How are we doing as Ambassadors for Christ?

A Reflection for Ash Wednesday by Sister Donna Fannon, MHSH

college open house 1A few months ago I accompanied my nephew on a campus tour geared to prospective college students. The tour was led by an upper class student who belonged to a group called “College Ambassadors.” The student was welcoming and enthusiastic.  He was trying to give a positive impression of his college as he walked backwards leading us through the campus in hopes that some young people in our group would be moved to apply for admission.  My nephew seemed impressed and was listening to every word.

As the tour continued, I wondered what kind of an impression I have made on the people I have encountered over the years.  In particular I was remembering the many international students I met as a campus minister.  I recalled how my experience with them had helped to broaden my understanding of so many cultures around the world as well as how interconnected we are within the global marketplace.  Then I remembered the times I have traveled abroad, and I wondered what kind of an impression I had given others about the United States. Continue reading “How are we doing as Ambassadors for Christ?”

Aging with Focus

A Reflection by Sister M. Martha Pavelsky, MHSH

I’m folding laundry and I come across the heavy cotton canvas pastry cloth that was my mother’s. It’s mine now, and I use it three times a year at least: Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter, when I make a pecan pie from scratch (scratch and a lot of butter) for our Community dinners.

Pecan Pie 3pastry cloth, and learning to roll out dough on it, is one of my earliest memories. It was in good shape about 70 years ago, but it is definitely showing its age now!

Maybe we’re having our own little race to the finish line: Will it outlast me? Will I go first? Am I as beat up as it is?

Using that cloth, I kind of work around the holes, and we get along fine. It’s not a marriage that the cloth and I have, but it gives me an insight into the tolerance and forgiveness necessary for a marriage to last—or for a Community to hold together as it’s members age.

Focus on the holes and the fraying edges, the weak spots, the little stains—or get on with doing all that can still be done: a pie, an outreach to someone frazzled, a chuckle over some crazy caper of years ago.

We may just make that finish line together. Tuck the pastry cloth somewhere in my coffin. Just in case….

Day 8: Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

week_of_prayer_logo_216wDay 8, Hearts Burning for Unity

Scripture

  • Isaiah 52:7-9, How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news.
  • Psalm 30, You have turned my mourning into dancing.
  • Colossians 1:27-29, How great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you.
  • Luke 24:13-36, Beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.

Meditation

The disappointed disciples who leave Jerusalem for Emmaus have lost their hope that Jesus was the Messiah and walk away from their community. It is a journey of separation and isolation.

By contrast, they return to Jerusalem full of hope with a Gospel message on their lips. It is this resurrection message that drives them back into the heart of the community and into a communion of fellowship.

So often Christians try to evangelize with a competitive spirit, hoping to fill their own churches. Ambition overrides the desire for others to hear the life-giving message of the Gospel. True evangelism is a journey from Emmaus to Jerusalem, a journey from isolation into unity.

Prayer

Lord Jesus, you have made our hearts burn within us, and have sent us back upon the road towards our brothers and sisters, with the Gospel message on our lips. Help us to see that hope and obedience to your commands always lead to the greater unity of your people. Amen.

For Reflection:

  • What are the disappointments that isolate us from others?
  • What are the gifts (initiatives, methods, and programs) that we can receive from other Christian communities?

This concludes the 2016 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

Source: Greymoor Ecumenical and Interreligious Institute

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity: Day 8

2015_WPCU_Poster_inner_240x349Day 8, Many believed because of the woman’s testimony

SCRIPTURE:

  • Exodus 3:13-15, Moses at the Burning Bush
  • Psalm 30, The Lord restores us to life
  • Romans 10:14-17, How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news
  • John 4:27-30.39-40, Many believed because of the woman’s testimony.

 

MEDITATION:

With her heart transformed, the Samaritan woman goes out in mission. She announces  that she has found the Messiah. Many believed in Jesus because of her witness. The force of her witness stems from the transformation of her life caused by her encounter with Jesus. Thanks to her openness, she recognized in that stranger “a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4.14)

Mission is a key element of Christian faith. Every Christian is called to announce the name of the Lord. Pope Francis told missionaries, “wherever you may go, it would do you well to think that the Spirit of God always gets there ahead of us.”  Mission is not proselytism. Those who truly announce Jesus approach others in loving dialogue, open to mutual learning, and respecting difference. Our mission requires us to learn to drink from the living water without taking hold of the well. The well does not belong to us. Rather, we draw life from the well of living water which is given by Christ.

Our mission must be a work both of word and witness. We seek to live out what we proclaim. The late Brazilian Archbishop Helder Camara once said that “many have become atheists because they have become disillusioned by people of faith who do not practice what they preach.” The witness of the woman led her community to believe in Jesus because her brothers and sisters saw coherence between her words and her own transformation. If our word and witness is authentic, the world will hear and believe. “How are they to believe if they have not heard?” (Rom 10: 15).

PRAYER:

God, Spring of Living Water, make of us witnesses of unity through both our words and our lives. Help us to understand that we are not the owners of the well, and give us the wisdom to welcome the same grace in one another. Transform our hearts and our lives so that we might be genuine bearers of the Good News. And lead us always to the encounter the other, as an encounter with you. We ask this in the name of your Son Jesus Christ, in the unity of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Source: Graymoor Ecumenical and Interreligious Institute

 

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity: Day 4

2015_WPCU_Poster_inner_240x349Day 4, Then the woman left her water jar (John 4:28)

SCRIPTURE:

  • Genesis 11:31-12:4, God promises to make Abram a great nation and a blessing
  • Psalm 23, The Lord is my shepherd
  • Acts 10:9-20, What God has made clean, you must not call profane
  • John 4:25-28, Then the woman left her water ja

 

MEDITATION:

The encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman shows that dialogue with the different, the stranger, the unfamiliar, can be life-giving. That day, for some reason, the Samaritan woman did not follow the established rules. Both she and Jesus broke with conventional patterns of behavior. They showed us again that it is possible to build new relationships.

As Jesus completes the work of the Father, the Samaritan woman, for her part, leaves her water jar, meaning that she could go further in her life; she was not confined to the role society imposed on her. When she leaves behind her water jar she signals that she has found a greater gift, a greater good than the water she came for, and a better place to be within her community. She recognizes the greater gift that this Jewish stranger, Jesus, is offering her. It is difficult for us to find value, to recognize as good, or even holy, that which is unknown to us and that which belongs to another. However, recognizing the gifts that belong to the other as good and as holy is a necessary step towards the visible unity we seek.

PRAYER:
Loving God,
Help us to learn from Jesus and the Samaritan that the encounter with the other opens for us new horizons of grace. Help us to break through our limits and embrace new challenges. Help us to go beyond fear in following the call of your Son. In the name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

Source: Graymoor Ecumenical and Interreligious Institute

 

Celebrating the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel

–At the Mission Helpers’ Mission in Manzanita, Venezuela

Maria del CarmelThe annual Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, on July 16, is a major feast day in Venezuela, and especially in the 16 villages of the Buria District and its capital, the village of Manzanita, which is home to the Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart.

Our Lady of Mount Carmel is the area’s patroness saint and the name of an 18th century church founded by the Franciscan Capuchin missionaries. That church was long gone when the Mission Helpers came to this undeveloped and impoverished region in 1990. There had been no church and no church presence in the district for many decades; the nearest priest was many miles away.

The first Sisters began their ministry by setting up a tiny worship space that has since blossomed into Our Lady of Mount Carmel parish. The church also serves as a community and outreach center for the villagers. It is the center of social and spiritual life in the region.

For the people of the Manzanita region, the celebration of the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel is a weeklong event. Here is a recap of last year’s festivities:

Manzanita_Mt. Carmel 3 Kids dancing before the imageThe celebration began a week before the actual Feast Day with prayer services in all of the villages. On the Sunday before the Feast Day, Bishop Antonio Jose Lopez Castillo celebrated the Sacrament of Confirmation. Twenty-two teenagers made Confirmation, among them were 12 Guajiros (indigenous people) from Yuba tribe who live at the Barquisimeto Boys Town.

To help the young people celebrate their Confirmation, the Mission Helpers organized a concert with a Christian Catholic band from city of Barquisimeto, the capital of Lara State.

 

The Feast Day itself began at 6:00 a.m. when women from the community prepared a meal that was served to everyone following the 10 a.m. Solemn Mass. At the Mass, 30 children from the villages made First Communion. At 3:00 p.m. the rosary was recited and at 4:00 the procession began.

 

Manzanita_Mt. Carmel 2 Carring StatueMore than 300 people came from the district villages as well as from villages across Lara State. They processed with the revered statue of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, leaving the church at 4:00 p.m., walking a distance of about six miles, and returning to the church at 7:30. There was a final blessing, followed by fireworks.

My beautiful pictureThe much-loved yearly celebration—a highlight of religious and community life—is organized and executed by the Mission Helpers with the help of a dedicated corps of Lay Missioners.

 

 

 

A Personal Relationship with God – Questions for Reflection

By Sister Donna Fannon, MHSH

This Sunday we hear the very familiar story of the “Woman At The Well” (John 4: 5-42).  Surely it is one of the most beautiful (and powerful) stories of personal encounter with Christ in all of the Gospels. This story offers us a treasure trove of points to deepen our reflection and contemplation.

Jesus-Samaritan Woman at Well

As we ponder this story we notice that Jesus encounters a woman who is isolated and alienated in many ways—in her personal life, within the community, devoid of a meaningful purpose to her life.  Jesus invites himself into her life, moving her beyond the bondage of her past history, and asks her to do something for him.  With that simple action of giving the Lord water, and in conversation with Jesus, she realizes a deeper hunger she has for Living Water.  She is empowered to move beyond her personal concerns to announce the Good News, inviting others to come and see for themselves. 

For reflection:

My graced history—Along with Jesus I look at the history of my life. Can I recognize the presence of God at some points in my life? When have I experienced transformation? When has God led me beyond my failures and shortcomings? How has God been inviting me to develop some of my gifts? For what purpose? When have I asked for God’s grace? How has God responded? How do I express thanks to God for creating me and revealing God’s self to me?

mindfulmeditationMoving from isolation to relationship—Can I recall a time when I felt isolated and lonely? How has God invited me into relationship? How is God fashioning me into a loving and generous person? Who are some of the people who have been examples of loving service in my life? Where do I go to drink deeply from the springs of living water that revive and refresh my soul?

Experiencing the Call of Christ— How does Jesus refresh me and reveal Himself to me? When have I recognized Jesus’ voice calling me to discipleship? How have I responded? Do I experience myself “seeing Jesus in the poor, the hungry, the downtrodden?”

random-acts-kindness-workCo-laboring with Christ—How do I experience joy in participating in Jesus’ ongoing redemptive work in the world? What motivates me to pour out my gifts on the “little ones”… to desire to alleviate suffering… to feed the hungry? Do I ever hear the voice of Jesus saying: “Well done, good and faithful servant?” Have I ever been a transforming presence in another person’s life? How do I express my gratitude to God for this validation?

May we hear this gospel with new ears this weekend.

ARE NOT OUR HEARTS ON FIRE? Pentecost 2012

By Sister Barbara Baker, MHSH

Once again we approach a significant moment in the life of our church—a moment when that special gift of the Holy Spirit fills all with new life and an invitation for a new beginning.  Jesus’ appearance, once again, from out of nowhere, in the midst of a scared group of followers takes them up short.  Jesus stood among them and said “Peace be with you.”  He tried to reassure them that indeed it was HE who had recently ascended to the Father.  Once they realized the truth, they rejoiced.  Jesus addresses them again and says “Peace be with you.”  He has returned to them to send them forth as commissioned ambassadors to spread the Good News.

There are tensions and divisions within the community.  Each received a special gift from the Holy Spirit and could not rejoice in this because of jealousy and comparisons with the gifts others received.  They didn’t realize that the gifts were to be shared with others for the good of the community.

Paul reminds us that our bodies are the same—each part has a role to play and no one is more important than another if it wants to be whole, healthy and in harmony.  So, as we approach this great feast of new birth perhaps we could look at our hearts to discover the fire or lack of fire within us for life and service to one another.

For Reflection:

What is the “special gift” that God has bestowed on me, and how do I share the gift with the community no matter what my age?

In this time of uncertainty about our future, how and where do I see the Holy Spirit guiding and leading us to a new place with new fire and energy?

CRAB FEAST – CRABS!  All you can eat! Plus crab soup, barbeque, Pit Beef and Ham, Ice Cold Beer and Sodas.  Games of Chance! Find out more and get tickets early. Mission Helpers Crab Feast_FLYER pdf. Or call:  410-823-8585 X 247.  Benefits the Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart.

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity: Day 7 Prayer and Reflection

Day 7: Changed by the Good Shepherd.
Scripture

1 Samuel 2:1-10, Not by might does one prevail.
Psalm 23, You are there with your rod and your staff.
Ephesians 6:10-20, Be strong in the Lord.
John 21:15-19, Feed my sheep.
Meditation
Hannah’s realized that some things happen only with the help of God. It was through His will that Hannah and her husband became parents. In what would seem to be a hopeless situation this text is an example of victory.
The Good Shepherd of Psalm 23 guides his sheep even through the darkest places, comforting them with his presence. Those who place their trust in the Lord have no need to fear even the shadows of disunity, as their shepherd will lead them to dwell together in the Lord’s own house.
St. Paul urges us to “be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power” by putting on spiritual armor: truth, righteousness, proclaiming the Good News, faith, salvation, the word of God, prayer and supplication.
The Risen Lord urges Peter and each disciple to discover in himself a love of Him who alone is the One True Shepherd.
The witness to Christ that has been confirmed in us obliges us to act jointly for the sake of unity. We have the ability and the knowledge to bear such witness! But are we willing? He invites us to cooperate with Him unconditionally thus we will be able to help one another on the road to unity.

For Your Reflection

On this day the Bible texts show us the Lord strengthening His flock. Following the Good Shepherd, we are called to strengthen each other in the Lord, and to support and fortify the weak and the lost. There is one Shepherd, and we are his people.

  1. How does the Good Shepherd inspire us to comfort, revive, and restore the confidence of those who are lost?
  2. In what ways can Christians of various traditions strengthen each other in confessing and bearing witness to Jesus Christ?
  3. For us today, what can be the meaning of St Paul’s exhortation: “Be strong in the Lord…. put on the whole armour of God”?

Prayer
Father of all, you call us to be one flock in your Son, Jesus Christ. He is our Good Shepherd who invites us to lie down in green pastures, leads us beside still waters, and restores our souls. In following him, may we so care for others that all see in us the love of the one true shepherd, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen.

Source: Greymoor Ecumenical and Interreligious Institute

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity: Day 5 Prayer and Reflection

Day 5: Changed by the peace of the Risen Lord.
Scripture

Malachi 4:5-6, He will turn the hearts of parents to their children and the hearts of children to their parents.
Psalm 133, How good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!
Ephesians 2:14-20, To reconcile both groups to God in one body, putting to death hostility.
John 20:19-23, Jesus stood among them and said: Peace be with you!
Meditation
Malachi’s words convey God’s promise of sending God’s chosen one to establish harmony and respect in all households. He draws attention to one of the most difficult conflicts — the heartbreak in relations between parents and their offspring. This restoration of unity is not possible without God’s help. It is God’s emissary who performs the miracle of transformation in people’s hearts and relationships.
The psalm shows what great joy such unity among people can bring. Happiness consists in living in a human community in harmony, peace, trust and understanding. Living together in unity is not restricted to family members only – this is rather a declaration of the closeness between people who accept the peace of God.
The epistle tells us of Him whom the prophet Malachi announced. Jesus brings unity, because in His own body He has demolished the “wall of hostility” between people. Jesus puts an end to alienation. He transforms, heals and unites all that they may become “members of God’s household.”
“Peace be with you” is Christ’s greeting and also his gift. It is an invitation to seek peace with God and establish new, lasting relationships within the human family and all of creation. Jesus has trampled down death and sin. By the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Risen Lord invites his disciples into his mission of bringing peace, healing and forgiveness. As long as Christians remain divided, the world will not be convinced of the full truth of the Gospel. Peace and unity are the hallmarks of this transformation. The Churches need to appropriate and witness to these gifts as members of the one household of God built upon the sure foundation of Jesus as the cornerstone.

For Your Reflection

Today we celebrate the peace of the Risen Lord. The Risen One is the great Victor over death and the world of darkness. He unites His disciples, who were paralysed with fear. He opens up before us new prospects of life and of acting for His coming kingdom. The Risen Lord unites and strengthens all believers. Peace and unity are the hallmarks of our transformation in the resurrection.

  1. What forms of violence in our community can we as Christians confront together?
  2. How do we experience hidden hostilities that affect our relationship to each other as Christian communities?
  3. How can we learn to welcome each other as Christ welcomes us?

Prayer
Loving and merciful God, teach us the joy of sharing in your peace. Fill us with your Holy Spirit so that we may tear down the walls of hostility separating us. May the risen Christ, who is our peace, help us to overcome all division and unite us as members of his household. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ, to whom, with You and the Holy Spirit, be all honor and glory, world without end. Amen.

Source: Greymoor Ecumenical and Interreligious Institute