Sunday, November 22, 2015


-written at the 2015 Atlantic Region Under 62 Gathering-
Unfurrow your brow
my sweet soul
unfurrow your brow

That you might see with
the eyes of your heart
unfurrow your soul

There is no limit
to your dreaming
or your feeling
only that which you
allow to be

unfurrow your brow
give breath to the Spirit
that somewhere between
your head and your heart
There might be life.

Friday, November 6, 2015

The Next & the Now

These are busy days. Last weekend, we took a large group of students on retreat; this coming weekend I head with another group of students to the Ignatian Family Teach-In in Washington, DC. In between, I found myself at the Annual CSSJ Federation Leadership Assembly in Albany, NY. There, the question that seemed to be at the forefront was: "What's next?"

If there isn't a more ambiguous or difficult to answer question, I don't know what is.  Yet, I and the other sister facilitating set out to speak on the topic and run a process exploring just that...what's next. Months of preparation went into the time we spent with the group, but to supplement  that and bring it to a head right before we began I offered a reflection on "The Next and the Now" for the Global Sisters Report. Here's a excerpt.... I hope you enjoy! 

Big questions matter.

“How do you believe that change is possible, when the present seems to be filled with the same old things?” An undergrad at Georgetown University asked me this as I came to the end of my remarks on the nature of vocation and the role of smart, Catholic women in the church.

“How do you find your place in the world?” another young woman asked the next day as I sat on a panel of women of different faiths.

“What do you do when the questions shift from should I do this with my life to will I do this with my life?” a student looked me square in the eye as we talked about her journey and call.

Looking at each one of these women, I took a deep breath and answered to the best of my ability.
There is something striking about these questions. Listening to them intently, I could hear the heart behind them. There are individuals on the other ends of them; people trying to figure out life. Or at least trying to get a grasp on what their lives might be.

 These questions are as big as they are deep. They deal in theory and theology, while also dealing with life. They straddle where the questioner is now and what holds promise for them next. Simple answers will not suffice to these questions; they, much like life, are far more complex.

This may be true, but I still tell the young adults I work with to learn to ask big questions. And perhaps more importantly, to let themselves fall in love with big questions. After all, whether you can answer these questions clearly or not is secondary to the fact that you are looking for Truth, and Truth is looking for you.

Big questions matter. That’s the point God keeps on underlining in my life these days. I’ve spent the last month answering such questions; from lectures and panels to conversations on discernment retreats and the everyday work of my life as a campus minister, the big questions keep on coming.

What’s next? I find myself being asked over and over.

To be honest, I am still discovering what is now — what our reality is . . . what my reality is as a woman religious. Our world, our church and our congregations are at a critical point in time. We find ourselves in a liminal space, where change is pressing in and new life is imminent. At least it feels that way.

Here in this liminal space, the next and the now are in coexistence. Each one is reliant on the other. Today is lived in hope of tomorrow, and tomorrow cannot be without faithful living today. Perhaps the real question at this moment is: What will we allow to be birthed in us?
In a public conversation a few weeks ago, I asked a question of the presenter, a sister who’s served in prominent leadership roles in religious life. The discussion, hosted in honor of the Year of Consecrated Life, focused on passion for and identity in religious life. I’d been invited as a younger voice to the conversation and yet, unlike other experiences, I didn’t feel like a token newer member.

The group of women religious gathered from various congregations seemed engaged in the question of how to better live into the future. Uninhibited and with genuine interest, I posed a question to the presenter, “Since I am part of a very small group in religious life, how do I/we get our voices heard?”
She paused to think for a moment and then replied: “I don’t know if there’s anything you can do. The issues of the majority are not yours, and so while they’re distracted by whatever they’re occupied with, you’re being given the opportunity to evolve.”

Distraction that allows for evolution — a novel idea, I thought to myself.

The truth is, part of the future lives in what we are doing or not doing right now. What are we talking about? What aren’t we talking about? Those are the things that the future will hold whether we want it to or not. The next steps in life reflect something of our present reality, whether we can conceive of that or not. The need then is to live intentionally now since we don’t know what will be called forth in us next. We can be assured that the experience of life we are engaging in today will contribute in some way to what comes next. Living with such intention (in community, in prayer, toward the charism and in relation to the world) increases the likelihood that whatever it is that is next, we will be grounded enough to grasp it.

Distraction may foster evolution for some, but it also poses the threat of diverting the energy of the whole system. If we are caught up in the pressing needs that the majority identifies, we can’t put in the energy needed for growth. And yet, we can’t forgo the now for the next. Ultimately, the two need to be held in balance.

This is a theme I return to continually with the college students I work with. The paper due this week plays into a much bigger picture; just as four years of education fits into the picture of a much bigger life. It’s easy to get hung up on the midterm to the point where you don’t see the long view.
I think back to that first question: How do you believe that change is possible, when the present seems to be filled with the same old things?

There are so many layers to that question.

Thursday, October 15, 2015


This is a day that was three hundred sixty-five years in the making. That's right....years not days. And yet those two things aren't too far off the mark of each other.

October 15th marks the Founders' Day of the Sisters of Saint Joseph. It is on this day that the international family of Joseph celebrates the foundation of the Sisters of Saint Joseph in 1650 by six young women compelled by the Spirit and led by a charismatic Jesuit priest.  Three hundred and sixty-five years ago, this group came together- an amalgamation of differences, an experiment in diversity, and a courageous foray into unity with God and neighbor without distinction.

With all this in mind, I sat in the chapel of our mother house in Philadelphia this afternoon to celebrate with my community, both my sisters and the partners in mission and students I work with on a daily basis. In a certain strange way, you could say that courageous foray into unity continues to this very day.  Sitting in the chapel I marveled at the power of 365.  Three hundred and sixty-five years ago, a group came together that would change the course of countless lives. There's no way that those first six women could see what the year ahead held, let alone what the next 365 would.  I don't know if they thought anything would come of this Little Design beyond their own measure and good work and yet they believed and strove to live genuine lives of faith. And that, I reflected as I looked up at the star strewn ceiling of the chapel, made all the difference.

Those women couldn't have known what awaited them. They might not have even realized the way the commitments they were making would transform their lives. I'm almost certain that they didn't think the risk they took then would create change in my own life now.  How could they? And yet, they put one foot in front of the other and in time came to a place far beyond themselves.

In a way, they accomplished everything they gave themselves to in a manner a thousand times greater. All without recognition and without assumption, simply with faith, longing, and humility.  All these years later, I can't help but hope that I can offer myself in the same way; sitting in that chapel today beside the students I work with on a daily basis, I couldn't help but hope the same for them too.

In just a year's time, they will be different. I know that I am. A year ago, I sat in those pews overwhelmed by transition and staring at the spot in that chapel where I'd made vows just a few short months before.  I knew I didn't feel how I wanted to, but I also didn't know how to fix that.  That's a lonely place to be.

I left that space 365 days ago with more questions than answers.  The last 365 days have been about waking up each morning and trying to live the answers to those questions... the why's and how's and what's of life.  I don't know if I can say I have concrete responses to many of those queries but I do have 365 days of experience.

Listening to one of my sisters offer a reflection on scripture and the call to never settle, I recalled a line from our grounding documents: Each day we make a new beginning in this Little Institute.

That's as much as I can do, as far as I am able. That is perhaps the greatest lesson of the past year- that everyday is a new beginning.

I may not know what tomorrow brings but I didn't know what today held until I lived it.  More important than knowing is choosing. This life after all is a choice. Every moment of every day.  I chose to let gratitude overcome grief at some point in the last 365 days; I tried to let go of my ego to let me be myself in the freest way possible. Some days have been better than others. Every day though is an option for grace and gift.

That's what those women opted into 365 years ago and it's what I chose to live and give myself to today... in the hope that the next 365 days will bring as much growth and grace as I can handle and I can chose to engage for the betterment of my self, my God, and the world.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

A Mission of Love

My day job (i.e. primary ministry) leads me places far and wide as a campus minister at Chestnut Hill College.  Recently, I was asked to reflect on the Pope's visit to Philadelphia.  The following is what came forth- a reflection on Pope Francis' message and the mission of active inclusive love set forth by the Sisters of Saint Joseph.  Perhaps loving God and neighbor without distinction is all about the everyday moments... whether the Pope is there or not. Enjoy!

In the weeks leading up to Pope Francis’ visit to the United States, a hashtag began to surface on social media: #PopeIsHope.

I’ve been a fan of Pope Francis since the day he was elected; seeing him emerge on the balcony in St. Peter’s Square and ask for prayers struck my heart as a deeply humble and holy act.  Following his actions and words over the years, I didn’t think I could like the Pope any more than I already did. Then Pope Francis came to Philadelphia.
Watching him with the College community on a big screen in the East Parlor as he spoke to Congress, I nodded in agreement. Helping students take pictures with his cardboard cutout as they filled out letters to legislators and wrote down their burdens on pieces of cloth to be displayed downtown as part of the Mary, Undoer of Knots shrine, I marveled at the energy and excitement in the air. Then, Francis arrived in Philadelphia.
Saturday morning, I stood with 1,200 other people at Villanova University at 4 a.m. waiting for a bus to go to Mass at the Cathedral.  Arriving downtown by 8 a.m., I marveled at the way the area had been transformed.  Then I saw the intentions of our students and so many others woven together on the Cathedral’s fa├žade.  In the midst of TV cameras and a crowd screaming from behind the barriers, I took in the scene.  These prayers would be blessed by Pope Francis, and soon enough, I would be too.
As the motorcade approached, a hush fell over the congregation. Soon the Pope would be here. People began to pray and as I silenced myself with the crowd, I moved to the back of the church. There, as Pope Francis entered the Cathedral, I stood to welcome him. I began to cry. This man whom I didn’t think I could like any more called forth something more – not just from me, but from Philadelphia.
To be honest, the weekend, for me, was a blessed blur.  From the Cathedral and Independence Hall to the Festival of Families and Mass on the Parkway, I was there. Me – and all of Philadelphia.  
“Faith opens the ‘window’ to the active presence of the Spirit and shows that, like happiness, holiness is always linked to small gestures,” Pope Francis said as he looked over the Benjamin Franklin Parkway at the closing Mass of his visit to the United States on Sunday, September 27. 
I heard those words from the cell phone of the man standing next to me on 21st Street as we watched side by side. We’d been standing there for four hours and still had a half hour before we would get onto the Parkway. Yet in a sea of people, we were together.  Small gestures populated the weekend. Babies being kissed. Prisoners being hugged.  Strangers sharing conversations and becoming friends.  Knots of indifference, suspicion and judgment being untied by love. 
“Faith grows with practice and is shaped by love,” Pope Francis said as he ended his homily on Sunday.
Love stands at the center of our being. Love is our Mission.  That’s what we teach at Chestnut Hill College. It’s the spirit Pope Francis embodies that draws so many to him. It’s what I love about both Francis and CHC– A mission of love, set in our hearts and calling us always out into the world.  

Monday, October 5, 2015

Pope Ascending.

There's a spirit in the air since Pope Francis' departure from the United States. i set out in my latest column at the Global Sisters Report to capture what exactly that spirit is and how Francis is conveying a creative vision of the Holy Spirit. Take a look below and continue reading on the GSR website.

Francis' creative Spirit

“I feel like the apostles at Jesus' Ascension,” a friend wrote to me this past Monday morning. “When I was watching Pope Francis fly into the night, I just wanted to cling to him and hold on.” I knew what she meant. In a way, I think all of us do.

As I sat and reflected on the few days the pope spent in the United States, with all that he did and shared, and the two days, in particular, that we were treated to his presence in Philadelphia, I couldn’t believe how significant the time had been. Seeing him go was like the Ascension; I was sad, but I also knew that what I’d experienced wasn’t over. Francis left a spirit that needs to be kept alive.

This spirit is one that challenges. It’s the force that from day one simultaneously drew Congressmen to their feet and kept them glued to their seats. How do we emulate the models of faith courage, and dialogue in our history not only in word but in our very being? Lincoln, King, Day and Merton all had that spirit. It drove them, and the invitation offered by Francis is to live lives of consequence like them, with a spirit of creativity that brings life even in struggle, dialogue even in silence, justice even in turmoil.

This spirit is the Golden Rule lived out. It isn’t easy, just like love and families and relationships. Francis readily admits that and still he offers a vision of the Holy Spirit to the world that acts with creativity and compassion. “Faith opens a ‘window’ to the presence and working of the Spirit.” He shared in his homily at the closing papal Mass on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, “It shows us that, like happiness, holiness is always tied to little gestures.”

That faith, of course, “grows when it is lived and shaped by love,” Francis continued. We can’t tolerate divisions among us; the Spirit, if truly followed, won’t allow for that. Over and over, Francis underscored this fact. The human family isn’t meant to be divided. Unity is born of love, a love rooted in faith which respects differences and makes space for a new creation. That creation is all about relationships.

If Francis’ creative spirit propagated nothing else, it built relationships. I watched as time and time again, Francis lit up in the presence of others. With those hurting, those outcast and those overjoyed, the Spirit appeared in the bond between them: a knowing glance, a tender hug, a whisper, a pat on the head. In these little gestures, Francis modeled something far greater than any words. He gave shape and form to love, and he gave the Spirit a means of entering the world. We must never forget that each of us has that opportunity.

The creative Spirit Francis speaks of and shares is a spirit that has the power to create far beyond what we can see or imagine. It’s a love that reaches across bounds — that welcomes the child that runs from the sidelines, that embraces the felon as friend, and that dines side-by-side with the homeless and hungry. Francis’ speeches throughout his visit were peppered with words about the Spirit, but it was his actions that gave witness to the creative power of Love.

I watched as that Love transformed my city. I felt it as it changed my heart. I cried as I stood feet from Francis, and I smiled wider than I have in a long time as I witnessed the Spirit in my midst. In a security line for four hours, I came to know my fellow pilgrims. On the lawn of Independence Hall, I felt the tough work of reconciliation continue. Beneath the gaze of the Philadelphia Art Museum, I listened as Pope Francis spoke from the heart about a love and beauty that crosses all boundaries and unites all people, about how before God did anything else, God loved.

That love is the root of creation. It embraces young and old and points us to the future.
Creativity is the force of the future we need to harness today.

I believe that is what Pope Francis is doing. He is allowing space for creativity. If we give the Spirit space, creation is inevitable; that is what the Spirit does. This creativity, though, is not what we might initially think of it as. It’s not solely a new way of thinking or a new design or inspiration. Creativity is none of these things alone. Creativity is conversion. It is a call we embrace to never be the same. To be changed by Christ so as to be and bring a new creation — to think, see, act, inspire and love radically.

In our church and world today, the Spirit calls us to creativity spawned by conversion. We must see the signs of the times without disparaging them with stories of the past.“This will require creativity in adapting to changed situations,” Francis declared speaking to Religious at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul Saturday morning in Philadelphia. Creativity in “carrying forward the legacy of the past not primarily by maintaining our structures and institutions, which have served us well, but above all by being open to the possibilities which the Spirit opens up to us and communicating the joy of the Gospel, daily and in every season of our life.” This requires making space for who and what is new. It means developing talents and recognizing that together we accomplish the work of the Spirit.

“¿Y tu?”

Pope Francis repeated that phrase five times in his homily at the Mass for Religious at thePhiladelphia Basilica Saturday morning: “¿Y tu?”

What about you?
Read the rest here...

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Busy Weekend

With Pope Francis in Philadelphia this weekend, you can imagine how busy the last few days have been.  From taking students to serve at the World Meeting of Families and presenting at the 2Philly4Francis Pilgrimage earlier in the week to all of this weekend's Papal events, the time was full- full of energy, full of emotion, and, most certainly, full of grace.  I'm sure I will have more to write later, but for now I wanted to share two things. First is an article that I was interviewed for for the New York Times "Women in The World" online feature. The piece is entitled "The Comeback of the American Nun" and it looks at the upswing in vocations and the general sense of what's happening in new vocations to religious life today. 

The second piece I'm going to share is a type of post I haven't shared in a while, but this weekend certainly warrants it- a photo blog.  Enjoy some of the pictures I captured this weekend; it's my prayer that they may capture your mind and your heart and lead you where you're meant to go. Peace.

Friday, September 18, 2015


These days are a bit crazy and very full. Between the Pope's impending visit to Philadelphia and the presentations, events, and reflections that come with such a visit and the beginning of the school year, I am trying to balance all that life holds.  I leave later today with nearly two dozen first year students for a retreat weekend.  In many ways this is an exciting and an overwhelming time for them; I can relate.  

I hope in the week ahead to be able to share my reflections about going into my second year of ministry, as well as my encounters with papal pandemonium.  In the meantime, I offer a poem that has come in these first few weeks of school as I reflect on the idea of being at home and discovering where exactly or what exactly home is.

Go to a place you call
they said

And my mind ran
to the top of the stairs
to the closet
with the window inside

And like a little child
it climbed upon the piles
of blankets within
to peer out on the world below

That is where I go
when they say go.
lodged in my brain somehow
where I long for
where my heart is
the home that I carry
from place to place.

A single piece of lace
hanging in the window frame
a geometric star
as if to say
here is where to come
here is where to stay

here is home.