Sunday, June 20, 2021

'Go to Joseph': A father for us all

In the United States, today marks Father's Day. As we celebrate the gift of fatherhood, I reflected in my latest column for the Global Sisters Report about the model of faithfulness Saint Joseph passes on to all of us. May we always "go to Joseph" and find in him a companion who will journey with us wherever life takes us.

---

It's funny the things we remember from our childhood. The little rituals we carry with us into adulthood.

As a child, I can remember the soft jangle of the cross my father wore around his neck clattering against his Miraculous Medal as he settled by my bedside to put me to sleep. I recall the way my tiny fingers traced the image of Mary on the medal as I drifted off to sleep. My mother meanwhile would, as she still does from time to time, trace a cross across my forehead. And there in the moments before bed, I felt safe and secure, surrounded by the love of my parents and assured, without any words, of the loving presence of God in the stillness of the moment.

Traditions like these imprint themselves on our little lives and grow along with us. All these years later, I can still hear the jangle of my father's necklace as I fiddle with my own and feel my mother's thumb as I trace my own brow. Truly, these little rituals serve as touchstones to a much bigger story.

With this thought in mind, I set out the first Christmas after my nephew and godson was born with a mission in mind: to find a way to make those kinds of memories.

As much as it was my nephew's first Christmas, it was also my brother's first Christmas as a father. Having just begun my formation as a Sister of St. Joseph, I prayed about what might be the best gift for memory making. Thoughts of experiences and adventures whizzed through my mind. Yet, as I prayed, I found my fingers tracing the small medal that hung around my neck, transporting me back to those bedside moments.

"Go to Joseph." I thought to myself.

By Christmas morning, a tiny box sat beneath the tree for my brother: a perfect-sized St. Joseph medal for little fingers to trace.

Who better to accompany my brother on this journey into fatherhood than the one who provided the loving presence of a father to Jesus here on earth? Better yet, who better to accompany my nephew as he drifted off to sleep and grew in age and wisdom?

Joseph, after all, is a father to us all. He is an everyday saint. A man of few words, whose love of God was reflected in the way he loved those around him.

As we celebrate Father's Day in the United States and in places around the world this weekend, I believe Joseph offers us an example of a father whose faithfulness is ingrained in each of us.

In Joseph, we find a mirror of God's love in action and a quiet companion who gives witness to the steadfast faith and willing courage of a person totally obedient and fully given to God. Whether in his dreams, his work or his fatherhood, Joseph shows us that faith takes many forms.

As a dreamer, Joseph reveals to us that God's dreams are meant to put us in touch with reality rather than helping us to escape it. "Joseph did not hesitate to obey, regardless of the hardship involved." Pope Francis has written about Joseph's response to his dreams. In each case, Joseph faced the reality at hand, be it taking Mary into his home, uprooting his family to go to Egypt, or returning to Israel by one way or another. In each case, Joseph was attentive to God's message, realizing that these dreams were bigger than just him. Thus, Joseph shows us that our dreams are meant to serve the world, not just ourselves. By our obedience, we engage the realities of the moment and with God we are able to act in ways that serve the greater good and God's greater glory.

As a worker, Joseph shows us that we are called to be co-creators with God and that such creation takes hard work, courage and an ability to adapt to the needs of the moment. Joseph made a way even when one was not necessarily clear. "God always finds a way to save us," Pope Francis exhorts in "Patris Corde," "provided we show the same creative courage as the carpenter of Nazareth." With creative courage, Joseph transformed problems into possibilities and made a life for his family (and all of us) through his indominable engagement with the Spirit's call and Love's inspiration. Our call, then, is to get our hands dirty in the service of God's plan, working joyfully and giving witness to the value and dignity of all peoples' work.

Finally, as a father, Joseph demonstrates the power of love, given freely and abundantly, to foster life in our world. Although Joseph was not Jesus' biological father, we see the evidence of his love in the life of Jesus. Joseph's loving spirit, care for all people, faithfulness to God's call, and protection of the most vulnerable is no doubt seen in his foster son. Jesus learned from Joseph and Joseph provided the space in which a young Jesus could flourish. We can only hope to do the same for those entrusted to our care.

Recalling my gift to my brother many Christmases ago, I wonder what the impact of that medal has been. To be honest, I don't know if he ever wears it. Yet, I know Joseph is with him and his children all the same. I can see it in his gentleness, hear it in tender moments, feel it in their drive to do good, and sense it in the quiet confidence of a father doing his best to bring his sons' light to full flame in the world.

As we mark this Father's Day, may our prayer be that we may become more like Joseph... Finish the piece here 

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Top Honors in the Best of Church Press Awards

I am honored to share that a collection of my columns for the Global Sisters Report has won an Award of Excellence (the top honor) from the Associated Church Press in this year's Best of Church Press Awards!

The judge for my category commented that my work was "a raw and honest exploration of faith within the Catholic tradition that celebrates both its richness and challenge from an engaged feminist perspective."

It is an honor to have been considered by the ACP and a great gift to have my work recognized. Here are links to the three articles that compiled the entry:

 Together we embrace the cross: paschal mystery during pandemic

Admitting blindness: seeing my blind spots and trying to do better

 Befriending Phoebe, a co-worker in the kingdom 

 Thanks to everyone who reads along with me and joins me on the journey, for the wonderful publications who put my words into print, the many communities that support my writing (and me), and the Spirit who inspires it all. All for the Greater Glory of God +AMDG+


An uneasy Alleluia

My latest column for the Global Sister Report is a reflection on the beginning of our second Easter season in the COVID-19 pandemic. There are a lot of emotions as we move through this transformative moment- feelings not too foreign to the disciples after the Resurrection. Wishing you all Easter blessings these days and praying that hope may emerge as we move forward!

--  

Easter Sunday, I pulled into the parking lot of a local parish, hopeful that I would be able to join the congregation to celebrate the joy of Easter morning. Turning into the lot, I was met by a sight that was both eerily familiar and yet utterly out of place: a parking lot filled with cars.

Not since before the pandemic started had I seen the lot so full. My heart sank. The sparsely filled lot that had greeted me each week throughout Lent had seemly been restored to its former glory in little more than a week's time. With only a few empty parking spots remaining, I knew that I would not be joining the crowd inside to celebrate.

I had feared as much the week before, when sisters I live with reported back about the size of the congregation at the vigil Mass they'd attended for Palm Sunday. Hearing about people lining the walls of the church, I'd told myself that people love palms and, hopefully, Easter might prompt lighter attendance.

As an unvaccinated individual, I thought it was probably best to watch Palm Sunday Mass from home, while holding out hope that the Easter Triduum would offer the opportunity to once again join the community in person. Holy Thursday and Good Friday, I did just that, joining church communities in-person to commemorate these most sacred nights.

As we moved through the days, hope was enkindled in me. After watching the Easter Vigil online Saturday night with my local community, a sneaking sense of joy began to rise within me — and I held out hope for the promise of Sunday morning.

Looking at the cars in the parking lot Easter morning, though, my hopes were dashed. I was happy that so many people had come to celebrate the Resurrection. I could imagine the singing within the church, the sweet smell of flowers filling the air. I also knew I would not be able to join them out of fear of being too close during this precarious time. I felt sorry for a moment: a twinge of sorrow within me as hope ebbed again in the long year of pandemic.

Returning home, I set my computer up to watch the liturgy online. I wish I could say that I had a transcendent moment of joy in front of that screen or that the joy I had imagined was complete and as sweet as I'd so desired it to be, but that didn't happen. I celebrated in a quiet room, singing the alleluia by myself. Fidgeting in my seat, I made myself focus on the screen, pushing through the feelings of disappointment I was holding. All I really wanted to do was move on and get involved in anything other than what I was feeling.

As much as I wanted to avoid my feelings of that moment, my prayer in the days since has returned me to those feelings time and again. There in that quiet room, there was uncomfortable hope and disappointment, held in a delicate balance, pregnant with possibility if only I could engage it.

Listening to Easter stories these days, I am struck by the delicate balance of emotions contained within those days following the Crucifixion. Fear is coupled with hope. Sorrow walks hand-in-hand with promise. Disappointment and disbelief pivot within the spirits of those engaged in the story.

I know my own experience is far from that of the disciples. I missed being at liturgy; I missed the feeling of jubilation that has become familiar over the years. Yet, reading the stories of the Resurrection this Easter, I have been struck by the emotions of the disciples. What is so often portrayed as a crystal-clear experience of joy, of pure and precise revelation, is, upon further examination, not nearly as clear as one might hope. Those familiar feelings I was missing were, in fact, absent in those first days following Jesus' death.

In a year so fraught with fear, it would be hard not to recognize the central role that fear plays in the Easter story. The disciples were afraid. They had watched everything fall apart; they had witnessed their friend and teacher be beaten and killed; they had hidden away, uncertain that their own lives were safe, let alone that life would ever be the same again.

Fear is what caused Peter and John to run to the tomb. Fear that what had already gone wrong could possibly have gotten worse. Jesus had died, and now, his body was missing. They saw he was gone and believed it to be true but didn't understand. They left the tomb not consoled but confused, and with hearts heavier than before.

With the same heavy heart, Mary Magdalen stayed at the tomb and wept. Distraught and desperate, she pleaded with the gardener for some sort of answer, some clarity in confusion. The response she receives is surprising and at the sound of her name, she sees the resurrected Christ before her. There, in the depths of her despair, new hope was found. This is the message she brings to the disciples, a hope of new life to imbue their fear and grief with the promise of potential joy.

In this Easter season, we witness the transformation of these emotions in the disciples. Fear does not vanish, but it is changed. In time, the heavy hearts of the disciples become lighter with hope. Fear becomes courage, and rather than hiding, they go forth in faith.

We can hope the same for ourselves in this Easter season. Hope is on the horizon. With vaccinations on the rise, soon we will be together again, reunited and rejoicing. Just like the Resurrection and the Easter experience, the transformation that awaits us will take time. We have seen and experienced much in the last year to inspire fear, sow doubt, and reveal injustice, suffering and violence in our world.

Because of these experiences, we know the sting of death and we can be attentive for the disconcerting signs of resurrection and the flurry of emotions it brings. New life requires engagement; it makes us run to the tomb and witness to the grace and grit hidden in its emptiness. In the words of Justin McRoberts, "Maybe resurrection is most readily available to those most acquainted with death; who don't need to see the scars in Jesus' hands or side, but need to see and touch and remember and believe our own."

Easter joy does not erase suffering. In fact, to live into the Easter season is to embrace fear and sorrow, betrayal and misunderstanding, suffering and death, and to allow it all to transform our lives in Christ. Threatened by resurrection, we will and must rise again, making meaning by our being alive and awake in our world.

In the extraordinary and the mundane, this is our call, to be with God there: in the emptiness and sorrow, in parking lots filling up with anticipation and in anxious stirrings and returns to "normal" life... Finishing reading the piece

Friday, February 19, 2021

Lent 2021: What to give up, when you feel like giving up

Last year was supposed to have been the "lent-iest" Lent ever. So what are we supposed to do for the second Lenten season of the pandemic? As I write below in my latest for Global Sisters Report: "The temptation to give up is real."

May we resist the temptation to give up hope this season and embrace the many invitations to let go of the things that make us want to give up.

---

On the eve of Ash Wednesday, a comic strip appeared in my inbox under the subject line "The Lent-iest Lent Ever." In it, a man and woman stand side by side as the woman looks at a long list in her hands. The man, coffee cup in hand, casually asks her, "Did you decide what you're giving up for Lent?"

 With a look of mild uncertainty on her face and eyes fixed on the list unfurled before her, the woman remarks, "First I need to check the list of things I gave up for the pandemic."

 The person who sent me the comic jotted one simple line below the comic: "With a year like this, what's forty more days?"

 Dripping with sarcasm, that wisecrack made me smile in the face of the larger point the comic was hammering home. After the year we've had, what more could we give up?

 Last year, after all, was supposed to have been the "lent-iest" Lent ever. From the declaration of the pandemic by the World Health Organization in March, only a few weeks into the Lenten season, a new reality and understanding of the fragility of life, the loneliness of loss and isolation, the need for attentive engagement, and the call to prayer in the face of uncertainty took hold. The prayer, fasting and almsgiving of that Lenten season overflowed into the year that has been, creating a sense that Lent never fully came to a close.

 And so, as I returned my focus to the comic my friend sent, I wondered, "what's the point?"

 After a year of grief and loss, isolation and distance, masks and protocols, what more could these 40 days offer? What could I possibly give up or take on this Lent? If that list of sacrifices keeps getting longer, why not just give in and give up?

 The temptation to give up is real.

 Last Lent, as the pandemic and its accompanying realities began to gain momentum, the season of Lent took on a surreal air. The Lenten promises I had made paled in comparison to the ever-evolving reality of life in a time of pandemic. As a result, I chose to put my Lenten practice aside. At the time, I felt that by not following through for the full 40 days, I had come up short in my Lenten commitment.

 Looking back on that choice now, though, I know it was the right choice for me. The consciousness of God's presence that I longed to deepen by giving something up for Lent was heightened by the discernment to once again embrace the comfort of what I was going without. My attention was needed elsewhere and my ability to be fully present to the situations at hand was enhanced by my choice to give up on what I'd given up.

 That, of course, leads me to this Lent.

 By the time that comic came to my inbox, I still hadn't decided the details of my Lenten practice. There were groups I could take part in, books I could read, prayers I could commit to, and small actions I could take on. All of these practices would be good options, yet with a spirit bleary-eyed from Zoom calls, world news, and other demands, I felt less zealous about making a commitment and more resigned to endure the season as best I could.

 Looking at the woman in the comic, I wondered: What do you give up when the thought of doing one more thing is burdensome or the prospect of adding to the growing list of daily sacrifices is daunting? What do you give up when you feel like giving up?

 The answers to those questions, surprisingly, emerged rather quickly.

 When we feel like giving up, perhaps one of the best things we can give up is the need to control every facet of our lives. The pandemic has made strikingly clear that some things are simply out of our control. We cannot will the world to get back to normal. Uncertainty is more commonplace these days than we might be comfortable with, but what if we companion that uncertainty, rather than trying to correct it by controlling ourselves and others? Relinquishing the need to achieve or to obsess over having everything in order may in fact be the best thing we can give up. In so doing, we give God the space to be in control and free ourselves from the illusion that we are God, remembering instead that God has made us to be human.

 If giving up the drive to control is the first step in a liberating Lent, giving up our penchant to negatively judge is a closely linked second. Judgment, of course, is not necessarily a bad thing; it helps us to gain perspective and assess situations. However, when we recognize that our judgments are unkind and uncharitable, undergirded by a need to control or lessen the "other," it's time to give them up. Just as with control, this "giving up" of judgments is easier said than done. Being able to relinquish our negative feelings and lay our judgments aside for the benefit of others and ourselves is a process of self-actualization, which takes both honesty and humility as we grow in self-awareness and face our imperfections. If we can give up the need to pass judgment, we can grow closer to the union to which God calls us and gain new perspective on the loving way God sees all of us, even those we can't stand.

 By letting go of the temptation to control and judge in our daily lives, we will hopefully find ourselves freer to face the attachments of our egos and the drive to hold tightly to the power, glory and entitlement the world promises. Indeed, these promises are the falsehoods we confront when we embrace prayer, fasting and almsgiving in the season of Lent. In and through these practices we recognize our reliance on God, raising our consciousness and giving up what stands in the way of a deeper relationship with God.

 Deepening our relationship with God, after all, is the aim of whatever we give up or choose to do this Lent. For that reason, perhaps the greatest thing we could give up this Lent is the nagging feeling that we should give up. In this year full of sacrifices, giving up would be a choice to relinquish hope and to dishonor all that we have been through. To give up on this season would be to give in to despair and, in the process, to lose sight of where this Lenten journey ultimately points us — to the hope-filled morning of Easter.

 We carry a lot and, during this Lent especially, we need to be attentive to what might lighten our load. Maybe we are being called to let go of anger or hurt, judgement or control, sadness or selfishness, worry or regret, offering in their place love and compassion both for our neighbors and for ourselves.

 As we press on like the Israelites wandering in the desert, we cannot lose sight of hope and of the One who walks hopefully with us through this season, and every season, of our lives... Finishing reading the piece here

Friday, January 8, 2021

Three Kings and a Tyrant

I was writing a different column this week for the Global Sisters Report. That is, until Wednesday happened. As I write, "Wednesday was like any other Wednesday until it wasn't." There are lessons to be learned in that normalcy and in the story of the Epiphany.
Join me in praying that we may "open our eyes, follow the light, and return to the soul of our country by another way." With love and hope, Colleen ---

Every Wednesday for the last four years, I've gathered with a group of women to reflect on Scripture and to pray for our world. We pray for our neighborhood, our country, our friends, our families and our world. We share the journey, and this past Wednesday, Jan. 6, was no different.

Even though the Catholics in our group had marked Epiphany the Sunday before, any cultural Christian, adherent to the 12 days of Christmas, or parent of children in our local public schools — which close for Three Kings Day — knew that, in fact, Wednesday the sixth was Epiphany.

After reading Matthew's account of the wise men's journey, our small group listened to the words of Jan Richardson's Epiphany blessing, "For Those Who Have Far to Travel." Sitting in peaceful reflection on the past year and the gift and challenge of the journey, we were united in our diversity. Old and young, black and white, women of all different backgrounds, we shared the movements of God in our lives. This week, that meant sharing how the pandemic bore with it tragedy and grace; what promise the vaccine brought; why peace was as important as that the electoral votes be counted; and the hard-learned fact that the isolation of the last few months had as much to reveal to us about other people as it did about ourselves.

Listening to one of our elder members share, I felt my phone begin to buzz. With a swift movement of my thumb down its side, I stilled the device so I could be attentive to her sharing. What a blessing to journey together like the wise men, she reflected, to be attentive, be surprised and discover the truth and where it leads us.

Wednesday was like any other Wednesday until it wasn't.

Emerging from the meeting, I took a moment to glance at my phone. To my surprise, news alerts, not about the counting of the Electoral College votes, but about the storming of the U.S. Capitol, lit up the screen.

Suddenly, the Epiphany story was a little more real ... the journey more treacherous ... the need for truth and peace all the more pressing.

A tyrant saw a threat to his power. Filled with fear, he brought fright to the whole country. He stoked fear and incited violence. The king could not stand the truth and so he sought to rout it out. But the truth would not yield; it had come into this world in the form of a child and, vulnerable as it might be, the truth embodied in the child would persevere, in ways both paradoxical and puzzling to our concept of power.

This new king — a prince of peace — would reject violence and injustice. His power greater than that of any politician was (and is) found in steadfast, boundless love that urges reconciliation, humility and righteousness. His love, like a star in the night, draws all who can see and invites everyone to see with new eyes the promise of the truth he offers.

On the floor of the Senate Wednesday night, Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey pointed to the deadly flaw and sadistic (and seditious) shift in thinking as he declared how people had been duped into choosing Trump over truth. This sycophantic shift was punctuated by the events on Wednesday. They gave us a moment for pause many moments too late.

Yet to quote the statement from Pax Christi USA, "Maybe today's events will serve as a moment of conversion for some; maybe this moment may serve to give pause to the worst impulses of our national character. Only time will tell. The words and actions of our elected leaders moving forward will tell the tale of what impact today's events have."

In the words of Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich, "What has been unfolding at the Capitol today should shock the conscience of any patriotic American and any faithful Catholic. The eyes of the world look on in horror as we suffer this national disgrace.

"For many months we have witnessed the deliberate erosion of the norms of our system of government." That erosion has taken the sacred right of peaceful protest and desecrated it by introducing violence.

"May God's love suffuse our political life together," Cupich continues, "reminding all Americans that politics is the peaceful resolution of conflicting points of view. This is our tradition as a democratic nation — and we undermine it at our own peril."

Watching to the breaking news coverage, I struggled to hold on to the prayerful peace of my normal Wednesday. As rioters carried myriad flags up the U.S. Capitol steps without any intervention, a commentator tried to reassure the audience at home. "This is a last gasp," she said as more and more individuals ascended the steps. I am sure the phrase was meant as a reassurance, implying that this was a worrisome but passing moment — the end of days, weeks, months and years of unrest.

The phrase, though, wedged itself in with the fading peace within me: One. Last. Gasp.

This moment wasn't a blip on the screen. In a year filled with tragedy, it didn't feel like the period at the end of sentence or the last surge of a movement. It felt more like a bad dream come to life. This moment was the culmination of many predictions, the revelation of the destructive power of distrust, white supremacy and conspiracy theories. The result of hubris and hatred weaponized in the name of a tyrant.

As the space in front of the Capitol filled with people, this "last gasp" knocked the wind out of me. All I could think of were the tragic last words of Eric Garner, "I can't breathe," and the thousands of people suffering from COVID-19 in the United States who are literally gasping for breath. In an age when we are hypersensitive to signs and symptoms, what happened Wednesday is less of a "last gasp" and more a mind-blowing reminder of the division in our country and the violence, hatred and destruction that are startlingly apparent in our body politic.

As we journey forward, the soul of the nation hangs in the balance. No president will save us, no single politician can set us straight. The journey that lies ahead is ours to undertake. It means facing racism head on, holding people accountable, and seeking reconciliation. Each step has its cost, the invaluable price of truth. Charting our course will surely push us to our limits, but the work of finding our direction requires such effort.

Together, we can find our way. E Pluribus Unum.

If we can see the light, we have no other options… Finish reading the piece here

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

"The Signs": a poem the morning after Election Day

The Jesuits of Canada and the United States graciously invited me to reflect in real time with them during these election days. What came as I reflected was a poem entitled "The Signs". I pray it brings you peace in these uncertain times and offers a whisper of hope for this moment. I invite you to click below to pray with the poem's words of hope and prayer for peace as I read it aloud. Blessings! 



The Signs

Like lost souls along the highway 
the signs dithered in the wind,
air as harsh as the state of things,
direction as sporadic,
and the sun lights them with the warmth of a new day 
the hope of constancy, celestially offered.

Hope does not erase reality
negate uncertainty
Hope feels your pulse 
and tells you you are still alive
that the sun will rise
that Christ is risen 
and so must you.
Rise to the call of new life 
Not just for you but for all.
Hope nestles close and I can feel 
its tiny breath
like a child pressed close beneath my chin
secure and fragile
shallow, syncopated breaths
reassured by presence
This is our moment to live
       to shine 
       to hope
and to know that no matter what happens 
no party can define us, no ballot break our being 
our hope will call us onward 
to stand together face to face and heart to heart
and together, our lives will be the signs
of a new hope dawning for one and for all. 

Friday, October 16, 2020

What are we ready for?

My latest column for the Global Sisters Report reflects on what we're called to do and be about in these continuing days of the COVID-19 pandemic. The way we used to be is no longer, but facing the reality of now, what are we ready for? (And perhaps, what aren't we ready for?) May these questions lead us to deeper reflection and call forth in us a pioneer spirit that faces the future with hope, the present with truth, and the past with wisdom for us all.

---

At the beginning of the pandemic, I, like so many, made a list of things I wanted to do and books I needed to read before the initial shutdown was over. At that time, we presumed the time inside would be brief, a welcome reprieve from the everyday demands of life. Now, months later, I find myself both laughing at the naivete of my thoughts in that moment and cringing at the privilege of those early days of planning.

I began to tackle my list by picking up a long-neglected history of women religious in the United States. Subconsciously, productivity served as a welcome distraction from the collective grief and personal anxiety that was rising. The stories of apostolic women religious establishing missions and setting the foundations for a growing church in the United States seemed like an idyllic way to pass the time.

As I started into the history, I discovered wonderful stories of resilience and ingenuity. These women were pioneers; they were few in number, but great in spirit. Their efforts and example laid the groundwork for all that would come after them. In their stories, I saw elements of the culture of religious life. There was the drive to live the Gospel, an ever-deepening call to humility, and an ability to do the unimaginable with hidden talents and gentle influence. These early sisters were trailblazers, taking what they had and committing it to make something more, even when no one thought it was possible.

In the chill of mid-March, I curled up with the book and lost myself in the story. Yet, it wasn't long before I soon realized that this probably wasn't the best reading. As I remained confined to my convent, I read the stories of young sisters in the late 19th and early 20th centuries who, at ages younger than I am now, went out to serve in the midst of countless diseases. They went where no one else would and ministered to those abandoned by society. And just as bravely as they served, they suffered — and in many cases, sadly, they died.

Dedicated to the task at hand, I kept on reading. Within a few days and after countless stories of such self-sacrifice, though, I was very confused about what I should do.

"What does showing up look like today?" I wondered.

For ages, it looked like doing the impossible with little training and sheer force of will. It looked like learning in action; like feats of triumph achieved through communal support and ingenuity; like life lessons learned and accelerated by trials in real time. It meant putting women who had never taught in classrooms with dozens of children or sending ill-prepared postulants to the frontlines of service.

Times have changed. Untrained assistance in the midst of a pandemic is not the norm. Today, thankfully, health care professionals serve those needs. Sisters, adequately trained and equipped, certainly serve in these roles, facing the pandemic head-on as we've read about in these very pages.

But I realized in the experience of reading about days gone by that there was and is a need to listen to the demands of our times, questioning what active engagement looks like today and what it will mean for us to rise to the occasion for the common good.

In the past, women religious (and women and the church in general) strove to make ends meet without proper readiness, relying on numbers over expertise. Now, facing our current realities- cultural, congregational and global —  we must ask: What has God made us ready for?

This question requires reflection both internally and externally. It begs us to ask what needs in this world are we ready, willing and able to serve? This is a question that women religious live to answer. We are people and institutions imbued with mission. It is in our DNA to ask what the need is that next entails our service, and then to move on to how we will best be able to meet those needs — the needs of the world — head on?

The shadow side of this question of readiness, though, invites us to pause for further reflection. If we can ask, "What has God made us ready for?" we also need to be able to stop and reflect on what we aren't ready for. This question is uncomfortable — either for the stark clarity or unclarity that it reveals. It is a question that offers us an invitation to examine our blind spots, to look at current realities, and to see what the world we so often serve has to reflect back to us about who we are and how we need to grow.

It begs us to ask: are we ready to face the reality of our current state of being? Of the call of our charism? Of the quality of welcome we offer, or the strength of the stands we take?

When we're able to face the clarity or lack thereof that surfaces, we are able to actively engage the call and response of readiness. This is what our first sisters did. They trusted that God would provide. They lived into a sense of readiness. Ready or not, they took steps to serve needs and created structures and stories in the process.

We now bear the burden and blessing of the legacy they left behind. Rather than trudging blindly into the world, we are called to a heightened awareness of who we are and what we carry. We go forth with the awareness that God is working in us and through us, calling us to discern and act in the ways we have been made ready and to risk the responses that challenge our unpreparedness...Finishing reading the piece here