Tag Archives: CSJ

Our Lady of Guadalupe

12 Dec
via Flickr user Angelofsweetbitter2009

via Flickr user Angelofsweetbitter2009

In Central and South America the conquering Spanish brought both armies and disease in the 1500s that caused 90% of the native peoples to die. With the Spanish came missionaries that preached the gospels to surviving people such as Juan Diego, on whose tilma we see the image of the holy woman he encounters on a hill where Mexico City is today. In her role as Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mary, Jesus’ mother, appears as one of the poor. Our Lady of Guadalupe promises to hear the prayers of poor and nearly destroyed Indian peoples like Juan. The tradition of enacting the story of Juan meeting the Lady takes place in Hispanic parishes every December 12th.

You are the mother
of the dark and the light
the rich and the poor
the humble and proud.

You are the mother
of the young and the old
the strong and the weak
of those who rejoice
of those who weep.

You are the mother
of woman and man
of small and of great
of broken and whole.
You are the mother who art.

“Our Mother Who Art” by Sister Ansgar Holmberg. CSJ

Gospel Reflection for January 19, 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

14 Jan

The fourth gospel begins in God time and enters history only in verse 6, when “a man named John was sent from God…to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him” (1.6-7). Jesus has no birth story and no parents at the beginning of this gospel. Instead he has a dedicated public relations man who testifies someone greater is coming.

John the Baptist apparently preaches in such a compelling way that many mistake him for the promised messiah, but he insists no. Someone else is coming who will baptize with the Spirit. Artfully the fourth gospel uses the Baptist to build up anticipation. The Baptist is the point man. Artists often draw him pointing.

The Baptist witnesses that indeed Wisdom, God’s partner in creation, has found a dwelling in Israel. The Word has taken flesh to reveal God among us. Not until verse 29, where Sunday’s gospel begins, does the Baptist point out Jesus and identify him as the someone.

In court, witnessing and testifying require swearing to tell the whole truth about events one has observed or participated in. Testimony is also a Christian practice in which one talks about the power of God in one’s life.

Many people who grew up Catholic no longer claim their faith. The continuing flow of sexual abuse cases causes deep distrust of leaders who don’t meet their promise of zero tolerance. The whole Church suffers.

We Christians are Jesus’ witnesses today. As our courts work to find the whole truth, we in the pews must give witness to all God is doing in our lives. We must be church to one another and Christians others can believe in.

What witness do you give?

On Fishing: An excerpt from Sunday by Sunday by Therese Sherlock, CSJ

11 Apr

My dad was a different man when he was fishing. If we dinged the car or hit a ball through a window, he would growl and shake his head as if to say, “How did I get such dumb kids?”

But on the Mississippi River things were different. We anchored in some backwater and casted for hours, waiting for the big catfish to find our night crawlers and swallow our hooks. Backwaters are quiet places with low-hanging trees. Many of my casts got caught in their leafy branches.

I expected Dad to be impatient with my lack of casting skill. But he wasn’t. Every time I snagged a tree, he motioned for me to haul up the anchor. Then he rowed over, patiently untangled the line, and retrieved my tackle and bait. He would be whistling, not growling. I loved those times together and was always amazed that he wanted us kids to go along.

Maybe the Mississippi was a sacrament of reconciliation for my dad. Maybe the quiet and the slow, gentle rituals of fishing let his heart ring with his love for us and gave him small but important ways to show that love.

I never drive the winding road down to where Dad kept his boat without grinning to myself because I can see him grinning at me, the girl who caught more trees than fish. I can see us fishing with all the time in the world to untangle our lines and our lives.

In Sunday’s gospel Peter goes fishing and the risen Jesus waits for him at the lakeshore. Why should I be surprised that this place is where they reconcile?

Sisters and the Vatican: Time for Real Dialogue

10 Aug

The Leadership Conference of Women Religious is currently meeting in St. Louis, discussing how to respond to Vatican accusations. Naturally I wish I was part of the conversation. I did hear in person Sister Laurie Brink’s keynote address at the 2007 LCWR meeting that has given rise to accusation that sisters are post Christian and have left the Church behind.

Actually that was a useful presentation. Repeatedly I have reflected on the four futures she saw for religious communities, especially on the fourth. I attended the meetings because I was one of three sisters elected to our Province Leadership Team.

Laurie is a Dominican sister and theologian. She presented each of the four futures in the context of a biblical story. The four futures I think about for our community:

  • death with dignity
  • acquiescence
  • sojourning in a strange land
  • reconciliation.

Death with dignity. Religious as a life form seems in danger of extinction like whales. Some small congregations have joined larger communities. Recently seven congregations merged into one new Congregation of St. Joseph. This first option recognizes communities have to deal with their numbers. One community reported at LCWR that just 18 sisters remained when they had to evacuate New Orleans because of Hurricane Katrina, two sisters died on the way to skilled care with another community, and the opportunity to choose their future was swept away with the wind.

Acquiesence. Rome has greater comfort dealing with the sisters still in the habit than with the 80% of sisters that belong to LCWR. In this future sisters return to pre-Vatican II religious life. In the 1917 Code of Canon Law, Rome returned sisters to their cloisters and obligated them to monastic prayer life of the Divine Office. Ironically this was just three years before the first wave of the women’s movement finally achieved the vote for women in 1920.

Vatican II directed religious communities to rediscover our founding charisms. So we did. Many like my community worked with the poor and lift up women especially through educating them in ways to make a living. In fact my community, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, was the first apostolic community approved by Rome, apostolic meaning noncloistered, out and about doing the works of mercy. The first sisters lived among the poor and taught women to make lace to support themselves. We rediscovered these first sisters and the active, prophetic pioneer sisters in America. Acquiesence seems an unlikely option for most communities.

Sojourning in a strange land. This is the part of the talk that is controversial. However, sojourning is a very biblical experience. The descendants of Joseph sojourn in Egypt and become slaves. The Hebrew slaves sojourn for 40-years in the desert and become a people. Captive Israelites sojourn in Babylon for 70 years before the Persian King Cyrus sends them home to rebuild. Some sisters are sojourning with people who have broken with Christianity in its current forms, who are post Christians seeking new forms of spirituality. Sisters may dissent on some Church positions but most haven’t given up on Christianity.

Sisters may be more comfortable in the secular world than bishops. It’s where we live and work. It’s not a strange land. We have little nostalgia for holy Roman times when church and state were one. Specifically as Sisters of St. Joseph, we are daughters of the American Revolution and survivors of the French Reign of Terror. One of our foundresses missed the guillotine by day.

Most women’s communities have thankfully shed our versions of matriarchy. We have no reverend mothers, we govern by consensus with all participating; we choose our ministries rather than be assigned. We dress in the ordinary street clothes of our day as we did in our beginnings. I suspect most sisters are feminist enough to think women and men are equal, not that women are complementary and subordinate to men.

Reconciliation. This is the future that challenged me and the future that Laurie Brink espoused. This is the future in which sisters don’t give up on the Church’s hierarchy but persist in seeking dialogue. Note that the three LCWR presidents (past, present, future) have gone to Rome for dialogue annually for the past 20 years without achieving this end. Currently Bishop Leonard Blair says the sisters must submit in order to resolve the conflict.

I have just read William O’Malley’s book What Happened at Vatican II? Over the four-year course of the council, some 2,800 bishops dialogued with each other and with theologians. The Spirit went to work. Dialogue and learning from each other can transform the future but only if participants in dialogue engage as equals.

What is so threatening about real dialogue?

Sister Joan Mitchell, CSJ is the editor of Sunday by Sunday and Spirit for Teens – weekly faith sharing magazines – and the author of Beyond Fear and Silence and Mark’s Gospel: The Whole Story.  In 2004, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondolet, St. Paul Province, elected Sister Joan to the community’s leadership team.  During this five year commitment, Sister Joan connected with Catholics from around the country.

Independence Day Blessing

4 Jul

Happy Independence Day! Enjoy this excerpt from Blessing Rites for Christian Lives by Shawn Madigan, CSJ

“The Lord loves Justice and will not forsake a faithful people” (Psalm 37:28)

Holidays celebrating the liberty and justice for all that our nation claims are a good time to renew efforts to make that dream come true.  A table can have the usual colors of celebration and a candle symbolizing both Christ our Light and freedom’s light of Lady Liberty.

LEADER: Today we give thanks for the freedom Christ’s light brings and for Lady Liberty’s torch that shines forth as a sign of care for the tired and the poor from all nations.
ALL: Trust in the Lord so you may live in the land and enjoy security.

PSALM 37:3-11 Pray antiphonally.Old Patriot
1. Trust in the Lord and do good;
so you will live in the land and enjoy security.
Take delight in the Lord,
who will give you the desires of your heart.
2. Commit your way to the Lord, trust in God and God will act.
Your vindication will shine forth like the light,
and the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.
1. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently.
Do not fret over those who prosper in their way
or over those who carry out evil devices.
2. Refrain from anger and forsake wrath.
Do not fret; it leads only to evil.
For the wicked shall be cut off,
but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land.
1. Yet a little while and the wicked will be no more;
though you look diligently for their place, they will not be there.
2. But the meek shall inherit the land,
and delight themselves in abundant prosperity.
ALL: Trust in the Lord and do good. Then you will live in the land and enjoy security.

LEADER: Today we remember with gratitude all of the countless people whose lives have been given for the good of this nation in times of war and in times of peace. Brief silence.

READER 1: The wisdom of Solomon and of Jesus reflect ideals for a community living under God. If your enemy is hungry, provide food; if thirsty, provide drink.  In this way, you will heap coals on the head of your enemy and God will reward you (Based on Prov 25: 21-22).

READER 2: Blessed are those who are poor in spirit: the kingdom of heaven is theirs.  Blessed are those who are mourning: they will be consoled.
Blessed are those who are gentle: they will inherit the land.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice; they will have their fill.
Blessed are those who show mercy to others: they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are those whose hearts are clean: they will see God.
Blessed are those who work for peace: they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of their struggle for justice: the kingdom of heaven is theirs (Matt 5:3-11).

LEADER: You are the liberty of the world. Shared reflection: What does it mean today to live as “light” of liberty and justice for all?
LEADER: God of our ancestors in this land, God of all nations and peoples, God who still calls us to be agents of liberty and justice for all, we thank you for this service of all our people who have died defending the ideals of this nation.  With gratefulness, we pray:
ALL: God bless America, land that I love.
LEADER: Jesus Christ, who invited all who were heavily burdened to come to you, bless all the people in this land whose lives say with Lady Liberty “Bring me your tired and your poor.” Withe gratefulness for these witnesses of care, we give you thanks and we pray:
ALL: God bless America, land that I love.
LEADER: Spirit of Wisdom, whose insight is freely given, guide our leaders and our nation’s people to discern and remove oppression of our own people and of all peoples. We ask that true liberty and justice for all come soon in our land as we pray:
ALL: God bless America, land that I love.
Sing “God bless America” and exchange peace.

Response to #KONY2012 from a Sister in Uganda

19 Mar

Marion Weinzapel is one of four Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet working in the Diocese of Gulu, Uganda, with Archbishop John Baptist Odama.  She describes how the Kony 2012 video gone viral complicates the peace process many have long worked on in her own informal interview with him. 


Mar. 9, 2012: Sr. Marion Weinzapfel, Gulu

Archbishop Odama: “This is a complex issue. It can’t be handled so simply. It will not be easy to have Kony caught. In the process there many be many loses of life. But for us in general, [Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative], we always advocated a process of dialogue.” [Archbishop Odama was not speaking on behalf of the ARLPI but out of the spirit of this group which he chaired from 2000-2010. The ARLPI may be forthcoming with their own statement.]

When the ARLPI wanted to talk with the LRA, we managed to meet LRA leader, Sam Kolo, in Paluda in Palabek on the 29 December, 2004. That was possible because we had first gone to the military and asked them to withdraw all mobile forces in the area. [Kolo himself later came out and has since attended Gulu University.] All were thinking that 2005 would be the year of peace. But in 2005, the government forces attacked the LRA and shattered the trust that had been built up.”

The ARLPI worked together with religious, cultural and political leaders. The Rwot David Archana representing cultural leaders and Mrs. Betty Bigombe was present for this historic 2004 meeting with Kolo along with Jacob Olanya.”

In November, 2008, another meeting with the LRA took place. The meeting lasted for 6 hours and I spoke directly to Kony: ‘Kony, your life and the lives of those in your hands, and the lives of all those in Uganda—civilians, military, government and those of Sudan are very precious and should not be lost.’ I could see that Kony listened intently and that statement made an impact on him. I wanted to arouse a sense of humanity in Kony and touch his heart. But two weeks later, ‘Operation Lightening Thunder’ happened. The LRA then responded with vicious attacks on civilians.”

In September of 2010, I visited the United States with the now retired Bishop Ochola of the Anglican Church to converse with the State Department, Office of African Affairs, to address the issue of military intervention in the bill: ‘Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act of 2009.’ We asked to keep the application of the new law focused on non-violent actions.

It is clear that Archbishop Odama feels that the world-wide effort to stop Kony through the video KONY2012 by Invisible Children hinders rather than helps the situation. “Kony will only hide deeper and the trust needed for dialogue become more elusive. The Archbishop explained that you can’t do both—have a military option and a peace process going. You either do one or the other and leave enough time for success.“

Finally, Archbishop Odama says that current efforts for dialogue are moving slowly. Leaders are now trying to work in low-key ways with their counterparts in Sudan and Central African Republic. Yet, they have not given up hope that dialogue can still happen.

Related information can be found at the Africa Faith and Justice Network.

Sermon 4th Sunday of Advent CSJ Vespers

19 Dec

A girl named Mary pledges her heart and hearth to a pregnancy and a child in Sunday’s gospel.  So attentive to the stirring of the Spirit is this young woman that she hears an angel speak and so unassuming is she that the angel’s greeting totally confuses her.  Who me?  Full of grace and favor?  God is with me, yes, of course, always.  What does this greeting mean?  Mary doesn’t run.  She ponders and stays in the conversation.  Doesn’t Jane McDonald startle you when she uses the angel’s greeting and instead of saying hello, says, “Hail, holy woman, full of grace.”  It always gives me pause and leads me to reclaim my deepest identity as like Mary a much blessed listener to God’s word.

As if the greeting isn’t perplexing enough, the angel announces to Mary she will conceive and bear a son who will be the Son of God and Israel’s long-promised messiah.  Having a child is a big, life-changing deal.  It means orienting one’s whole life around the child—feeding, clothing, sheltering the child, getting up in the night.  Mary asks a forthright and practical question.  How?  How can I conceive and bear a son?  I’m still a girl, a virgin.

The angel’s answer is in no way an answer satisfactory for scientific questions.  We don’t know how Mary conceived.  The angel explains that the Spirit will come upon Mary, the same Spirit that stirred the chaos into cosmos.  This vast web of life and light of which we are part and which we see surrounding us on starry nights testifies to the power of God to give life.  Not only does all that is testify, God’s blessings and saving actions in Israel’s history testify to the power of the Most High that will overshadow Mary.  The shekinah or cloud led Israel through the desert and overshadowed the meeting tent where the ark of the covenant stood.  The cloud shines with divine presence, its shadow protects and comforts in a hot arid land.  The whole cosmos and the history of Israel testify nothing is impossible with God.

Mary responds to God’s invitation, “Here I am.” I am present to you, attentive.  I give my heart to birthing and mothering the one who will make us whole.  I give my hearth to welcoming and nurturing the one I will name Jesus.  Mary, like each of us, has within a deep interior where she can say yes to our unfolding and partnering in generating life, each of us a consciousness in which the cosmos knows itself; each of us a self who can freely say no or yes.  With Mary’s yes, a child begins to grow in a warm, dark womb nestled below the heart of this vigorous young mother who thinks nothing of hiking off on foot 75 miles to see her kinswoman with whom she ponders the mystery they are living.

Hail Mary, 1950, Frank Kacmarcik -- Good Ground Press Cards

God musters no divine army for peacemaking and nation building, manufactures no tasers or teargas to stop protests, drops no bombs to end tyranny.  God invests in becoming one of us to show us all each of us can become through love.  With his mother’s DNA, the history of the world joins in becoming part of Jesus’ being.  The bacteria that first learned to use oxygen to fuel life are there at work.  The iron born in the supernovas of ancient stars runs red in Jesus’ veins.  The upright bearing and nimble hands of the early toolmakers serve Jesus well in making walls and tables.  From Mary’s body and blood comes Jesus’ own.

It is Mary who first welcomes this child.  Hers is the heart that says yes to him and never stops saying yes to him—not when people say he is out of his mind, not when he dies forsaken on the cross.   Hers is the hearth and hospitality Jesus knows as home.  I imagine Jesus as a child helping around the cooking fire and other women noticing, “He sure looks like you, Mary.”

The Second Vatican Council holds up Mary as a model for believers.  The progress of the gospel in the world depends on the prayer and spiritual experience of believers, of us, who like Mary ponder all that happens in our hearts.

Today we celebrate the word becoming flesh in Mary and becoming one of us in the vast and holy pregnancy in which we live.  We have within us the built-in capacity of the cosmos to become more.  The impossible can come to be in us, at our hearths where we welcome neighbors, fill them with good things, and ponder together our world perplexing problems.  The impossible can come to be in our hearts where we say yes to justice and peace unfolding in our daily actions.  Like Mary we are full of grace and pregnant with holy possibilities.



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