news that was unimportant to my elementary mind. The leading story for me was school closings. And when it finally appeared, my brother and I would shriek with joy!

Now I live in Wisconsin where snow is a part of most days. Pushing ahead through snowy roads, walking like penguins in icy parking lots, the allure of snow can lose its luster. There are some days, like today, when the snowflakes are almost cartoon-like and I’m transported back in time to feelings of nostalgia; of the excitement that snow used to bring. Staring out the window I can get lost in my own philosophical and theological ponderings of the gift of snow. I find myself reflecting on what snow offers in my spiritual life. Time slows down and the familiar landscape transforms before my eyes. Choosing to walk through the snow mystery enters into my consciousness as I am invited to alertness of each step; moving through space with new awareness. My sure footedness is altered as slick surfaces send a signal of caution.

Snow falling outside Mary of the Angels Chapel at St. Rose Convent in La Crosse, Wisconsin

Yet I am amazed at the beauty that appears as I walk across a sparkling carpet of opaque gems glistening in the filtered light. The holy stillness of a snow-filled world is overwhelming when I make the decision to embrace the experience and not fight against it. Sometimes I think as a culture we have lost the ability to let ourselves sink deeply into the moments of our lives. Tied to phones, appointment books and over-scheduled calendars the gift of snow—sweeping it off our cars, shoveling it down our driveways—can merely be one more thing on our list of accomplishments for the day. The snow becomes something to be conquered and managed rather than experienced. What would happen if on one day you let snow be your focus and teacher? Would greater lessons appear than the ones you planned?


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Image courtesy of freeimages.com

Sometimes discernment can be similar to snow. There are times of magic and inspiration: fragments when secrets of the universe open and understanding dawns in your heart and mind. And there are times when you feel like you need to push through; shovel and manage your own discernment as desire to see progress outweighs your ability to sit with the mystery that surrounds you.

Both reflections have their place in discernment—times during which inspiration will lead you to action and others in which shear willpower is required to motivate you forward. Every action—even making the choice not to make a decision—is a decision. Living in a snowy climate is not for the timid of heart nor is the journey of discernment.

This week: If you live in an area of the country in which it’s snowing, take time to watch it fall and then write about your experience. Are there clues for your discernment? If you are living in an area without snow think of a situation where something beyond your control slowed you down or changed your regular routine. How were you present to the situation?

Unpredictability, overwhelming beauty coexist

Thursday, April 27th 2017 12:05 pm
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

Sometimes we are like spring: indecisive and moody. In one moment calm breezes and blinding sunshine soak into our winter-weary bones. In the next, peals of lightning and ear-splitting thunder rumble through as rain pelts blossoming flowers and awaiting garden plots. I’m overwhelmed by scents of pungent earth, pollen-producing flowers and trees. It is a season when our renewed senses merge as if on cue from some distant stage director for the grandest play opening on the world stage.

Each new bud of life offers a gentle invitation to reflect on the ways in which we are all called into renewed being this Easter Season.

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As I take in the beauty of the beginning of the daylilies in the yard, I am reminded of Jesus’ message to depend on our God who presents the flowers as teachers who don’t “toil or spin.” This, for me, is the essence of not only spring but of discernment—trust in God’s providence and stillness of heart. Discerning religious life can’t be rushed for the risk of impulsive decisions possibly destined for regret. The process must take time to unfold. We do not need to funnel our tornadic drive to get things done to the abundance of springtime storms; in the atmosphere inherently unstable. There are moments, in the lengthening light of evening, meant for sitting on the front porch and taking in the greening world around us. There is room for both unpredictability and overwhelming beauty to coexist. It is a time full of discovery and awe.


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St. Rose Convent in spring (photo by Nancy Chapman)

As you ponder your own growth in this season of your discernment, take time to celebrate the new life that is emerging.

Where do you see roots taking firmer hold?

What new shoots of life are visible to you now?

World Day of Prayer for Consecrated Life

Thursday, February 2nd 2017 2:56 pm
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

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Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration Katie Mitchell and Laurie Sullivan share their "Called" experiences.

Around the world today the Catholic church celebrates the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord. It’s also the World Day of Prayer for Consecrated Life. In the time of Jesus, infants were presented in the temple and a traditional sacrifice was made on their behalf. This action marked their consecration to God and welcomed them as members of the faith community. Today's Gospel recounts the story of Jesus presented by Mary and Joseph. In our times it is through the sacrament of baptism that we become members of the Catholic church.

As a pastoral associate working in two rural Wisconsin parishes one of my favorite ministries was preparing parents for the baptism of their child. The goal of the meetings was to discuss the commitment they were making on behalf of their child. I would also ask what dreams they had for the child, and how they planned to share the Catholic faith with their son or daughter as they grew. These were inspiring conversations as the love they had for their child was so strong, even if the baby was just a few weeks old. They were already dreaming of school concerts, dance recitals and far-away wedding days for their infant. It was amazing to see the hope and pride the parents had, holding their baby as the priest poured the blessed baptismal water over the child's head in the name of the Trinity. Some enjoyed the water and others cried. I always thought that was symbolic as experiencing the call of the Gospel contains moments of joy and moments of startling revelation, just like the cold water trickling over their heads. At the end of each baptism the priest would hold the baby up high, proclaiming an introduction to the gathered faith community. Applause would erupt from the congregation and the proud parents, godparents and family members beamed with joy. In that moment many dreams came to fruition and many more—as to who the little child would be—began to take shape in their hearts.

If we listen to the ritual language of baptism we hear that we are all called to a life of service. Discerning religious life comes from the very root of the first sacrament you received—baptism. Choosing to make religious profession is an intensification of baptismal commitment. It is to dedicate all of your life to the service of others and to share the good news of the Gospel in service of the church and the world. It’s choosing to fully consecrate your life to God. It’s making God your primary relationship and commitment. It’s a joy-filled choice.

How does your baptism shape how you live your life?

Will you be a part of the next generation of consecrated life?

Live into this World Day of Prayer for Consecrated Life with FSPA's "Called: the future of religious life" and National Religious Vocation Conference's "Why We Love Our Vocation."

Seeing discernent from new heights

Thursday, May 5th 2016 2:33 pm
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

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Photo credit: www.freeimages.com

Flying on an airplane is a great way to see life from a new perspective. Things that normally look big around us suddenly appear tiny. The snarling annoyance of sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic is different when we view the same scene from the air. Cars form colorful ribbons across the landscape. Traffic doesn’t change—the transformation is our point of view.

In discernment, it's helpful to look at opportunities from diverse perspectives. We can see things anew. It’s easier to perceive from just one side—looking from different angles can be difficult and reveal callings we don’t want to consider. I've learned in a variety of workshops and retreats it's not just where we stand that determines what we seewho we stand with can also influence what we see. This I’ve heard repeatedly in the context of social justice, but I believe it applies to discernment as well.

Friends and family may offer differing perspectives from which to look at religious life too. Their questions may feel like inquisitions, but usually they want what's best for you. Amazing transformation is possible when articulating your thoughts and feelings to others about the life commitment you’re considering. The ability to express your thoughts may also wake up your heart as to how deep the discernment process has become. You may be surprised to find that what comes out of your mouth has already found a home in your heart.

Discernment requires openness, and considering the decision from a variety of perspectives will be fruitful. Perhaps this is the week to ask yourself (whether you have the opportunity to fly in an airplane or not) ... am I seeing my discernment from new heights? A different point of view?

Sister Joyce's Six Word Story

Tuesday, July 12th 2016 10:11 am
Sister Joyce Blum, FSPA


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What's your six word discernment story?

Following the light

Thursday, November 10th 2016 3:10 pm
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA


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Photo credit: freeimages.com

This week has brought opportunity for morning risers to awaken to a new pattern of light. The sun has begun (on its best days) to ascend earlier and rouse reluctant sleepers with sunbeams pushing through our bedroom curtains.

Many of us, though, won’t count such a blessing until it’s overshadowed by the dark of early winter mornings. Submerged into grayness our hearts will pine for what we feel we have lost. We may already hear complaints of the dark to come even when the sun is still shining.

Being in the present moment—those we appreciate and those we don’t—is a valuable tool in discernment. Such presence of thought can help you identify enjoyment and displeasure; allow you to tap into your natural inclinations; enlighten you and challenge you and help guide you as you gradually move through the light and the dark to tomorrow.

Very simply, it opens you up to examination of conscience: a method many Catholics are first taught when preparing for the Sacrament of Reconciliation (a prayerful practice of looking at the life choices you make in regards to sin). St. Ignatius of Loyola created an in-depth tool for such discernment—the Examen—which revolves around daily reflection.

For me the Examen works best in written form, when it’s tactile. Identifying what’s in your head and putting it to paper can allow for deeper contemplation of the themes you notice reoccurring daily, weekly or monthly. In discernment, entering into the method and routine of the Examen can bring clarity to questions that have been circling in your mind. Writing can make uncertainty real, but can also tell what is true for you. Give yourself time to sit in prayer with your thoughts; allowing curiosity, temporarily suspending judgment. Look where you're leaning—it will help you gravitate toward decision.  

Are you willing to explore a new way of assessing your experience?

What will such a daily practice as the Examen require of you?

To learn more about the Examen, including a five-step version for daily practice, visit www.IgnatianSpirituality.com.

Love beyond measure

Thursday, February 16th 2017 10:00 am
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

This week I have witnessed traditional signs of love with Valentine’s Day as flowers were delivered to St. Rose Convent for employees; their spouses taking time from their busy lives to pause and send a symbol of their love. From my office window I’ve seen many women, fighting the strong breeze with smiles on their faces, carrying blowing balloons and other gifts from their jobs at the hospital where every day they show their love and care for each patient in pain. Viterbo University students have also drifted by, proudly toting tokens from their significant others (or those who long to be).


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Image courtesy of freeimages.com

It is the time we are reminded, especially commercially, by the idea of love in our world. But this impression must also exist beyond the gifts, outside these celebrations, in the reality of everyday life. From moments of elation to those heavy with grief, love is present always.

Do we see it in all its forms?

Today I sit from another vantage point inside our convent—the Adoration Chapel—watching as adorers (who pray forward the FSPA ministry of 24/7 adoration that began in 1878) offer their love to a hurting world. Each one allows the intention to move beyond their earnest eyes and folded hands into the recess of their hearts. The love poured out desires healing over injury, common ground over fighting, friendship over division. This kind of love requires laying down one’s own preconceived notions and personal agendas to allow the heart to awake to needs far beyond the doorway of the chapel.


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A candle, made by FSPA hands with lard, lights perpetual adoration in the chapel. 

It is this Gospel love for others that is at the very heart of discernment. Are you willing to allow the needs of others to enter your heart? Are you willing to choose to be an advocate for your brothers and sisters who are in need? Are you willing to allow the encounter to stretch your heart, open your eyes and grant you new vision? These are the transformational questions at the core of discernment. 

There is a story from the Gospel of John that is circling in my heart as I write this post; just as it did when I imagined what my own religious life could feel like. It is the pinnacle of Jesus’ parable of the vine and the branches; Jesus’ request to love others. Love is what it is all about. It’s also what discernment—and religious life—are all about.  

What is in your heart this week full of Valentines?

Who, or what, are you in love with?


 

Trying on your metaphorical lenses

Thursday, October 20th 2016 3:23 pm
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 


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Image courtesy of freeimages.com

A few days ago I went to my optometrist for my annual eye exam. I knew what to expect: cover one eye; read the chart; cover the other eye; repeat the process. 

Next the optometrist put me behind a machine that precisely defines vision: a series of lenses (beginning with blanks) through which letters are revealed in quick clicks back and forth in front of my eyes while the optometrist fires off rapid questions. Repeat the process.

It’s at this point in the procedure I hit sensory overload and could not tell the difference between one lens and the next. But I had to remind myself some experiences require quick decisions. I pushed myself to squint harder; to narrow the lenses down to two that seemed to work and appeared to be similar; both potentially the right fit. 

Religious discernment also calls for scrutinization and elimination and resolution—finding the right fit. If you get stuck, perhaps between two communities that invite your interest, unable to find your way forward, perhaps a simple list of pros and cons could be a helpful tool. You will have to decide what weight each item carries as these conclusions do not work themselves out as simple math equations. Prioritize your list. Evaluate your thoughts and look for patterns. For example: are you focusing too hard on where you will live on mission instead of how you will live in ministry? Are you willing to give in to indecisiveness and shut down the process completely?  

What happens when you are called to a conclusion; that there are perhaps two communities that speak to your sensibilities? It's time for a visit. Try on your metaphorical lenses. Look up close and personal into the community’s mission, governance and many more details to see what excites you.

And once you get there remember that stepping over the threshold to a Come and See doesn’t have to be a lifelong commitment. It’s simply an opportunity for mutual discernment to begin; time for you to learn more about the community and the community—with its specific vision for mission— to learn more about you. Both parties have the right to decide if membership is a good fit or not. And other opportunities may appear: a vocation minister may suggest another community for you to explore after learning what you are looking for. It’s not a bad thing but a good opportunity for refining your discernment.

It takes courage to visit and even more to discern which way of religious life, if any, is right for you. Invite God into all the experience. Pray for wisdom and the Holy Spirit will guide you.

Are you brave enough to take the next step?

Is it time for you to send an email or pick up the phone?

 

Sister Amy Taylor is the FSPA director of membership. She invites you to call or write (1-888-683-3722 or membership@fspa.org) anytime!

 

The chronos and kairos of our lives

Thursday, May 19th 2016 10:10 am
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA


park-bench-overlooking-water
Photo credit: Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

Many of us live with calendars that are full. Even on the rare occasion that a meeting gets canceled, another task usually arises before there is time to celebrate the possibility of moments to breathe.

Long before smartphones beeped to make us jump from one moment to the next, Jesus knew what it was like to feel pulled in different directions. He could recognize the effects of over scheduling in the lives of his apostles ... could see, as in Mark 6:30-33, when it was time for rest.

Like the apostles, we often have lives that do not stop. And when such rare free time comes along, someone is always waiting to fill it. It’s important in life and in times of discernment to make moments for stillness. It may be choosing quiet while commuting to work; going outside to take a break, eat lunch. Time allowed for rest and renewal of our minds and of our souls helps us and, ultimately, those around us. We all need those crazy moments that burst from our calendars (chronos) slowed down and transformed into contemplative, rejuvenating time (kairos). It’s amazing what God can offer in even the smallest of minutes!

How does your calendar tell the story of chronos and kairos in your life? If someone were to read it like a book—moment-by-moment—what would they learn about you? Is God mentioned from time-to-time?

Bridges of peace built with prayer

Thursday, September 1st 2016 1:00 pm
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

gap-in-bridge

Image courtesy of freeimages.com

Diversity is one of the greatest gifts we have been given on Earth, but also one of the most challenging. In the beauty of distinction it is often perplexing when we feel misunderstood by another. From the deepest conversations to the everyday moments, relating to one another is where we spend the majority of our life energy.

Reflect for a moment on your morning routine. In configuration there were a series of steps taken to accomplish each task at hand and, over time, your own version of automatic pilot emerged. When living with others, our routines and world views are often questioned and some of the behavior buried in unconscious thought is brought once again to consciousness.

Life in community is a treasury full of relationships. As humans we are naturally drawn to some people. Personalities, viewpoints and generational differences are but a few of the ways in which we are stretched to broaden perspectives and our rough edges are leveled over time. As respect for the other grows so does the ability to let small things go and, when necessary, seek forgiveness when disagreement turns into an argument.  

One path to spanning our differences is committing to a life of prayer. Wrapped in the Divine embrace of prayer, we discover ways to build bridges to common ground that see us through the times of trial. I have witnessed individuals at odds with one another continue to pray together and push through their own feelings to see the situation from the other side.

It is not easy to be open to God and surrender to a time of bridge construction. Bridge building is not an instant process: foundations need to be laid brick-by-brick, and surfaces must be leveled before the decking is ready to span two sides. Sometimes a bridge between two people cannot be constructed. Insight gained through prayer will help one know if it’s time for laying the foundations for a future bridge. Prayer grants vision beyond one’s perception and offers a glimpse of the bigger realities of life.

In your discernment, are you finding any gaps that may need bridging?

Are there different viewpoints you’ve resisted because the leap is too large? No bridge yet exists?

How are you called to be a bridge builder in your life?

Push, pull and go with the flow

Thursday, April 21st 2016 12:02 pm
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 


barge on the river
Image courtesy of www.freeimages.com

One of the gifts of living near the Mississippi is observing the movement and activity along the river. With the spring thaw already in motion, it’s becoming common to see water enthusiasts travel in a variety of vessels. Each water craft, from the large barges that are several football fields in length to kayaks and several sizes of boats in between, offers a different river experience.

I have always had a fascination with tug boats and barges. I remember as a child going to locks and dams and watching the lockmasters raise or lower the water to help the barges navigate the conditions along the Mississippi. These large barges were maneuvered by the seemingly tiny yet powerful tug boats. It’s amazing to watch something so small have so much strength to move what seemed to be impossible. Barges do not move fast. They are big and carry a lot of cargo inside. It takes a very skilled captain to navigate the ever-changing channels. 

Sitting in prayer along the river one day I began to contemplate how discernment can be experienced like different water vessels. Sometimes it feels quick like a speed boat and we zoom along in discernment. Some moments are full of deep pondering like every methodical stroke of the paddle in a kayak. And other times it can be like a tugboat with barges attached, as we feel guided in the process. What kind of water vessel are you metaphorically traveling in at this point in your discernment? 

Threshold moments

Thursday, May 12th 2016 9:49 am
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

Photo credit: www.freeimages.com

This week I had the honor of attending a college graduation. With joy-filled hearts that could not be diminished by darkening clouds, wind, and the threat of lighting, we all proudly claimed our section of the outdoor stadium bleachers. The moment the band started playing the familiar graduation tune we all stood up and started cheering so loud it became difficult to hear the music. The roar of the crowd increased each time a family recognized their soon-to-be graduate in the sea of processing black gowns.

Reading the sky, the university’s president went up to the microphone and changed the course of the ceremony by skipping all customary formalities and proceeding to the heart of our attendance—the conferring of degrees. As he invited the first row to rise he reassessed the increasing rain, wind and lightening, asked the 1,100 graduates to stand en masse, quickly conferred all degrees and urged everyone to run.

Although the process was less than ideal, all 1,100 students did officially graduate. After the storm passed, families found their way back to the field to take pictures with their graduates. Laughter and congratulations and pride filled the air--the storm did not dampen the spirit of the day. With soaking wet clothes, gowns, and hair, smiles could not have been brighter in each photo. Together graduates, families and friends discovered humor, resilience, a good story to tell and the freedom of a few extra hours to spend together. And graduates left the stadium field with one more life lesson: sometimes the signs we read around us will lead us to change plans.

Discernment requires flexibility and an openness to read the signs along the way. Midcourse adjustments may even lead to new discoveries.

How are you dealing with the storms of life that can be part of discernment?

Sister Mildred's Six Word Story

Tuesday, May 10th 2016 8:46 am
Sister Mildred Tigges, FSPA


Sister-Mildred's-six-word-story

What's your six word discernment story?

Jesus under wraps

Thursday, July 14th 2016 10:11 am
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

Jesus-wrapped-plastic

Sacred Heart of Jesus statue "under wraps"

St. Rose Convent is undergoing minor renovations: new carpet installation is underway and some of the walls are soaking up fresh coats of paint. Walking down the hall to my office one day I noticed our large statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus was covered in protective plastic wrap as painters prepped the surrounding stairwell.

To see the statue sheathed, covered up, prompted me to discern the question “When do I freely share about my relationship with Jesus and when do I protect it—keep it under wraps?  

It’s easy to share about my relationship with Jesus and my faith when I am with others who have similar views; when I feel engaging in that conversation is safe. Yet the call of the Gospel is challenging as it beckons us to the next-step of discussion; requires each of us to live boldly our faith. 

Is your relationship with Jesus and your discernment journey under wraps?

What would happen if your belief in Jesus was unbound?  

Would your life be different? 

How will you uncover it? 

Impart it to others?

 

Sister Margaret's Six Word Story

Tuesday, September 6th 2016 12:00 pm
Sister Margaret Wenzel, FSPA


What's your six word discernment story?

Sister Rosalia's Six Word Mission Story

Tuesday, March 7th 2017 10:00 am
Sister Rosalia Bauer, FSPA

 

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Are you willing to share (post a comment below) your own Six Word Mission Story?

St. Clare of Assisi: model, mentor, friend

Thursday, August 18th 2016 10:17 am
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 


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FSPA celebrate St. Clare in Mary of the Angels Chapel (photo by Sister Nina Shephard)

Recently FSPA, along with the global Catholic church, celebrated the Feast of St. Clare of Assisi who, after more than 800 years, continues to be a model for all. St. Clare's gentle, loving spirit and care still flow from her deep, contemplative life of prayer. She was a woman of integrity and courage who did not give up when obstacles appeared in her path. She listened in discernment for the voice of God in her heart to provide direction for action in her life. She conversed with royalty, dialogued with bishops and the pope, and protected her sisters when invaders threatened San Damiano. She relied on God in every moment.

Any one of these events would be remarkable for most people to experience and yet St. Clare moved always with grace and humility. Her greatest desire was to gaze on the face of her beloved whether in prayer before the San Damiano Cross or in the faces of the men, women and children who came to her doors for healing of their bodies and spirits. St. Clare of Assisi is a phenomenal model, mentor and friend--a woman who said “yes” to God without contingency. She lived an incredible life and encourages those of us living today to do the same.


Clare-vigil-Mary-Ann-Gschwind

The presence of St. Clare illuminated the vigil (photo by Sister Nina Shephard)

How are the lessons St. Clare teaches present in your discernment?

What could happen if, like Clare, you lived your life steeped in prayer?  

Thankfulness, flaming rolls and the illusion of perfection

Thursday, November 17th 2016 2:30 pm
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

Americans are hungry to dine on the tradition of Thanksgiving next week. It’s a race to the table as young and old vie for the seats closest to the food of their dreams. The stuffing. The cranberries. I especially look forward to the fluffy mounds of mashed potatoes and homemade rolls—carbohydrate bliss! While visions of these perfect dishes dance in the heads of guests who’ve arrived, the cook may be fretting over the marshmallows on the sweet potatoes and battling against lumpy gravy. What happens if the turkey is inedibly dry? Should we all go home? In focusing mostly on the beautiful, bountiful food, is the purpose of the gathering lost on idealism and expectation?

roast-turkey

Image courtesy freeimages.com

This question conjures one of my favorite Thanksgiving memories: the year my aunt nearly burned the kitchen down. Somewhere in the hurried process of transferring rolls from the oven to a paper grocery bag (in which she put them to keep them warm—do not try this at home!) part of it touched a burner on the stove and a fire broke out. The flames that shot through the kitchen were matched in height only by the screams of those in harm’s way. Logic was lost as my aunt created more oxygen by waving the bag to put out the flames. The fire was eventually extinguished and a gush of relief and laughter took its place. While the rolls were burned—resembling nothing like the golden brown expectation we all had come clamoring for—they were still good. And the heroic effort to put them on the table made them taste even better.

Sometimes in discernment, when visiting different congregations, we carry with us notions of ethereal utopia. (Perhaps sisters in the convent that float through the air rather than walk with their feet on the ground?) Yet observing the real, making those moments matter the most, requires leaving your illusions at the door. Letting go of the idea of perfection can also be freeing as you evaluate your own feelings about who you are and why God calls you to discern religious life. Open your Bible and read the stories of Moses, Jeremiah, Elizabeth, Sarah, Peter and others. God called on the most unlikely people to accomplish great tasks. And each person had to let go of their own perceived weakness to let God lead them to the next steps in their lives.  

When you visit a community, ask the members about their vocation stories and the ups and downs they’ve experienced. Look past the image of a sister you hold in your mind and take in the reality of the person who’s sharing the gift of who they truly are with you. (Click here to "Meet Our FSPA Sisters.") Ask how it is that they seem to remain joyful on the natural roller coaster ride that is life while living as a woman religious. You might find (as they most certainly do) that the deepest spiritual lessons we learn come from the realities that don’t resemble the superlative.  

What expectations do you have about the vocation you’re discerning?  

What illusions do you carry that are holding you back from knowing the truth?

Unplugged

Thursday, September 22nd 2016 3:10 pm
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 


ear-buds-freeimges.com

Image courtesy of freeimages.com

When was the last time you sat in silence?

Unplugged?

Where were you? In the woods, in a church or perhaps in your living room? Daily, we are encouraged to plug into everything around us so we don’t miss anything. Ironically, we are missing out because of plugging in. A common sight on college campuses is a group of friends, sitting together yet busy texting others and ignoring the people around them. Professors have no texting policies to get students to pay attention to the lectures taking place right in front of them. Many parishes announce before worship begins to silence cell phones. We live in a time in history that is running from silence. When we plug in, are we silencing God? 

I love to pray with music (from classical to contemporary Catholic) and I know I also need silence to hear the inner stirrings of my heart. Music can be both a pathway to prayer and, when I use it to avoid silence and contemplation, a roadblock. Silence brings a second gift of stillness that is not present when I am immersed in the melody of my favorite tunes.

Creating intentional time for silence and stillness becomes a gateway for contemplation. It takes commitment and energy to allow stillness to seep in. Seeking silence requires moving past fidgeting body movements, racing thoughts about work and family and even letting go of the background noises of ticking clocks and air whooshing through vents.

Investing time in relationship with God without expectation of immediate results is countercultural. A relationship based on devotion of time can transform you from a consumer of prayer, only as needed, to a companion—from passive to active in your eternal relationship. Silence may help you hear a deeper answer rather than provide a quick fix. I want answers to my prayers and requests fast and as I continue to learn sometimes the waiting, even when painful and stressful, eventually opens me to a deeper level of trust in my relationship with God.

In reflecting on silence and stillness the Gospel of Matthew 7:13-14 came to my heart. It is the teaching about the narrow gate. I remember learning in my graduate theology courses that Gospel stories are living stories. They serve as timeless portals and allow each of us to continue to learn even thousands of years after they were written. These verses in Matthew remind us how to make daily choices that lead us to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. Biblical scholars and homilists have helped shape my understanding of such a profound passage. Each time I hear this piece of Scripture I am in a different part of my life journey and something new is revealed.

Today, I am sitting with the core of Jesus’s message. The narrow way is not the easy way. Unplugging in our American culture takes courage. Perhaps in this context of reflection taking the earbuds out of our ear canals—narrow gateways—will allow God’s call to pass through. Seeking silence and stillness to widen the narrow gateways of your discernment makes room to spread out, to sink deeper into your heart. Choosing to make time in your busy life to unplug the phones, mobile devices and other distractions will help you to plug into God.

How do you create time of silence and stillness?

Are you willing to plug into God and listen for guidance in your discernment? 

Will you risk moving through the narrow gateways of your ears and heart?

Peace in the midst of unrest

Thursday, July 21st 2016 12:10 pm
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 


Jesus-boat-sea-storm

Photo courtesy of Lisa DeLay

Through the screens of our televisions and computers and smart phones we are facing increasing violence around the world. Full of humanity, pain and sorrow for the hurting world, each interview we watch is more than a story. It’s heart wrenching to witness the tears of my brothers and sisters. How do we hold on to hope for peace in a time overflowing with so much unrest?

My heart circles around Scripture—Luke 8:22-25. It reminds me how fear can overturn with a blinding force. In a boat on a lake in a squall Jesus’ disciples panic, let fear steer them to see only the storm. Discerning a certainty of drowning, they choose to react rather than respond.   

Jesus calms the storm: goes to the root of the experience; probes the hearts of his disciples to gain insight; asks open-ended questions and pauses for reflection; invites dialog to stimulate discernment of the source of turbulence. He calls for them to develop skills to deal with stressful experiences and strong emotions in a new way.

Jesus is a model for us: observing and pondering the environment before taking deliberate action. He demonstrates that complex situations call for a commitment to examine beyond the surface. We have the ability to learn from difficult experiences when our faith asks us to look again.

In discernment of religious life, in times of conflict and unease like facing reactions from family and friends, it’s instinctive to seek shelter, to immediately get away from the storm. But taking time to entertain curiosity—to examine your heart even if it feels immersed in a squall—can bring about the respectful response to the call you are sensing.

How do you respond to the storms in your discernment?

What questions is Jesus asking you in the midst of unrest in your life?

Surrendering to the task at hand

Thursday, October 13th 2016 12:00 pm
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

to-do-pen-paper

Photo courtesy of freeimages.com

Quick: think of five tasks you have been putting off over the past month. What else comes to mind? 

Dread?

Wasted time?

Boredom?

Maybe even fear?

These thoughts can be overwhelming and you might even spend more energy avoiding the chore–compounding the stress—than you would if you just got it done.


God helps us to see inside the possibilities life can offer if you take that first stepeven if it feels like the biggest risk of your life.

Our spiritual lives can also be porous with procrastination. That invitation you received from God to deepen relationship, discern a vocation or consider a new ministry opportunity? Is it buried under the pile of bills you have to pay? Is it where anxiety—trepidation of change that holds one back from even thinking about possibilities much less taking an actual step—can also be found? It can lead to worry about failing: I'm not the right person for the call ... I'm not good enough ... I don't have the courage or skills necessary for what might come next. 

One of my favorite prophets, Jeremiah, had what he thought was an answer to God’s call (and plenty of reasons why the time wasn’t right and how he just wasn’t cut out for it anyway). Yet he could no longer put off the decision nor deny it. We hear in his story (Jeremiah 1:1-9) how excuses don’t work for God. God helps us to see inside the possibilities life can offer if you take the first step—even if it feels like the biggest risk of your life.

Have you invited God into the task you’re putting off?

Are you procrastinating in the discernment of vocation, afraid to take that next step?

 

Sister Donna's Six Word Story

Tuesday, October 18th 2016 12:00 pm
Sister Donna Weber, FSPA

 

young-heart-burning-God-listening-come-donna-weber

What's your six word discernment story?

Grilling, chilling and discernment

Thursday, July 28th 2016 12:30 pm
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA


smoking-grill-trees-lake

Image by Sister Amy Taylor

When I think of summer I revel in the possibilities of beautiful weather and time to slow down, relax and reconnect in person (not through Facebook) with family and friends. And with record high temperatures across the upper Midwest the media advises moving at a snail’s pace to save energy and stay coolanother change in our tempo.

Letting go of the urge to hurry in every moment—when the time comes to stop working and get to a gathering, when we can't rush around in the heat doing what we think we have to do quickly—can be difficult. After all, American culture demands instant results. I came face-to-face with this reality while vacationing for a week with my FSPA sisters. One day we decided to grill hamburgers for our evening meal. Typically, after a full day of ministry, we run home to quickly cook and put dinner on the table. Charcoal grills, however, can have cooking minds of their own: run hot and cold in the wind and placement of the coals; temperamental to the skill level of the one flipping the food. Grilling is not an instantaneous process but when you're on vacation, why rush? Why not enjoy the experience?

If you dig deeper into the coals, grilling can offer wisdom for the discernment process. Controlling an open flame takes a careful eye. Too much oxygen and the flames might jump wildly, too little and the coals can suffocate. Smoke can obscure vision and make breathing difficult. Multitasking or walking away can result in a seriously overdone dinner. In a matter of a few moments burgers can go from perfection to charred hockey pucks.

Just like grilling, rushing discernment can spark out-of-control flames, become all consuming, or stifle it out completely. Smoke in discernment can cloud vision; can surface in the form of anything that encourages distraction from the very personal and mindful process. The same holds true of too much trepidation thatlike putting the lid on the grillcan snuff out gifts and talents, slowly suffocate bright flames. 

Yet if we take the time to be attentive to the process we will discover our unique discernment temperature. Letting the coals of discernment provide the necessary inspiration can lead to sweet success, just like the enjoyment of roasting marshmallows in the dusk of a summertime barbeque.

Are you taking time this summer to nurture the coals and fan the flames in your life?

The hope and conversion in Christmas

Thursday, December 8th 2016 10:00 am
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA


Advent-wreath-week-2

Photo by Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

I am a fan of holiday movies. In a span of two hours plots develop with a challenge in the life of the main characters that invites reflection, followed by a new choice. Usually the story has a happy ending but not before they face the reality of the situation before them. It’s the lesson of conversion dressed up in holiday clothing; a Gospel value renewed for the season. 

I also enjoy Advent, the second week of which is now upon us. The dual message of Scripture is hope and conversion—hope, even when we are asked to examine the truth of who we are. In light of this wonderment I’m choosing to make time to continue unpacking the richness of Sunday’s readings—that which invites all of us to be in the present moment, not race ahead to Christmas as the commercial world advises. The messages we receive during Mass should not dissipate with the recessional. Our tradition calls us to allow the verses to stir in our hearts and move us to action throughout the week. 

Isaiah declares the transformation that will unfold with the coming of the Lord: an end to of domination and competition. I recently read an inspiring story about an athlete who competed with integrity; putting the unfortunate fall of a competitor before her own drive to victory. She personifies the time to come right now, today, as she made a choice countercultural in not only the world of sports but also in life.  This one act of kindness shines the light of Advent hope for all the world to see.

 wolf-lamb

The Gospel (Matthew 3:1-12) summons us to take Isaiah’s message a step further. Herald of the Good News, John the Baptist cuts through facades and invites each person to the depth of Christian discipleship; to make way for the Gospel message in our hearts and in the world. The reading sounds harsh when we are also living in moments of happy Christmas anticipation; from driving around to see the lights adorning homes to watching holiday specials on television (I could curl up in front of the TV and watch Hallmark Channel Christmas movies 24/7). We long to wrap ourselves in festive yuletide experiences; to leave anything that conjures negative feelings or remembrance of bad choices hidden away on the top shelf. After all, who wants to think about sin while eating cookies and listening to holiday music? It feels like a contradiction. But by listening to the wise advice of John the Baptist, one is reminded that such effort brings deeper reward.

This Advent season the invitation is clear—amidst the work we must also make way for hope in our hearts. Discernment is full of hope: hope of what God is calling you to; hope of what the church will receive in the gift of your life offered to others; hope of a new day when all will reach out to those in need. Each time you take time to examine who you are, what your motives are, you become a stronger herald of the Gospel no matter where discernment leads. John’s message of conversion is present in the experience. 

What will you do this week to take the messages of Isaiah and John the Baptist to heart in your discernment?  

What is your greatest hope—as gift to both yourself and to the world—for the outcome of your discernment?

 

 

Mary and our "Yes" to mystery

Thursday, March 23rd 2017 10:00 am
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

This Saturday is the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord. As I prepare for the celebration I’ve contemplated the Gospel we'll receive that day and thought about all the announcements made over the intercom I hear at St. Rose Convent in the course of a day. From the speaker just outside of my office I hear receptionists paging employees and sisters; reminders about Mass, committee meetings (even exercise class) and other activities beginning soon. I’m able to block out most of this background noise as it’s rare such announcements are personally meant for me. On the sporadic instance it is, I have a community filled with helpful sisters who diligently make me aware of what I may have inadvertently tuned out.


microphone-freeimages.com

Image courtesy of freeimages.com

In the Gospel, Mary encounters and responds to a life changing annunciation. This is not a vague message. It is specific. She is called by name, reassured of her goodness, provided with initial details of what is to come and given an opportunity to respond. Finally she makes a choice. She says ”Yes” to be the mother of Jesus. No instruction book is given, no promise of happiness, yet she says ”Yes.” When we say "Yes" to vocation we—like Mary—must walk the road, learning as we go, trusting God is always there.

This is one of several call and response stories we have in our Scriptures but Mary, in particular, is a model for discerners. Mary’s experience is a snap shot of what most of us experience in discerning religious life—movement towards making a choice. Gabriel may not be the one delivering the invitation but in many ways—when our worlds are changed in an instant—we can feel like Mary. The potential of the trajectory of our lives is laid before us and God waits for our "Yes."

God knows our hearts and understands how to communicate with us. The magnitude of our circumstance may draw messengers—delivering personal, divine requests—directly to us. The longer I live the more I doubt there are mere coincidences.  

Through the season of Lent we have been following the journey of Jesus to the cross. The annunciation story reminds us where and how it all began. Each decision about and response to God’s invitations has bearing on the future. Both stories convey the love God has for us. Love in action; in different moments of the unfolding narrative beginning with the very first moments of being through the maturation and insight into life choices made. Mary and Jesus choose love no matter the consequence for their lives.

This reading in the middle of Lent invites me to ponder loving more and worrying less. How can I let go of the need to know what to expect when love has a different answer? Always provides a way?

Is your discernment journey leading you to a “Yes” to love like Mary?

How does your life announce to the world your commitment to God?

Kindness: we are all called to be Esther

Thursday, March 9th 2017 12:45 pm
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

In a spirit of collaboration, we enter into the celebration of National Catholic Sisters Week (March 8 through 14). There are over 45,000 women religious in the United States, and FSPA is a member of one of the organization’s partnering groups—the Catholic Sisters of the Upper Mississippi River Valley. They have come together in a campaign called “Kindness: Get in the Habit.” Billboards and advertisements as well as a school curriculum for the week are all aimed at encouraging individuals to find ways to be kind to one another.

Kindness-handshake

Kindness is a basic human value that’s often lost amid a world filled with competition and sometimes questionable motivation. As we walk through the second week of Lent we recall that the tenets of the Lenten season include prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Kindness easily supports each tenets. We are invited to open our eyes to our own actions and reflect on the ways in which we are attentive to the invitation of the season.

The readings placed before us today are like a glowing neon sign along the Lenten road of spiritual growth. The words flowing from the lips of Queen Esther are those of intercession on behalf of her people. Choosing to give voice to the concerns of her heart, she pleads for wisdom and courage to have eloquence of speech to persuade those who can protect and champion her cause.

How many times—in the defining moments of your life where everything is on the line and God is your advocate—have you prayed like Esther?

 

eileen-mckenzie-pray-vendi-advertising

Eileen McKenzie, FSPA, deep in the tenet of prayer (image courtesy of Vendi Advertising).

There are many Esthers in our world today as prayers of refugees, immigrants and others displaced pray on behalf of their communities for safety, food, water and asylum from the horrors they have fled; to be heard in their suffering and feel the presence of caring from God and all of us who walk in humanity by their sides. What does the season (and not just during Lent) call us to but the obligations of being Catholic Christians?

Esther bows in prayer and supplication to God. She aligns her interior and exterior reality of life situation as queen, advocate, subject and co-creator. She has not walled herself into the security of the palace. She knows the struggles her people face as it was once her own experience. Her actions have a direct impact on others. She is accountable for what she chooses and she holds God accountable to guide her.

Esther is a model for all who discern. She exemplifies the courage, strength and perseverance that is indispensable to remain rooted in Gospel values as you make a choice for your own vocation. Challenges are a part of life, and how you choose to move through them speaks volumes of who you are.

How can the choices you make in your life alleviate the pain and sorrow of a hurting world?

How does your vocational discernment bring relevance to humanity at this time in our history? 

Mantle of grief

Thursday, April 20th 2017 2:15 pm
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

In moments of despair and grief in my life I have longed to hear the words “It’s going to be okay;” okay meaning others will walk with me through times of pain and loss (although not everything will be exactly like it was before, even when my heart longs for the way it was). Affirmation and assurance of care and concern have been like balm for my soul, in my own experiences of loss.

In the Gospels this week I have found companions in the lives of the disciples. Pain and sorrow shroud their vision. The mantle of grief is so heavy on their shoulders that they could not recognize the risen Christ. Through tear-stained, bleary eyes each one encounters transformation and deeper faith as they recognize who stands before them. Patiently Christ extends love and compassion to each one, revealing the truth of his resurrection to be more than a prediction. With renewed energy and purpose the disciples hasten to share the news of the resurrection. These stories stand as not only testimony to the truth of the resurrection of Jesus but also as encouragement to face our own moments of crisis; when the death of someone we love or the loss of what we thought was our direction in life suddenly shifts.

chapel-easter-cross

We stand in the grace of time as we know that Jesus has risen redeemed as the Christ, journeying together through the church year as we celebrate the events of the conception, birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus. It is difficult to see this same cycle at work in our own lives as we experience our own grief-stricken moments; situations in which the grace of time has yet to be revealed and our faith is stretched nearly to its breaking point. Like the disciples, we have to learn from the events of our day. We cannot fast forward our lives and look back from the future, expressing to our past selves that what you’re experiencing now is going to help you in the long run. We must rely on our faith in God and know that when we need it most, we'll recognize Jesus standing before us with our own resurrection moment in hand.

There are times in discernment that grief will be a part of the journey; where you may feel all is lost and the happily ever after you long for is not yet on the horizon. Remember the disciples; remember that the transformation is just a few dark nights away. Easter alleluias always come; God will not abandon you on your discernment journey. As in the Gospel you will be renewed, transformed and then sent forth to help others in their own passages, singing your irreplaceable alleluia as you go.

This week, ask yourself …

How have your worst experiences transformed into new life? 

What barriers did you have to break through to come to this realization? 

Who were the agents of transformation—those who helped you open your eyes to the reality in front of you?

 

 

 


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