religious life - Related Content

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

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

 

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

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

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



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

Meet Sisters Lucy, Sarah and Dawn.
 

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

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


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

You met Sister Lucy and Sister Sarah.

Today, meet Sister Dawn.

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



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

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

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


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

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

You met Sister Lucy.  

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



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

Discovery in discernment: breakthroughs of mind and heart

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

 

colorful-lab-beakers-freeimages.com

Image courtesy freeimages.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

With learning and reflection, do you feel a calling? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Airplane in sky

Photo credit: Pexels

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

The value of questions you have in discernment

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

What are the sisters’ ministries today?

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

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

 

How does this congregation define educational ministry?

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

Do these sisters work in bilingual classrooms?

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

Photo of the Week - Week 19

Wednesday, May 18th 2022 7:18 am

I have a few official responsibilities here at the convent. I remember when I got my list, I was so excited to have some jobs like the other sisters. Doing these tasks really helps me to feel like I am contributing in community.

I help clean a few places, I help decorate for birthdays and on Sundays, I make the refresco for lunch. Essentially, refresco is juiced fruit with a lot of water added. The fruit here is inexpensive anyway, but the sisters also have a lot of fruit trees, and that's where the refresco gets its start. For as long as I've been here, there has been an abundance of grapefruit which is what is used to make refresco most days.

First, I grab a bucket and head out to the trees. There are at least seven of them. Most of the fruit in arm's reach is gone, so I take a pole with a special small basket on the end specifically for picking fruit. I pick enough fruit to fill the bucket and add them to any grapefruits that are already waiting. Then, using a large knife, I give the fruit a light peel. This makes it easier to juice. Once that's done, I cut them in half and get to work juicing. No electric juicers here, I bet they wouldn't even want one. As they are juiced, I strain out the pulp and seeds. Today, I did about 12 grapefruits. They were big, so I probably didn't need that many but that's ok, because now we're set for dinner too. After completing the juicing, I divide up the concentrate into large pitchers and fill two for lunch with water. The rest goes in the fridge to make for dinner.

It was my first time making it solo on Sunday, and I am happy to say everyone thought it was just right! The scraps from the fruit go in a bin to be fed, along with the other food scraps, to the ducks, chickens, geese and a friendly young wild brown agouti, all who live back by the grapefruit trees. In the end, it took me about an hour and a half to make the refresco. I am sure I will get much faster but it was a lovely way to spend my Sunday morning.

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

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

 

woman-in-blue-ringing-bell

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

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

 

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

 

What inspires Sister Janet about about religious life today?

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

 

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

 

Sister Janet Fischer purple hat

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

 

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

 

S-Janet-Fischer-third-from-left

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.

 

S-Janet-Fischer-group

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. 

Discernment: clothed in your own uniqueness

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

 

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

multicolord-socks

Photo courtesy of freeimages.com

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

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

This week I invite you to ponder ...

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

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

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

What did you say?

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


drinking-fountain-by-morguefile.com

Image courtesy morguefile.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are some of your cultural influences?

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

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

Beacons of hope

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

 

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

lighthouse-beacon

Image courtesy pixabay.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy New Year!

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

 

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

Happy-New-Year-2018

Image courtesy pixabay.com

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

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

Merry Christmas!

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

 

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

nativity-scene-on-road

Image courtesy pixabay.com

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

As we prepare for Memorial Day

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

 

memorial-wall-poppies

Image courtesy pixabay.com

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

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

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

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

 

suitcase-scarf-camera-pixabay.com

Image courtesy pixabay.com

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

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

Mary-and-Joseph-traveling-freeimages.com

Image courtesy freeimages.com

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

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

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

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

How will you be ready to begin the journey?

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

Intuition: an essential tool for home improvement and discernment

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

 

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

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

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

curtain-floor-light-pixabay.com

Image courtesy of pixabay.com

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

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

What happened when you relaxed and thought outside the box?

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

FSPA at RE Congress 2018 ... Rise Up!

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

 

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

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

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

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

We look forward to hearing from you!

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

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.

Discerning wisdom in words

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

 

gate-woman-ocean

Image courtesy pixabay.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What phrases have become important on your discernment journey?

What rules you have learned or created on this path?

How does Scripture guide you as you discern?

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

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.

FSPA reflects upon World Day of Prayer for Vocations

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

 

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

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

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

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

Who are you praying for?

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

Empowering peace this Fourth of July

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

 

fireworks

Image courtesy freeimages.com

 

Happy Fourth of July!

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

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

 

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.

1,080 years of religious life

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

 

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

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

Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration celebrate jubilee

Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration celebrate jubilee

Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration celebrate jubilee

 

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

 

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

Honoring service, goodness

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

franciscan-sisters-fruit-bowl

Image courtesy of Pixabay

 

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

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

 

Action vs. contemplation in discernment?

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

 

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

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

Jesus-Mary-Martha-stained-glass-window

Image courtesy freeimages.com

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

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

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

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

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

Sister Rita Mae: painting as prayer

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

 


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

"Crocuses" by Sister Rita Mae Fischer

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

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

Tuning in to God, discernment

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

 

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

piano-tuning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This week a few question for you to ponder …

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

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

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

Sister Antona: comfort, joy and security in prayer

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

 

hands-lit-candle-courtesy-freeimages.com

Image courtesy of freeimages.com
 

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

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

Sister 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 Katie: ordinary day, invitation to pray

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

 

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

invitation

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

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

Sister 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.

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.

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

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

 

Do the good -- globally -- today and everyday 

S-karen-passes-bread-basket

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

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

s-karen-s-eileen-s-helen-s-ladonna-serve-food

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

row-of-women-sister-marlene-center

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

s-eileen

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

sister-kathy-gives-homeless-man-sleeping-mat

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

sister-julia-reading-girl-smiling

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

sister-karen-we-are-family-sign

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

sister-joan-holds-two-child-school-backpacks

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

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

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.

Sister Lucy Ann: expression of my time with Jesus

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

 

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

dancers-shadows

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

Know the True Nature of your Beloved.

In 

His loving eyes

your every thought, word, and movement

is always, always, 

beautiful.

 

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

 

Sister Sharon: Letters to God

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

 

notepad-pencil-coffee-mug

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

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

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

Viewing relationships in a discernment eclipse

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

 

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


solar-eclipse

Image courtesy of freeimages.com

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


monstrance

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

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

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

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

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

This week I invite you to ponder…

What kind of moments are defining your discernment?

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

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

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 Ronalda: I need to live and love

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

 

forest

Image courtesy freeimages.com

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

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

I need to live and love.

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

Sister Georgia: A morning offering

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

 

cup-of-coffee

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

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

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

A transformative moment

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

 

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


dinner-table

Image courtesy freeimages.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who will you invite to the table of your life?

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

Temptation and transformation in the desert

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


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

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

desert-trail-by-sister-amy-taylor

Image by Sister Amy Taylor

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

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

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

Image by Sister Amy Taylor

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

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

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

 

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

Life as a nun today: FSPA can relate

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

 

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

 Sister-Winifred-teaching

Sister Winifred teaching at Aquinas High School in her habit

 Sister-Laura-teaching

Sister Laura teaching at Viterbo University today

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

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

As Sister Sarah shares, we can relate

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

As Sister Lucy ministers, we can relate.

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

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

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

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

These are our own Meribah moments

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

 

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

rocks-heart-pixabay.com

Image courtesy pixabay.com

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

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

These are our own Meribah moments.

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

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

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

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

Sister Anita: the soul searching question

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

 

A lake as calm as glass;

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

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

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

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

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

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


Trout-Lake-by-S-Anita-Beskar

Photo by Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

Then the soul-searching question:

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

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

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

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.

Turn your back or open your arms to discernment?

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


thinking-of-you-blanket

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

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

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

two-students-s-fran-browning

Sister Fran and students cut fabric for scarves

hygiene-bags

Hand-made hygiene bags filled by students for homeless teens

s-carrie-kirsch-student

Sister Carrie Kirsch and a Viterbo student weave hats

sisters-margaret-schmolke-margaret-wagner-students-blanket

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

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

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

What will you do?

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

What inspires Sister Sue about religious life today?

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

 

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

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

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

Game-On

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Hearts and ashes

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

 

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

 

ashes-ash-wednesday-pixabay.com

Image courtesy pixabay.com

 

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

 

san-damiano-cross

San Damiano Cross

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

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

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

How do you choose to love like Jesus?

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

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

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

 

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


stars

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

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

Sister Jean: Praying

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

 

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


sunrise-lake-dock

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

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

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

Imagination inspires vision in discernment

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

 

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


winter-train-freeimages

Image courtesy freeimages.com

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

blowing-snow-chapel

St. Rose Convent in La Crosse, Wisconsin

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

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

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

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

How is your imagination a tool in your discernment?

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

There's more to Sister Lucy's discernment story ...

Thursday, November 15th 2018 6:00 pm
Amy Taylor, Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration

 

"What a blessing and grace-filled way of life that I’ve grown to know.”

Last week, we kicked off our Show me a sign video series premiere with the story "Sister Lucy, 'What if my family doesn't agree with my choice?'"  

Sister-Lucy-Slinger-welcome-sing-garden

There's much more to Sister Lucy's discernment story including "Growing a strong foundation of faith," in which she says, "Being a part of community has clearly amplified what I can do with my life in ways that I could never do as a single Catholic woman. Being an FSPA enlarges, enables and enhances, as well as supports and encourages, my work for the cosmic, common good. As an FSPA, I continue the tradition started by St. Francis of Assisi and continued by Pope Francis to care for creation. What a blessing and grace-filled way of life that I’ve grown to know.” Click here to read more.

And, in case you missed it -- or the discernment story is calling to you again -- here is the video "Show me a sign: Sister Lucy, "What if my family doesn't agree with my choice?

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

Merry, joyful and bright

Tuesday, December 25th 2018 10:00 am
Amy Taylor, Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration

 

Merry Christmas!

christmas-tree

Image by Graham Soult, courtesy pixabay.com

May the joy of the Christmas season fill your heart all through the year.

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 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.

 

group-blue-shirts-S-Sandra-far-right

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.

Praying for a blessed Holy Week

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

 

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

franciscan-sisters-water-pitcher-basin

Image by Sister Amy Taylor

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

Gathering in gratitude

Thursday, November 22nd 2018 10:00 am
Amy Taylor, Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration


Happy Thanksgiving!

As we gather around the table this day, may we call to mind and heart all the reasons to be thankful.

table-napkin-berries-tag-thankful
Image courtesy of pixabay.com

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

Called to the right now of the journey

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

 

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

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

driving-car-blurry

Image courtesy freeimages.com

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

woman-walking-nature

Image courtesy pixabay.com

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

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

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

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

Sister Cormarie celebrates, contemplates religious life in jubilee

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

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

sister-cormarie-right-sister-esther-left

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

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

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

SMAS: What attracted you to religious life?

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

sister-cormarie-in-habit

Sister Cormarie Wernimont, 1958
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sister Marla celebrates, contemplates religious life in jubilee

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

Sister-Marla-Lang-wearing-habit-1958

Sister Marla Lang, 1958

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

S-Marla-Lang

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

 

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

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

 

S-Marla-Lang-sisters-circle-fire-pit

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

 

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

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

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

Premiere: What if my family doesn’t agree with my choice? [Video]

Friday, November 9th 2018 8:10 am
Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration Amy Taylor

Welcome to the Show me a sign series premiere! Throughout the next several months, you will meet five Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration who share the joys and struggles they experienced in personal relationships as they walked their own pathway of discernment. 

Today, meet Sister Lucy Slinger and her sibling Eileen. About the family relationship, Sister Lucy admits, “I don’t always go and get to see her … because I have responsibilities. It’s no different than when I was a professional woman and a university professor. But if someone needs something—it’s kind of fascinating—I think I have more support in community than I would have had in the flexibility and freedom to do as a single professional woman.”
 



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

Let's begin with your story ... and a step

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

open book on grass

Everyone likes good stories.  My favorites demand my attention and capture my heart.  I like books, plays and movies that have intriguing beginnings carefully crafted first lines that draw you into a novel: strong messages conveyed by actors the moment they enter a scene, inviting you into the story.  These beginnings fuel my imagination and inspire my curiosity. 

We all have beginnings; from the everyday moments the start of a new day; to the deeper moments the awareness of a monumental new experience about to happen in our lives.  Without beginnings there are no stories. 

Today marks a new moment for the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration a community of vowed Catholic Franciscan women that began to write our story in 1849.  It's an every-day collective of community shaped by each one of us as we journey together.  Show me a sign is a way in which we continue to share our stories and invite you to ponder your own.  We begin this new part of our journey together and invite you to share it with us.  Let's see where it leads ... together, let's watch for signs along the way.  Your journey to religious life starts with your story ... and a step. 

(Photo credit: www.freeimages.com)

Photo of the Week - Week 2

Thursday, January 20th 2022 3:55 pm

I have to say, I had not intended to ever post a photo of myself as the photo of the week, but as luck would have it, being in isolation really limits the opportunity to take photos. So here we are on week 2 - and here I am! I was considering taking a photo of Anita's Silpancho. It's a traditional large, flat piece of beef, lightly breaded and fried with an egg on top, rice and salsa. It was delicious. 

Since this was the scene for the last week, I thought this more appropriate. I have been working hard at my studies all week with the wonderful instructors at CLIMAL who have really taken great care of me and adapted their schedules to allow me to continue learning. I am so grateful for Anita, who takes care of me, leaves breakfast, lunch and dinner at my door and has given me an incredibly comfortable place to stay. 

I have been overwhelmed by the amount of prayer and support I have received since learning I had COVID. Thank you to everyone for their thoughts and prayers! I am doing very well and have the tiniest symptoms left at this point. On Monday, I hope to be retested and receive a negative result so I can begin experiencing what it is to be in Cochabamba again. 

Paz Y Bien!

Photo of the Week - Week 2

Thursday, January 20th 2022 3:55 pm

I have to say, I had not intended to ever post a photo of myself as the photo of the week, but as luck would have it, being in isolation really limits my opportunity to take photos. So here we are on week 2 - and here I am!

I was considering taking a photo of Anita's Silpancho. It's a traditional Cochabamba plato with a large, flat piece of beef, lightly breaded and fried with an egg on top, rice and salsa. It was delicious.

Since this was the scene for the last week, I thought this more appropriate. I have been working hard at my studies all week with the wonderful instructors at CLIMAL who have adapted their schedules to allow me to continue learning. It is such a gift to me, and they do it with kindness, smiles and (I may have mentioned this before) loads of patience. I am so grateful for Anita, who takes care of me, leaves breakfast, lunch and dinner at my door and has given me an incredibly comfortable place to stay.

I have been overwhelmed by the amount of prayer and support I have received since learning I had COVID. Thank you to everyone for their thoughts and prayers! I am doing very well and have the tiniest symptoms left at this point. On Monday, I hope to be retested and receive a negative result so I can begin experiencing what it is to be in Cochabamba again.

Paz Y Bien!

Compassionate Care

Sunday, January 16th 2022 3:29 pm

Compassionate Care

I arrived in Cochabamba, Bolivia a little more than a week ago. The words I would use to sum up the time here so far are compassionate care. Compassionate care of me, what an incredible gift!

When I landed here, I was greeted by three friends and my host mother, Anita. It was a surprise and very much appreciated after the long flight. It was a great start to this adventure! We arrived at my home here, which is a lovely single room house with a bathroom. It is just a perfect place to stay! Pictured here (starting on the left) are Anita, Domo (Franciscan Mission Service), Paul (Maryknoll), myself and Victor (Maryknoll).

Anita is an amazing host. I receive the most incredible and healthy homemade meals, here. We have had great conversations as we eat as well. Our phones are always next to us, so we can find the right words to talk about our homes, growing up and our families. I was surprised from the beginning how much I can already understand. At one point, when some of Anita’s family was visiting, we were talking about COVID, and how some people don’t want to get vaccinated, and they expressed how frustrated they were about it. I thought it was interesting how the conversation was so similar to those I've had in the states the weeks before I came.
Roadside Hawk
I also started school on Monday. Anita was kind enough to drive me the first day, and I arrived at the Maryknoll Center here, full of gardens and (wahoo!) birds singing. Inside, we met our instructors who are all very kind, full of joy and super patient, which I really appreciate! This week I learned how to greet people, ask some general questions and describe people. I had fun using all the best descriptors for my family and friends! Pictured here is a Roadside Hawk that I found one day at the Center.

Cochabamba Street DogWalking to and from class was a nice way to get to know the area and practice my Spanish: Buenos Dias! Buenas Tardes! I also greet the dogs I see along the way, most of which are street dogs: Hola mi perro! Pictured here is a local street dog I pass each day. They are not mean, but also uninterested in being friends.

Breakfast During IsolationLate in the week I woke up with a bit of an itchy throat. I was hopeful that it would be allergies, but unfortunately, it was COVID. Somewhere in my travels, I picked it up. I will be isolating in my little home for 10 days. I have been overwhelmed at everyone’s kind response to getting sick. The school had to be closed, disinfected and everyone there tested. They have been so gracious about it and even held online class with me for a short time the next day. Anita has been leaving me breakfast, lunch, dinner, tea, and whatever else I need, outside my door. She always waits so she can see me and make sure I look ok – but from a distance of course! Pictured here is breakfast: some carrot bread, a blood sugar regulating smoothy (Anita found the recipe which contains mango, almond milk and cinnamon, num!) and Mate de Coca tea.

So far, COVID has not been too rough, just like a bad cold. It’s early, but the symptoms are mild and should begin dissipating in a few days, which I am grateful for. I worry most about the people I came in contact with, especially Anita, my friends, as well as the instructors and the students at the school. It is quite a burden being the one to bring COVID to a place. I continue to pray for their health and wellbeing.

When I was learning about Bolivia I heard about how full of hospitality the Bolivian people are, and this first week has proven it to be true! I am so blessed to be in this place at this time, and blessed by everyone around me.

Seeing discernent from new heights

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

aiplane-window-view-below
Photo credit: www.freeimages.com

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

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

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

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

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).


heart-candle-freeimages.com

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.


lard-light

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?


 

Photo of the Week - Week 1

Wednesday, January 12th 2022 10:24 pm

Mountain View on Main Road in CochabambaMountain Views in Cochabamba

They are possibly the most breathtaking part of Cochabamba, Bolivia. 

Cochabamba is a beautiful place. It is a large city, but even so it is full of lush, green grass, shrubs, trees and flowers. There isn't much space - or many times any - space between the buildings, so the people of Cochabamba have utilized their boulevards to create places of great beauty. 

It's easy to focus on the city itself. I think I did that for the first two days I was here. It wasn't until I was walking to Mass at a little local chapel down the road when I looked up and saw the amazing mountains. They are immense and beautiful, ringing the city in a natural embrace. 

I hope to get an opportunity to travel into the mountains a little before I leave, but in the meantime, I will appreciate and be grateful for such an immense work of art. 

Bendiciones!

Photo of the Week - Week 5

Thursday, February 10th 2022 2:51 pm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Normally, on my walk to class, I take a road that is between the walls of the Maryknoll Center (where we have class) and a bike path that winds through the city. Just beyond the bike path on the side fathest from me I have seen clothes hanging all day, every day. I always assumed it was someone who had a laundering service of some kind. 

Lately, the road in front of the school has been under construction, so I have had to walk another way. It takes me beyond, to the other side of it all. As I've taken this way for quite a few days now, I have become curious about the area. 

There are signs on my current route and I've learned that this is a public lavanderia, or clothes washing area. People come here to hand wash their clothes and then hang them on the lines to dry. This one is called "Lavanderias Traditionales de Cala Cala" and has been here since 1860. Cala Cala is the bario, or neighborhood, I live in. 

Since I have come to Cochabamba, I have have felt challenged to reconsider my assumptions and standards. This lavanderia has given me pause for thought. I see women throwing day old pan (bread) to the pigeons, talking and getting started with their day in the morning. I see people there all the time in conversation. I see an older gentleman on crutches there everyday, acting as caretaker. This place creates community by giving people the opportunity to get work done, and get to know their neighbors at the same time. The caretaker recognizes me now and greets me as I pass by. It is this small gesture that invites me to the neighborhood. 

Photo of the Week - Week 6

Thursday, February 17th 2022 12:16 pm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What a strange creature! At the end of our time in Incachaca we stopped for Trucha (trout) at a restaurant and fishery. The sun finally snuck out from behind the clouds and suddenly, the place was filled with all sorts of different butterflies. They were all sorts of bright colors and all different sizes. They seemed to be too fast for me though, and I only was able to snap a photo of a small white butterfly. I didn't think anything of it and forgot I had taken it until I was reviewing the photos. Looking closer, the small white butterfly becomes an incredible wonder with striped antennae, bright green eyes and a soft yellow outline. Can you see the tongue drinking water? What a gift! I wonder if there are other things in my world right now that I need to take a closer look at in order to see the wonder. I think I'll start looking!

I'm not sure what it will be like in Santa Cruz, so if you don't see posts for a little while, don't worry! I will post as often as I can. 

If you would like to be notified when I have new posts, be sure to scroll to the bottom, provide your email address, check the box confirming you are not a robot, click on a few photos to prove it and click Subscribe! You will then receive an email after each new post.

Photo of the Week - Week 6

Thursday, February 17th 2022 12:16 pm

What a strange creature! At the end of our time in Incachaca we stopped for Trucha (trout) at a restaurant and fishery. The sun finally snuck out from behind the clouds and suddenly, the place was filled with all sorts of different butterflies. They were all sorts of bright colors and all different sizes. They seemed to be too fast for me though, and I only was able to snap a photo of a small white butterfly. I didn't think anything of it and forgot I had taken it until I was reviewing the photos. Looking closer, the small white butterfly becomes an incredible wonder with striped antennae, bright green eyes and a soft yellow outline. Can you see the tongue drinking water? What a gift! I wonder if there are other things in my world right now that I need to take a closer look at in order to see the wonder. I think I'll start looking!

I'm not sure what it will be like in Santa Cruz, so if you don't see posts for a little while, don't worry! I will post as often as I can.

If you would like to be notified when I have new posts, be sure to scroll to the bottom, provide your email address, check the box confirming you are not a robot, click on a few photos to prove it and click Subscribe! You will then receive an email after each new post.

Photo of the Week - Week 1

Wednesday, January 12th 2022 10:24 pm

Mountain View on Main Road in CochabambaMountain Views in Cochabamba

They are possibly the most breathtaking part of Cochabamba, Bolivia.

Cochabamba is a beautiful place. It is a large city, but even so it is full of lush, green grass, shrubs, trees and flowers. There isn't much - or many times any - space between the buildings, so the people of Cochabamba have utilized their boulevards to create places of great beauty.

It's easy to focus on the city itself. I think I did that for the first two days I was here. It wasn't until I was walking to Mass at a little local chapel down the road on Sunday when I looked up and saw the amazing mountains. They are immense and beautiful, ringing the city in a natural embrace.

I hope to get an opportunity to travel into the mountains a little before I leave, but in the meantime, I will appreciate and be grateful for such an immense work of art.

Bendiciones!

Photo of the Week - Week 5

Thursday, February 10th 2022 2:51 pm

Normally, on my walk to class, I take a road that is between the walls of the Maryknoll Center (where we have class) and a bike path that winds through the city. Just beyond the bike path on the side farthest from me, I have seen clothes hanging all day, every day. I always assumed it was someone who had a laundering service of some kind.

Lately, the road in front of the school has been under construction, so I have had to walk another way. It takes me beyond, to the other side of it all. As I've taken this way for quite a few days now, I have become curious about the area.

There are signs on my current route and I've learned that this is a public lavanderia, or clothes washing area. People come here to hand wash their clothes and then hang them on the lines to dry. This one is called "Lavanderias Traditionales de Cala Cala" and has been here since 1860. Cala Cala is the bario, or neighborhood, I live in.

Since I have come to Cochabamba, I have have felt challenged to reconsider my assumptions and standards. This lavanderia has given me pause for thought. I see women throwing day-old pan (bread) to the pigeons, talking and getting started with their day in the morning. I see people there all the time in conversation. I see an older gentleman on crutches there every day, acting as caretaker. This place creates community by giving people the opportunity to get work done and get to know their neighbors at the same time. The caretaker recognizes me now and greets me as I pass by. It is this small gesture that invites me to the neighborhood.

Photo of the Week - Week 3

Thursday, January 27th 2022 7:25 pm

I had some great ideas about which photo to give you this week but then God made such a pretty rainbow, I jumped to my camera and snapped a bunch of photos. Aren't rainbows so beaufiful and whisper of promises and hope. My heart skips when I see a rainbow - it has ever since I was a young girl. I know it's shared with everyone, but I guess a part of me thinks, somehow, it's also just for me. I realize that's how God's love feels for me. It's for everyone, but somehow also something special, just for me. Thank you God! 

Note: This photo was taken over the neighbors roof. You might notice a tank there. The tank is how water is delivered in Cochabamba. Throughout the week, a truck drops off water to the houses in the city. 

Me gusta comida! Togetherness with Traditional Bolivian Foods

Sunday, February 6th 2022 3:48 pm

Me gusta comida! I love food! We were learning the names of different foods in my Spanish classes and when in conversation if I liked this or that food, my response was usually, "Si! Me gusta comida!"

For me, food is more than just the actual dish. It is conversation, relationship, friendship. It is an expression of love from the person who prepares the food and an expression of togetherness for all who partake. It is a social connection that is formed around the table in which all participants are included and invited to share in life-giving sustenance.

While in Cochabamba, I have had the opportunity to enjoy many meals with my host mother, Anita. She is an excellent cook and always makes healthy and delicious meals. From time to time, Anita brings in a traditional food or we go out for something special. I've been out to a couple meals with others too. And with each meal, there is a growing sense of comfort as well as the bond of getting to know each other. 

Here are a few of the things I have had while I was here. 

Mate con Coca

Api con Pasteles

Sillplancha

Tranca Pecho

 

 

 

 

 

Rellenos

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pique Macho

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pique Gordito

 

 

 

 

 

Torte and Chocolate Caliente

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo of the Week - Week 18

Thursday, May 12th 2022 2:24 pm

The skies were clear and bright as I snapped this photo. Admittedly, it's not very attractive. I still find it fascinating though. This is a photo of the solar water heater in Yaguarú. There are some in Ascención too, but I couldn't get a good angle on them. I love that they are using the sun's energy to heat the water for their rooms. As a matter of fact, this specific one heated the water in my room's shower! What a practical and ingenious way to take advantage of the sunny weather that is present most days here.

May is the anniversary of Laudato Si, a letter written to all people of goodwill concerning the environment and the need for us to care for creation. As a Laudato Si Animator, this encyclical is especially close to me. You can read the full letter here: vatican.va.

If you are interested in ideas on how you can care for creation around you, you can check out the Laudato Si Action Platform and create an account here: laudatosiactionplatform.org.

Photo of the Week - Week 9

Wednesday, March 9th 2022 6:58 pm

Me gustan las motos! Sister Yanira snapped this photo of me on our way back from a neighborhood yesterday. The most popular mode of transportation in this area is the motorcycle (moto in espanol) and so when I first arrived and Sister Yanira mentioned that she normally takes a motorcycle taxi to and from the clinic to visit patients, I decided I should embrace this part of the culture here. It is a gift to get to ride on a motorcycle (side-saddle of course because I am wearing a skirt!) after a hot day of walking around a neighborhood in the sun. The breeze is cooling and I even get to see a bird or two on the way back. Is it dangerous? Probably a little, but traffic in this area runs smoothly and everyone is used to the flow so we weave around a car or a truck, bounce over rocky roads, snake around big puddles on skinny tracks and make it back to the center in time for lunch. It's the best deal in town - only 3 bolivianos! (That's the equivalent of about $.45 in US dollars.) Today, when I asked Sister Yanira which photo I should share, she quickly told me this was the one!

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Photo of the Week - Week 3

Thursday, January 27th 2022 7:25 pm

I had some great ideas about which photo to present this week, but then God made such a pretty rainbow, I jumped up, grabbed my camera and snapped a bunch of photos. Rainbows are so beautiful and they whisper to me of promises and hope. My heart smiles when I see rainbows - they have ever since I was young. It's obvious that rainbows are visible to everyone, but I guess a part of me thinks, somehow, they're also just for me. I realize that's how I feel about God's love. It's for everyone, but somehow, it's also something special, just for me. I feel such gratitude for this gift.

Note: This photo was taken over the neighbors roof. You might notice a tank there. The tank is how water is delivered to homes in Cochabamba. Throughout the week, a truck drops off water to the houses in the city. It is very interesting to know of this alternate way of getting a vital resource like water. I hadn't ever considered there were different ways to get water. I wonder what other interesting innovations I will discover!

I have no magic words

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

 

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

“How long will this take?”

“How will I know?” 

clock-morguefile.com

Photo credit: moguefile.com

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

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

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

Questions to ponder this week…

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

How are you comparing or competing in your discernment? 

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

Me gusta comida! Togetherness with Traditional Bolivian Foods

Sunday, February 6th 2022 3:48 pm

Me gusta comida! I love food! We were learning the names of different foods in my Spanish classes and when in conversation if I liked this or that food, my response was usually, "Si! Me gusta comida!"

For me, food is more than just the actual dish, although the flavor is very important. It is conversation, relationship and friendship. It is an expression of love from the person who prepares the food and an expression of togetherness for all who partake. It is a social connection that is formed around the table in which all participants are included and invited to share in life-giving sustenance.

While in Cochabamba, I have had the opportunity to enjoy many meals with my host mother, Anita. She is an excellent cook and always makes healthy and delicious meals. From time to time, Anita brings in traditional food or we go out for something special. I've been out to a couple of meals with others too. And with each meal, there is a growing sense of comfort as well as the bond of getting to know each other.

Here are a few of the unique foods and drinks I have enjoyed in my time here. I've included some links you can click on to learn more and even see videos about the food and Cochabamba.

Mate Coca

I know I've talked about this before but wanted to give this wonderful tea the spotlight. This is the first traditional item I had when I came here. It is said to help adjust to the altitude. Close your eyes and imagine the smell of freshly cut grass. I've always loved the smell, and now I know I love the flavor too! Mate Coca tastes just like the smell of freshly mowed grass. It is fresh and herbal. Now, each morning and evening, Anita includes this with my meal. It is warming and delicious.

Api con Pastel

I do wish I had remembered to take a photo of this! One evening, not too long after my isolation ended, Anita asked if I wanted to enjoy this traditional treat. The pastel (pastry) is delicious. It's a dough that is deep-fried and poofs up like a big pillow that takes up the whole plate. Inside is a small amount of simple cheese and the top is covered in powdered sugar. You have to deflate the pastry before eating it and puffs of steam escape as it collapses.

You would think that that was the best part of the treat, but no! The Api is a traditional hot drink that is sweet and comes in a glass mug so you can see layers of purple and white. The most amazing part of this drink is that it's made of corn! No fruit added (although I am guessing a fair amount of sugar). The different colors in the glass are actually different kinds of corn. It was thick, creamy and so delicious!

Silpancho

Silpancho is a main dish that consists of a large flat piece of meat, pounded thin and fried with rice, potato, finely diced veggies (tomato and onion) and a fried egg on top. This was the first traditional meal I had and Anita was kind enough to leave it outside my door while I was isolating.

Trancapecho

Imagine taking everything that is in a Silpancho, sticking it in a bun and you've got Trancapecho! Inside the bun are some potato, rice, beef, egg and a tomato-onion mixture. I added a bit of the Picante peppers too. This was such a fun treat. On a chilly, rainy night we drove to La Isla, a drive-up grouping of restaurants that offer sandwiches and other food prepared quickly and served on plastic tables - or to go of course. We decided to eat there and I had the BEST time trying to eat this sandwich. It was so good! I am not an experienced Trancapecho eater though, so I made such a mess. I also had a traditional juice that is popular in Cochabamba that is flavored with cinnamon and has a peach pit on the bottom of each glass.

Rellenos

One afternoon for lunch, Anita surprised me with Rellenos! When I first saw them they looked like large fried potatoes but after I cut into mine, wow! It was a work of art. Inside the delicious ball of mashed potato, there was a hard-boiled egg surrounded by meat (beef and chicken) and veggies. The whole thing is fried. They were really great. These were originally made as a handheld lunch that was quick to eat (and delicious!)

 

 

 

Pique Macho

This may be the most fun out of all the traditional foods I have tried. We ordered it for dinner before going to the Parque de la Familia on Wednesday evening. This dish is made to share. On a large platter, the first layer is a mound of fried potatoes, a lot like potato wedges. On top of that, there is a delicious, marinated beef. On top of that is a healthy number of sliced hot dogs (I really appreciate the respect they give to hot dogs here). There are a few tomatoes, a few green peppers and it's all topped with onion. It's not in the photo, but there's also a hard-boiled egg. Served on the side is a thin beef sauce as well as mayo, ketchup and mustard. Eight of us split two platters and it was difficult to finish!

You may notice a pitcher next to the pique macho. At the restaurants I have been to, they offer freshly made juice. This one was passion fruit. I had a little, and it was delicious. I had to save my carbs for the potatoes though. I admit, it has proven difficult to be low-carb here!

 

Pique Gordo

Later in the week, my friend Victor and I went out to lunch after CLIMAL, our language school, took us on a fun tour of Cochabamba. Victor hadn't been with us for the last pique so we decided to get it at La Casa de Gordo for lunch. It was SO BIG! On top of the traditional toppings, the dish also included a piece of chicken, an extra egg, a plantain, a chorizo and meat that we weren't sure about. (Later Victor figured it out - cow udder!) We both ate some of everything and didn't come close to finishing it. Lesson learned for next time - bring a couple more friends for pique!

Torte and Chocolate Caliente

I considered not including what I enjoyed at the Chocolateria because it's not traditional but in the end, I decided to anyway. Sister Tere, a Dominican sister living in Cochabamba, and I went here to have coffee. Well, she ended up having fruit tea and I decided to have a hot chocolate as a treat. I also had a piece of torte as a treat too! The cake was delicious with layer after layer of cake and filling. I am only sad I couldn't try them all. As you can see though, they were huge! This is not the best photo, but you can see half of a mug next to it. That was my hot chocolate. It came out and had three jumbo marshmallows on top, torched just a little bit so they were golden brown. What was amazing was how the chocolate was more like melted chocolate and so rich and wonderful - like they didn't put water or milk was added. Sister Tere knows the owner and told me she has traveled the world to find the best way to make all of her creations. I can't imagine having anything better.


There are a few things I would still like to try including Sopa de Mani (peanut soup) and Chicharrón (grilled pork). I only have two weeks left here so I am not sure if I will get the chance but I am hopeful!

Once I arrive in Santa Cruz, there are all different traditional dishes so I will have to start over. That sounded like I wasn't looking forward to it. Really, I can't wait! I hear rumors that they are known for their cheeses, so I am looking forward to that! Also, fruit is popular in Santa Cruz's tropical climate, so it will be fun to try some new types of fruits.

(I just had to include this photo of Coca-Cola sin azucar (without sugar). I have been here for over a month and only had soda twice. It's a special treat for me and went great with the Pique Gordo!)

May you all find some togetherness around a dinner table sometime soon - God bless!

Celebrating a Culture: Happy Dià del Estado Plurinacional! (Day of the Pluri-national State)

Sunday, January 23rd 2022 3:05 pm

Yesterday, January 22nd, was a very special day for the people of Bolivia. It marks the anniversary of their constitution. Over ten years old, it's a young constitution. To my understanding, this new constitution was written and ratified in the hopes of creating a nation that cherishes diversity and respects the needs of all of its people. With the new constitution came the addition of another flag full of colors to symbolize the people of the country. 

Normally, there would be a great celebration throughout Bolivia, including parades and fireworks. As you may guess, these were canceled this year due to the pandemic. I considered how, in my isolation, I could honor the day. Yesterday I enjoyed some wonderful Bolivian music filled with guitars and flutes. For me, the music is full of emotion, hope and energy. I really like it.

Today, I felt called to delve more deeply into the constitution. I wondered how a constitution could possibly address all that might entail such big ideas like equity, interculturality and the environment. The best way to find out, I decided, was to read it! I found an copy of the constitution in English. I was a bit intimidated when I saw it was 131 pages. After starting to read however, I realized that there is a lot of instructional detail in the Bolivian Constitution. It’s kind of a one-stop shop for all the ideals and expectations of the Bolivian people. 

The document started with: In ancient times mountains arose, rivers moved, and lakes were formed. Our Amazonia, our swamps, our highlands, and our plains and valleys were covered with greenery and flowers. As you can imagine, I was hooked and wanted to keep reading. I am on page 36 now, and am impressed by how it handles so many things. The term “Communitarian Democracy” was used to express both the diversity and the community form the country strives to include in their democratic nation. Sentiments regarding decolonization and environmental sustainability and protection were contained throughout. 

Below, I highlighted a few of the areas and language I found particularly interesting that relate to some of the social issues I have worked with. 

In Article 24
Anyone who has been granted asylum or refuge in Bolivia shall not be expelled or deported to a country where his life, bodily integrity, security or liberty is endangered. The State shall attend in a positive, humanitarian and efficient manner to requests for family reunification presented by parents or children who are given asylum or refuge.


In Article 33
Everyone has the right to a healthy, protected, and balanced environment. The exercise of this right must be granted to individuals and collectives of present and future generations, as well as to other living things, so they may develop in a normal and permanent way.

In article 48
The State shall promote the incorporation of women into the workforce and shall guarantee them the same remuneration as men for work of equal value, both in the public and private arena.

In Article 98
Cultural diversity constitutes the essential basis of the Pluri-National Communitarian State (Estado Unitario Social de Derecho Plurinacional Comunitario). The inter-cultural character is the means for cohesion and for harmonic and balanced existence among all the peoples and nations. The intercultural character shall exist with respect for differences and in conditions of equality.

If you are interested, I invite you to read the constitution to get a better idea of the ideals expressed. It is really easy in this polarized world to immediately begin to compare one nation/culture with another, or even to be cynical because of our differences. In the spirit of this very special Bolivian day, I invite you to put away that desire and enjoy!

What's New here? Well, everything!

Monday, February 28th 2022 1:55 pm

I am sitting outside my room. There is an adorable dachshund/golden retriever mix lying next to me. I am facing an inner courtyard that is full of gardens and an octagonal chapel that is both simple and exquisite. It gets hot here – in the 90’s and super humid, but I am comfortable in the shade this morning. 

 

I have been in Ascención, Bolivia for a week. It took a while to get connected to the WIFI here, and I know I am a bit late with this reflection. You might be wondering what’s new? Well, everything! 

I am living with the Tertiary Sisters of Saint Francis. They live in different places, but I am here in Ascención where the sisters are nurses, teachers and catechists. There is a routine here of prayer, work, communal meals and Mass. The days starts at 5:30 in the morning and finishes around 9:00 in the evening. There is time for work and time for rest. I admit to enjoying a siesta each day, it’s wonderfully refreshing.

In this climate, there are all sorts of new things to see. The birds are amazing. Each morning and evening hundreds of parrots fly over and a few macaws too! I haven’t done much birding yet, but am seeing new birds each day. I will have time to watch the birds more intentionally soon I am sure. There are also all sorts of butterflies. I even saw a grasshopper who flashed blue as he flew away. Large snails, lizards, frogs, and even a monkey, were some fun discoveries. 

I began my ministry on Monday of last week. Each morning, I accompany Sister Yanira, who works for a Nutrition Clinic here. The clinic specializes in helping some of the poorest families find nourishment for their children. A few of the days we walked through a large neighborhood filled with houses made of repurposed wood with openings for doors and windows and dirt floors. Most had corrugated metal roofs. A few were made from layers of palm fronds. At first, I assumed they didn’t have electricity, but realized that the houses do. Coming from a place with winter, it seems impossible, but it works here. 

This week I met the faces of malnutrition. Some were children who smiled and laughed, but their little tummies were distended with parasites. Even more distressing was to meet children who were fading. Children with no energy and no hope. It was heartbreaking, and equally heartbreaking to see their parents and grandparents, loving them so much, but unable to give them what they need. 

Sister Yanira brings them hope. She talks to them about the importance of nutrition and records each child’s information. As she does, she tells their families about the nutrition clinic, where they can get some staples like milk, and a nutritional superpower, Soya. Sister Yanira promises me that someday soon the children will have their energy back and the bright spark I have taken for granted. 

Most times, it is only Spanish here. I listen and watch Sister Yanira’s work. When the children wonder why I am not talking I explain that I don’t understand a lot of Spanish. It seems kids have natural empathy and many times, they begin to show me kindness by coming closer, showing me their things, and sometimes even giving me big hugs. It’s a blessing that I appreciate. 

My biggest challenge here is not understanding most of what is said. I participate in Mass and in prayer, but most times don’t pick up the meaning. At mealtime, I have to stay really focused because if my attention strays, I don’t understand the conversation. The sisters say in a month I will be able to understand most things, and in three months I will be participating. I am hopeful they are right! I have noticed after a week, I am picking up more. Poco a poco. It will come, I know it will! In the meantime, I continue to practice gentle patience with myself. 

 

With the new life I am experiencing, I find myself in “figuring it out” mode. I spend my time watching to see how things work, learning quickly and asking questions. I tend to be more in the details and less in the big picture. Yesterday, however, in Father’s homily, I picked out the word “Bolivia” and had a moment of wonder as I realized I was actually here, in this place, at this time, following God’s lead. Woah, I’m in Bolivia – how incredible is that?!


Picture of the Week - Week 7

I know I missed posting a photo of the week recently, so here is one! This is a panel on the door of the chapel. The doors say "praised be my Lord" on them and depicts the Canticle of Creatures by St. Francis. It's really cool and of course this is my favorite which has birds from this area. You can see a parrot, toucan, rhea and (I think) a flamingo. I can't quite figure out the other one but will let you know once I see it! 

The convent is part of a Mission, opened by Jesuits when missionary work and colonization first started here. The mission grounds include the convent, chapel and large church. From my understanding (and forgive any inaccuracies because I learn in Spanish!) they were started in area where people lived a more nomadic lifestyle and the church became the center of small pueblos, where people settled. Ascención has approximately 18,000 residents. 

Blessings can be seen in abundance here, from wood panels to smiling faces. 

Photo of the Week - Week 12

Wednesday, March 30th 2022 3:55 pm


After having a chat with God on Sunday, I am taking the week off. I am letting go of my obligations, deep thoughts, and learnings.

I'm spending my time this week with God, the sisters and the people I encounter.

In the meantime, enjoy this photo of the 200-year-old Crucifix that hangs in the church connected to the convent.

Blessings to all of you this week and weekend. May you see God's light in your life!

Photo of the Week - Week 10

Wednesday, March 16th 2022 11:02 am

For all of you who have been praying for Carlita, thank you!

Carlita is a young woman of 15 who lives in a poor part of town with her family. Her grandmother lives with the family, is disabled and can't walk, being confined to a bed most of the time. We visited the family the first day that I worked with Sister Yanira and she was at school. She has recently been battling leukemia, but her family was happy with her progress. It was only a few days later that we heard Carlita wasn't feeling well and went to visit her in the hospital.

When we got there, she was in a bed and couldn't stop crying and moaning. It was probably the most difficult thing I have seen here. They were very concerned that she had COVID, especially because she is battling leukemia and it would be a terrible blow. She was in urgent need to get to a larger hospital in Santa Cruz where they could treat her, but there was difficulty getting the approval.

That is when I asked the sisters at St. Rose to pray for her and then after, all of the people who read these reflections.

Praise God she is much better and back at home. She didn't end up having COVID, another thing to be very grateful for!

A great big thank you to everyone who spent a moment or more saying a prayer for her. She is precious with a bright spark of life about her. The miracle that is Carlita is an example and a joy to me. I hope her spirit shows in this photo!

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Newness Abounds - and a Photo of the Week

Monday, February 28th 2022 1:55 pm

I am sitting outside my room. There is an adorable dachshund/golden retriever mix lying next to me. I am facing an inner courtyard that is full of gardens and an octagonal chapel that is both simple and exquisite. It gets hot here – in the 90’s and super humid, but I am comfortable in the shade this morning.

I have been in Ascención, Bolivia for a week. It took a while to get connected to the WIFI here, and I know I am a bit late with this reflection. You might be wondering what’s new? Well, everything!


I am living with the Tertiary Sisters of Saint Francis. They live in different places, but I am here in Ascención where the sisters are nurses, teachers and catechists. There is a routine here of prayer, work, communal meals and Mass. The days starts at 5:30 in the morning and finishes around 9:00 in the evening. There is time for work and time for rest. I admit to enjoying a siesta each day, it’s wonderfully refreshing.

In this climate, there are all sorts of new things to see. The birds are amazing. Each morning and evening hundreds of parrots fly over and a few macaws too! I haven’t done much birding yet, but am seeing new birds each day. I will have time to watch the birds more intentionally soon I am sure. There are also all sorts of butterflies. I even saw a grasshopper who flashed blue as he flew away. Large snails, lizards, frogs, and even a monkey, were some fun discoveries.

I began my ministry on Monday of last week. Each morning, I accompany Sister Yanira, who works for a Nutrition Clinic here. The clinic specializes in helping some of the poorest families find nourishment for their children. A few of the days we walked through a large neighborhood filled with houses made of repurposed wood with openings for doors and windows and dirt floors. Most had corrugated metal roofs. A few were made from layers of palm fronds. At first, I assumed they didn’t have electricity, but realized that the houses do. Coming from a place with winter, it seems impossible, but it works here.

This week I met the faces of malnutrition. Some were children who smiled and laughed, but their little tummies were distended. Even more distressing was to meet children who were fading. Children with no energy and no hope. It was heartbreaking and equally heartbreaking to see their parents and grandparents, loving them so much, but unable to give them what they need.

Sister Yanira brings them hope. She talks to them about the importance of nutrition and records each child’s information. As she does, she tells their families about the nutrition clinic, where they can get some staples like milk, and a nutritional superpower, Soya. Sister Yanira promises me that someday soon the children will have their energy back along with the bright spark of childhood that I have taken for granted until now.

Most times, it is only Spanish here. I listen and watch Sister Yanira’s work. When the children wonder why I am not talking I explain that I don’t understand a lot of Spanish. It seems kids have natural empathy and many times, they begin to show me kindness by coming closer, showing me their things, and sometimes even giving me big hugs. It’s a blessing that I appreciate.

My biggest challenge here is not understanding most of what is said. I participate in Mass and in prayer, but most times don’t pick up the meaning. At mealtime, I have to stay really focused because if my attention strays, I don’t understand the conversation. The sisters say in a month I will be able to understand most things, and in three months I will be participating. I am hopeful they are right! I have noticed after a week, I am picking up more. Poco a poco. It will come, I know it will! In the meantime, I continue to practice gentle patience with myself.

With the new life I am experiencing, I find myself in “figuring it out” mode. I spend my time watching to see how things work, learning quickly and asking questions. I tend to be more in the details and less in the big picture. Yesterday, however, in Father’s homily, I picked out the word “Bolivia” and had a moment of wonder as I realized I was actually here, in this place, at this time, following God’s lead. Woah, I’m in Bolivia – how incredible is that?!


Picture of the Week - Week 7

I know I missed posting a photo of the week recently, so here is one! This is a panel on the door of the chapel. The doors say "Praised be my Lord" on them and depict the Canticle of Creatures by St. Francis. It's really cool and of course, this is my favorite featuring birds from this area. You can see a parrot, toucan, rhea and (I think) a flamingo. I can't quite figure out the other one but will let you know once I see it in nature!

The convent is part of a Mission, opened by Jesuits when missionary work and colonization first started here. The mission grounds include the convent, chapel and large church. From my understanding (and forgive any inaccuracies because I learn in Spanish here!) they were started in areas where people lived a more nomadic lifestyle and the church became the center of small pueblos, where people settled. Ascención has approximately 18,000 residents.

Blessings can be seen in abundance here, from wood panels to smiling faces.

Poco a Poco - Learning and Growing Little by Little

Monday, February 14th 2022 3:01 pm

On Saturday, CLIMAL hosted a trip to Incachaca, a beautiful natural area a few hours outside Cochabamba. I had such a great time. It was drizzling while we were there, which was appreciated because the hike was challenging! Thanks to the instructors at CLIMAL who served as guides, we learned all about the area, enjoying the mountain view, a roaring river and breath-taking waterfalls. I found myself sighing contentedly. To be embraced by God’s creation brings me such peace.

“Poco a poco!” Karla, one of my Spanish instructors, said encouragingly as we slowly made our way back up the mountain, wrapping up the beautiful hike in Incachaca. 

I remember the week before when Osvaldo, another instructor, said to me “poco a poco” as I tripped over words trying to form questions on the things we were talking about.

I have had poco a poco, or little by little, bouncing around in my head lately. As with many things that are difficult for me, I tend to get frustrated with my progress in learning Spanish. It takes contemplation, discernment and prayer to realize that I’m trying to measure my progress, something that isn’t meant to be measured. How far along should I be in my learning? There is no marker, no invisible bar I have yet to cross. Holding onto an internal messaging with suggestions that there is can only lead me to an ugly spiral of self-criticisms.

It’s not healthy and it doesn’t honor the nurturing love I have for myself. I take the opportunity for a deep breath. Ahhhhhh. It’s at this moment that I invite my inner encourager to start rooting for me and she begins the simple mantra – poco a poco. Things get brighter and, interesting enough, easier.

On Saturday, I leave for Santa Cruz where I will be ministering with the Tertiary Sisters of St. Francis. These six weeks have gone so fast, I realize I have so much left to learn. Still, poco a poco, I will continue to move forward, continue to learn and continue to grow.

Muchas gracias, Dios, por poco a poco!

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A Lesson From My Week Off - And Gifts

Monday, April 4th 2022 2:46 pm

I am back from my week off, thanks for your patience. An amazing thing happened on my week off from deep thinking and reflections - I ended up reflecting and learning anyway! Sometimes I think I make things into jobs that don't need to be and that's what I had been doing. I had been thinking that I needed to make sure I had great lessons all the time while I was here. I think the mindset I had was actually distracting me from the presence that I want to have. I am glad to walk away with that lesson!

Gifts from the last week:

A hug from the most adorable abuela (grandmother) you have ever seen. She couldn't talk, but that didn't keep her from saying lots! She even harvested a couple of mani (peanuts) for us.

Time spent reflecting on synodality with sisters around the department (state) of Santa Cruz. I had lunch with a Polish priest, and sisters from Brazil, Mexico, Bolivia and Austria.

I got to the point where I can say all the prayers of the rosary in Spanish without looking. I'm not counting the creed as a prayer. It's pretty long and I don't have it down yet.

Sister Yanira lent me a Mass book in Spanish so I can follow along. It is great! I couldn't understand even the simple prayers due to face masks and now I feel like I am really participating. I am even able to sing a few things!

I have been really enjoying the ingenuity of the people here. They make stoves out of motorcycle gears or create mud ovens, make brooms from weeds, re-purpose wood in every way and reuse plastic bottles for just about everything.

Celebrating a Culture: Happy Diá del Estado Plurinacional! (Day of the Pluri-national State)

Sunday, January 23rd 2022 3:05 pm


Yesterday, January 22nd, was a very special day for the people of Bolivia. It marks the anniversary of their constitution. Over ten years old, it's a young constitution. To my understanding, this new constitution was written and ratified in the hopes of expressing a nation that cherishes diversity and respects the needs of all of its people. With the new constitution came the addition of another flag full of colors to symbolize the people of the country. Photo credit: Pixabay


Normally, there would be a great celebration throughout Bolivia, including parades and fireworks. As you may guess, these were canceled this year due to the pandemic. I considered how, in my isolation, I could honor the day. Yesterday I enjoyed some wonderful Bolivian music filled with guitars and flutes. For me, the music is full of emotion, hope and energy. I really like it. Photo Credit: Pixabay


Today, I felt called to delve more deeply into the constitution. I wondered how a constitution could possibly address all that might entail such big ideas like equity, interculturality and the environment. The best way to find out, I decided, was to read it! I found a copy of the constitution in English. I was a bit intimidated when I saw it was 131 pages. After starting to read however, I realized that there is a lot of instructional detail in the Bolivian Constitution. It’s kind of a one-stop shop for all the ideals and expectations of the Bolivian people. Photo Credit: Pixabay

The document started with: In ancient times mountains arose, rivers moved, and lakes were formed. Our Amazonia, our swamps, our highlands, and our plains and valleys were covered with greenery and flowers. As you can imagine, I was hooked and wanted to keep reading. I am on page 36 now, and am impressed by how it handles so many things. The term “Communitarian Democracy” was used to express both the diversity and the community form the country strives to include in their democratic nation. Sentiments regarding decolonization and environmental sustainability and protection were contained throughout. Photo Credit: Pixabay

Below, I highlighted a few of the areas and language I found particularly interesting that relate to some of the social issues I have worked with.

In Article 24
Anyone who has been granted asylum or refuge in Bolivia shall not be expelled or deported to a country where his life, bodily integrity, security or liberty is endangered. The State shall attend in a positive, humanitarian and efficient manner to requests for family reunification presented by parents or children who are given asylum or refuge. Photo credit: Pixabay

In Article 33
Everyone has the right to a healthy, protected, and balanced environment. The exercise of this right must be granted to individuals and collectives of present and future generations, as well as to other living things, so they may develop in a normal and permanent way. Photo Credit: Pixabay

In Article 48
The State shall promote the incorporation of women into the workforce and shall guarantee them the same remuneration as men for work of equal value, both in the public and private arena. Photo Credit: Pixabay


In Article 98

Cultural diversity constitutes the essential basis of the Pluri-National Communitarian State (Estado Unitario Social de Derecho Plurinacional Comunitario). The inter-cultural character is the means for cohesion and for harmonic and balanced existence among all the peoples and nations. The intercultural character shall exist with respect for differences and in conditions of equality. Photo Credit: Pixabay


If you are interested, I invite you to read the constitution to get a better idea of the ideals expressed. It is really easy in this polarized world to immediately begin to compare one nation/culture with another, or even to be cynical because of our differences. In the spirit of this very special Bolivian day, I invite you to put away that desire and enjoy!

I am looking forward to experiencing more of this diverse country!

What About the Food?

Sunday, May 1st 2022 10:44 am

Moving on to the topic that got the most questions - food! Here are the questions, and here are the answers! My apologies for the lack of food photos like last time. I don't bring my phone to the dining room. I think that would be impolite.

Do you like pudding?

Well, yes, yes I do like pudding! We haven’t had any here yet though. But we have had gelatina (jello) and arroz con leche (rice with milk), which are delicious. Normally the gelatina has fresh fruit in it and the arroz con leche is sweetened with sugar, probably a little vanilla and cinnamon. Num!

So you are up and at it for two hours without any breakfast??? I would have such a headache. How do you do it?

Honestly, I hadn’t given it much thought. I wonder if it’s because it’s so early, my stomach isn’t awake enough to be ready for sustenance! I’m not sure, but I did start having a cup of coffee with breakfast in the morning. With these early mornings, a kick-start is needed!

I'm interested in the food with the TSSF sisters.

I would describe the food here as a bit on the more simple side, but very delicious. You don’t have to get too fancy when the food is good!

Here’s what typical meals are like:

Breakfast

For breakfast, we always have pan (bread). The most popular kind includes these small rolls that are either plain, have cheese baked on top, or have a flour and sugar mixture on top. I tend to like the last option the best. Butter and marmalade are made from fruits here to add to the rolls. Then, we always have a cup of coffee. I have found a lovely stevia powder I use as a sweetener. Here, they put a lot of leche (milk) in their coffee, which I appreciate!

Sometimes we have eggs: scrambled over-easy, hard-boiled or soft-boiled. I hadn’t ever had a soft-boiled egg until I came here, and I like them a lot!

Every once in a while, we have something called Locro with breakfast. It’s a slow-cooked stew with hominy and pork. All the Bolivian sisters dig in when it’s made. They say it’s a traditional breakfast here and very special to them.

Finally, there are times we have a variety of different breads in addition to the rolls. There are Cuñapes (rolls with cheese in them), empanadas (for breakfast, normally baked with cheese in them) and a personal favorite – pan de arroz con queso (it’s like rice meal turned into a dough, stuffed with cheese and then fried). I think you might have noticed a trend here. In the tropical zone of Bolivia, where I live, queso is very popular. As a cheese-head, that makes me very happy.

Lunch

Lunch is the big meal of the day, and always starts with sopa (soup). There is great variety in the soups, which are usually flavored with differing kinds of meat and bones. When it’s served, they leave pieces of meat in. When you serve it to yourself, you have the option of taking the meat and eating it as well.

After we finish the soup, the rest of the food is served. Rice is included with almost every meal. Many times, it's mixed with meat and something to make it a little creamy. Eggs are also often served with it. I realize that I'm not describing it very well, but it is very delicious! Other main dishes might include roasted meats, chicharon (which is like fried meat that gets really crispy), or hamburguesa (which are hamburgers, but not on buns like in the US and normally mixed with some bread crumbs and herbs). They really have a large variety of things, and all of them are delightful! I also noticed that the way they cut their meat is different here, and they don’t normally remove the bones.

Besides rice, sides might include potatoes or yucca. Potatoes are the most common in the mountains, and yucca is the most common here because of growing conditions.

We also normally have a vegetable of some sort. Salads are popular, made with lettuce, tomatoes and sprinkled with chives and then doused with lemon juice. We’ve had beets quite often, and they’ve made them mixed with potatoes and mayonnaise in a salad. It was pretty good!

Sometimes we have postre (dessert). The most common includes fresh fruit. Fruit is grown everywhere and so there are lots of different fruits we harvest or purchase at the Mercado (market). We might have papaya, banana, oranges, apples, grapes... We have had gelatina and arroz con leche for dessert in the past too. Sister Scholastica from Cameroon has been making banana cake lately which reminds me of home.

Also served with lunch is refresco. It’s normally a freshly squeezed lemon, grapefruit or sometimes even mandarin juice added to water. It is really refreshing! I appreciate that they don't pre-sweeten it because I'm able to add my stevia if I’m in the mood or just have it without.

Dinner

Dinner is normally the leftover food from lunch. Normally, something extra is fixed so there is enough for everyone. Sometimes they make some chorizo (sausage) from the local butcher which is one of my favorite dinner treats. And other times they make a pasta dish or arroz con queso (rice with cheese).

OK, now I’m hungry. I better go find a snack!

Photo of the Week - Week 4

Thursday, February 3rd 2022 1:43 pm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This week's photo comes from the Parque de la Familia (The Family Park) where I was invited by CLIMAL, my language school, to go to last night. A total of eight of us went. We enjoyed traditional Bolivian food at a restaurant (more on that another time) and then walked over to this spectacular show. For just 8 bolivianos, we were treated to bright lights bouncing off of water from different fountains, choreographed to music. There were lights like this, images and even video of flowers blooming in the fountain, all bright and colorful.  It was great fun. It started raining right before it started so we ended up standing pretty far away under a building. A few of the people with me said that since I was Franciscan I should pray for the rain to stop for an hour, hoping to watch the show and stay dry. I did better, I prayed for the rain to stop for TWO hours with a por favor and a gracias. The rain did stop, just as the light show was ending, DOH! I am pretty sure it started back up two hours later when everyone was home and tucked in for the night. I would say that still counts as an answered prayer! 

A New Invitation: Walking with Intention

Sunday, March 13th 2022 1:31 pm

I am a dreamer. I always have been. In the 1st grade, the teacher I had commented on a report card that I was intelligent, if only I would pay attention! Imagining is a joy for me. I love stories with dragons and unicorns. I enjoy looking at buildings for sale and imagining what business would be good in them. My imagination is great for creatively troubleshooting problems, planning a trip or a party and brainstorming ideas. It has been my friend and companion for all of my life.

I find that here, at this moment in my life, my dreaming is a distraction. While I am learning Spanish, it only takes a moment to lose the thread of conversation. I have found myself slipping into my dream world when listening is difficult or I become tired. Tuning out in this way isolates me from the people around me. I become alone in my little bubble and no amount of imagination can restore the disconnection.

I find myself receiving a call for this moment. I realize that what is really needed for me right now is to put my dreaming aside and truly be present to what God is showing me right now. I need to be present with all of my senses, all of my mind and all of my heart.

My challenge and my invitation is to walk in this experience with complete intentionality.

I will keep my dreaming and imagination for another time. I will place it in a treasured place and take it out when it is needed again but for now, I will give this time and space my complete attention.

God affirmed my new commitment as I left lunch today. I looked out into the courtyard and a Tropical Kingbird knocked a Guira Cuckoo into the yard about 20 feet away from me. (Don’t worry, he wasn’t hurt!) What a strange and magnificent bird! The cuckoo waited for me to get my camera before posing for some great shots and finally flying away. A group of us were able to enjoy the experience together. Afterward, Therese and I talked about the bird digitally and Therese identified him!

Thank you, creative, kind and encouraging God, for guiding me on my journey.

 

 


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Photo of the Week - Week 8

Thursday, March 3rd 2022 6:44 pm

When these beautiful women come to call at the end of Carnaval - it's time to dance!

The last day of Carnaval was Sunday and we all went to Yaguarú (pronounced ya-wa-roo) to enjoy the day with a big picnic at the small pueblo about an hour from here. After the picnic, Sister Yanira and I went for a long walk and came back to relax. It was really hot that day but a group of mujeres (women) from the village came to the convent accompanied by drums and flute music. It is a tradition, that when the women (called "originales" I think!) come, they are dancing to mark the end of Carnaval. The joy of these women was incredible and they invited the sisters to join them (which they did of course!) When they invited me, I considered saying no, but then I decided to do it anyway. Dancing is not my thing, but I decided it was an honor to be invited and join in the fun. It was an incredible feeling to be surrounded by joyful, strong, wise women and to join in their dance. It was the thrill of a lifetime. I didn't realize it, but someone was recording our dance. You can see it by clicking here. God bless these women. What a way to end a great day!

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Photo of the Week - Week 4

Thursday, February 3rd 2022 1:43 pm

This week's photo comes from the Parque de la Familia (The Family Park) where I was invited by CLIMAL, my language school, to go to last night. A total of eight of us went. We enjoyed traditional Bolivian food at a restaurant (more on that another time) and then walked over to this spectacular show. For just 8 bolivianos, we were treated to bright lights bouncing off of water from different fountains, choreographed to music. There were lights like this, images and even video of flowers blooming in the fountain, all bright and colorful.  It was great fun. It started raining right before it started so we ended up standing pretty far away under a building. A few of the people with me said that since I was Franciscan I should pray for the rain to stop for an hour, hoping to watch the show and stay dry. I did better, I prayed for the rain to stop for TWO hours with a por favor and a gracias. The rain did stop, just as the light show was ending, DOH! I am pretty sure it started back up two hours later when everyone was home and tucked in for the night. I would say that still counts as an answered prayer!

Discovering a Growing Edge While Walking in Cochabamba

Sunday, January 30th 2022 4:30 pm

When I first joined religious life, I remember hearing the term growing edges, referring to where in my life there were opportunities for growth. I couldn’t help but think of a climbing plant continuing to fill in on the edges to grow bigger and more expansive. 

I sometimes have a hard time noticing my growth and change. Once growth happens, it becomes a part of me. It might be a better to say that my growth becomes integrated. So maybe for me it’s more like a forest. Given the opportunity, it spreads out with more and more trees on its edges in slow, less perceptible ways. 

Photo credit: Pixabay

Since I have been able to go back to language school, post COVID isolation, I have enjoyed walking to school. It is a joy to be outside in the open air. I get to look at all the activity going on in the city, see people walking, talking, eating and working. I get to enjoy the beautiful gardens and, of course, check out the different birds in the area. There’s actually a part of my walk that goes along a channel and is just FILLED with birds. Most times, I just hear them but sometimes one pops up for me to see. I don’t have my camera along as I walk to school so you’ll just have to take my word for it! But I digress…

 

 

 


 

Photo: This garden on my walk to school was being weeded by a woman (by hand) the first time I walked by and is now beautiful.

A growing edge I have become aware of this week has become apparent on my walks. First, it’s important to understand that outside of the people I interact with at school, I rarely see someone that shares my skin tone. To give you an idea, I have been here for 3 weeks and I have seen 3 people outside of the school that share my complexion. 

In my mind, I know that it doesn’t matter. Everyone I have had personal contact with has been so full of kindness and hospitality and even with the language barrier, they go out of their way to make me feel welcome. And yet…

Photo: Rain gathering in the mountains.

And yet, as I am walking down the street and pass someone by, many times they don’t make eye contact. For a moment, I wonder if maybe they don’t want to interact with me. Is it because I am different? Sometimes someone does make eye contact and I say Buenos Dias, but they say nothing back. I wonder then if I am doing something wrong because I am not from around here. At a bus stop, as I walk by a couple people sitting and waiting for the bus I say, Buenos Dias, and I can’t be sure, but it seems like an older woman looks me up and down before looking away. I wonder if it’s because of my skin tone, maybe she doesn’t like people that look like me. Maybe I shouldn’t have said hello. I am the outsider in this place. Who am I to think that people should be nice to me?

I live in this mind space for a short time wondering about my place in this country that is not my own, in this place where I am different. This place where I don’t fit in. This place where I am an outsider. 

In time, I consider my thinking more deeply. I remember that in the United States, where I am the majority and my skin tone affords me unwarranted privilege, that people don’t make eye contact with me, people don’t say hi back and that sometimes people give me looks I don’t understand. I remember that no matter where I am, there are people who have bad days, who are tired. There are even more in their own thoughts and not noticing the people they meet. In big cities I’ve lived in, it’s rare that people make eye contact or say hello.

Then I decide to stop and look around. I resolve to try to see the similarities I have with the people around me, and not make assumptions about them. I resolve to stop projecting my thoughts on other people. I continue walking.

Yesterday, I was heading back home and it was raining, so I hailed a crowded bus (that’s how it works here – pretty cool!) and jumped on, paying my 1,50 bolivianos, the equivalent of about 50 cents US. As I hopped up the stairs, a young woman left her seat and moved to the back so I would have a place to sit. I was grateful for the kindness. As we drove through some water that was tumbling down the road, the splashes were pretty spectacular. The older woman I was sitting with and I both said “wow!” in unison as we went through a particularly large puddle. The doors of the bus are always left open and we were in a really good spot to see it. We laughed and although she said something I couldn’t understand, I knew we shared a moment of connection.

Photo: The buses in Bolivia are brightly colored, they look happy to me!

That’s my growing edge to work on. I will no doubt have more experiences of otherness in my time here. And yet, I know that I am called to find connection and relationship, not difference. And so, I will continue to do just that because that’s one of the ways I know how to share my love.

Buenas tardes mis amigos!

Photo: Even the insides of the buses here have colorful decorations. I really like them!

Photo of the Week - Week 16

Thursday, April 28th 2022 8:58 am

Look who came to the convent for a visit! Can you believe it? It was late in the afternoon on Monday and all of a sudden, everyone was talking excitedly and someone told me to get my camera. I couldn't believe it when out of the church came this totally adorable, young, three-toed sloth! I snapped photos and took a quick video (which you can see here if you are interested) and the sloth continued on the adventure of a lifetime (I am sure) being relocated to a more suitable spot. My first thought was the sloth was actually IN the church but after a few questions, I learned that "Iglesia" refers to the whole parish property. It's still too busy of a place here in the pueblo for this little one so I am glad people pitched in to help.

I also saw a friendly Brown Agouti who I was planning on including in the photo of the week but there's something about the adorableness of a sloth that wins out every time! The Agouti is a subspecies specific to this area. If you are interested, I have a short video here!

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Delighting in Routine...and Your Questions?

Sunday, March 20th 2022 10:41 am

The strange thing about writing updates is that I don't get to have conversations with everyone who reads them. I am curious - do you have any questions or anything you have been wondering about? Let me know! You can leave them in the comments (below) or email me at sistermeg@fspa.org. I will try to answer what I can in future updates. Looking forward to hearing from you!

When I am in transition, I long for routine. It brings a sense of normalcy to a way of being that is all-new, unknown and a bit awkward. The structure of my days with the Tertiary Sisters of Saint Francis provides me with a foundation that is constant. It is both prayerful and productive, a peaceful mix of life that I have appreciated since I came here - a month ago now.  As I am starting to feel settled in here, I continue to enjoy the routine.

This is a typical day for me in Ascención, Bolivia:4:50am Levantarme (Get Up)
5:30am Oraciónes de Laudes y Adoración (Morning Prayer and Adoration)
7:00am Desayuno (Breakfast)
8:00am Trabajo a la Clínica de Nutrición (Work at the Nutrition Clinic)
12:00pm Almuerzo (Lunch)
12:30pm Oraciónes de Nona (Mid-Day Prayers)
1:00pm Siesta (Nap)
1:30pm Tiempo de Libre (Free time for practicing Spanish, practicing harp, reflections, emails, Zooms, etc.)
3:00pm Té o Café (Tea or Coffee)
5:30pm Oraciónes de Vesperas y Rosario (Evening Prayer and Rosary)
6:30pm Cena (Dinner)
7:30pm La Misa (Mass)
8:30pm Oraciónes de Completas (Ending Prayers)
9:00pm Duermo (Sleep)

Over the last few days, I went to visit another one of the missions where the sisters minister, called San Miguel. It was about 8 hours away, and we spent the afternoon and evening on Thursday traveling, arriving finally at 1 am. It was a bright and open mission, with a large yard full of plants and trees. The convent had rooms that opened into small, open-places filled with green, lush plants that remind me of Hawaii. The sisters here are generous and full of kindness. It is a beautiful place with beautiful people.

As I sat in a quiet spot overlooking fruit trees on the shady veranda, I realized how accustomed I was to the flow of things back in Ascención. The time at San Miguel was important and sacred, but it was also a delight to return to Ascención. Embracing the new and enjoying the known. This is a beautiful, living harmony for me. I am glad it remains with me here in Bolivia.

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The Gift of Memories

Sunday, May 15th 2022 6:20 am

Blessings to you from Ascención! Today, I pray for everyone who reads this reflection. Know that you are in my thoughts and prayers, and I appreciate all of your support and encouragement.

In my reflections this week, I realized that I have been blessed by the return of memories. I didn't realize I wasn't having them, but once I began to again, it became evident. I wonder why there weren't memories until recently? Was it because everything has been so new? I think that would make sense since things are very different here. I have also been feeling more settled here. Perhaps that has something to do with it. For whatever reason, my memories are bringing me joy as they connect my earlier life with life here.

Last weekend, when I was in Yaguarú, there was a confirmation of over 60 young men and women. It was filled with the Spirit and joy and incredible music. The young people sang so loud it was almost more of a cheer than singing, but their enthusiasm pulled you into the song. The energy in that church was just incredible. It brought me back to the different choirs, groups and churches I have been in where I felt that same energy and Spirit. It reminded me of what faith, love and joy in community feel like, and what a blessing it is. I was also reminded of my own Confirmation when I felt the Holy Spirit ignited in my heart at the moment of my confirmation. It's a beloved spiritual memory in my life. I am very grateful for it.

The second memory of mine is a little bit embarrassing! It was "Completas" (end of the day prayer) here at the convent and there were only four of us praying that night. A little like Mass, there is kneeling, standing and sitting during the prayer. Normally I have it down pretty well, especially because there are people sitting around me to cue me, but not this night. The leader of the prayer stood up to read scripture. I hopped up because she was standing, but I wasn't supposed to. I was totally oblivious until I looked over at the aspirant and saw her motioning for me to sit down. I slowly sat down. All was good until I tried to say a response with the others. Out of my mouth came a loud guffaw! Pretty soon I was trying to hide my face as uncontrollable laughter rippled through me. You know the kind, right? Tears streaming down my face, I kept thinking I had it back under control, only to fall apart as soon as I tried to join in the prayer. What was even worse, is the effect I had on the novice and aspirant. Soon, they were laughing uncontrollably too! Luckily we only had about 5 minutes left, which I spent laughing, and exited as soon as the prayer ended.

The experience brought back a vivid, happy memory of my mom. We used to have experiences like that often. It was a great time, one of us would set the other off and we would laugh so hard we couldn't breathe. I remember standing in the kitchen trying to stay upright as we laughed. What a wonderful time to remember. Considering that Mother's Day in the United States had been just a few days before, I wonder if she might have had something to do with my episode of hilarity in prayer. I wouldn't be surprised. Thanks, Mom!

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"Yes" to God's invitation

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

 

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

Sisters-Karen-Lueck-Laurie-Sullivan-renewal

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

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

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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?

Photo of the Week - Week 13

Wednesday, April 6th 2022 3:32 pm

It isn't the best photo. It's too dark, too close and a bit blurry -- but it's a favorite because it reminds me of a special time.

I continue to be surprised that anyone here might think that I am something special. I sometimes forget that I look different, or that by being from the United States, people find that interesting. I mean, I am from the United States so to me, that's old news! I don't often feel very useful, only helping a little bit with the important work Sister Yanira does. I have gotten a lot of compliments on my photos, but still, that pales in comparison to the life-saving work going on here. Of course, there are the continuing challenges of speaking Spanish, too. Today a large family that we cooked soy with made me feel special. The mothers taught me a few words in Gwarayu, the traditional language of this area (admittedly, I forgot them but that's not the point), one of the teenage girls took a selfie with me while we made Cuñapes together and the younger kids couldn't get enough of me and the camera I was taking photos with. I felt love and acceptance from this friendly -- kind and inviting family. It was a great day!

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Birds and Nature - Enjoying Bolivian Creation

Sunday, March 27th 2022 2:41 pm

Happy Sunday!

Thank you to everyone who asked questions! I got so many great ones - I look forward to answering them all. Since I got to pick, I chose a question relating to a favorite topic - NATURE! - first. I hope you enjoy the pics!

Question: I thought you would be exploring nature, taking pictures of birds and butterflies. We were expecting you to post nature photos. Can you explore nature on your own? Or would you have to arrange to have a buddy take you away from the convent?

Answer: Thanks for the questions! I have been quite remiss in not posting my nature photos. I haven't been out on my own yet, my Spanish is too sketchy and I don't often understand what people are saying to me, so I think it's best to have a buddy for now. Luckily, the sisters here like nature too - and have quite a bit of it here in the convent, too!

Here, there are so many big wonderings, I have been prioritizing them over pictures of birds and butterflies, but your question reminds me that there is a lot to learn from creation as well - and those learnings bring me closer to my Creator. I think the simplest and biggest lesson that creation here in Bolivia teaches me is that even though so much is different than what I am used to, it is still filled with the love and creative expression of God. It's easy to see that as I am witness to God's creative joy in the diversity of the creatures around here. To see a Capped Heron catch a frog, and three bright Macaws fly over the convent, it is clear that God is not only loving and intelligent, God is also amazingly creative. Each new bit of creation I find reminds me that God is full of surprises!

Above: Little-Banded Swift

Above: Orcas Checkered Skipper

Above: Florida White

Above: Dorante Longtail

Above: Polydamas Swallowtail

Above: Julia Heliconian

Above: Red Peacock

Above: Green-banded Urania

Above: Thoas Swallowtail

Above: Greater Ani, photo taken in Yaguarú wetlands

Above: Cocoi Heron, photo taken in Yaguarú wetlands

Above: Neotropic Cormorant, photo taken in Yaguarú wetlands

Above: Snail Kite, photo taken in Yaguarú wetlands

Above: Black Vulture, photo taken in Yaguarú wetlands

Above: Female Saffron Finch, photo taken on the convent grounds

Above: White-Banded Mockingbird -- trying to look threatening to a Rufous Hornero, photo taken on the convent grounds

Above: Rufous-Throated Sapphire, photo taken on the convent grounds
This is the best photo I could get of a hummingbird. You'd think with 75ish species of hummingbirds, one would sit still for me.

Above: Tropical Kingbird, photo taken on the convent grounds
When you are frustrated with hummingbirds, you can always count on this fellow to strike a pose.

Above: Whistling Heron, photo taken at a resort/family water park that was closed, but they let us in to look at birds anyway

Above: Blue-and-yellow Macaw, photo taken at the same resort
This bird was a pet of theirs, but such a beauty, and a good representative of the many that fly over the convent.

Above: Guira Cuckoos, photo taken at Hermana's farm out in the country.
They were kind enough to let me come along while they worked so I could take photos of birds and then even stopped the car each time so I could snap some shots!

Above: Limpkin, photo taken on the road back from the farm

Above: Capped Heron, photo taken on the road back from the farm

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Grumbling through the desert of discernment

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

 

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

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


desert-by-Amy-Taylor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Encuentro in Cooking - Lessons in Life

Sunday, March 6th 2022 1:17 pm

This week, I have noticed the dance that difficulties and love play here. In the struggle of living in really difficult situations, mothers and grandmothers still make jokes and laugh while they work. A young mother who feeds her baby before herself smiles broadly when she is told how beautiful her baby is. I realize I have a choice, too. It’s possible for me to focus only on the struggle or only on the love. I am deciding to honor them both and see the harmony in the totality of the reality here. 

Now that carnaval has ended, Sister Yanira and I are back to our ministry at the nutrition clinic. On Thursday, we made plans to return to a large family we had previously visited to demonstrate how to use soybeans. Called soya here, soybeans are included in what people receive from the clinic. Sister Yanira packed up some educational materials about hygiene in addition to two cups of soybeans that had been soaked overnight, bread crumbs, some oil, vanilla, cinnamon and a blender. We also stopped at the market, an open-air area that has booths filled with all different types of food. We picked up carrots, onions, garlic, a pepper, a couple tomatoes, flour and some eggs.

When we arrived at the house, a bunch of the kids greeted us with big smiles and lots of laughter. The first time we came, they were shy and unsure, but they must have decided that we were safe because they were so happy to see us. A table was moved, a bench placed in front and the youngest children quickly sat down, ready to learn. We were joined by older siblings, some to greet us and do other things, others stay and help with the children, preparations and cooking. The grandmother and the two mothers got things ready for our time together, cleaning everything we planned to use.

Sister Yanira gave the beans to one of the women to cook for some time on the stove in their kitchen. As Sister Yanira worked, she would show the process and then pass it on to one of the women. I appreciated that. It wasn’t a demonstration. It was a social time, where we talked, laughed and enjoyed each other’s company while we worked together. A couple more moms and children appeared, interested in learning what was happening and joining in the work. 

At some point, the kids lost interest and left to play in the yard as we worked. Dogs and chickens lingered nearby ready to pick up whatever we might drop. All the work was done in the center of the yard. There were multiple buildings surrounding us, all made with the repurposed wood, metal roofs and dirt floors. There was a small building for a living area, another for a kitchen and an outhouse toward the back of the yard. The yard contained some trees for shade and/or fruit. There was no grass, only packed dirt. 

We were working with two cups of soybeans. It was incredible what we were able to produce with those two cups. The process took about 2 hours, but was well worth it! We ended up with 4 liters of soy milk and 30 or so small soy burgers. We all washed up when it was time to eat. The prepared food was shared with everyone. I sat with the younger children and loved watching them enjoy the food. both the burgers and the soy milk were delicious - Mi gusta!!!

If you are interested in the recipes to try yourself, click on the little image to the right to view them. Warning! They're in Spanish, but you can use Google to figure out the words you don't know. That's what I did!

Click on the images below to see videos from the day. I had a great time and I think it's clear, the food was a hit!

On Friday, a young mother came in with Elsa, a beautiful baby girl. The mom was so skinny, we worried for her. Elsa was a happy little baby though, and her mom let me take a photo with her. I thanked her for the photo, and felt gratitude for her good care – as well as gratitude that the clinic will help make sure Elsa has what she needs each month.

P.S. For the sisters at St. Rose who have been praying for Carlita and her family, thank you! She is doing better, and is in the hospital in Santa Cruz where she needs to be. For those who have time for an extra prayer, she is a 15 year old girl who has Leukemia. Her family has many struggles including extreme poverty and a bed-ridden grandma. Your prayers are just what they need right now. Muchas gracias!

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Photo of the Week - Week 15

Wednesday, April 20th 2022 8:09 am

I took this photo last week. We were headed out of a barrio to get a moto-taxi after spending the day visiting families. I admit that I had taken my "big" camera that I use for birding along because this barrio was far out in the country and we had seen some birds while we were there on previous days. Normally, I don't bring my camera along because it just doesn't feel right to be walking around places where people don't have enough to eat with an expensive camera. In my mind, there's a certain injustice in that. I had justified it last week, promising that I wouldn't take it out when we were visiting with families, only when we were coming and going. Justifications only work so well though, because in this case, there were two extra families we ended up visiting that we hadn't seen walking in, but needed help.

This was the second family. There wasn't time to put the camera away, so instead, I just kept it hanging loose and continued to use Yanira's phone camera. (That's what I usually use.) Well, this young boy had been playing motorcycle on my arm (you can see it in his hand) and saw the "big" camera. He pointed to it after I had taken other photos with Yanira's camera, and I knew exactly what he was saying. He wanted me to take a photo with my big camera! We were on our way out but I snapped a photo. He was thrilled (even if he doesn't look it). It was especially funny because his brother was a perfect model for photos, holding a small soccer ball in various action poses, but this fellow seemed totally uninterested until that moment. I feel so much love toward these children. They are beautiful and courageous in their trust. If you would lift up a prayer for this youngster, and the others that we work with, I would sure appreciate it!

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Mary and our "Yes" to mystery

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

 

This Saturday is the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord. As I prepare for the celebration I’ve contemplated the Gospel we'll receive that day and thought about all the announcements made over the intercom I hear at St. Rose Convent in the course of a day. From the speaker just outside of my office I hear receptionists paging employees and sisters; reminders about Mass, committee meetings (even exercise class) and other activities beginning soon. I’m able to block out most of this background noise as it’s rare such announcements are personally meant for me. On the sporadic instance it is, I have a community filled with helpful sisters who diligently make me aware of what I may have inadvertently tuned out.


microphone-freeimages.com

Image courtesy of freeimages.com

In the Gospel, Mary encounters and responds to a life changing annunciation. This is not a vague message. It is specific. She is called by name, reassured of her goodness, provided with initial details of what is to come and given an opportunity to respond. Finally she makes a choice. She says ”Yes” to be the mother of Jesus. No instruction book is given, no promise of happiness, yet she says ”Yes.” When we say "Yes" to vocation we—like Mary—must walk the road, learning as we go, trusting God is always there.

This is one of several call and response stories we have in our Scriptures but Mary, in particular, is a model for discerners. Mary’s experience is a snap shot of what most of us experience in discerning religious life—movement towards making a choice. Gabriel may not be the one delivering the invitation but in many ways—when our worlds are changed in an instant—we can feel like Mary. The potential of the trajectory of our lives is laid before us and God waits for our "Yes."

God knows our hearts and understands how to communicate with us. The magnitude of our circumstance may draw messengers—delivering personal, divine requests—directly to us. The longer I live the more I doubt there are mere coincidences.  

Through the season of Lent we have been following the journey of Jesus to the cross. The annunciation story reminds us where and how it all began. Each decision about and response to God’s invitations has bearing on the future. Both stories convey the love God has for us. Love in action; in different moments of the unfolding narrative beginning with the very first moments of being through the maturation and insight into life choices made. Mary and Jesus choose love no matter the consequence for their lives.

This reading in the middle of Lent invites me to ponder loving more and worrying less. How can I let go of the need to know what to expect when love has a different answer? Always provides a way?

Is your discernment journey leading you to a “Yes” to love like Mary?

How does your life announce to the world your commitment to God?

Photo of the Week - Week 11

Thursday, March 24th 2022 1:44 pm

This week's photo is from the convent in San Miguel where I spent some time last week. I have seen different art like this here in Bolivia, but the imagery in this one struck me more than the others. This type of art serves as a reminder of the history of the place. In here you see Jesus front and center surrounded by indigenous people, priests, workers, poor children and freed slaves. Behind it you can see some of the historical events that happened like the arrival of the Spanish, military oppression and protests. I don't know the specific historical stories depicted in this painting, but it moves me. It reminds me of the history we are exploring anew in the United States connected to historical trauma and systemic racism (and other "isms") and I wonder what art is being created back in the states that will tell the story of our history. It will be good to see the images the future brings.

I realized that it is difficult to see all the detail in this photo so I have made the original available here for anyone interested. 

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Trying on your metaphorical lenses

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

 


glasses-eye-chart

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image courtesy of freeimages.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are you brave enough to take the next step?

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

 

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

 

The Making of a Saint - and Nerviness

Sunday, May 22nd 2022 3:55 pm

Today is the feast day of Madre Maria Hueber, the founder of the Tertiary Sisters of St. Francis, the sisters I am living with here in Bolivia. They have provinces in Austria, Bolivia and Cameroon. She seemed to be a simple woman who accomplished miraculous things devoted to free education for children and had the gift of prophesy.

The sisters here created special displays for the venerated sister, one in the dining room and one in the chapel. I appreciate so much that they use cuttings from the plants in the garden here. It's such a simple but beautiful expression of Franciscan simple living. There are candles and lovely fabrics that grace the places. Last night for the solemnity we had some time in Adoration and today we had a feast of "Chancha" (roasted pork) at lunch and read a special prayer for her day after, which I was lucky enough to get to read. 

It is my turn to lead prayers this week. I tried to talk them out of it, but they wouldn't budge. I guess that means if I make mistakes, they only have themselves to blame! Just kidding, I have been practicing and preparing, but considering it's entirely in Spanish, that complicates things for me and my language capacity. It's a good challenge though, and I am confident that the sisters will help me with everything as I need it. As a matter of fact, I started last night, and I mixed up the order of things for Adoration, which at times they ignored and when needed, started a prayer when I began doing something else. I appreciate they're guiding help and willingness to be patient as I lean into this good - but nerve-wracking - time. 

Since it was the Solemnity of the Feast of Venerable Madre Maria Hueber, I decided to ask her to put in a good word for me and interestingly, the readings and prayers I had to say solo went very well. She is being considered for canonization (becoming a saint) and I think that my saying the prayers and readings well should count as a miracle and cause toward furthering her in the process!

Knowing that each day I have four prayer times in the chapel, two meals at which to say grace (at the beginning and end none-the-less!), a rosary, Adoration and one reading after lunch, I probably could use a lot more intercessions for help with this important task with the sisters. Did I mention it's entirely in Spanish? In other words, please pray for me! Muchas Gracias!

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Photo of the Week - Week 17

Thursday, May 5th 2022 7:21 am

Welcome to May!

In the culture here (and many other places too!) May is devoted to Mary. Here in Ascención, there is a large blue and yellow display with a beautiful statue depicting Mary.

I will be spending the next four days in Yaguarú, a special small town where the sisters minister Thursday - Sunday. I thought it fitting that I use the Mary I saw in the church there back when we went there for the end of Carnaval.

This is Mary, Undoer of Knots. I was excited to see it when I was there. The devotions to Mary, Undoer of Knots focus on asking for her intercession to help undo the knots in our lives. St. Irenaeus is quoted as saying that Mary undid the knot of original sin, and so a special devotion was born from that.

There is a novena connected to Mary, Undoer of Knots, but I tend to ask for help with things that have me tied up inside.

If you're interested, the start of the novena begins...
Dearest Holy Mother, Most Holy Mary, you undo the knots that suffocate your children, extend your merciful hands to me. I entrust to You today this knot and all the negative consequences that it provokes in my life.

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A Walk with the Holy Spirit

Sunday, April 24th 2022 1:52 pm

Today, the Holy Spirit invited me on a walk. I grabbed my camera and we had a wonderful time. There were so many wonderful creations to appreciate. I decided not to do more than enjoy the time and snap some photos for you. Enjoy!

There's also a little video here if you want to see something wondrous: https://youtu.be/DlqKc1sj85o.



Photo of the Week - Week 14

Wednesday, April 13th 2022 9:51 am

The sun was hastening to the horizon as the courtyard filled with the prayers of the rosary.

Dios te salve María, llena eres de gracia, el Señor es contigo...

Outside, a cool breeze played with skirts, habits and veils and cooled the sisters as their gazes returned to the tabernacle inside the chapel, their lawn chairs facing toward the recipient of their prayers.

Bendita Tú eres entre todas las mujeres…

A pair of pigeons sang their praises with quiet cooing. A hornero announced its joining with a noisy and enthusiastic call. A butterfly gently glided among the brightly colored flowers, dancing to the rhythm of the prayer. A kingbird performed acrobatic pirouettes from the rooftop, catching insects along the way.

y bendito es el fruto de tu vientre Jesús…

As the Rosary continued, the skies filled with sound. The gentle peet of neighbor songbirds and the raucous cries of hundreds of parrots flying overhead. Martins and swallows in large numbers left their perches and danced in the skies above.

Santa María, Madre de Dios, ruega por nosotros pecadores…

Outside the walls of the mission and convent, the plaza was filled with the sounds of talking and laughing. Traffic punctuated things with its crescendo and decrescendo as the residents of the pueblo returned from a day of work or school. Music announced the start of dancing outside the convent, and for a few moments overrode everything else.

ahora y en la hora de nuestra muerte…

As I prayed and reflected on the sorrowful mysteries, I felt a oneness with all the different sights and sounds. I felt the deep, foundational connection I have with all and everyone as one tiny, but greatly loved, part of God’s creation. And in that, I understood God a little bit more.

Amén

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Felices Pascuas! Leaning into Different Pascual Traditions

Sunday, April 17th 2022 10:30 am

Felices Pascuas! This is short because I am still in the midst of celebrating this Holy time with the sisters here. I have had a range of wonderings this week, enjoying new traditions, spending time with Sister Katie who was visiting from FSPA and admittedly missing the traditions I've enjoyed in the states. I was just thinking, I wonder if I would have realized how important those traditions were if I hadn't been here? God's blessings to you today and every day!

On Good Friday, the morning was spent re-enacting the end of Jesus' life, beginning with the last supper.

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

We walked with Jesus as he carried the cross. The morning was about 3.5 miles and went from about 8:30 to 11:30. Many people joined.

 

 




The jovenes (youth) from the parish performed the reenactment, but I heard from Sister Yanira that the young man who was Jesus has been doing it for many years.

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

We circled the pueblo and returned to the church where the crucifixion was re-enacted.

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


After Jesus' death, he is lowered and held by Mary. It was very moving, and a little bit nerve-racking for the young man who climbed a ladder supported totally by other people holding it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


In the evening, we traversed the same route, just about 12 hours later, but in reverse. It was a time to carry Jesus' body to the tomb.

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

The coffin for Jesus is lit, so people can see and follow. I think there were more people at this procession than at the first. There were also women who carried the Pieta, shouldering the sorrow of Mary at the loss of her son.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Holy Saturday is "the Day of the Tomb" here. We needed to travel to Santa Cruz on Saturday because Sister Katie will be leaving tomorrow. I attended the Easter Vigil, which is more subdued than what we have in the states, but there were still extra readings, the blessing of the Easter candle and the blessing of the water. I got a good helping of blessed water on me during the sprinkling, which made me smile!

When we returned to the house, we had a lovely little meal with colored eggs (sorry I ate them so couldn't include them in the photo!) and candies.

 

 

 

 


May God's blessings shower you with the love of Jesus today and every day!

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A Day of Ministry with the Santa Clara Nutrition Center

Sunday, April 10th 2022 4:23 am

Question:
What do you do at the nutrition center? Do you go there just once a day according to your "daily routine"? 

Response:
I really enjoy my ministry at the Santa Clara Nutrition Center and appreciate greatly the work that they do. We all work from 8 am to Noon.

Normally, we spend 2 or 3 days a week walking different neighborhoods and talking to parents about nutrition for their kids. I normally take photos, and Sister Yanira does all the talking. She is a nurse and uses that knowledge to help in different ways.

We try to cook with a family once a week, which gives Sister Yanira the opportunity to bring educational material for parents and kids to learn about things like nutrition and hygiene. I think cooking might be my favorite activity because it's a time for everyone to work together to make amazing food with soy that is high in nutrients and protein for families who might not have access to a lot of healthy food, especially meat.

Finally, a day is spent in the clinic. Sister Yanira works with families and I spend my time transcribing things on the computer or looking for photos on the internet for her to use in her educational talks.

We have participated in fairs in the neighborhoods as well, impressing people with delicious food made from soy. It's really all delicious! We also have information and conversations about nutrition and hygiene.

This is a description of a typical day walking the neighborhood:

It's 8:30 and the van arrives to take us to a neighborhood. As we drive, the van bounces over potholes and puddles, going slowly where water has washed away parts of the road.

When we arrive at the Eva Morales barrio (neighborhood), we hop out of the van with our backpacks and the van leaves us, on its way to help run other errands for the sisters and act as transportation for the Tao school down the block from the center, which provides education to special needs and undocumented children.

We begin to walk. This neighborhood happens to be in a more hilly area, so it's a bit more work. The sun is hot, and temperatures at the beginning of the day are normally in the low to mid-80s. It will get into the 90s before our walk is done. They are all dirt roads here, sometimes only passable on motorcycles or by walking. We hop over gullies and holes, sometimes slipping a bit on the loose rocks. Our sandals are covered with dust and dirt quickly.

As we walk, we talk about life, our faith and ourselves. We might stop for a minute or two to enjoy a flower, tree, insect or bird. Not too much time though, because we are on a mission!

As we near different homes, we scan the clotheslines for children's clothes. I think it's such a smart way to see if we should stop. People hand wash clothes here, and as you can guess, there are always kid's clothes being cleaned! If we see them or see kids playing in the yard, we stop.

Normally, there is a gate made of re-purposed wood and barbed wire. Interestingly, a lot of people use their barbed wire fences as drying lines as well. One of the many examples of how things are well used here - I am often surprised and inspired by things like this. Sometimes a dog or two will come to challenge our entry. In many places, dogs are more protectors than family friends.

Sister Yanira shouts a bit of a greeting and we are welcomed into the yard. Most times, the general living area is outside. There may be one building or multiple smaller buildings of re-purposed wood and dirt floors for bedrooms, bathrooms and kitchens.

We are welcomed to an area that, if it was in a house, would likely be called the dining room. It's more like a porch here, with a covering to keep out the sun, and a table similar to a picnic table, where the family eats. First thing, chairs are produced for each of us. It is an incredibly welcoming gesture to me that is repeated for us in almost every place we visit.

This family includes a mom, a grandma and three kids. It is often the case, not always, that fathers are not present. I don't have specifics on the reasons, but it proves to be a challenge for the mothers who many times team up with their moms and possibly their sisters and their sister's children who are in the same situation.

The kids are normally a bit shy the first time we see them. Reserved and not sure what to make of us. They are curious about Sister Yanira in her habit and listen when their mom tells them to come over to us, but they are not ready to trust us yet.
 

Sister Yanira will check the kids, talk about nutrition, give medical advice, discuss education options for undocumented* kids and help if there is an urgent situation. 

We might schedule a cooking demonstration with a family, but we always provide information about the clinic and directions on how to get there.

As we leave, we thank the parents and say 'chao' to the kids. Now that we're leaving, smiles appear and return 'chaos' ring out from the kids. When we return in the future, most kids are transformed into interested, engaged, trusting children. It is a blessing to receive the gift of their trust.

We will repeat this process five or more times before we run out of time at about 11:30. Sometimes we are revisiting people who have received help before. Sometimes we are checking in on abuelas and abuelos (grandmothers and grandfathers) with health issues. Other times, we meet a child with special needs along with their brothers and sisters, presenting a different kind of challenge for a family here.

Sometimes when we visit a family, we find a chunky baby and kids that are a good weight. These times are not the norm however -- maybe one family of every five or six. Sister Yanira always celebrates these mothers, lifting them up with great praise and affirmation of the great job they are doing.

Finally, it's time to return. We hop on separate motorcycles and arrive back at the center with enough time for Sister Yanira to follow up on the takeaways she leaves the neighborhood with, put away our things and talk with the other staff there about each other's days.

*I wondered about what it means to be undocumented here. I wasn't sure if it was the same thing as in the United States. Here, undocumented kids are kids whose parents have not registered them. Both parents' signatures are required, and many times the fathers don't want to take responsibility for the child so they don't sign. Unregistered kids don't have access to healthcare or education. This puts moms in a very tough place. The Tao school provides education to these children.

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