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.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Dear Francis

A few weeks ago, my latest column for the Global Sisters Report was published. In it, I talk about what seems to be the preeminent topic here in Philadelphia these days: Pope Francis' Visit in a few weeks.  My column sorts through the process of deciding whether to write and all the considerations of what one might write to the Pope.  As I say towards the end of the column, who knows if I will write... that's between me and Francis. What I do know is that I have great love and admiration for this man and what he is doing for our world and our church. (Just look at last night's 20/20 Audience.)

And so with that out of the way... here's the beginning of my column:

The first call came after five days. Pope Francis called the newsstand where he would buy his daily paper in Buenos Aires to cancel his subscription. It seemed he was going to be away longer than expected. 

I remember reading that first news report in March 2013; it was almost as surreal as the turn of events that had taken place over the preceding weeks. For the first time in six hundred years, a pope resigned and for the first time ever, a Jesuit was elected to the papacy.  Now it is history, tempered by time, but still no less remarkable.
The world has sat intrigued with each phone call- with the pope who would call and the people who have written. There was the young student who shared his hopes, the single mother who was trying to make it on her own, the newspaper editor and atheist. They all wrote and Francis called. 

I remember as a student reading about the great people of faith who had written to popes. They were distant figures of faith. They were people the likes of whom time holds sparingly- the saints and rulers, reformers and rabble-rousers, the Catherine’s of Siena and not the Jane Doe’s of this world. And yet, in a world where popes resign and successors make follow-up phone calls, the thought of writing a pope doesn’t seem so far-fetched.
So, how do you write to a pope? Or more importantly, what do you write to the pope?

With Pope Francis headed to the United States, and in particular to my own city of Philadelphia, in a few short weeks, I found myself asking that exact question.

If watching Francis has taught me anything, though, the answer to that first question is clear. The only way you could possibly write is from the heart.  Any other way would be a sham. A letter from me would be different from your letter just as my life is different from yours. And yet, to write from the heart is to mirror the deeper call within and beyond us to live from the heart too. To live lives of such authenticity, we have to align ourselves with the heart of Gospel, beginning with the way we relate to one another and to God. Any other way would be a deception.

This is the foundation of our being.  And beyond the boundaries of language or religion, Francis has made this point poignantly in the witness he bears.  This is not always perfect but it is honest and for that, I give thanks.  If nothing else, that way of living and being-from the heart- gives us the example of how to far beyond letter-writing.

From the heart come words of gratitude, statements of truth, and deep sharing of hopes and dreams.  Putting any one of those things into writing is a task and yet, when I consider what, if anything, I would want to write to the Pope, it is those deeply-held beliefs, deeply-transformed visions, and deeply-fostered emotions and dreams that rise to the surface.

Somehow, even though I have never met the man, there is a desire within me to share from the depths of my being with him. That compulsion, at times, seems to me to be foolish. Why write? What difference could it make? Would the letter even be read? And if it was, is there a risk to such honest sharing? 

I wonder all these things and yet, the desire to write still remains.

Part of that desire is to say thank you... Read the rest here.