The Peace and Joy of Easter

By Sr. Onellys Villegas, MHSH

 On Easter Sunday, we are gathered in contemplation of the risen Christ.
We feel imbued with the same wonder as Mary Magdalen and the other women who went to Christ’s tomb on Easter morning and found it empty. That tomb became the womb of life. Whoever had condemned Jesus had deceived themselves that they had buried his cause under an ice-cold tombstone. The disciples themselves gave into the feeling of irreparable failure. We can understand their surprise, then, and even their distrust in the news of the empty tomb. But the Risen One did not delay in making himself seen and they yielded to reality. They saw and believed!

Two-thousand years later, we still sense the unspeakable emotion that overcame them when they heard the Master’s greeting: “Peace be with you.” … “La Paz sea contigo.”

Even now we have this same desire, as our Ukrainian brothers and sisters are suffering and dying unjustly.  We all struggle with the question of suffering. God sees and understands what we cannot. Not only is God in control, we can trust in God’s goodness even in the midst of our suffering. God says to us:

“I am with you, and I will not leave you.” His promise is that one day suffering will end, but until then God will be with us. One day it will all make sense. But in the meantime, we do not suffer alone.

Today is the day of Easter joy. This is the day on which Jesus
appeared to people who had begun to lose their hope and opened their eyes to what the scriptures foretold: that first he must die, and then he would rise and ascend into his father’s glorious presence. May the risen Lord breathe on our hearts, souls, and minds, and open our eyes that we may know him in the breaking of the bread and follow him in his risen life.


Happy Easter!! Felices Pascuas de Resurreccion!


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.

The Mystery of God in Transition

By Sr. Donna Fannon, MHSH

During Lent I reread a book entitled “He Leadeth Me” by Walter Ciszek, SJ.  I first came across this wonderful book more than 30 years ago as I discerned a call to join the Mission Helpers.

Ciszek describes his 23 years of captivity in Russia during World War II and the Cold War and his experience of God’s grace, faithfulness and love in the midst of his trials.  Ciszek was also given many opportunities to minister to fellow prisoners and to establish underground parishes in an area hostile to Christianity.  He came to see that the value of his life was not simply about his accomplishments, but about God’s presence and love in darkness and in the unknown.

Sister Donna, at left, last Easter Vigil with candidates at Cornell University.

While reading this book again I am in the throes of another major transition in my own life.  In July I left a truly life-giving ministry as Chaplain to students, faculty and staff at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, to become the primary caregiver of my mother.  She is 90 and her health is failing.

Since she retired in 1990, mom has spent her time visiting my brother, my sister and me.  As the years went by, we all noticed that it had become increasingly difficult for her to get around and to be as independent as she would like.  Her poor eyesight and failing health affected her ability to drive; her hearing loss restricted her ability to enter easily into conversations.  She can no longer take care of her basic needs.  A caregiver was in order.

An Uneasy Transition

As a family we made a decision that I would be the most likely of the three children to take on that task full-time.  (The Mission Helpers have also blessed this decision.)  And although I agreed that this is the right thing to do, it was not an easy transition for me to make.

Sister Donna, at right, last Easter at Cornell.

I was very comfortable working with young adults, and the university atmosphere was very alive and exciting.  In addition to the various aspects of the ministry, there was always something going on—concerts, athletic events, lectures, walks on campus, dinners, service projects.  Never a dull moment.  And after 16 years at the same location, it felt like home.  And I was beginning to delude myself that this could last forever.

Aging—An Ever Changing Process

To let go of all this activity and enter into what seemed like the limited world of a frail, elderly person—even though it’s mom—didn’t seem very attractive.  However, in prayer, God persistently invited me to embrace this new mission.  I have come closer to the mystery of human existence as ever changing, knowing that there is a time to be born and a time to die; a time to be young and a time to be old; and that we are called to appreciate each moment for what it is—an opportunity to be present to the mystery of God.

Sr. Donna and her mom, Lillian.

I now see that there is a lot of change going on in the life of an aging person. I have also come to a deeper realization of how great a gift it is to be part of a family—a microcosm of the family of God.  I suppose I began this new venture out of a sense of duty, but during this past year I have come to see how God continues to lead me (along with my brother and sister) into a new appreciation of the mystery of life in all of its wonder and fragility.

In this Easter Season when the Church celebrates the presence of the Risen Christ everywhere, I pray that God will continue to lead me—and all of us—to see more clearly and to appreciate Christ’s presence more deeply.