Thursday, April 29, 2010

Catholic Writers: Their Life and Faith

Are you looking for a good book to get you thinking about your life and faith? Try this one.

The Life You Save May Be Your Own By Paul Elie

This book is a biography of four Catholic writers in mid-century America.

The four Catholic writers are:

Mary Flannery O’Connor (1925-1964) was from Georgia. A Catholic by birth, Mary used her writings to explore the spirituality of the people around her.

Thomas Merton, (1915-1968) was a convert to Catholicism and a Trappist Monk who wrote “The Seven Storey Mountain”.

Walker Percy, (1916-1990) was a convert to Catholicism, a southerner, and a doctor who gave it up to become a writer.

Dorothy Day, (1897-1980) was also a convert and the founder of Catholic Worker.

What did Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton, Walker Percy, Mary Flannery O’Connor have in common? All these writers struggled not only with identity but religious faith as well.

The conversion stories for Day, Merton and Percy are interesting. It is a journey in which life and faith come together. It was in literature books that they found religious experience. Inspired by books they read, they set out to have the experiences they read about. Day with the Catholic Worker strove to embody the Gospel story on the streets of the lower east side. Merton left the modern world and joined a Trappist monastery in Kentucky. Percy left medicine and saw himself as a searcher after life’s meaning. O’Connor who was raised a Catholic among Protestants used her writings to explore the spirituality of the lives of the people around her.

I enjoyed this book very much. What I really like is that Paul Elie shows all four writers from a human point of view.

Perhaps the words might inspire you to start thinking and reflecting in a new and different way.

Sr. Nancy Arroyo, OSU

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

"Madeleva Meeting" on Earth Day Celebrations

Last Friday, a group of us gathered at the Province Center, as we do every six weeks or so, for a “Madeleva meeting” -- a time for pizza and conversation and prayer about social justice. It was the day after Earth Day, so we talked about ways in which we and others celebrated the day. It seems to be getting more and more widespread. Someone mentioned a conference in Bolivia of Native American people from around the world, for instance -- concerned about what is happening to Mother Earth and making decisions about what to do.

We also talked about some of the decisions we’ve made over the past few years – not to use bottled water at our Province meetings, for example. And we talked about how we’re growing in our own way of being in relationship to one another and to Earth – more conscious about our mutuality, our oneness in the universe.

The prayer we used expressed some of that – a quote from an ecofeminist,
“… stardust is not just fairy-tale magic; it’s what we are really made of…” and another from Black Elk, a Sioux: “Great Spirit,…. Give me the strength to walk the soft earth, a relative to all that is …”

I always look forward to the Madeleva meetings. I come away enriched and thoughtful – and feeling connected. The meetings are open, by the way. If you’re interested, let us know!
Mary Dowd, OSU

Friday, April 23, 2010

Serviam in Action

Today I had the pleasure of accompanying one hundred and seventy-nine juniors on their service trip. For the past five years the junior class has participated in "Project Nicaragua." Since January they have been collecting clothing,shoes, sports equipment, school supplies, medical supplies, hygiene kits and toys and putting it in a "pod" behind our school. Today was the day we brought the materials collected up to Bridgeport, Ct to sort and pack it into boxes in preparation for the eighteen wheeler truck that will be packed for the drive to Nicaragua. The supplies will be distributed to several locations.

The initial scene was one of complete (but organized) chaos. The girls were eager to get to work but had to practice patience as we organized them. Each group had a different colored shirt so we were able to identify our groups more easily. My group was to make boxes and when they were packed they were placed on shelves. For most of the morning two of my group members were sitting on the top of the third shelf receiving boxes as they were passed up. Another teacher and I sat on the second shelf and kept passing the boxes up. It was a real sight as there were girls everywhere trying to help out. As always the miracle occurred and all the boxes were packed and put in place.

Our day concluded with a brief prayer outside and the singing of the girls favorite song -- Jesus, Give Us Your Peace. The words of the refrain truly summarized the day for me: Jesus give us your peace, bring us together, let all the fighting cease, gather all our hearts of stone, make us a heart for love alone! Their hearts were full of love, peace, happiness and a real sense of a job well done!

For all it was a great day!

Sr. Pat Schifini, OSU

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Happy Earth Day!!!!!

The Ursuline Sisters would like to wish everyone a Happy Earth Day. Just think of all we receive from the Earth and how much we depend on it for our life and well-being!!

The nice weather we have been having lately reminds me of how important "the outdoors" is to my mental well being. After taking a walk and getting some fresh air, sun and seeing grass and flower, I always feel better and more energized. It's important to remember this as I go about my daily life's activities and try to use our resources more wisely and not add to our world's pollution and waste.

Right now, I am thinking of how the small random acts of kindness make such a difference in people's lives. Therefore, I am going to work on trying to do random acts of Earth care such as picking up a piece of litter off the street, walking sometimes or carpooling instead of driving my car, planning ahead so I'm doing 2 or 3 errands when out driving, and using less plastic and paper.

What random acts of Earth care can you add to your lifestyle?

Sr. Jeannie

Monday, April 19, 2010

Our Ursuline Schools

On Saturday, April 17th from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. about 55 board members and school administrators from our 3 high schools, Academy of Mt. St. Ursula in the Bronx, The Ursuline School in New Rochelle, NY and Ursuline Academy in Wilmington, Delaware. It was so energizing to see all these groups in the same room sharing the same passion and interest in Ursuline Education. We discussed how our schools are alike and looked at our Core Values. At each of our schools, we are so fortunate to have some great lay people and Ursuline Sisters working together.

The Ursuline Education Core Values include: Spirituality & Faith, Community, Peacemaking, Openness to Change, Excellence in Education, Serviam ("I will serve"), and History and Angela's Heritage.

It was great to see how all those involved in each school agreed upon these and how each school is working within its own student population to live and promote Angela's mission and ministry.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Freedom of Religion

As part of my ministry in education, I work with children with special needs through The Cooke Center for Learning and Development (

Yesterday, I was in one of our schools and the teacher was teaching the students about why the Pilgrims left England to come to America. She kept stressing to them the religious freedom piece. The children then each shared a bit about their religions.

As I got off the subway and waited for the bus, I was struck by all the different religions I saw walking by me. There was an Orthodox Jewish family with the men and boys wearing yarmulkes and girls wearing long black skirts, a Muslim woman and her 3 daughers with their head scarfs, 2 nuns in habits and a man on the corner standing on a box stating Come Be Saved By the Lord. Then I was there in my professional work clothes. It was just so alive with everyone!!!

How do you experience the freedom of religion offered by our country?

Monday, April 12, 2010

A Visit with Friends

For the past week, we have had two women visiting us from Germany. One of the women, Linda has been connected to my local living community for over twenty years. She studied Pastoral Counseling with one of our sisters. Linda brought along her friend Andrea. It's been nice having them with us and last night they cooked us a delicious dinner of potato pancakes - so delicious and yummy.

We have sat around our dinner table practically each night sharing stories for at least an hour or so. One story that they shared with us deals with a Lutheran women bishop in Germany. She was just recently appointed to the job and people were happy with what she was doing. However, one night she was out at a dinner with friends and ended up drinking a bit too much. On her way home, she was stopped by police for drinking while intoxicated. Of course, it was all over the papers and news in Germany. This woman then went the next day and resigned from her work because she did not believe that she should hold such a worthy title considering what had happened.

People's reactions to this were mixed. Some were very happy and supportive; but others upset because they felt her resignation was not needed. Some even expressed statements that her resignation was accepted simply because she was a woman and that she was being held to a higher standard than a man would be.

This reminded me of a conversation I had with a 6th grade boy name William, one of the students I taught at St. Ignatius in Hunts Point in the Bronx. ( One day he mentioned that his 16 year old cousin was pregnant and there was a family shower going on that weekend. William wanted to know why if being pregant at a young age and unmarried wasn't too wise-why was the family having a shower? I explained that yes it can be difficult to be pregnant at 16, but a new life is coming so you want to make sure the baby has what he or she needs.

William then turned to me and said oh I guess this is what a moral dilemma is. I feel the same way about the Lutheran woman bishop in Germany.

What type of moral dilemmas have you come across in your life?

Sr. Jeannie

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Rebirth, Renewal and Rejoice

On Easter Sunday, I received an e-card from a friend and the message was all about those three words mentioned above-Rebirth, Renewal and Rejoice. Seeing those words together made me realize how important it is to constantly have hope and energy about life.

Every day is a new beginning and with this wonderful weather we have been having, I definitely feel a sense of renewal. I just have to start living out of that mode too. That can be hard to do with all the sad and difficult issues going on in our world, but I belive God is among that too.

What ways do you try to live a Life of Hope filled with Rebirth, Renewal and Rejoicing?

I think of all the good things happening and all the great people in my life. Plus I just look at a little child's smile and it energizes me right away!!

Sr. Jeannie

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Happy Easter

The Ursuline Sisters wish all a happy and blessed Easter!
May the Risen Christ dwell in your hearts and homes.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Good Friday

As I begin to write these words I am very aware that perhaps the only appropriate stance before the mystery of this day is silence. Words seem so inadequate. There was so much noise on Calvary that first Good Friday; the shouting of the crowds, the agonized cries of those being nailed to crosses, the sounds of the hammers. Only Mary, Magdalen and John were silent. And Jesus spoke only a few words. So we also may want to stand before the scene first, in an attitude of silence.

In the silence the question may arise in our hearts, “Why?” Why did God let this happen to God’s beloved one? In fact, why has God let this happen to innocent ones down through the ages? Where is God as Jesus dies on the cross? Where is God as innocent children die in war zones, in earthquakes, in famine?

A response of God is suggested in our scriptures. We have as high priest “one who has in every way been tested as we are”. This high priest, Jesus, took on our humanity in its completeness. He took on all the consequences of being human; human joy and human pain, human fear and human desire, human freedom and human choice. And in this human condition Jesus was given a mission as God’s servant, to reveal to humankind who God is; a God who respects human freedom, a God of love, who forgives human sinfulness; a God who also can “sympathize with our weakness”, who, in fact, chooses the weak, rather than the strong. Jesus was faithful to his mission to reveal this God, and he met with fierce opposition from those who understood their task as preserving God’s position, and their own, as a God of the righteous, the law abiding, the powerful. In the face of this opposition Jesus remained faithful and determined. And he was killed for that stance. God did not intervene to prevent from happening to Jesus what was the consequence of Jesus’ being human, free and faithful.

Nor does God intervene to prevent from happening to us what are the consequences of our being human, free and finite. Our choices often bring to ourselves and others pain and suffering, not as part of God’s design but as a result of human weakness, selfishness and sin. To this condition of ours the suffering of Jesus brings new meaning. He made a promise to those who follow him. “I will be with you.” No matter what we suffer, whether we be innocent or guilty, the promise remains. Suffering and death no longer are the last word because Jesus has transformed them by taking them on. His life, death and resurrection has given us a way of transforming them as well. We are not alone for he is with us, remaining ever faithful to his promise.

As Jesus dies on the cross, John’s Gospel records, “And bowing his head, he handed over the spirit.” That spirit of faithful love, was poured out on those who stood at the foot of the cross and on all those through the centuries who have taken up their vigil there, revealing again the God who is love. We also, stand there, silently watching, silently receiving.

Miriam Cleary, OSU

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Holy Thursday

Today we celebrate Holy Thursday – a day to remember, to celebrate and to believe. This day we commemorate the day that Jesus gathered with his friends to celebrate the Passover Meal. It is also at this meal that Jesus instituted the Eucharist. At this meal Jesus performed a dramatic gesture when he stood up, took a towel and basin and began to wash the feet of the disciples. This humble gesture recalls for me what we are called to do. We are called to be of service to one another. The Ursuline motto of “Serviam” – I will serve -- echoes this for students all over the world. We are called to give of ourselves in whatever way we can. Let us always take Jesus for our model and be of service to one another.