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.