April 20, 2015

“Behold I am making all things new” Revelation 21:5

            What a tremendous grace to renew my vows for the first time! It was perfectly fitting that it was on the Feast of Divine Mercy. To be a bride of Christ is a supreme gift of divine mercy. God’s love is entirely gratuitous. Like the “spring of water welling up to eternal life,” He pours His love into our hearts, and draws us to Himself. He has conquered the grave that we may have life and have it abundantly. As I reflect on these past eight months since I first professed my vows, I am struck with the depth of God’s generosity. God is supreme, and has no need of us; still He chooses us. God is all powerful, and still he uses us. He thirsts for us, longing to make us new each day. For in allowing ourselves to be made new, we “renew the face of the earth.” Fr. Tim Christy, who gave two conferences on the recollection day before renewal, said: “In order to inspire others to conversion, we must first become acquainted with it ourselves.” Renewal is ultimately a call to conversion; to again cast off the old man and put on Christ. One is invited to look at where they have been, and where they wish to go. Renewal is defined as “the state of being made new, fresh, or strong again.” It is through our profession of the evangelical counsels that we are given the grace to persevere. In laying down our lives, and placing ourselves “at the disposal of this religious congregation,” we are strengthened. In recognizing our weakness, God’s power is made perfect in us. As I said our vow formula, I misspoke one line, repeated it correctly, and continued on. When I returned to my pew, it dawned on me that I am not able to live my vows solely on my own strength; therefore why should I be able to say them of my own ability. It is a precious reminder that all is gift. God is the giver of all good things. He is faithful, and He will lead us. Trusting in Him alone, we WILL be made new. We ARE being made new. In radiant joy let us announce with our lives, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. […] [F]or the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.”

-Sister M. Gemma, FSGM

April 17, 2015

Unless A Grain of Wheat fall to the Ground and Dies...

            This morning I had one of the instantaneous, flash meditations which are the combination of academic learning and more so the spiritual wisdom and grace of the Holy Spirit. We were singing “Now the Green Blade Riseth” at Morning Office. All of the sudden the song, the scripture “unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies it remains but a grain of wheat” and my recent study of plant lifecycle for Botany coalesced into a powerful insight.
            A grain of wheat, the seed of wheat, has everything it needs to become what it is meant to be. The embryo within the seed is fully formed, it has the nourishment it needs to grow until it can provide its own needs and it has a seed coat to protect it until it begins the germination process. We too, through God’s grace, have all the tools we need to be the people we are meant to be to be fully alive in Him. Even though at times we many not believe that or the process may seem more painful or dangerous then we want to accept.
            With a grain of wheat an interesting thing can happen. The normal process is meant for that seed to be released so it can go on and germinate in the soil. It will sometimes happen that the wheat will germinate while still on the stalk. When this occurs there is a problem.  The stalk doesn’t have the water and nutrients that it needs to grow and flourish. It may grow to an extent but it will never become the fully grown plant it is meant to be unless it falls off the stalk and is planted with the soil.
            This can occur for us in the spiritual life as well. We may start to grow while on the “stalk”, however there comes a point when we will be lacking the “nutrients” we need to fully become the person we are meant to be in Christ. For us the stalk isn’t necessarily the parent plant where we are formed. It’s whatever control (or multitude of controls) that we’re clinging to; that which we can’t let go of and allow God to handle. Yet, our call is to make the choice to take that risk, to die to ourselves and let God take over. When we do so we are guided by Him to the rich soil which contains all we need to grow, to thrive and to become our true self in God.
            In a very real way this is what we do as religious when we take our vows. We make the choice to lay down our lives and place them in God’s hands. In doing so, we are often guided on a path that we wouldn’t always have dreamed of if we continued to choose our own plans. However, when we truly surrender we find the endless peace and love of God at work in our lives. As a junior sister, that is in some ways the grace of our yearly renewal. Each year we come back and once again say Lord, I give you permission, take over my life. We do that knowing the struggles that we have been in that year but also knowing the greater love and joy which comes when we truly choose to live in His will and way.
-Sister Karol Marie, FSGM 
Our junior professed Sisters renewed their vows on Divine Mercy Sunday.

April 15, 2015

Let the Children Come to Me

As Sisters teaching at St. Catherine School in Tulsa, OK each day we try to follow the example of our foundress, Mother M. Anselma, in making Christ’s merciful love visible.  At our school we have about 110 students Preschool-8th grade.  We are blessed to have four Sisters: Sister M. Margaret- 4th grade, Sister M. Vianney- 2nd grade, Sister Maria Cordis 1st grade, and Sr. M. Faustina- Art and 6th grade Religion.

Being Sisters who teach, we get asked a lot by people who don’t know us if Sisters still use rulers to discipline children (we don’t).  Since many Catholic schools today do not have the privilege of having Sisters, I have decided to give you an idea of what it is really like to have Sisters for teachers.  The four of us each surveyed our students with the question:

What do you like best about having Sisters for teachers?

They are nice and sweet and are good at teaching kids.
Parker, 6th Grade

We get to learn about God and have someone to talk to when we are having trouble.
Madalene, 6th Grade

I love Sisters because they are all so kind, fun, helpful and patient.
Mikaila, 6th Grade

They know more about Jesus.
Rose, 6th grade

They are always able to use God in every situation.
Jude, 6th grade

They teach us things that are very amazing about God.
Ben, 6th grade

They also have time to talk about how they got to be Sisters.
Stephanie, 6th grade

They teach us about God and how to use manners!
Bella, 4th Grade

They are very nice and teach us a lot about Religion.
Jackson, 4th Grade

They are fun and amazing Sisters.
Helena, 4th Grade

The Sisters we have at our school know so much about religion and are so helpful and generous.
Grant, 4th Grade

My Sister is so sweet and teaches me new things.
Rylei, 4th Grade

They are holy and nice.
Hank, 2nd grade

They make me smart.
Carlyle, 2nd grade

We pray more.  Maddox, 2nd grade

I like how Sr. M. Vianney brings us to Church to pray.
Bella, 2nd grade

They are very nice.
Mara, 2nd grade

You learn more about Religion.
Anthony, 2nd grade

I like working with Sisters.
Jonas, 1st grade

They help us learn.
JR, 1st grade

Sisters teach us about Jesus.
Andreana, 1st grade

They are really fun.
Heidi, 1st grade

Sister teaches about cool things.
Keith, 1st grade

They love God and the kids.  The kids love the Sisters.
Madison, 1st grade

As you can see, it is a joy for us to share in the mission of Mother M. Anselma and teach the wonderful children at our school.

-Sister M. Vianney, FSGM

April 11, 2015

Entering into the Heart of Jesus

Yes, this statue is real!  And yes, those really are stairs in the red and white rays leading people into Jesus’ heart!  This statue of Divine Mercy is a pilgrimage site in the Philippines.  After I got over my initial shock that this place existed, I understood the statue’s deeper message – Jesus is calling us into His heart.
 
He is not just calling us to look upon His image of Divine Mercy, but to enter into the very depths of His heart. We may not be able to go to the Philippines, but each day we can enter into His heart.  We can place ourselves within His heart and unite our hearts with His heart in prayer. 

Will you climb the stairs to enter the Lord’s heart? 

As I look at those stairs, I must admit that they look pretty tiring to me.  In order to get to the rays, the pilgrim first must climb the stairs up the hill.  Then there are more stairs to get to His heart.  This can appear very exhausting.  Sometimes the spiritual life can feel this way too, we have climbed many “stairs” through the Lord’s grace, and then look up only to see so many more that we still have to go.  But we are not to be discouraged!

Jesus has given us His life within us and united us to Himself in baptism, which is represented by the white ray.  The red ray signifies the Holy Eucharist by which He nourishes us with His body and blood.

At the Easter Vigil, I was reminded of the great power of our baptism as the congregation eagerly renewed their baptismal promises and the celebrant with a huge smile on his face sprinkled us with holy water.  This joy filled moment reminded me that through baptism we have become adopted children of God and the power of God dwells within us. 

This is the same power by which Jesus was able to rise from the dead!  If Jesus can rise from the dead, then surely this same power can enable us to climb those “stairs” to His heart.  The power to do this lies within us through baptism, if only we will call upon it.

On Holy Thursday, a line in the homily struck me that described the Passover lamb as giving sustenance to the Israelites for their flight from slavery in Egypt.  This meat provided strength for their journey.  Jesus, the true Passover lamb, gives us sustenance in the Holy Eucharist.   In climbing those “stairs” to the Lord’s heart, the Holy Eucharist gives us strength for the journey.

As we prepare to celebrate the upcoming feast of Divine Mercy, let us climb and enter into the pierced side of Jesus through the power and strength of our baptism and reception of the Holy Eucharist.  Saint Bernard says, “The secret of Christ’s heart is revealed to us through the cleft of his body.”  As we place ourselves within the cleft of His open heart, may we be blessed to know the secrets of His Most Sacred Heart!

- Sister M. Chiara, FSGM

April 7, 2015

All Shall be Well

Victor Hugo once said that "Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent."  As we enter the Easter Season, we "wait in joyful hope" for the proclamation of our salvation at the Easter Vigil in the beautiful chant, "The Exsultet" which literally means...EXULT!  Christ's glorious resurrection is the pinnacle of our faith, so this Good News is the summit of that of "which it is impossible to be silent!"  How could we ever express in mere words that which we experience in the victory Christ won for us?  

The wisdom of Holy Mother Church has taught us the importance of song in our celebration and praise to raise the poverty of our words from the depths of our hearts to the heights of the heavens.  ALLELUIA (praise the Lord) is never far from our lips this time of year and dances across the pages of our hymnals and song sheets to be lifted to the Risen Lord.  A more modern song that has special connotations for it "really being Easter in Alton" for our Sisters is "All Shall be Well."  The simple tune of the melody recollects most in our community to the splendor of our celebration of the triumph of life over death.  Blessed Easter! 

April 6, 2015

Planting Seeds of Love

On Sunday, March 22, Sr. M. Consolata arrived at St. George Convent in Tulsa, OK. The 4 Sisters in Tulsa were happy to have company, and looking forward to sharing in some vocation ventures with Sr. M. Consolata. The weather was perfect in sunny Oklahoma, and the Sisters happened to be on Spring Break. We began early Monday morning with Mass at our local St. Mary Church. After that we had breakfast in our cars while awaiting our visit with students at Bishop Kelly High School in Tulsa. Fr. O'Brien, the high school's president, greeted us with excitement and led us into the school hallways where ALL of the students would be passing through on their way to their first class. The students were happy to see Sisters and were very friendly and welcoming. Some students know the Sisters from St. Catherine School. Sr. Maria Cordis even taught some of them when they were in 1st grade! After the first class period began we proceeded to the Theology classes to share about our vocations. Some of the classes were actually vocation classes with seniors. We had a chance to share our vocation stories and what it is like to be a Franciscan Sister of the Martyr St. George. A common "thread" that each of us shared was being drawn by the joy of our Sisters as well as to our Charism which is to make Christ's merciful love visible. The students had many good questions for us. Fr. O'Brien thanked us for planting seeds in the hearts of the students. We encouraged the students to be open to building a relationship with Jesus and being open to the call and plan He has for each of them. 

Sr. M. Consolata had a chance to meet one on one with students both at Bishop Kelley and at the University of Tulsa (TU). In the evening we all met Sr. M. Consolata at TU. She gave an inspired talk to both the young men and women of the University. Again, the focus was much on building a relationship with Jesus which is the best "stepping stone" to discerning one's vocation. We were all able to enjoy pasta with the students and then participated in a bible study led by some FOCUS Missionaries. It was a very prayerful and reflective time leading into Adoration and ending with Benediction.  On the next day, Tuesday, March 23, we joined the TU students on campus for their weekly Tuesday lunch. It was nice to have the time to just be with the students, talk, and enjoy a meal. They do not have a lot of exposure to Sisters, and so this was a good opportunity to plant seeds and help them to understand religious vocations.


We all enjoyed our time together and with the students at BK and TU, and God willing, there will be some young people who respond to God's call of love through the priesthood or religious life. 

-Sister M. Margaret, FSGM

April 4, 2015

Behold the Wood of the Cross

As I was preparing myself for the Triduum, my favorite days of the Church year, I found myself remembering Good Friday 2010. That was the last Good Friday before I would enter the convent. I did not know I would be a postulant the next year, I was very certain I would enter after graduating college, I was a junior.

The Veneration of the Cross had always been a service that moved my heart, but that year as I returned to my pew after I kissed the Crucifix, I cried. I really cried. I do not know if my family noticed, but I remember being shocked by the amount of tears that kept running down my face.  As I was remembering this a couple days ago I made some connections about what was going on in my heart.
I believe that during that service my heart was trying to tell me something. Sometimes in life our head knows before our heart does, but not that Friday. After venerating the Cross, my heart was literally overflowing with the love of Jesus. He died on the Cross, for me! Although I wasn’t aware of it, my heart heard Jesus say, “Come.” Now as a Sister of St. Francis of the Martyr St. George, I am a member of a community whose spirituality flows from They will look on Him whom they have pierced. John 19:37. In 2010, as I looked on Him whom I have pierced, my heart knew I was close to my vocation. Through an outward expression of this spirituality, my soul felt at home.

As I continue to reflect on this revelation, I am more amazed at God’s providence. He creates us knowing our vocation. He gave me a Franciscan heart. Every day through our community prayers I kiss my crucifix multiple times a day. Behold the wood of the Cross… Come, let us adore! 

- Sister Teresa Maria, FSGM