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).


The Digital Generation—Young People and E-Spirituality

By Sister Angela Ann Zukowski, MHSH, Executive Director, Institute for Pastoral Initiatives, and Professor, University of Dayton

World Youth Day is being celebrated this week in Madrid, Spain.  There, Pope Benedict XVI is spending four full days with young people who share a commitment to Christ and come from all Christian faiths.  It’s a good time to reflect on these young adults and take a look at what makes them unique.

Sister Angela Ann and members of the University of Dayton's Chaminade Scholars Program at the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome earlier this year. The Chaminade Scholars Program--named after Marianist founder Blessed William Joseph Chaminade--is part of the University's Program for Christian Leadership.

They are “digital natives.”  They are immersed in the social networking milieu—Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and scores of others that are their primary means of communication.  We should be looking at how this e-world impacts the spirituality of the young.

The Internet is a portal of resources and information that they are constantly navigating.  They’re sharing with one another; they’re forming  e-communities of faith formation that may not always fit into the “institutional Church,” but that deeply touch their own personal spiritualities.

As they continue to explore what faith means to them or their relationship with God (or the All Holy or Transcendent), social networking is a powerful resource, and those of us  in ministry within the Church must take it seriously. The challenge is how to create a bridge between the depth of expression that they encounter in social networking and life in the parish or physical community.

Sister Angela Ann, at left, with fellow travelers, tossing coins into the Trevi Fountain in Rome.

Young people often tell me that they don’t find the kind of community in parish life that they find in social networking.  This is not a major percentage of our young people, but it is a growing number, and I think this is a very sad commentary on the reality in which we live.

On the Internet Highway

This world of social networking is creating lots of options for them and lots of perspectives. Learning how to discern what all of this means is really key.

It is like being in your car in a foreign country where the language is different and the highway signs are different.  If you don’t have a guide, you can get lost.  Young people get out on that Internet highway and if they’re not grounded in their faith, they are navigating into unfamiliar territory and can get lost.

One response from the institutional Church is to drill doctrine into young  people, but I believe that there’s another portal, another place we need to begin.  Instead of drilling doctrine into our students we should be creating experiences where they can develop a relationship with God and with Jesus and see who they are in their lives.  I think this is the portal that attracts young people because it deals with interpersonal relationships and how you nurture and deepen your relationship with God.  Then the teachings of the Church can be blended in, not the other way around.

Note: Sister Angela Ann will be sharing more of her thoughts on young people in the Fall-Winter issue of  The Mission Helper  magazine.