“But You HAVE a Ministry”!

By Sister M. Martha Pavelsky, MHSH

One of my assignments in recent years was transporting our older Sisters to medical appointments.  One of those Sisters, now some years deceased, had undergone a cancerous tumor removal.  I took her to her surgeon a few years later for a routine check-up.

Somehow, we got to telling the surgeon all the kinds of ministry we had engaged in over the years.  She may have asked where we had taught, assuming that all Sisters work in schools, but of course Mission Helpers don’t usually do that.  So, we went on with some enthusiasm about home visiting in country places, supplying needy families with what they needed, etc.  The surgeon was quite attentive.  At a pause, she said, “I wish I had time for a ministry!”

As if we had rehearsed it, the other Sister and I said in unison, “But you do!”  She looked surprised, so we went on: “You care for all these people with cancer, encouraging them to deal with it, follow all the after-care protocols – that’s all ministry – even if they eventually don’t recover!  Everything you’re doing is ministry!”

All three of us, I believe, left that brief encounter pleased with our lives and happy with each other.  The other Sister, who had considerable dementia, probably forgot all about our conversation after a few minutes, but I doubt the surgeon (still in practice) ever has, and I certainly haven’t!  It was a gift and a grace to each of us.

 

 

 

A Reflection Moment

By Sister Angela Ann Zukowski, MHSH

This morning I am once again being entertained by my hummingbirds. This is the first time in my life I ever had a summer off (if one imagines recovery from surgery as a summer off) to spend quality time in the mornings or evenings during prayer observing hummingbirds dive between the feeders.

I discovered the opportunity has been a kind of inner healing experience for me.  I have heard that simply surrendering time to observe hummingbirds is a healing opportunity but now I understand and embrace it.

Several years ago while in Trinidad a friend invited me to a hummingbird sanctuary. I had never imagined how many kinds of hummingbirds there are or how many could be in one location each morning and evening at the feeders. I mean hundreds and hundreds. I felt I was in the middle of a hummingbird circus which was amazingly delightful. Thus, my love for hummingbirds grew.

Last week I even purchased (via Amazon) another Shepherd’s Hook and feeder since so many hummingbirds are fighting over the two feeders I have.  I know that soon the hummingbirds will be headed south. Thus, offering me another glance at the meaning, value, and preciousness of time. Or, how and where do we focus our time and energy along life’s journey? How many major initiatives or activities have I allowed myself to be absorbed in, worthy as they were, yet to miss perhaps the ‘little moments’ that may offer the greatest insights in life. Or, render the richest and deepest meaning and impact on life and the life of those around me.

As the early fall days draw upon us, there is now a rush of hummingbirds on the balcony each morning. They are delightful as they scatter, chase and swiftly zoom to and fro guarding their Shepherd’s Hook domain.  (Click on link below to see video). Their numbers are increasing each day simply indicating the arrival of those who are migrating from the north headed south. There, I understand, they spend our winter and prepare for their migration north once again in early summer. The hummingbirds have become a daily reminder for me of all humans who are migrating around the world today. I hold them all in prayer.  I wonder and ponder who is willing to care for them during their migration or exile? (Text continues below video).

So, during these few short weeks, my balcony is one of their ‘resting & feeding’ stopovers.  I really have found these meditative moments not only healing but bringing inner comfort peace and joy into my life.  This is what we need today in our lives. There is too much hecticness.  I hope I can bring my new inner harmony and peace into the lives of those I will encounter when I return to campus September 4th when my medical leave is over.

 

(Sr. Angela Ann is the Director of the Institute for Pastoral Initiatives and Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Dayton).

 

Taking the Long View

By Sr. M. Martha Pavelsky, MHSH

Quick!  What do O.J. Brigance, the Baltimore Ravens football player; Michael J. Fox, the movie actor; and Joseph, son of Jacob from the Old Testament, have in common?  No idea?  I didn’t know either, until I recently (July 13) read a portion of the book of Genesis (49: 29-32, 50: 15-26a) and the connection became clear.

Joseph wanted to comfort his brothers, who feared his vengeance for selling him into slavery.  They were envious that their father Jacob preferred him over all his other sons (remember the Technicolor Dreamcoat?).  To reassure his family that he intended no harm, Joseph said, “Even though you meant to harm me, God meant it for good, to achieve God’s present end, the survival of many people.” What a great attitude on Joseph’s part!

So – Brigance and Fox:  Brigance, after a successful career in football, developed ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, which quickly or slowly paralyzes its victims to death.  In his case, and with much medical care, it has progressed slowly, and with the help of his wife, Chanda, he has developed an enormous second career, counseling and supporting other players through the struggles of their playing days. His “street cred” is huge, because everyone in the Ravens organization has witnessed his and Chanda’s efforts on behalf of the Ravens – not as players but as people.

O.J. and Chanda Brigance

 

Michael J. Fox had a successful career, too, as an actor.  Drinking and partying were close to destroying it (see his memoir, ironically titled Lucky Man) until he awoke one morning and noticed his little finger oddly twitching on its own.  Medical investigation led to a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease.  It’s hard to say which (Parkinson’s or ALS) is worse.  Gradually, Michael took up the cause of Parkinson’s research, again encouraged mightily by his stalwart wife, Tracy Pollan.

Michael J Fox and Tracy Pollan

 

Like O.J. Brigance, Michael Fox lives on, doing great good for many people because of the misfortune that befell him long ago.

 It seems God takes a very long view when “permitting” harm to happen and is cleverly creative in eventually drawing good out of what certainly seems evil or tragic to us.  “God meant it for good,” Joseph explained.  Let’s pray for a similar long view, especially for the many who are suffering all around us.

Easter Blessings!

A message for Easter

By Sr. Elizabeth Langmead, MHSH
President, Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart

 

The Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart extend warmest wishes to you and all your loved ones this Easter Season. We give thanks for the many ways you share life with us. Be assured of our prayerful remembrance.

May the miracle of Easter fill your heart and all your being with renewed hope, abiding joy and everlasting love. As creation awakens to the majesty of Springtime, may you be reminded of God’s awesome love that endures forever. ALLELUIA! He is Risen…the tomb is empty!

Let me share with you a shortened version of what has become a treasured Easter story – a tender story of an eleven-year-old boy named Philip, a Down’s syndrome child who was in a Sunday School class with eight other children.

Easter Sunday the teacher brought an empty plastic egg for each child. They were instructed to go out of the church building onto the grounds and put into the egg something that would remind them of the meaning of Easter.

 All returned joyfully. As each egg was opened there were exclamations of delight at a butterfly, a twig, a flower, a blade of grass. Then the last egg was opened. It was Philip’s, and it was empty! 

Some of the children made fun of Philip. “But, teacher,” he said, “teacher, the tomb was empty.”

A newspaper article announcing Philip’s death a few months later noted that at the conclusion of the funeral eight children marched forward and put a large empty egg on the small casket. On it was a banner that said, “The tomb was empty.”

 

The Sounds of Silence

A reflection for the Triduum

By Sr. Clare Walsh, MHSH

 

Each of these three days – Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday –  brings us face to face with the intimacy of being with Jesus at his most vulnerable. Sometimes words diminish, and silence is the only appropriate response.

What if this year we don’t try to “keep up” with all the events of this sacred week?  Instead, we could allow the enormity of the experience to wash over us until we are led to the center of quiet within ourselves where we come face to face with Jesus.

What if we choose one of the silences of each day and let it envelop us?

On Thursday…

Perhaps the humbling silence that must have followed the foot washing… or the tense silence after Judas’ betrayal?

Maybe the awe that led to silence as Jesus gives himself in bread blessed, broken, and shared.

Arguably, most challenging of all, the silence in the garden after Jesus begged, “Watch with me while I pray.”

On Friday…

Let Jesus catch our eye as he is arrested, brought before the Sanhedrin, and is brought low by Peter’s denial. Stay with the gaze.

In the silence of accompanying Jesus on the way of the cross, we each ask, “what makes my heart tremble”?

As we stand with the women at the foot of the cross, and hear Jesus forgive those condemned with him, is our silence challenged or disturbed?

 On Saturday…

How can we console Jesus for what we do to one another?  Will the silence of these holy days lead us to action for justice for our sisters and brothers who Jesus calls us to accompany in his name?

The Paradox of the Cross

A reflection for Palm Sunday

By Sister Princess Mary Dawson, MHSH

 

The Palm Sunday Gospel is long and provides much to ponder.

Jesus begins with the Passover meal and goes on to speak of a betrayer in his midst. What do I do when I feel betrayed?

Jesus then listens to his disciples quarreling over who among them is the greatest. Jesus proclaims to the disciples that the one who serves is the greatest and calls Himself a servant. How does this call to service sit with me? Do I feel “above” this call of service? 

 Jesus withdraws to the Mount of Olives and prays for the strength to do the will of His Father. Then Jesus had to face the courts and undergo the Passion that was His destiny. Let us remember the injustice and suffering that Jesus would face.

On Calvary, it was a criminal who defended Jesus as He hung on the cross.  In a few words he proclaimed in faith, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus promised him the reward of paradise.  Before He died, Jesus uttered forgiveness and commended Himself to God.

The pain and agony of the cross did not prevent Jesus from reaching out in this profound action of love. Let us remember that Jesus’ actions on the Cross shows there is “No Greater Love.”

 

 

 

What’s New?

A reflection for the fifth week in Lent.
By Sr. Marilyn Dunphy, MHSH

Thus says the LORD…
Remember not the events of the past,
the things of long ago consider not;
see, I am doing something new!
Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
In the desert I make a way,
in the wasteland, rivers.
Wild beasts honor me,
jackals and ostriches,
for I put water in the desert
and rivers in the wasteland
for my chosen people to drink,
the people whom I formed for myself,
that they might announce my praise.

-Isaiah 43:16-19

 

Is God doing anything “new” in your life?  Putting water into any of your personal deserts, or rivers in whatever might be a wasteland for you?  Perhaps more importantly, would you notice any of this “newness” if it were happening?

Many aspects of our lives conspire to prevent us from being able to see things anew, or to believe that anything new is possible.  We become overly accustomed to the same people, places, activities and events.  We become jaded by apparent corruption in institutions that we formerly esteemed and trusted.  Fixation on our mobile devices literally prevents us from seeing what is around us.  How can we believe that anything new and good is possible?

The late Rose Mary Dougherty, SSND, captured this phenomenon well in an article she wrote titled “Windexing the Eyes”.  She described a monk who, after his 30-day retreat, said “It was as if my eyes were Windexed.”  The hours of prayer, meditation and silence were “the knife that excised the ‘cataracts’ formed by years of biased, habitual ways of seeing and refusal to see”.  Now, he was able to see beyond externals to a deeper reality. He felt that nothing stood between him and the other.

You may not be able or even inclined to undertake a 30-day retreat, but spending even some time in prayer, meditation and silence each day will provide you with the time and space with which to withdraw from the “externals” that consume you. It will allow you to get in touch with your authentic self and see what God is doing in your life.  During these final weeks of Lent and into Holy Week (and beyond), why not give it a try?

Love. Changes. Everything.

A reflection for the fourth week in Lent.

By Sister Elizabeth Langmead, MHSH

“Prodigal Son” by Kristi Valiant

 

Today marks the fourth Sunday of Lent, traditionally known as Laetare Sunday, from the word ‘”rejoice,” be joyful.  We are halfway into Lent and Easter is fast approaching.  Our readings this Sunday speak of love, mercy, reconciliation and forgiveness. 

As I reflected upon today’s reading a song repeated in my heart, “Love Changes Everything!”  Love, the song tells us, “will turn your world around….”  Each of our readings speak of changed worlds – changed hearts.  The Israelites have reached the promised land of Canaan and Paul reminds us in the second reading that “whoever is in Christ is a new creation…the old things have passed away….”  I wonder what has passed away for me/you these four weeks of Lent or where have we found the newness that comes in our returning to or deepening our friendship with God?  It is through that deepening friendship that we bear fruit (remember the barren fig tree from last week).  What is the fruit we are bearing – tending?

Again, the lyrics of the song, “Love changes everything, brings you glory, brings you shame. Nothing in the world will ever be the same.”  How have we been reconciled to God these weeks and what is the call we have received to be reconcilers?  When Paul implores us on behalf of Christ to be reconciled to God, to whom else do we need to be reconciled?  The parable of the Prodigal Son shows that through love everything is changed.  It is love that restores and brings us to our senses.  Who is it in this parable that speaks to you today?  Is it the loving, forgiving and merciful father?  Is it the young son who went off to do his own thing only to find he lost it all and needed to find a way back home?  The young son who was, most likely, expecting a reprimand (maybe even a dismissal) and instead was greeted by a loving father who ran out to meet him on his return and threw a party in his honor. 

Have you experienced that kind of love and acceptance that goes beyond humiliation at mistakes and uplifts and restores to life?  Some would say the father was a fool and perhaps that’s even what the older son was thinking, yet, “love does change everything…and love makes fools of everyone.”    Has love ever made a fool of you or made you do seemingly foolish things?  Can you relate to the older son’s upset – the absence of his joy in serving – his feelings of being unnoticed and unappreciated? The older son’s understanding of the limitlessness of the father’s love is revealed in his jealousy.  Don’t you wonder if the older son’s heart was changed by the love of his father who left the celebration of his younger son to go out and plead with this older son?  I do think love changes everything and as the song says,  it changes everyone and “love will never, never let you be the same.”

With God in the Wilderness

A reflection for the third week of Lent (written on the Feast of St. Joseph)

By Sr. Loretta Cornell, MHSH

I’ve been reading a publication called “A Lenten Pilgrimage: Journeying with Jesus.”   One of the reflections is titled: “In the desert we cling to essentials.”  It says: “A trek into the desert wilderness is no simple matter.  There are hazards, privations and loneliness, uncertainties, fickle weather, wild animals, and the frightening prospect that overnight the wind could alter the landscape beyond recognition.  It is easy to lose oneself in the wilderness.”

Joseph and Mary had to go through the desert, the wilderness, to get to Bethlehem and then out again into the wilderness to escape Herod’s soldiers who would slaughter the innocent. Both Joseph and Mary were examples of listening to God speak to their hearts, experiencing God with them.  They nurtured and protected Jesus, guiding him all through his life, and taught him how to survive the wilderness in all its forms.

“After his Baptism in the Jordan, Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert, where he fasted for forty days and nights and was tempted.  The desert wilderness is that place where what is essential (food, clothing, and shelter) is made abundantly clear”.

The wilderness is where God “I Am” nurtures us.  “The wilderness is that place where we enter to be reminded of the One, “I Am”, who is truly essential in our lives. It is where we stand before God,” I Am.”  It is the place where we stand in the light of God,” I AM’s” strength.  Our God says “I alone give you life and I give it to you fully.  Cling to me and I will care for you.  Trust in me and you will find freedom.”

Did you know…

Fig trees can grow in the desert!  Mary and Joseph may have come across one in their travels.  The beautiful fig tree yields two harvests per growing season and produces deliciously sweet fruit. Fig trees might take about 3 or more years to start producing a viable crop, but when they really start to produce you will have all the figs you can eat! Figs, one of the oldest cultivated crops, were a favorite of some early societies. The ancient Greeks, Romans, and even Egyptians enjoyed figs.

For reflection:

What is essential for me to live?
What will nurture me?
Can I meet God in the wilderness?

View From the Mountaintop

A reflection for the second week in Lent

 By Sr. Donna Fannon, MHSH

As I pray with the Gospel for the second Sunday of Lent, I wonder why Jesus took Peter, John and James to the top of a mountain to pray.  Wouldn’t a nice spot by the sea do? Or a secluded area off the beaten path?  As we look through the Gospels, we find Jesus choosing numerous places to pray and teach.  There is the desert, the hill overlooking Jerusalem, the mountain or plane to teach the Beatitudes, the rock where Jesus gathered the children, to cite a few.

 When I imagine being on a mountaintop, I experience a broader perspective on life.  I forget my problems as I take in the beauty of our world.  I am reminded of the diversity of God’s creation.  I am also reminded of the uneven distribution of resources, clean air and wealth, among other things, that afflict our planet.  A big challenge for me is to know when to come down the mountain and get to work.

 Suggested questions for reflection:

What are the places that help you encounter God?
How are you challenged by the uneven distribution of resources cited by the author?
Do you also have difficulty “coming down from the mountaintop?”