Sunday, July 28, 2013

Some Call Me Sis

It has been nearly two years of writing "Some Call Me Sis." This experience has been enjoyable while sharing with you thoughts and experiences from my perspective as a vowed woman religious n the 21st Century. I will be leaving for a sabbatical in the next couple of weeks and during that time will not be blogging. I am not sure what will happen after, and just want to say, "Thank you." As time has rolled out over these years I have become more aware of those who read this blog, and with that awareness feel a connection with you as reader. This amuses me somewhat during this age of technology while we strive to stay connected with one another in new ways. Sometimes the technology can be overwhelming and appears to separate us more than anything. Of course this is a concern that I have for folks I see in public places sitting together and playing on their computers, tablets and phones. And, yes sometimes I find myself so distracted by technology that I forget the presence of those around me. This weekend while with some family and friends in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (affectionately called the U.P.). I noted that when in constant contact I use technology as an escape. My guess is that during the sabbatical technology will take somewhat of a backseat and I both look forward to that part of the experience, and dread it. As my Mom pointed out last month I have become a bit of a technology junkie (she used different language of course). Blessings as you continue to journey!

Sunday, July 21, 2013


Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial 
Today I am praying for unity in our world, nation, communities and families. Last week marked the acquittal of George Zimmerman for the death of Trayvon Martin. I did not watch the trial and am unsure how the jurors came to their decision. My heart is heavy about the entire event, as I am sure is true of many of us. President Obama's words to the country yesterday were hopeful as he made connections to what it is like to be a black male in our country. My hope is that at some point we begin to recognize our fears and begin dialogue that challenges the ethnic divides in our country. As I reflect on my fears and concerns about people who I see as different the challenge to transform is a constant. While writing it seems like we already know that each of us holds prejudices and maybe this is not necessary to write about. And still the Gospel of Jesus does not come fully to life if we are afraid of difference, and it is further deadened when we are ignorant of our own fears. It's that simple to say, or write, and yet much harder to live.

National Cathedral, Washington D.C.
The tour to Washington D.C. was fabulous last week. We rode bikes, saw a few movies and toured the city a bit. Thursday we went to the National Cathedral for a tour and stayed for Evensong. The choir from Christ's College of Cambridge, UK led us in song. The prayer was rich as we gathered behind the podium where Martin Luther King, Jr. preached his last sermon four days before his assassination. The cathedral is breathtaking, no other words to describe it. What impressed me more than the gothic architecture is the way in which the National Cathedral functions to bring people from various denominations together. Their are nine chapels and my favorite was the Chapel of the Resurrection. The mosaics were beautiful and so contemporary. The stained glass throughout the Cathedral is astounding (I tried to get a picture but it turned out pretty lame).

Later that night we headed to the Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial (see picture above). Again, breathtaking.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Partial X-Country Road Trip

The online summer school class I taught ended Friday and it was great fun. I would have never guessed this would be the case. What a wonderful challenge to learn about the cyber-classroom and how to build rapport and connect through the fiber optic world of technology. There is so much to do and it was time intensive to build and called upon creativity and humility in the process. Fortunately I have a friend that mentored me through the process.  I am surprised that you can get to know students in an online forum. It is still foreign, and there is much room for improvement. And, if given the opportunity I would do it again in a heartbeat.

Currently, I am traveling from Collegeville, MN to Washington D.C. with my friend where we will meet two other friends for some communal fun. While sitting in a coffee shop waiting for her to finish wedding activities "Homeward Bound" came on the radio and it created a swirl of reflection. For a variety of reasons I spend time reflecting on the concept of home, where it is for me and what that means. Where is home? This is an existential question. I invite you to watch the video and take some time for reflection (that sounds sort of directive doesn't it...maybe teacher mode is kicking in). Respond to the question if you feel comfortable letting us know your thoughts on home.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Guest Blogger: Sister Dolores Lytle

For a couple of years now we have all relished Sister Vicki sharing the stories of her ministry and her life as a sister of Saint Agnes. I joined Vicki two weeks ago for the great gathering of our community called chapter. Unlike the annual CSA days, this gathering brings all the sisters together to tell of their efforts to understand and appreciate the privilege of working as ecclesial women the last four years. Reflection and conversation helped us articulate our dreams for renewing the life of the community. From listening and deep reflection together came a clear outline of what is most important the next four years. Our common journey expresses our commitment to journey together consciously evolving for the same of the mission.  A newly elected leadership team will coordinate all of us and we review our own lifestyles to sync them with the 2013 Chapter Statement. Once again this statement says our lives are about the mission of Jesus, and all our individual and group relationships are to measured in Christ.

At times working in Illinois with the dozen sisters in our area, I can feel like a drop in dry bucket working for Christ and our church. But coming together with more than a hundred sisters and associates to listen with care and great attention to Christ and each other, I know my drop is part of great and strong river a century long. A waterway present in Latin America and North America touching the lives of those whose faith life and human dignity are threatened. We celebrate the jubilees of vowed and committed members, a couple of thousand years of dedication to Christ’s mission. Check our website, the IT people should have it working again real soon. Read for yourself the statement woven of our dreams and get to know the sisters who will help us live it out.

Sister Dolores Lytle, CSA

Sunday, June 16, 2013


Did you see Superman: Man of Steel? I went Friday with one of the sisters and thought the message was inspiring. It was a great time because we went to a drive-in theater, always an exciting time (and it has been at least twenty years since having this experience). The trailer is included mainly because I marvel how the plot fits our own reality today. It broke box office records, even up against Toy Story 3 (yes, I saw that as well). The power of this message is so fitting, and I recall being a child and seeing the Christopher Reeves as Superman with my dad, so this was reminiscent of those feelings of astonishment back in the day. Oftentimes we see in these films people who are following a path like our own as Christians, sometimes we even recognize the Christ figure in the characters. I left hopeful about the world. And, also knowing that each of us have a part to play in how it all rolls out. So, I suggest seeing it if you are in need of hope and want to experience some quality action.

This week we begin our community Chapter meetings. We will be discussing how we want to move forward as a community and electing new leadership for the congregation. We will complete the days and then head into Jubilee celebrations for Sisters and Associates who have been committed 15, 25, 40, 50 years and so on, this will be June 30.  I will be on hiatus and ask that you pray for us.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

New Life

The first scripture reading for today (1Kings 17:17-24) has Elijah entering into a widow's house only to find out her son has died. He takes the body to the upper room where he is able to call upon God and is heard. The son is brought back to life through Elijah's call and action. In the Gospel (LK 7:11-17) Jesus brings a dead man back to life. In both accounts Elijah and Jesus are recognized as people of God after performing these miracles. I reflect today on what it means to have life restored and know that over the years this has happened for me. One seduction that constantly beckons is cynicism and what I have learned is that the antidote for such a condition is getting in touch with innocence.

It sounds silly on one level, yet for me there are practices that help make a return to innocence possible. When I talk of innocence it is about being in touch with the freshness of each moment as an unexpected welcome.  For instance, teaching high school demanded that I be present to students in a way that was real. Teaching theology was fun for me as it helped God come to life in my prayer and interactions in ways I would have never imagined. Partly this was because I realized if I was not authentic there was no way to reveal the universal message of God's love. The students I came to know helped me learn that there is not room for cynicism when committing to a life of love. Teaching young people offers a fresh perspective if one listens. This is where love moved me into a cause that requires I work with others in order for them to know God's love. This can be done in so many different venues outside of the classroom as well and as life unfolds my guess is more opportunities will arise. There are ways that I still struggle with the cynical voices that pop-up in my head, and at times it feels like I lean hard into nihilism (this has become more apparent over the past year or so). It is a dance that will likely continue. The difference today is that I cannot deny the new life I have found through God's love.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Commitment in Religious Life

Womankind is the song I relate to tonights topic. Thank you Annie Lennox for being such an
inspiration and working so hard to change our world!

Lately I have spent much time reflecting on what it means to be a vowed member in a religious community of women. Getting here has been a most interesting journey and it all began with a stirring that could not be denied. Listening to God requires discipline. Saying yes to God, well that requires a whole different set of discipline. Of course in some ways the two seem interchangeable. I am a sister out of a desire to love more fully and so far this is a constant invitation to being more authentic. I am still me - with all the foibles that accompany that statement (no list of these darling characteristics will be given...if you know me you know some of them, if not you have met them in yourself or others).

I remember often being asked if I was concerned about being lonely before entering CSA. I also remember some people teasing me for choosing consecrated celibacy over being in a committed relationship with one other person (translate this for yourself). Or people wondering what was appealing about celibacy, poverty and obedience in a community of women. It never seemed that people were trying to be crass. Rather they seemed sincere with these concerns. Religious life is an alternative lifestyle and it is a response that is not easily defined. I find strength in relationships with community, family, friends and the people I work with. Ultimately my heart is filled with a deep desire for God and this is where I find solace. Today I am aware of the privilege of my life and the gratitude I have for the unfolding of God's call. I also rejoice with those who are challenged to listen in similar ways as we explore what it is that we are moving toward in our various communities.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Mansion, Castle and Matter? Not Sure.

This Swallow made much noise at me today.
Last summer I picked-up the book The Wisdom Jesus:  Transforming Heart and Mind - A New Perspective on Christ and His Message (Cynthia Bourgeault). A couple of weeks ago I began reading it again after hearing an excellent homily that referenced the author. The thing that I enjoy about the book is that Jesus is made to come to life in the reading in ways that were not clear before. Today's reading dealt with resurrection, ascension and Pentecost. I offer a quote from the book, "What Jesus does so profoundly demonstrate to us in his passage from death to life is that the walls between the realms are paper thin. Along the entire ray of creation, the 'mansions' are interpenetrating and mutually permeable by love." 

Now, this excites me as a reference to the house of God as having many rooms. I have always wondered what that meant. Of course, I know the jokes about the different Christian denominations and religions having rooms in heaven with the one group that has their own room because they believe they would be the only group saved by God's love. And, there are so many other references to this mansion that I have come across over the years. I think of St. Teresa of Avila and the journey through the Interior Castle (another of my favorite reads). It was only today that I put the mansion and the castle in the same place as I reflected on what it means to have paper-thin walls separating the realms. Basically this is also tying into some thoughts I have been having about quantum mechanics and the illusion of the material world as being composed of solids. Oh my goodness...I do not have any intention of pulling all of this material together. So, basically when I think of the mansion, castle and the material world as being interconnected the only thing I know is that we live in this moment connected to all that has gone before and will come in the future. It is right now that all of it comes together in harmony (this is also influenced from my sangha meeting yesterday--we discussed the topic of now). Jesus' living in the first century of this Common Era is as alive today as ever if we are attentive to the realms, and what I usually consider a veil more than paper-thin walls. I am struggling to articulate anything coherent, yet somehow the quote created an experience of mystery this afternoon. Have a good w

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Space Between

Centering prayer is something that always catches me by surprise. It is focused on the internal repetition of a verse or mantra for a set period of time. So, I was attending centering prayer in a group and focused on listening to a reading that had some really great material. Whoa, as soon as the bell rang and it was time to center my mind spun-out all over the place for a few minutes. When I returned from this little excursion I could not remember any of the verses and the only mantra type thing I had in my head was the melody of a song. This experience was somewhat disordered (as it always seems to be) so the next day I tried it again. Attentively listening to scripture in order to remember it for the prayer period. And, there was a verse that came for a couple of minutes until I forgot the context and was distracted in an attempt to recall the message of the reading. Ultimately in the end of both of these accounts I went back to counting my breath. One of the biggest distractions for me during meditation and centering prayer is what other people are thinking, or how many other people in the world are doing this very thing at this very time. As if the answers will arise out of the ashes of my mind. I don't think so. What I do experience in this is the fluidity of the present moment as I marvel at how many thoughts must travel through our mind at any given time. Okay, well ramble-on. The song melody that came to me was "Space Between" by Dave Matthews and I offer the video to you.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Another Musical Memory

Ascension Sunday is here! So, we continue in good faith while also celebrating Mom's throughout the world today. Happy Mother's day! First thing I received this morning was a text from my Mom at 5:30 a.m. thanking each of us girls for what we do and speaking of her pride. This started my day off with a smile! Tonight we went for dinner and that was a delight. Thanks Mom for being who you are and encouraging us to do the same.

Arlo Guthrie's Instruments and Stage Set-up
Last night Arlo Guthrie was in Oshkosh after acquiring two free tickets (thanks to Jon Nicoud). It was great listening to the music and story. So, my friend Barb (who joined me for the John Denver impersonator a few weeks ago) joined me again. The night was fantastic. When we sat down I looked around the theater and saw two of my community members a few rows back. He sang a song of his father's (Woody), "Deportee," that told the story of 28 migrant workers and the 4 U.S. citizens accompanying them back to Mexico in a deportation process. The plane crashed in Los Gatos Canyon (this was in 1948) while being deported. Guthrie was angered that the migrants who died were not given a name in the newspaper and were referred to only as deportees. Eventually twelve of them were named and they are still buried in a common grave near the crash site. It was moving to hear the story and song last night, and as pointed out by Arlo it could have been written today and have the same feel and meaning.

Today has been filled with preparation for the online class I'm teaching for summer school. It seems the technology is working and things should start out well from that end. Have a good week!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Old Friends

Meeting Doodles
This week had some accomplishments, nothing grandiose, just the things that had to get done. Today finished off another weekend of Chapter Planning as we prepare to set our agenda for the next four years and elect new leaders this summer. We will gather for nine days at the end of June and this experience of planning has stretched me in many ways. Have I mentioned that meetings are not my favorite? And yet, I find myself in them often enough. So, it might be time to change my anti-meeting mantra to something more soothing like, "I learn so much form meetings." And, indeed this is true. The cool thing is that the group gathered seems to be a fair representation of the community and we seem to come from a variety of perspectives. My hope is that this time will provide a solid foundation for what will take place this summer.

Debbie Slamming the Board
Simon and Garfunkel always have a way of putting things into perspective. In January I had the fortune of reconnecting with my best friend from childhood. There is something comforting about catching-up with someone and getting to know one another as adults. Today we met for lunch at the Mineshaft in Hartford, WI. They have this huge game room that mixes a theme park with Vegas for little kids -- no roller coasters though). So, we grabbed a couple of games of air hockey, ending in a tie. You must know I was kickin' it until we got a better puck, then I sank in misery with the loss of the day. However, the winning touch was in the fun together. Today's video is a reflection for our time.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Signs of Spring

The week flew by and there are signs of spring everywhere. Today while walking out of the Mother House the Sister waiting for me was staring at a tree. There were Cedar Wax Wings eating last years berries (the picture is included). Last Sunday one of the Sisters pointed out an owl to me (that picture is also included). Things are warming-up in Wisconsin and from what I understand some people have already begun preparing the gardens. This is the mundane at work, and also the great rhythm of life.

Yesterday I attended my first Adopt-A-Highway clean-up activity. While picking up debris I recalled a time when I was unaware of the environment and the impact I had on it. I was immediately focused on the day that helped me to shift toward stewardship. The transition was slow, yet I owe that initial movement to my younger sister Heather. Her awareness and prodding allowed me to change some habits while recognizing the world is here to be cared for, not destroyed by the mindless activity of humans. Last week we celebrated Earth Day and our planet is in need of our love and care. Yesterday during a meeting we watched a video from the late Thomas Barry and I share that with you as an opportunity to reflect as well. Blessings and have a great week!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Thoughts, and Some More Thoughts

My heart goes out to the people in Boston, MA and West, Texas as they deal with the tragedies of last week, and all who continue to work toward justice regarding the gun bill. This has been a heavy week and the news media is filled with images of distress and challenge. I wonder how you find yourself in all of this? I am overwhelmed by the imagery and discussion. When saturated by these things I need to step away and breathe while focusing on the other things in life that matter. In an attempt to stay conscious about what is happening in the world I check-in online and try to avoid the news broadcasts. It is easy to become fixated on the story of the day and not see what is being neglected right before my eyes. This occurs even when there is not a tragic tale to be told. I am always curious how other people deal with media overload, or maybe it is news overload? One of the things I do is read Yahoo! News in an attempt to balance out the serious with the sublime. For the most part this works out pretty well. Sometimes if I really need to read the story I will go to the BBC feed and get that perspective.

Onto a less happening topic: I am attempting to once again wean myself off of caffeine. No headache, just feeling a bit tired, cranky and spacey today. In an attempt to help build my energy I rode my bike for 1/2 an hour this morning in the basement, it is still too cold for me to go outside (Can you believe we have snow flakes falling?). Anyway, my guess is this only woke up the dormant muscles that have not been used on the bike since last fall. Hopefully during this time my internal crab will not be experienced by others. Oh, how I despise these days. Well, that is enough from here for now. Have a blessed week.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Do you love me?

My Mom posted the above video on Facebook the other night (Stand By Me, Playing for Change Band) and a few years ago my community used the same video to open up one of our summer gatherings. It seems to me that this video fits today’s Gospel reading, which has Jesus asking Peter three times if he loves him only to command that he feed his sheep. I sit here wondering what it took for Peter to respond with affirmation to this question about love.  Peter already knew that being a friend to Jesus creates difficulties, and ultimately due to his faithful response in this love he was martyred. Today it is popular for us Christians to claim our stakes in loving Jesus. And still, when we are paying attention this is a difficult response to live out in daily life.  What does it mean when I listen to of Jesus’ call to feed his sheep? This is something that requires tenacity and relationships. I am willing to walk in this mystery with others and recognize I cannot do it alone, every time I think I can it’s a colossal disaster. The love that connects me to Jesus is real, and at this point in my life I need something concrete to help stay the course in my commitment to saying, “Yes!” Up until this point it is people, which when I was young I thought a weakness, today I think it a gift. So, the song fits my experience thus far in relation to discipleship and service. Have a great week! 

Sunday, April 7, 2013

May I see your identification?

I heard a fantastic homily today! The Gospel was from John, "But he [Thomas] said to them, 'Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nail marks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe." The message I heard flipped my usual understanding of this Gospel in it's entirety. Rather than focus on belief and the disciples it was about Jesus' transformation and the inability to comprehend him anew (unfortunately this is not doing justice to what I actually heard). After reflecting on the homily I had a memory that put this into perspective from my own experienced. I recall a friend who moved away when I was young and had experienced transformation. There was hope that his life would be different upon returning to those of us who continued on with our usual things. Many people did not believe this was an actual transformation that occurred, and over time it appeared that the renewal was short lived. The sad thing was that we put him in a box and did not allow time for flourishing, and many said it was just an act that there was not change at all. Of course as an adult it is easy to see that moving back into the old routine, without proper supports in place, never is a good mix for a young person to maintain change, or any person for that matter. The difference in our faith is that Jesus did not need the apostles to support his transformation for the purpose of maintaining his resurrection. Rather they needed to experience him in the old in order to see him anew. For the first time I was not so ashamed of the Doubting Thomas that rises up so often, and realize that when honest about that doubt I can be moved to connect and support transformation in myself and others.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Say Hallelujah

Happy Easter as together we experience the risen Christ. This morning I was reflecting on two things. First, how do I experience Christ in creation? And Second, how do I reveal Christ in the world? Okay, this is a big agenda and, you must know I am writing early so I can get with my family for Easter celebrations. So far the snares of negativity have already entered into my mind and out of my mouth a couple of times with notice. In the moment it seem the reflection needs to continue with an action plan. I have a friend that gave me three criteria for sharing information a couple of years ago, and I add these to this Easter season. They allow for a start in reflecting Christ to others and are easy enough to employ.

1. Is it true?
2. Is it kind?
3. Is it necessary?

Enjoy the video this week, it is one of my Easter favorites by Tracy Chapman!!!!! Blessings!!!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Romero: A 20th Century Martyr

Today, Palm Sunday, marks the 33rd anniversary of Archbishop Oscar Romero's assassination. I recall the first time I learned about Romero and the inspiration of his story. He stood with the people of El Salvador as a man who came to espouse the Gospel while attempting to help his Church find peace. Recently I read somewhere that he would not be considered a Christian martyr, rather he died due to his politics. This perplexed is perplexing and there are layers to this that I will not go into, yet everything I have read about Oscar Romero points to his faith as the guide to his voice. He was witnessed the massacre of El Salvadoran's by the thousands and was moved to speak to the powerful who blocked human rights. There are risks in being a disciple of Jesus Christ and he became a bold force throughout his life. I cannot do justice to his story and am attaching two videos to this feed. The first is a voice-over of speeches from the 1989 film Romero with clips from his actual life (I chose the voice-over because it is in English, Romero spoke in Spanish). The second is a BBC clip that gives a history of who Oscar Romero was, and is to the many people of El Salvador and beyond who love him still and believe in the Gospel he preached (this includes the speech before he was assassinated with translation).

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Resistance to Change: Personal and Pope Francis

We will be entering Spring in the next week and this causes me to think of change. It has been a weekend of meeting with others at the Motherhouse and I am toast. Not much going on in my head that feels blog-worthy. So, why not go with the theme of change for the sake of the upcoming season?Change is difficult on the personal level, and even more complex when dealing with systems (I am going to leave systems alone for now, much of this can be translated though). We resist change, even when we initiate least this is my experience. For instance, when I get my bike out in a couple of weeks and begin a riding routine it will be fun for the first outing and maybe even the second. There is a guarantee that by the third time I plan on riding my thinking and commitment will become sketchy. I know the pattern and have lived with it since I can remember. This resistance is like attempting to walk through a concrete wall, and I am very skilled at getting myself off course. It usually takes me another week before the third and fourth ride occur. And then eventually, something clicks and I begin riding at a reasonable rate and look forward to the experience again. I always feel awful for giving into the resistance, and still manage to play this little game with myself. Over the years I have become more gentle about this pattern, partly because I see the pattern and know I will follow through with a little coaxing.

Now my thoughts are shifting to the resistance experienced when attempting to deal with the action of systemic change. This is a much bigger deal than getting on a bike. This is about transformation beyond the scope of an individual and it takes dedication and work from a body of people to make it happen. The thing that amazes me is that systems can and do change at an unpredictable pace when we are willing to work through the discord with one another. Resistance occurs on so many levels. This week we experienced the election of Pope Francis. This is a major shift in the Church while we welcome the first Pope from the America's, the first Pope Francis, and many other first's including he has represented himself to the world. My guess is he is experiencing much resistance from insiders at the Vatican, as well as many of us Catholics who believe and work for change in our faith. Sometimes it seems like we want changes based on conditions that they will be what we want, when we want them. Many of us our excited in the mystery of this moment in Church history, and my guess is there will be much support for Pope Francis as he finds his place among us. This does not mean it will be easy for him or any of us, and that is where we will meet our own resistance. So, my hope is that this is similar to the pattern of getting on the bike for the third ride and we are gentle in how we find ourselves in the resistance. This is an exciting time as we witness the changes of our times and I pray for Pope Francis.