I leave for Chicago in less than eight hours to begin my time at the Sisters of Saint Joseph Federation Novitiate for the next nine months. And while I haven't updated the blog regularly this summer, I have some updates before I head out to the Midwest.
First off, it has been a wonderful summer. As my last post in June showed, I spent the first part of my summer shadowing various SSJs in the ministry, taking the opportunity to see my sisters in action and to see the many ways that our mission is lived out daily. I was truly blessed by these experiences- from hospital and hospice chaplaincy to drug treatment counseling and development consultation- and even more than the work that I got to see done, I was blessed by being able to witness the women who live out our mission with grace and poise, finding God in all things and embracing the dear neighbor, whoever that might be at a given moment. Here is an excerpt from my reflections on my time out in the field:
The paths that lie ahead of me are many. To be honest, shadowing didn't give me much more clarity about what exactly it is that I’d like to do when my novitiate is done. It has, however, shown me how I want to do whatever I do- with passion, zeal, and faith. It showed me that being a Sister of Saint Joseph is about trusting in God and letting that relationship dictate everything else. Ultimately, this experience wasn't about finding a ministry, it was about seeing the many ministries our sisters serve in and the way our mission is alive in and through them. We are not strictly teachers and I am not being asked to serve in any way other than that which will use my gifts, help the world, praise God, and continually meet my passions/desires.
In the end, I find myself back where this all started, a little wiser and with eight “new” companions on the journey. I walk with Helen, Diane, Mary, Kaye, Liz, Maureen, Madeline, and Mary. I share in their story as they share in mine and, ultimately, we are united in what is our story as Sisters of Saint Joseph- an apostolic life marked by docility to the Spirit, humility and zeal, expressed in a spirit of gentleness, joy, and peace… directed to this single end: the union of ourselves and all people with God and with one another, in and through Jesus Christ.
The summer also gave me the opportunity to go on retreat and to take some vacation time with my family. Both were wonderful and, hopefully, I will soon be posting pictures that capture the beauty of both experiences.
Finally, as I packed my bags today, I got the pleasant surprise of seeing some of my comments on religious life published in The Atlantic. The article can be found here. The piece focuses on Millenials who are chosing to enter religious life/ the whole idea of why, and more so how, individuals today approach religious life. It is a balanced article, though not the most well written. Still, it has an important point to make- this life isn't something that is in conflict with my generation, but rather it has value and appeal. As I myself said, "I am a millennial, through and through. There's a hunger within people (in this generation) for intentional living and intentional community... that crosses bounds."
Ultimately, whatever our vocation, we need to share our faith by living it out. That is what I and so many others (both in and outside of religious life) are trying to do.
And so with that I prepare to make the move to Chicago, where I will join three other novices with the Sister of Saint Joseph in a time of intensive prayer and study. I have mixed emotions as I approach this transition. On the one hand, I'm excited to have a time so focused on developing my relationship with God, time to be away, time to evaluate and discern, time to give myself completely to the One I am growing more and more in love with and who is helping me grow more and more within myself each day. On the other hand, I face the anxiety of leaving a city that has meant so much to me over the last three years. It is a city full of people and experiences that I will miss dearly and that I will, nonetheless, carry with me as I move to the Midwest for this time. This move also means transition and the adjustment to living with women I don't know. While we are all in the same stage of formation together, we are for all intents and purposes strangers and so I am trying to remain open to all they have to offer me as I hope they will do for me as well. Yet, all I can do for now is hold them in my prayer as we prepare to share life together.
As I get ready to make this move, I ask for your prayers too- for our community, for myself, for our directors, and for all that this experience will hold. With more of a regular schedule, I can (fingers crossed) promise more frequent posts to come as I delve into the second year fo my novitiate. Many thanks for your prayers and support.