Tag Archives: reflections

Be the Present – latest Global Sisters column

Sisters in leadership attending Giving Voice
Sisters in leadership attending Giving Voice

For a little more than a year now I have had the honor and privilege of sharing a virtual space over at Global Sisters Report with other younger Catholic Sisters. The weekly Horizons columns are published every Friday and feature some great writing and important perspectives on religious life, justice and the world.

My own latest column was just published – “Be the Present.” It is my attempt to put my experience spending four days with 70 Catholic Sisters in their 20s, 30s, and 40s at Giving Voice into conversation with spending the next five days with 800 elected leaders at LCWR.  There was an incredible movement of the Spirit at both gatherings–real synchronicity.

My generation is known for its ability to multi-task, and perhaps that is a good thing. So much is happening in this present moment in religious life. We are tending to what is passing. We are discerning and nurturing what is emerging. We are building a bridge between the two. And all the while, as faithful women of the Gospel we are reading the signs of the times and seeking to meet the thirsts of the world. This is a moment which needs all hands on deck, all perspectives, all capacities, all wisdom. This moment needs us fully present.

The Spirit is certainly moving among us. That was clear both at Giving Voice and at LCWR. “Your task,” Janet Mock told the LCWR Assembly, “is discerning where and how to be in communion with the activity of God in our world now, at this present moment.” I believe this is the task of all who are living religious life today. It is the only way we will navigate this tremendous time of change and build the magic suspension bridge to the future of religious life.

Head on over to Global Sisters to read the whole thing.

Morning Star Rising

When I professed my perpetual vows as a Sister of St Joseph of Peace four years ago this November, I felt great joy planning the liturgy and carefully chose  the readings and songs. For the meditation song after communion,  I chose a somewhat unusual song: “We Are” by Sweet Honey in the Rock.

This morning as I prayed with the readings for today’s Feast of the Transfiguration,  I remembered that moment, sitting in the chapel at St. Mary-on-the-lake, surrounded by community and family and friends, after proclaiming my forever yes, after remembering together Jesus as bread broken for us, in the silence, the song played.

“For each child that’s born, a morning star rises and sings to the universe who we are.”

It was a powerful moment of the love of God for me, and I wanted that song to help the moment sink in for all those present, to reflect a bit on the light they bring to the world, that we are called to bring together.

In today’s second reading from Peter we hear about Jesus and the “unique declaration:” This is my son, my beloved,  with whom I am well pleased.

That is powerful enough, especially when we imagine that declaration being proclaimed from the heavens, to the universe,  that each of us is indeed a beloved son or daughter pleasing to God by our very existence!

This morning I spent more time with what follows in the reading. “Moreover we posses the prophetic message that is altogether reliable. You will do well to be attentive to it, as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.”

God is love, and we are invited into that love by our very existence, pleasing to God. We are called to share in that love, to share that love ever more deeply and widely, that it may rise in our hearts like the morning star.

God’s love is altogether reliable, and we are part of that love.

Peace is the word

peacescrabblePromoting peace has been central to the mission of my religious congregation, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace from our very beginnings. Our original 1884 Constitutions tell us that we were founded “to promote the peace of the Church both by word and work. The very name Sisters of Peace will, it is hoped, inspire the desire of peace and a love for it.”

Promoting peace is also central to the mission of the Church. This has been true from the very beginnings of the Christian community. This morning as I was praying with the Scriptures in my morning prayer book, I ran across this quote from a homily by St. John Chrysostom (ca. 347-407), one of the early Church fathers and a Doctor of the Church:

So as far as a human being can, you must do what Christ the Son of God did, and become a promoter of peace both for yourself and for your neighbor. Christ calls the peacemaker a child of God. The only good deed he mentions as essential at the time of sacrifice is reconciliation with one’s brother or sister. This shows that of all the virtues the most important is love.

Sometimes, when I tell people that I am a Sister of St. Joseph of Peace, they ask if we are a new community. In conversation with these folks, this seems to be because we have a notion that concern for peace is something new.  Hence, a community founded to promote peace must have been formed recently. And yet, as these words from an early Christian leader tell us, and truly as the example and peaceful witness of Jesus constantly remind us, peace is central to our mission as Christians.

This morning as I was praying with this reflection and the Scriptures, I found myself remembering a song from my childhood – Grease from the movie of the same title with John Travolta and Olivia Newton John.  My sister Monica and I used to spend hours in our bedroom, hairbrush in hand, singing the lyrics along with our vinyl recording of the sound track (the G-rated version of course!).  In prayer today, I playfully changed the words of the song, simply replacing the word “grease” with the word “peace.”

They think our love is just a growing pain
Why don’t they understand, it’s just a crying shame
Their lips are lying, only real is real
We stop the fight right now, we got to be what we feel
Peace is the word
It’s got a groove, it’s got a meaning
Peace is the time, is the place, is the motion
Peace is the way we are feeling
Peace is the word my friends.  We are the motion. Go … be peace today!

Shifting understandings of home

DChitwood_TheresNoPlaceLikeHomeI lived the first 18 years of my life in the same house on Seabury Lane in Bowie, Maryland.  First the house was painted green, later yellow. We were a family of five children and two parents, later adding grandparents to the residential mix even as sibling after sibling went off to college, sometimes returning for a stint after graduation. (I’m the youngest.)

When I went away to college on the left coast in Portland, the Seabury Lane house was still home. As a young adult, I began to create my own home in Portland where I lived for 16 years until I entered community.  But I still spent many holidays back in Bowie with the family.  During the years when my mom was sick, the visits home were more and more frequent as my siblings and I provided a tag team support system.  My Dad sold the family house about a year after my Mom died.  I remember the last day I was there.  I had a little ritual of thanksgiving, thanking God for everything the house had represented as home.

So where is home now?  I’m often perplexed when people ask me where I’m from, or where is home.  I no longer have family in Maryland.  I have moved quite a bit since I entered community.  My home CSJP Western region is Seattle, but I’m also at home in our Eastern region where I’m now living or in our UK region where I just had the pleasure of visiting.  I just spent a few days in Portland for a meeting and visiting with friends.  I have so much history there that it is also a place where I am at home. I just spent 2 1/2 years in Chicago for grad school and my sister and dad now live there, so that place also is special to me.

I have literally been all over the map the past month, travelling for community meetings and leadership/vocation related meetings and a conference and graduation and visiting family and friends and CSJP community.  I’ve been in Seattle, Leicestershire and London, Chicago, and Portland.  Each stop on the journey held elements of home — roots, connection, relationships, past, present, and future. This afternoon as I was on the last flight of this long trip, I found myself once again offering prayers of gratitude for the many places that are home to me, even as my understanding of home continues to shift and evolve.

And now I am sitting in my chair in my room in the place I currently call home.  And it is good to be here, to stop moving and breathe deeply and sink into the present and presence of the people and place that right now make this community house my home.

Closing a Chapter … graduation

I am in Chicago for my graduation from Catholic Theological Union. The ceremony is this evening. I am looking forward to celebrating with classmates, faculty,  family, and friends.

The last time I donned a graduation cap and gown, believe it or not, was almost 21 years ago. Now I get to add a velvet trimmed hood to the ensemble as I become the last Francois child in my generation to earn a Masters degree.  Coincidentally,  my nephew Conor already beat me to it so the next generation is on their way.

This morning I took one of my favorite Chicago walks by Lake Michigan.  It is always nice to return to favorite places, especially ones that have become sacred spaces of memory, thought, and prayer.

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The Chicago grad school chapter of my life is officially coming to a close. The leadership chapter of my life has already begun. And it is all part of a whole,  weaving together threads of learning and practice, mission and ministry,  trial and error, love and justice seeking, contemplation and action.

My time at CTU has been filled with many blessings.  I have come to know my own Catholic tradition more deeply. I have grown in my identity as a Catholic Sister and in confidence as one seeks to share her gifts in following Jesus.

Sitting looking out at the wide expanse of Lake Michigan, I am filled with wonder, awe, and gratitude. God is good my friends. God is good.

Morning Musings – Hudson River Edition

Today is a glorious day here at east coast groovy sister hq. Later this morning we will celebrate our Jubilarians. This morning I decided to take the fair weather and sunshine as an opportunity to enjoy God’s creation.

Our campus here is nestled on the top of the palisades,  essentially a mountain along the Hudson. Today I ventured down along the river, walking on the Shore Trail in the Palisades Interstate park, from below the GW Bridge to just below our property.

As I sat on a rock along the river, gazing at nature and iconic symbols of progress, I was struck by the juxtaposition.

Of fowl and frenzy
Of tranquility and transition
Of creation and commerce.

This land is home to so many for so long … birds and groundhogs and other creatures. The native peoples who must have been awed by the high cliffs above. The settlers and immigrants from across the ocean. The teeming masses, the hustle and bustle,  the poverty and prosperity.

And here I sit, on a rock, today gazing upon it all past, present, and that which is yet to come.

Simply amazing.

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Praying with Joseph – Video Prayer Reflection

Today is the Feast of St. Joseph! Margaret Anna Cusack (Mother Francis Clare) chose St. Joseph as the patron of my religious community, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace, because he was a model of peace.  In the words of our original 1884 Constitutions:

Joseph1884

A few years ago I made this video prayer reflection for St. Joseph’s Day (complete with a rather funny typo).  I invite you to spend some time today with Joseph, model of peace.

Happy St. Joseph’s Day!