God - Related Content

Sister Jolyce's Six Word Story

Tuesday, November 1st 2016 10:00 am
Sister Jolyce Greteman, FSPA


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What's your six word discernment story?

Sister Therese's Six Word Story

Tuesday, September 27th 2016 10:00 am
Sister Therese Wolf, FSPA

 

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What's your six word discernment story?

 

Sister Marguerite's Six Word Story

Tuesday, November 8th 2016 10:00 am
Sister Marguerite Bruening, FSPA


What's your six word discernment story?

A jubilant life

Thursday, June 16th 2016 10:08 am
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

What does it mean to live as a sign of God’s love? I find myself pondering this question as three of my FSPA sisters celebrate golden jubilee (50 years of vowed religious life), and two others, silver (25 years of fulfilling those same vows). Days, months and years all string together and suddenly such milestones appear. 


Golden jubilarians: Sisters Jean Michael Treba, Lisa Zmuda, Rose Elsbernd

Silver jubilarians Sisters Eileen Shaw and Marcia Baumert celebrate at a jubilee pizza party (photo by Sister Charlene Smith)

I saw joy and tenderness in their eyes as they took in the monumental experience and wondered if they remember the moments that led them to it: entrance into novitiate, first and final vows, years of abundant ministry. And like many women, they may also have recollected times of hesitance to answer the call to religious life they heard all those years ago.  


Sister Jean Michael Treba bears the cross into the celebration of Jubilee Mass at Mary of the Angels Chapel in La Crosse, Wisconsin

Life is full of ups and downs, but it can ultimately be jubilee everyday if we are open to living as a sign of God’s love. 


Sisters Marcia and Lisa "embrace" jubilee!

How are you embracing the jubilee of your life? Is discernment leading you to enjoy it rather than endure it?

To see all 2016 jubilarians, click here and scroll to page 5 of FSPA's Perspectives magazine.

Sister Mary Myron's Six Word Story

Thursday, April 21st 2016 12:03 pm
Sister Mary Myron Stork, FSPA

The hope and conversion in Christmas

Thursday, December 8th 2016 10:00 am
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA


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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.

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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?

 

 

Sister Dorothy's Six Word Story

Tuesday, August 9th 2016 10:15 am
Sister Dorothy Dunbar, FSPA


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What's your six word discernment story?

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.

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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?

 

"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.  

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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. 

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

 

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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.

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Sister Kristin receives her FSPA ring from Sister Blanche Klein. 

 

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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.

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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 Fran's Six Word Story

Tuesday, August 2nd 2016 11:14 am
Sister Fran Browning, FSPA


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What's your six word discernment story?

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.

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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.

Sister Romana's Six Word Story

Tuesday, January 10th 2017 10:00 am
Sister Romana Klaubauf, FSPA


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What's your six word discernment story?

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.

 

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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. 

Unplugged

Thursday, September 22nd 2016 3:10 pm
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 


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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?

Sister Donna's Six Word Mission Story

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

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. 

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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 Georgia's Six Word Mission Story

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


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

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. 


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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?

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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.

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?

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?

Sister Clarone Brill's Six Word Story

Tuesday, June 14th 2016 11:04 am
Sister Clarone Brill, FSPA


What's your six word discernment story?

Sister Georgia: A morning offering

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

 

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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"

Sister Sharon: Letters to God

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

 

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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.

Walk with compassion

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

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.


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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!)


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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. 

Listening, exploring and discerning like Francis

Friday, October 4th 2019 10:00 am
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

"God will be with you each step of the journey to guide, to listen and to offer continual inspiration ..."

icon-st-francis-assisi

Icon of St. Francis of Assisi by Sister Maryam Gossling

Today’s Gospel acclamation, “If today you hear his voice, harden not your heart,” is timely as we celebrate the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi. 

If you are familiar with the life of St. Francis of Assisi, you may recall that while he was out one day, roaming the countryside near Assisi, Italy, he stopped at a church to pray. Praying before the San Damiano Cross in a deteriorating church — Portiuncula — Francis heard God say to him “rebuild my church ...” 

After hearing these words, Francis had to decide whether or not he was going to listen to the request. It took him a while to figure out what exactly those powerful words meant. He didn’t understand what God was asking of him. Thinking it was a literal task, he gathered stones to rebuild by hand the crumbling chapel. In time, Francis realized the call was much deeper. His search for clarity led to conversations with his family, friends, the bishop, the pope, the local mayor, and many others. Men saw his joy and flocked to join his way of life, a pathway that lead to the establishment of a new religious community with a new rule of life approved by the pope. It all began with a few words he heard in prayer, his inclination to trust God and to begin searching. Francis was by no means perfect: he made mistakes and learned throughout his life journey. Conversion is one of the values of Franciscan tradition!

Like Francis, you may receive inspiration or a call from God in prayer. Moving from the idea of discernment to actually living into it requires motivation to discover its true meaning. For example, feeling called to religious life offers much to explore throughout religious communities: evangelical, apostolic or monastic orders, Franciscan, Dominican, Benedictine spirituality (among others), geographical locations and ministerial opportunities. Simultaneously delving into your own gifts and talents helps to discover where you feel a connection. The opinions of family and friends also provide fodder for reflection. Each new discovery leads to next steps and bigger questions. 

No matter where discernment takes you, carry today’s Gospel acclamation, Psalm 95:8, as you journey forth: “If today you hear his voice, harden not your heart.” God will be with you each step of the journey to guide, to listen and to offer continual inspiration, no matter where the exploration leads.  

Are you willing to listen and explore?

Are you discerning religious life? Walking with someone who is? We invite you to share this link, www.fspa.org/showmeasign, and join the conversation.

Trailblazers and touchstones along the path

Thursday, June 2nd 2016 2:16 pm
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

lake-shore-rocks-stacked
Photo credit: Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

This is the time of year when many of us will journey to new places. Via air travel we can wake up in one country and be in another by lunchtime. GPS is another tool to tell us exactly where we are going, the approximate time we will arrive, and any wrong turns we take along the way. I was reflecting on this as we recently celebrated Founder’s Day. One hundred and sixty-seven years ago FSPA’s foundresses traveled over the sea and eventually by wagon from Ettenbeuren, Bavaria, to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and finally to La Crosse, Wisconsin. They left the familiar roads of their lives to blaze new trails. I imagine the first few miles were filled with memories of the places they were leaving behind as well as excitement of what they would encounter in the miles ahead. Their courage and willingness to create their own track has led more than a thousand women to join FSPA. Their determination to be women devoted to prayer and to serve those in need stands steadfast through time as touchstones for every woman who crosses the threshold of religious life. They are women who continually live on, move forward, in our memories and in our stories. Their pioneering spirit guides our congregation as we continue to make pathways for generations of followers in the years to come.

Who are the trailblazers in your life?  Can you find touchstones to guide you? Are you willing to go where God leads, even if you don’t know exactly how long or how far the journey will be?

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?

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.

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 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?

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.

Spiritual dust in the season of spring cleaning

Thursday, May 14th 2020 12:05 pm
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

"It's hard to ignore a sneeze" that opens your mind to living your faith life.

wall-dust-pan-hand-broom

Photo by Jan Kop?iva on Unsplash

With the arrival of spring comes the season of cleaning. Now is the time to open the curtains that have kept your homes warm and cozy all winter and let in the beautiful sunshine. Streams of light may reveal dust lurking in dark corners and many months of grime accumulating on window panes. Perhaps clutter has overtaken closets and countertops. As we diligently pull out our dust rags and buckets and move furniture to get at those baseboards, our world temporarily shifts. 

Now is also a good time to open the curtains to the windows of your spirit, to remove clutter that may be clogging up your communication with God. What if, buried underneath, covered in dust, there are unopened love letters from God? Invitations to discern religious life, sent to you in triplicate, enumerating your gifts, talents and propensity to flourish when helping others in need? These messages may be covered in dust, spiritual dust. Spiritual dust is tricky and can set off sneezes with surprising momentum. It’s hard to ignore a sneeze, especially one that clears your mind. Provides clarity. Reveals a plan for living the faith life that has been inside you all this time.

When your clutter is cleared, your cleaning is done and your house the physical and the spiritual is put back in order, sit down and read God’s letters. Entertain the invitations and discern what they are calling you to perhaps cleansing the world of the evils of starvation, physical and mental abuse, global warming, gender inequality, racial divides, societal hierarchy, corrupt institutions, education disparity and other suffocating pollutants all around us. Discern the light radiating from you: is it brightest when it shines in collaboration with others with whom you can unite in a commitment to living together and sharing Gospel mission? Is it guiding you to religious life?

How will you begin spring cleaning and ask God to guide you in this new season of your life?

Are you discerning religious life? Walking with someone who is? We invite you to share this link, fspa.org/showemeasign, and join the conversation.

Sister Laura to discerners: 'Do not be afraid to trust ...'

Thursday, October 31st 2019 10:00 am
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

For her love of people and her desire to serve them, Sister Laura "exudes joy."

woman-white-hair-corsage-blue-top

Sister Laura Schreck is celebrating 70 years of religious life. 

“Do not be afraid to trust your deepest desires and God’s grace.” This wisdom comes from the life experiences of Sister Laura Schreck, a Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration now celebrating 70 years of religious vocation. Her enthusiasm to serve God’s people has led her to opportunities in teaching, music and sacristy care. Each ministry has provided her with evidence of God’s providential grace. One cannot help but smile while conversing with Sister Laura: she exudes joy!  

Show me a sign:
How did you know that you wanted to be a religious sister?

Sister Laura:
From the time I can first remember, I’ve wanted to live religious life (though I never shared this certainty with anyone early on).  

Show me a sign:
How did your family and friends react when you first told them of your desire to become a sister?  

Sister Laura:
They were very positive. My mother seemed to sense this before I told her. She was very accepting of my choice, and so was my dad!

Show me a sign:
As you reflect on your jubilee, what facets of serving as an FSPA first come to mind?  

Sister Laura:
I loved teaching. I taught for 19 years in elementary and middle school classrooms. I eventually moved into religious education, overseeing the ministry for several parishes. I also enjoyed helping with sacristy care, playing the organ and working with the choir.  

two-women-white-hair turquoise-tops

A celebration for Sister Laura and other FSPA jubilarians was held at Villa St. Joseph in May.

Show me a sign:
Which of your ministries have meant the most to you?  

Sister Laura:
I love working with people, particularly in my teaching and parish ministries.  

Show me a sign:
What advice do you have for a woman discerning religious life today?  

Sister Laura:
Don’t be afraid to trust your deepest desires and God’s grace.

Are you discerning religious life? Walking with someone who is? We invite you to share this link, www.fspa.org/showmeasign, and join the conversation.

Discerning action, new adventure in Lent and religious life

Thursday, April 11th 2019 10:00 am
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

Lent: 'making space for the new adventures God is inviting us to.'

movie-clapboard

Image courtesy of pixabay.com

In every action and adventure movie I’ve seen, the main character finds themselves in a seemingly impossible situation. All protagonists, like Wonder Woman, face choices that will impact life in ways not yet imagined, result in consequences that bring blessings and challenges. Each decision impacts experiences to come.  

Discernment can feel like you’re living in such a film. New challenges arise, cause confusion, overwhelm and sometimes make your next move feel impossible. Potential movement for discerners of religious life can be literal: am I open to exploring a community far from home, away from my family and friends? How does one not get stymied in indecision and find a way to move through the experience?  

There is wisdom offered for all who reflect and pray with the readings from the Fifth Sunday of Lent. Isaiah reminds us of the point of peril that the Israelites faced as they fled Egypt, the charioteers hot on their heels and water looming in front of them. The scene was bleak but God acted, parting the water. The Israelites escaped and the army met their watery grave. Who would have seen that coming … water transformed into dry land just long enough for the escape? When it is least expected, God often provides a new route on the horizon. 

The Gospel from John also carries the theme of life on the brink of disaster. The Pharisees posed a double threat — attempting to trick Jesus into misinterpreting a law and endangering a woman’s life (in death by stoning) in the process. Neither ploy works. Jesus stops the advancement of the Pharisees and the woman is spared. Just when all seems lost, a saving grace arises. 

Sometimes what looks like the end is actually the first step of a new beginning, but it takes commitment to prayer and reflection to discern what is happening. It means asking the hard questions: to where am I being called, led, invited? It may also require adjusting your perception of a situation. There will be times of heartache and pain; when one moment ends to give space for a new time to arise. The Israelites had to leave Egypt, the woman had to choose to move beyond her former choices. The new way forward will bring change and challenges along with new blessings.  

Lent is a season in which we are invited to deepen our commitment to God, to see the parts of our lives that need to change and make space for the new adventures God is inviting us to. Letting go can be a way of letting God in.  

What adventure God is offering for you to consider?

Are you discerning religious life? Walking with someone who is? We invite you to share this link, www.fspa.org/showmeasign, and join the conversation. And, stay tuned to Show me a sign for new videos in the FSPA discernment series!

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.

Rejoice in love and resurrection

Sunday, April 21st 2019 7:00 am
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

Joy and Easter blessings to you

easter-lily

Image courtesy pixabay.com

May our hearts overflow with joy as we celebrate God’s love for us and the resurrection of Christ this Easter Season.

Are you discerning religious life? Walking with someone who is? We invite you to share this link, www.fspa.org/showmeasign, and join the conversation. And, stay tuned to Show me a sign for new videos in the FSPA discernment series! 

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?

 

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.

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?

Documenting discernment

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

 

journal-writing-freeimages.com

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

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? 

St-Clare-of-Assisi

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.

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?

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.

Sister Malinda's Six Word Story

Tuesday, July 5th 2016 10:11 am
Sister Malinda Gerke, FSPA

 

Malinda-Gerke-Six-Word-Story

What's your six word discernment story?

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 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 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?

Blisters, discipline, perseverance and joy

Thursday, August 11th 2016 1:16 pm
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

The spirit of the 2016 Summer Olympics has spread around the world. The opening ceremony’s Parade of Nations brought its vast diversity into our living rooms, offices and classrooms through screens across the globe. For a few short weeks we revel in the gifts of wonder and awe, watching athletes at the top of their fields compete on a global stage in Rio. 


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My favorite part of the games is catching a glimpse of the athletes’ stories, of the remarkable discipline and sacrifice and inspiration they live in their day-to-day lives. Hours of grueling training and coping with injuries are often part of the experience. And competing at this level is not for the shy and timid. Athletes put all they have—and more—into their craft. Resiliency and the ability to adapt are the lessons they continually teach on the long road to reach an Olympic-size dream. Yet for all the hardships behind the scenes there are moments of complete bliss for everyone—the athlete, the coach, the family and friends and their country—as cameras capture extreme accomplishments.

I wonder how many people are there to cheer for them at a 5 a.m. practice or as they attempt perfection on a balance beam, mere inches wide, over and over and over again? Hear their scream of victory as they round the track and beat their own best time? Where do they find the strength to keep going despite pain, criticism and judgment captured on film, in slow motion, for the world to see?

I wonder, too, if they’ve ever whispered “Show me a sign. Show me a sign that I’m on the right path, that I will accomplish what seems to be impossible.” Is their sport a doorway to their own lives of inner contemplation? Are they praying in motion while racing around corners, flying through the air?  If so, how is this a lesson for discernment? Is your prayer life moving and not just confined to time spent in church? Do you recognize God in all parts of your life?

And just like you’ll find in any Olympic venue, event, there is pressure from the crowds surrounding us. Think for a moment of contemplatively praying with a group of sisters, brothers or priests who have been doing so for more than 40 years. Your presence in such silence may feel awkward. You may fumble, fidget in your chair, notice the ticking of the clock and wonder if your experiencing the same feelings they are. 

But you don’t have to be a skilled athlete of prayer. Opportunity arises to practice and build an inner discipline and commitment to time of contemplation. Just like in athletic competitions there are moments in life that feel right, in which we get the results that we’re most hoping for. In prayer, we are not competing with others; rather, we are challenging ourselves. There are no qualifiers or time trials. A willing heart is our admission to the experience. A gold medal is not the reward. A deeper relationship with God is. 

dusk-silhouette-runner

Will you take the challenge and offer all you have to God?  How will you commit daily to your lifelong dream of a deeper relationship with God? 

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.

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. 

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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.

 

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?


 

 

Discernment iridescent this new year

Tuesday, January 1st 2019 10:00 am
Amy Taylor, Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration

 

Happy New Year!

woman-holding-sparkler

Image courtesy pixabay.com

May it be filled with exciting adventure as you discern how God is calling you to serve.

Are you discerning religious life? Walking with someone who is? We invite you to share this link, www.fspa.org/showmeasign, and join the conversation. And, stay tuned to Show me a sign for new videos in the FSPA discernment series!
 

Sister Joan to discerners: 'Religious life can be fulfilling and complete.'

Thursday, October 24th 2019 10:00 am
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

She "just knew" that religious life was to be hers

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FSPA honors Sister Joan Hageman on her 60th jubilee

We all learn by watching those we admire. Sister Joan Hageman chose to follow in the footsteps of her own heroes — the sisters who were her teachers — and became a Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration. Now celebrating 60 years of religious life, Sister Joan recalls the adventures she embraced while ministering throughout the Midwest as an FSPA.   

Show me a sign:
How did you know that you wanted to be a religious sister?

Sister Joan:
I was inspired by the FSPA who were my teachers throughout elementary and middle school. I didn’t think of another vocation. I just knew.  

Show me a sign:
How did your family and friends react when you first told them of your desire to become a sister?  

Sister Joan:
They were surprised and happy. I knew that my mom, in particular, supported and inspired me.  

Show me a sign:
As you reflect on your jubilee, what facets of serving as an FSPA first come to mind?  

Sister Joan:
I really enjoyed pastoral care. The ministries were delightful, and the sisters I worked with and cared for were special. I also enjoyed cooking. It’s been exciting to see what each ministry has offered me.

woman-white-hair-glasses-corsage-pinning  

Sister Joan receives the joy of the FSPA community for her jubilee. 

Show me a sign:
Which of your ministries has meant the most to you?  

Sister Joan:
Pastoral care, because not only did I help others, but they also helped me gain insight into my own life experiences.  

Show me a sign:
What advice do you have for a woman discerning religious life today?  

Sister Joan:
Trust in God, and know that religious life is a complete and fulfilling way of life.

Are you discerning religious life? Walking with someone who is? We invite you to share this link, www.fspa.org/showmeasign, and join the conversation.

Want a glimpse into the lives of other FSPA who share their own discernment stories and answers to questions like "How will religious life affect my relationships?" and "What if my family doesn't agree with my choice?" Check out Show me a sign's discernment video series Meet our sisters.

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.

 

Sister-Sandra-DeMann

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.

This day of thanks and giving

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

 

multi-colored-corn-kernals

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.

Journey of Advent

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

 

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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. 

Discerning in the face of fear

Thursday, October 27th 2016 12:00 pm
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA


For one day each year fear is celebrated. As the sun goes down on October 31, Halloween, All Hallow's Eve (watch this Busted Halo video "You don't know Jack ... about Halloween"), imaginations light up. People of all ages let go of their everyday realities and dress up as cute characters, put on images of spookiness. The ghosts, zombies and monsters that darken doorways are rewarded with sweets rather than screams. A werewolf loses his menace as we catch a glimpse of human chin exposed to make way for a mini chocolate bar. 


jack-o-lanterns

Image courtesy of freeimages.com

Yet for some, shadows can transform even the cheeriest of places, like the neighborhood playground, into dark spaces of the unknown. The cover of night obscures both vision and actuality. You might be afraid to look ahead of and behind you. Sometimes, discernment can feel like that; like walking in the dark on unfamiliar roads with images of the unknown lurking around every corner. In times of uncertainty it is helpful to call on God, asking for transformation of the trepidation we perceive. The Psalms are great resources to guide us and to pray with in the various experiences of life, including times when we long for protection, happiness, and need to express sorrow and joy.

When I am anxious about dark moments in my life, when I long for reassurance of presence, I turn to Psalm 27: on the lips of the psalmist we hear the cry of a heart, speaking aloud to all, that God will always be ahead of us and behind us. God recognizes us and welcomes us, costumed or not.

This week, how will you wear your fear?

Transform it into trust in a God who always knows who you are?

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.

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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.

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."

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.

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.

Discernment and Advent: called to new life

Thursday, December 6th 2018 10:00 am
Amy Taylor, Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration

 

"God creates ways to fill in the holes we're convinced might swallow us up"

two-red-lit-candles

Image courtesy pixabay.com

Life, as well all know, includes instances in which things don’t work out the way we plan and dream. It could be an important exam that, despite long hours of study, garners a bad grade; disappoints and shatters your confidence. Or, perhaps it is the sudden end to a relationship that breaks your heart. It is in these raw, emotionally exhausting and vulnerable experiences that we stand before God, mourning our losses and grappling with what feels like the worst time in life — one leading to doubts and questions of our own motives, goals and identity.

If you’ve ever sunk to the depths of such despair — your own rock bottom — you will understand this week’s first reading as we hear the words from Baruch. The people are in agony; separated and lost with thoughts that they have been forgotten. But this is not true. God calls them to new life; reminds them that all is not lost. They will be happy again. They will have all they need. They are called out of mourning, reassured and given a renewed sense of purpose. With God’s encouragement, the fading light of what looks like the end can actually reveal the footholds of a new beginning — not only survival but hope and happiness.

God‘s light and love never dissipates. Friends and family pray you through, even if silently; under the guise of leaving you to find your own way through grief or challenge. They, like God, have not abandoned you in your time of need. 

The Gospel is yet another source of encouragement, reminding us all this Advent season that every experience in life can be a stepping stone as we move into the future. God creates ways to fill in the holes we’re convinced might swallow us up.

As we reflect on the second week of Advent let us consider …

•    How has God guided you along a treacherous path to restore your joy?
•    How are you paying it forward and helping a friend or family member who may be suffering?
•    How have you experienced disappointment or loss on your discernment journey? 
•    How has God been with you … every step of the way?

Are you discerning religious life? Walking with someone who is? We invite you to share this link, www.fspa.org/showmeasign, and join the conversation. And, stay tuned to Show me a sign for new videos in the FSPA discernment series!
 

 

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.


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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?

The chronos and kairos of our lives

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


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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?

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.


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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. 

Sister Dorothy's 6 Word Story of Hope

Tuesday, September 22nd 2020 4:05 pm
Dorothy Dunbar, FSPA


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Visit us again to experience new Show me a sign 6 Word Stories of Hope.

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.   

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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. 

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."

The grace of perseverance

Wednesday, August 5th 2020 12:30 pm
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

"You have called me," declared Sister Michele Pettit (beginning at 32:30), making her first vows as a Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration at Viterbo University's San Damiano Chapel in La Crosse, Wisconsin.

Joy permeated San Damiano Chapel in La Crosse, Wisconsin, on Saturday, July 25, 2020, as Sister Michele Pettit professed her first vows as a Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration. In a confident, clear voice that could not be silenced by a COVID-19 mask, Sister Michele boldly declared poverty, consecrated celibacy and obedience for three years as an FSPA. 

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From left, Sisters Corrina Thomas, Michele Pettit and Eileen McKenzie

Those who gathered to witness Sister Michele’s declaration of these vows (following social distancing guidelines) read words of support and acceptance from behind their own masks. Thunderous applause erupted and smiling eyes beamed around the chapel as Sister Michele walked back to her seat. Like Saints Francis and Clare of Assisi before her, Sister Michele offers light and life to a world encountering darkness, this time in the shadows of the COVID-19 pandemic, racial divides and economic disparity. She will be here when humanity celebrates the joys of life, sorrows and even the mundane. Life in God and with God will always be an adventure. 

Nourished by the Word of God and at the table of the Eucharist, we exited through the chapel doors, renewed and filled with hope, ready to encounter the reality of life outside. 

A virtual reception met Sister Michele as many sisters logged onto Zoom and offered words of encouragement for her new life as a vowed FSPA. They shared with her a traditional greeting for newly-professed sisters: “May God give you the grace of perseverance.” And while Michele is making community history as the first person to make first vows during the COVID-19 pandemic — a true test of this sentiment — she is in good company. Twenty-two FSPA made first vows during the flu pandemic of 1918. They too knew that their call from God to religious life would find a way, even in the midst of human trials. Sister Michele now becomes the connection to future generations of FSPA.   

Is God calling you to join the next generation, to discern religious life?
 

Are you discerning religious life? Walking with someone who is? We invite you to share this link, fspa.org/showmeasign, and join the conversation.

Bridges of peace built with prayer

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

 

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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?

Sister Clarone to discerners: '... listen to your heart.'

Thursday, September 19th 2019 10:00 am
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

‘God called: I listened and followed’

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Sister Clarone Brill celebrated her 70th jubilee on April 26, 2019, at St. Rose Convent.

Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration Clarone Brill has ministered in Wisconsin and Iowa, spreading Franciscan joy to each person she’s encountered. She began serving as a teacher and later in her life found excitement and fulfillment through her ministry of pastoral care for the elderly. In celebration of her 70th jublilee, Show me a sign asked Sister Clarone to reflect on some of the experiences she has had over the last seven decades as a Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration.  

Show me a sign:
How did you know that you wanted to be a religious sister?

Sister Clarone:
My older sister, Clara, entered St. Rose Convent around the time I was in first grade. We had FSPA sisters at our parish. I loved my eighth-grade teacher. I felt the spirit calling me to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. God called: I listened and followed.

Show me a sign:
How did your family and friends react when you first told them of your desire to become a sister?

Sister Clarone:
I think they were very supportive and happy for me. My dad said he would not stand in the way of my calling.

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Sister Clarone is a member of the Class of 1949.

Show me a sign:
As you reflect on your jubilee, what facets of serving as an FSPA first come to mind?

Sister Clarone:
My delight has been being spirit led to an ever-deepening relationship with God, especially
through prayer, retreats and ministering to others.

Show me a sign:
What has been your favorite ministry, and why?

Sister Clarone:
My two main ministries have been teaching and pastoral care. It’s hard to choose one over the other because, in both, I ministered to many with love, care, and support  — touching lives in ways I may never know and hopefully leading all to a deeper relationship with our loving God.

Show me a sign:
What advice would you give to a woman discerning religious life today?

Sister Clarone:
I would say listen to your heart. Pray to the Holy Spirit to help you discern where God is calling you.

Are you discerning religious life? Walking with someone who is? 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.

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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.


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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.


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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?

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.


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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?  

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.

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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?

 

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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? 

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. 


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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.


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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. 

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.

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. 


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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.

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!

 

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?


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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).

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.

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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?

 

 

 

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?

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?


 

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. 


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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?

 

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?

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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?


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