Earth Day – Part II – Thinking Outside the Bottle

By Sister Dolores Glick, MHSH

Last week in this space, we talked about Earth Day—April 22—and asked the question, “What will you do to help save our earth?” A first reaction to this question might be, “Aside from recycling, there’s not much an individual can do.”

Actually, there are many things we can do and one of them is to start “thinking outside the bottle.”

Americans buy more bottled water than any other nation in the world, adding 29 billion water bottles each year to the worldwide problem. Here are some facts about bottled water that should help you decide to take the “think outside the bottle” pledge.

In the central North Pacific Ocean there is a phenomenon known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, an estimated accumulation of 7 million tons of plastic bottles that have been trapped by the currents of the ocean.  The Patch is larger than the state of Texas.  The bottles eventually break down into smaller pieces of plastic and are eaten by small fish, which are in turn eaten by larger fish that become the fish we buy in the market.

  • 40 percent of bottled water is really just repackaged tap water
  • Producing the bottles for American consumption requires the equivalent of more than 17 million barrels of oil, not including the energy for transportation. That’s enough oil to keep a million cars going for twelve months.
  • Bottling water produced more than 2.5 tons of carbon dioxide.
  • It takes three liters of source water to produce 1 liter of bottled water.
  • It takes two minutes to drink a bottle of water; it takes thousands of years for that piece of plastic garbage to decompose
  • In the central North Pacific Ocean there is a phenomenon known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, an estimated accumulation of 7 million tons of plastic bottles that have been trapped by the currents of the ocean.  The Patch is larger than the state of Texas.  The bottles eventually break down into smaller pieces of plastic and are eaten by small fish, which are in turn eaten by larger fish that become the fish we buy in the market.
  • Reusing plastic bottles is not an answer because the quality of the water is compromised by chemicals (phthalates) that leach into the water as the bottle gets older.
  • The bottled water industry has changed the way we think about water and has undermined our confidence in the public water system.  Most of the plants are never inspected to see if they are following safe procedures.

Remember, water is a human right and not a commodity to be bought and sold for profit.  Solutions to ensuring water as a fundamental human right require people acting together and standing up for public water systems.

Why are you still using bottled water?

“Humankind has not woven the web of life.  We are but one thread within it.  Whatever we do to the web, we do it ourselves.  All things are bound together.  All things connect.”
                                                                                                –Chief Seattle, 1855

For more information on water, go to: www.allaboutwater.org

Let Us Walk Gently on This Earth – A Reflection for Earth Day

By Sister Dolores Glick, MHSH

“Thus says God, the Lord,
Who created the heavens and stretched them out,
Who spread out the earth with its crops,
Who gives breath to its people and spirit to those who walk on it.”

–Isaiah 42:1-7

On April 22, more than one billion people around the globe will participate in Earth Day 2012 and help “Mobilize the Earth.”  People of all nationalities and backgrounds will voice their appreciation for the planet and its resources.  And, they will demand protection for it.

A bit of history:  In 1962, the publication of Rachel Carson’s bestseller, “Silent Spring,” represented a watershed moment for the modern environmental movement.  The book raised public awareness and concern for all living organisms and the environment that supports them.

In 1970, Gaylord Nelson, a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, proposed an Earth Day observance after he witnessed the ravages of a 1969 massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California. He thought such a day might give energy to the emerging public awareness about air and water pollution and force environmental protection onto the national stage.

The first Earth Day took place on April 22 of that year; millions of Americans took to the streets, parks and other public places to demonstrate for a healthy, sustainable environment in massive coast-to-coast rallies.  Diverse groups that had been fighting against oil spills, polluting factories and power plants, raw sewage, toxic dumps, pesticides, freeways, the loss of wilderness and the extinction of wildlife suddenly realized that they shared common values.

That first Earth Day led to the creation of the United States environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water and Endangered Species Acts.

In 1990, Earth Day went global, mobilizing 200 million people in 141 countries and lifting environmental issues onto the world stage.  It gave a huge boost to recycling efforts worldwide and helped pave the way for the 1992 United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.

The challenge for a clean environment continues in a climate of increasing urgency as the devastating effects of climate change become more manifest every day.  It is also a time of renewed political pressure to roll back environmental protections and regulations and cast doubts on the scientific findings that so clearly demonstrate the vulnerability of our fragile planet.

We invite you to be a part of Earth Day 2012.  You’ll discover energy you didn’t know you had—energy that will empower you to join in the worldwide effort to build a clean,  healthy, diverse world for generations to come.

“We are all of us, from birth to death, guests at a table which we did not spread.
The sun, the earth, love, friends, our very breath
are parts of the banquet before us…”

                                         –From dailyfaith@wellforjourney.org

For Reflection:

–What will you do to help save our earth?
–Are you inspired by nature?

As a continuation of our reflections on the environment, in next week’s blog post, Sister Dolly will share current thinking on the use of bottled water.

A Reflection for Good Friday

By Sister Elizabeth Langmead, MHSH

Is 52:13-53; Ps 31:2, 6, 12-13, 15-17, 25: Heb 4:14-16; Jn 18:1-19:42

Good Friday.  Five brief days from the glory of Palm Sunday when Jesus entered into Jerusalem amidst cries of “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord…Hosanna in the highest.”  Today, in the Gospel of John, we hear the crowd cry, “Take him away, take him away! Crucify him!”  How quickly life can change.

“Were you there when they crucified my Lord,” goes the hymn.  Our readings for Good Friday speak of some of those who were there and of some who foretold the happenings of this day regarding Jesus the Lord, the suffering servant.

Jesus, the one who says, “…learn from me for I am meek and humble of heart.” (Mt 11:29)  St. Paul writes, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor 9-10) What does it mean to believe that when we are weak we are strong?  How are we challenged to be followers of this suffering servant?  Where in our world today do we see the Cross of Christ—the one who “was spurned and avoided by people, a man of suffering, accustomed to infirmity, one of those from whom people hid their faces, spurned, and we held him in no esteem.” (Is 53:3-4) We might pause and call to mind those we hesitate to look upon…who did we pass by today?  Who is it in our world we consider weak or when are those times we become discouraged by our own weakness?

Perhaps a guide for this day can be Mary, the mother of Jesus.  Can’t you almost hear her speaking to us in the following worlds by Robert Browning Hamilton:  “I walked a mile with Sorrow, and never a word said she; but, oh, the things I learned from her when Sorrow walked with me?”

Not too many days ago we celebrated the Feast of the Annunciation when the Angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she was to be the mother of God.  As she pondered this happening in her heart did she have any idea of where that “Yes” would lead her?  Mary gives witness to “love as a verb.”  To hold in heart and prayer the pain of a loved one is no passive act.  Oftentimes, it has been my realization of how very little I can do for another in their pain that allows me to surrender to the need to do something.  It is then that I am able to give myself over to simply being with another in their sorrow. 

Have you sat with a friend or loved one experiencing the betrayal of divorce…the death of a child, a spouse, a sibling, a parent?  Perhaps it was when you were waiting with someone in the doctor’s office or emergency room of a hospital.  Have you tried to reach out to someone hurting?  Mary stood by and stood with Jesus and his friends knowing the deep sorrow of powerlessness, while remaining faithful to her “Yes” to the mystery of God.

We know that Good Friday and the Cross are not the final answer, yet endure our crosses we must if we are to rise to new life.  Look to Jesus, the one who shows us the Way, who is our Truth and our Life. (Jn 14:6). In his weakness is our glory!

Lent—A Time for Creative Contemplation

Sister Agnesine Seluzicki, MHSH

As the days begin to lengthen, unfolding gradually the promises of new life, the Church enters into its movement toward the great feast of Life – the Resurrection – with the celebration of Ash Wednesday.  For the next forty days, we will be invited to enter into a virtual desert experience, an experience where one can hear more deeply, within one’s own heart, the voice of God.  How is this to be accomplished?  The readings and prayers at the Mass on Ash Wednesday set the tone.  The first reading for Ash Wednesday from the prophet Joel begins,

Even now, says the Lord,
return to me with your whole heart,
with fasting and weeping…
Rend your hearts, not your garments,
and return to the Lord your God.

Saint Paul, in his Second Letter to the Corinthians, follows this up with the exhortation, “…We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God…Behold, now is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”

As you present yourself to be signed with ashes and hear the words “Repent, and believe in the Gospel” or “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return” accept this invitation as a call by our God to a renewal of life.  Allow yourself to look at any excesses that may have crept into your life, which are blurring Gospel values.  Settle on the ways in which you are able to find your fasting and desert experiences.

Be creative!  Your most contemplative experiences might just occur on a crowded subway or while performing some unpleasant task.  Your fasting might come from five minutes of listening to that boring individual whom you usually tune out. And, what of a smile to that harried employee at the check-out counter?  Or, that effort to keep from judging others or from complaining.

As we commemorate the sufferings and death of Jesus during Lent, let us remember that Jesus lives and that in our remembering, returning, reconciling and repenting we are responding to the call of our living God who calls us to life in the risen Christ.

Come Aside and Rest

A Reflection by Sister Mariel Ann Rafferty

It is a cold, brisk winter day.  I have paused at this bench in the courtyard of our Mission Helper Center.  Not too long ago, I sat on this bench as I grieved the death of Sister Helen Hiehle, my dearest friend of 43 years.  The bench became a special place for me in the deepening realization of Helen’s joy in seeing the face of God.

I wonder how many people have sat here during the spring and summer months…a few teens preparing for confirmation, perhaps…someone receiving guidance from a spiritual director…a novice meditating on her call to serve God….A Sister Jubilarian reflecting on her sixty or more years as a Mission Helper…a mother concerned about her teenage children…. someone praying for the courage to approach another for reconciliation…a young man or woman discerning a call to become a missionary!

Countless people have sat here with others, or alone in silence, to experience God’s presence and the whisper of God’s voice.

Listen!  Is Jesus inviting you to “Come aside and rest awhile”?  Come!  In your imagination, sit awhile on this bench with Jesus.  Take a few minutes to speak with Him in this sacred place and be sure to listen.

You will be surprised at all that stirs within your heart!

Mission Helpers Celebrate Jubilees

By Sister Loretta Cornell, MHSH, President

“Do not be afraid, I am with you.

I have called you each by name.  Come and follow me…”

On Saturday, June 18, we will sing these words by David Haas as part of our 2011 Jubilee Celebration honoring the ministries of four Mission Helpers of the Sacred heart.  Each was called by name to follow.  Each responded to the call.

Together, the four Sisters have served the people of God for a total of 220 years bringing joy, hope, consolation, and the words of the Scriptures to thousands of people.  We know they have touched hearts and changed lives, and our world is a better place because they answered that call so many years ago.  They continue to answer it today.

Take a few minutes to read about their lives and their ministries [see below] You will meet Sister Carrie Schindler, raised on a farm and working for the FBI when she answered the call to spread the word of God and be a pastor to His people.

Mission Helper Jubilarians: From the left, Sister María Luz Ortíz, celebrating 50 years; Sister Mary Louise Zaworski, 50 years; Sister Carrie Schindler, 60 years; Sister Mariel Ann Rafferty, 60 years

Sister Mariel Ann Rafferty wanted to be a “missionary of some sort” and spent more than 30 years traveling throughout rural Florida and West Virginia bringing pastoral care to poor parishes.

Sister Maria Luz Ortiz, born in Puerto Rico, knew from a very early age that she was meant to help people in need.  Her 50-year ministry has been one of great service in both the Hispanic and the English-speaking communities in North and South America.

Sister Mary Louise Zaworski was also drawn to religious life at an early age.  By the time she reached high school, her only question was which religious community to enter.

Four Sisters, all very different, all drawn to the Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart where each was able to pursue her own, unique calling.

Please read their journeys and join me and the entire Mission Helper Community in gratitude for these outstanding women.  God has truly called them by name and they continue to be guided by the Holy Spirit.

CLICK HERE to read more about the Jubilarian Sisters.

Community Days – The Mission Helpers Gather

By Sister Elizabeth (Liz) Langmead, MHSH

“What the Lord wants for us is infinitely more than we could ask or imagine.”                                                                                       –Ephesians 3:20

From the evening of June 9, 2011, through the afternoon of June 14, 2011, the Mission Helpers from near and far will gather for our annual Community Days.  This is a time for us to gather in prayer, meet about community matters, join together in community celebrations, enjoy each other’s company and plan for the future.  The above quote from Ephesians will serve as our theme this year as we continue our preparation for Chapter.

Our Community Constitutions, which “recognize the gospel as the basis for all Christian living and describe the ideals and traditions that form the living heritage of the Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart,” state “The General Chapter is an assembly of elected members and ex-officio members who meet as a collegial body every four years…The first responsibility of the general chapter is to call the congregation to renewed fidelity to its mission in the church and to revitalize the life of the congregation and its members in the midst of constantly changing circumstances.” (Constitutions/Directory 58 & 60)

We will begin our Community Days (or June Days) with Eucharistic liturgy followed by a dinner celebration.  The following day we will be invited by our facilitator, Pat Flynn, SSND, on “A Journey Engaging the Future.”  What better way to begin that engagement than by carving out stillness in our lives to encounter the living God?  Following our retreat day, we will continue with our full schedule of days which will conclude with a Sending Forth ritual.

Each and every voice is a valuable voice to be heard and so this year we continue our endeavor to have more and more Sisters involved in preparation for Community Days and Chapter.  Our Formation/Spirituality Circle of Leadership has been guiding us in a Discernment Process by periodic mailings throughout the year.  Regular meetings with Circles of Leadership Animators have helped to shape our planning and assure a continuous flow of conversation and dialogue with the Circles.

Truly, our God is doing for us infinitely more than we could ask or imagine!  Perhaps some of us can relate as well to Catherine the Great when she said (no doubt with a grin) “A great wind is blowing and that gives you either imagination or a headache!”

Mid-1960s in the South—A Black History Month Remembrance

By Sister Marietta Russell, MHSH

Our first posting in February—Black History Month—recalled the founding of the Mission Helpers Community in post-Civil War Baltimore, where we held  Sunday School classes outside of the church for black children who weren’t welcomed  inside.

I’m not quite old enough to have been a part of that bold move, but I was in the South when the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed.  I served in the Diocese of Charleston, South Carolina, from 1958 to 1966.  Mission Helpers had been called to set up formal religious education programs for the first time.

Here we were, almost 100 years after the Civil War, and the races did not mix at all.  In the religion classes, the white children sat in the front rows.  Then there was a separation—a row where the chairs had been removed—and then there were the black children.  We couldn’t do things differently because segregation was the law of the land.

In the churches, blacks had to sit in the balconies.  If a church had a choir loft up in the balcony, curtains were hung to separate the white choir from the black parishioners.

The Civil Rights Act changed the law, but real change didn’t happen right away, even though the children were ready for it.  Watching a group of fifth graders trying to make sense of it all was a beautiful process.  We told them that black and white didn’t matter, that real beauty was inside.  They understood this and talked about it among themselves.

I left South Carolina in 1966—and things hadn’t changed much.  But, when I returned to visit several years later, everything was different; it was like segregation had never happened.  The Catholic people welcomed black people into their churches, and that made me feel very good.  Everyone was ready to heal.  The black people had remained faithful through suffering; they knew they hadn’t been deserted by God.

I think Black History Month is a time for us to look back into our past and see that God was there all along.  He has brought us to where we are today and will show us where we are to go tomorrow.

We Go Where God Calls Us…

Habits of the Heart

Belonging of Mother DemetriasA recent front-page article in the Towson Times put the spotlight on the Mission Helpers, whose home, since the 1920s, has been in the heart of Towson, but little known to most of its neighbors. The Towson Times is a weekly newspaper serving central and northern Baltimore County.

Click above on “Habits of the Heart” to see how the “Mission Helpers Community touches the world from its Towson motherhouse.”