We all need a pat on the back

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

by Sister Margie Lavonis
When I took Psychology 101 in college I remember reading about a study done on children who were abandoned and rarely touched or spoken to. As I recall very few thrived and in many cases they became ill or died. Such studies proved the importance of physical intimacy and touch, especially in the early stages of life.
Just as physical touch is important, so, too, is affirmation. We all need to be affirmed to develop a good sense of self. Affirmation contributes to the building of a healthy self-esteem and genuine love of self. Others reflect our goodness to us. Without it we often fail to discover our value in life. No matter what our age or way of life, we need to be appreciated, for what we do and who we are.
And just as we need positive feedback from others, we, too, are called to practice the art of true affirmation. The art of affirmation is important. We must strive to get into the habit of seeing the good in each person who touches our lives and to point it out to them when the opportunity presents itself.
Affirmation is powerful. It can help to raise another’s self-esteem and give a person confidence in his or her gifts and talents. Affirming, positive people can transform negative environments. They bring good energy and joy to others.
However, the affirmations we give should always be genuine. Persons who constantly affirm others even when what they say is far from reality can cause more harm than good. When someone does this all the time, people begin to disregard his compliments and good words.
Genuine affirmation is an ingredient of love and a way to recognize the goodness of all of God’s creation. This week make a resolution that when you want to say something negative about another, stop and look for something good in that person to affirm. We must remember that God loves each person as much as he loves us.


Friendship and ministry

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

 Sister Evelyn Ntiamoah, CSC, continuing the good work of Sister Madeline Therese, CSC, on the grounds at the St. Kizito Pastoral Center.
At the St. Kizito Pastoral Center, Sister Evelyn Ntiamoah, CSC, teaches human development and counseling classes to a gathering of catechists-in-training. The courses are part of a collection of faith formation and community-building programs recently initiated at the site, in the Sekondi-Takoradi Diocese of Ghana, West Africa. 

Sister Evelyn’s connection with the center and its former director, Sister M. Madeline Therese (Wilhoit), CSC, (deceased),  reaches back to 1997, before she entered the Congregation. Seeking work experience after completing school, her quest led her to Sister Madeline Therese’s doorstep and a volunteer secretarial position that she served in for a year.

Soon after resuming her education, however, she received a request from her former supervisor. Sister Madeline Therese, who served as director of the local Catechetical Institute, was preparing to open the St. Kizito Catechetical Training Center, a new site for religious education, and wanted Evelyn to be a part of the endeavor.

Falling in love with Holy Cross

Evelyn, then 22 years old, accepted the offer and came on as Sister Madeline’s personal secretary working on her advanced studies and her job concurrently.

As daily companions, the women’s relationship grew and deepened, as did Evelyn’s admiration for religious life. Recognizing her friend’s interest, Sister Madeline Therese invited her to congregational gatherings and celebrations. In those encounters, Evelyn received blessings that moved her to pursue a religious vocation.

“I fell in love with Holy Cross because of the family spirit,” said Sister Evelyn, who entered the Congregation in 2000.

The catechetical center thrived under Sister Madeline Therese’s direction, but in 2000 she was called back to the United States to serve in another ministry. Over time, due to lack of personnel, the center fell into disrepair and its work dissolved.

Then, in 2015, Sister Evelyn, who had earned formal training as a social worker and counselor while serving in the Archdiocese of Cape Coast, received a surprising call. The newly appointed bishop of the Secondi-Takoradi Diocese was looking for Holy Cross sisters to collaborate with the diocese to revitalize and manage its once-productive catechetical center.

“I was out of words and did not know what to do,” she said. “I never dreamt [I would] be going back to the same center where I started with Sister Madeline Therese.”

Building a community of justice and love

Today, in the care of Father John Attah-kruh, director, Sister Evelyn, assistant director, and Holy Cross Sisters Scholastica Elizabeth Ampadu, Lilian Briege Awino and Cynthia Godia Bienaan, the center is seeing a revival. With the aim of “building communities of justice and love,” Sister Evelyn said, the center provides both spiritual and social training and support to the people of the diocese. Programs emphasize the ideal of good relationships — rooted in compassion and mercy. Religious education classes are offered as are social and counseling services which address topics ranging from personal health to spousal relationships, and provide education to help alleviate material poverty and gender discrimination.

“I am passionate about the youth ministry because it always reminds me of my past,” Sister Evelyn said. Recalling the love and compassion she received from Sister Madeline Therese, Sister Evelyn also “feels the need to encourage, inspire, challenge and motivate [others].…When I encounter the youth, I share with them my own story,” she said. “I believe there are many young people out there who are searching for their vocation, and need someone to encourage them.”

The hungers of life

Friday, August 12, 2016

by Sister Margie Lavonis, CSC

Most of us think of food when we think of hunger. There are times when our stomachs growl and all we can think about is supper or a trip to the nearest fast food restaurant. But eating does not satisfy all our hungers. There are spiritual hungers that need to be satisfied if we are to become mature Christian adults. The daily bread we ask for in the Lord’s prayer is to fulfill these hungers.

One spiritual hunger or desire of every person is to believe that life has a purpose. It is that deep longing inside that cannot be satisfied with material goods, possessions or superficial relationships. Sad are those people who think life is over at death, or the ones who commit suicide because they believe there is nothing to live for. When we share our faith with others we can help them see God’s purpose for life.

Community is another hunger. None of us are meant to be alone. We need others to help us become who God wants us to be. Human growth and maturity happens in an atmosphere of belonging and acceptance. The very nature of being a Christian is to be part of the community we call Church. A person’s faith cannot grow without the support of other believers

Every person also hungers to be listened to and to be really heard. When someone really hears what we say and takes us seriously we are affirmed. When we sense we are not being heard we feel discounted or that our words and even ourselves do not matter. Prayer can help alleviate this hunger. Christians believe God cares about each of us individually, listens to us and knows the desires of our hearts. It is important that we learn how to be good listeners to help satisfy this hunger in others. It is a skill that is sorely needed in our world today.

Almost every day we see what happens when people have not experienced real love in their lives. Individuals long to be appreciated and loved. As Christians who are called to love, we have the responsibility to help satisfy this hunger. More love should be in the world because OF Christians. Christ’s mission was to reveal God’s love. A helpful exercise in the evening before we sleep is to ask ourselves if there was a little more love in the world that day because of our actions.

Lastly, we all hunger for acceptance. It is a wonderful gift when we are really accepted for who we are and not for what we do. We all need to matter to someone. People who are not accepted by others suffer a great deal. We can be more mindful of these people and reach out to include them in our lives.

At times it is helpful to look at our lives and reflect upon our own hungers that need to be satisfied and discover the deepest longing of our hearts right now. Let us go to God and ask for the daily bread we need and how we can share it with others.

Leave a comment and tell me how you are sharing your daily bread to ensure that others don't go hungry.

Catholic sisters urge U.S. presidential candidates to engage in civil discourse

Monday, August 8, 2016

More than 5,650 Catholic sisters signed a letter asking the United States (U.S.) presidential candidates “to engage in political dialogue that reflects the principles and values upon which this nation was founded,” according to a media release from the Leadership Conference of Women
Religious (LCWR).

Written by LCWR, the letter asks that the candidates refrain from rhetoric that stokes the fires of fear and engage in constructive dialogue during the U.S. campaign season. Copies of the letter will be delivered to presidential candidates Secretary Hillary Clinton, Mr. Donald Trump, Governor Gary Johnson, Dr. Jill Stein, their running mates and party chairs on August 8.

“Unfortunately, it seems in this particular political season commitment to political discourse that preserves the dignity of the human person and promotes the common good is in short supply,” said Sister Joan Marie Steadman, executive director of LCWR. “This is why LCWR is calling for civility in our discourse and decency in our political interaction.”

Read the letter on the LCWRs website.

Reflection after the Word

Friday, August 5, 2016

175th Anniversary of the Founding of the Women of Holy Cross – Thursday, August 4, 2016 

Sister Sharlet Ann Wagner, CSC, first councilor of the Congregation, gave the following reflection during a special Mass on August 4 to celebrate the day the first Marianite Sisters of Holy Cross received the habit in Le Mans, France, 175 years ago -- marking the founding of the women of Holy Cross. The Mass was celebrated in the Church of Our Lady of Loretto at Saint Mary's. Scripture passages referenced in this reflection are Isaiah 61:9-11; 1 Corinthians 1:22-31; and John 15:1-8.

I love trees. I have a painting in my office in Bertrand Hall of a grove of California redwoods, and when I’m feeling stressed I’ll stand in front of that picture and look into it, right at the base of the trees, and I’m calmed inside. I recapture the deep feeling of peace that I have when I actually walk among trees in a forest, feeling the soft cushion of needles on the forest floor beneath me, sinking into the deep silence around me. I resonate with the famous line from the Joyce Kilmer poem that says, “I think that I shall never see, a poem as lovely as a tree.”

I loved that poem before I ever came to know Holy Cross, but now I never think of it without thinking of Holy Cross. The tree as a symbol of Holy Cross is one that speaks to us on so many different levels. Like any good symbol, it is multi-faceted, with layers upon layers: the tree of life, the tree of the cross, the tree that bears much fruit, the tree that constantly shoots forth new limbs and new branches, all nourished by the same life-giving sap. Today’s readings are so appropriate for this day: the first reading with its image of a garden causing what is sown in it to spring up; and the Gospel, with its image of God as the master gardener, caring for the branches that bear fruit so that they will bear even more fruit.

This jubilee year is a time for us to rejoice in the fruit we have borne, and in our gratitude to point outward, like the limbs of a tree, away from ourselves and toward the God who has done so much for us. As we heard in today’s first reading, “All who see them shall acknowledge that they are a people whom the Lord has blessed.” How could we possibly look at our Holy Cross congregation and feel anything other than the deepest humility and gratitude? This is not a time for self-congratulations. It is a time to rejoice, to thank God humbly and profoundly, to proclaim that we are indeed a people whom the Lord has blessed, and to look to the future.

We all know our congregational story and we know the multitudinous ways God has blessed us. In our 175 years, thousands of Sisters of the Holy Cross have contributed, and continue to contribute, richly to the harvest. Some of them were and are our friends, some we know only from the pages of history. Four of those women were the first four Marianite Sisters of Holy Cross, who received the habit 175 years ago today. Four of those women were the first four sisters to set forth from Le Mans, France, and travel to the unknown, tree-covered wilderness of Indiana. These were remarkable women, but their virtue (and ours) lies not in the fact that they were strong, courageous and giving, but in the fact that despite their human weaknesses and fears, they rooted themselves in Christ and responded to the call that they heard. The words of today’s second reading apply to them as much as to us:
“Consider your own call, brothers and sisters:
not many of you were wise by human standards,
not many were powerful,
not many were of noble birth.”
But God chose the foolish, and God chose the weak.

We, the foolish and the weak, are a people whom the Lord has blessed. As we live the present and look toward the future, we know that we face many challenges, but we also know how very blessed we are. And we draw strength from our history and from the knowledge that challenges are nothing new for Holy Cross.

One of our challenges today is to allow God to be the master gardener, to allow the Spirit to guide our growth as the Congregation evolves to meet the changing needs of our world. Our ancestors looked to the world around them, saw the need for education and the tree of knowledge came forth. They heard the cry for health care, and hospitals were established. In our own time we have seen and responded to the cry for justice, for peace, for care of God’s creation. Always, we are most fruitful when we abide in Christ, when our growth and evolution is in line, not with our own needs, but with the needs of the Church and the world.

When we fear for our Congregation, when we are tempted to doubt God’s providential care, when we feel compelled to behave as though we could direct the Congregation’s growth in line with our own narrow plan for it, then it is time to pause for a moment, reconnect with our roots, and know deep within ourselves that Holy Cross is not a human work, but God’s very own. Father Moreau, who gave us those words, would have agreed heartily with the closing line of that Joyce Kilmer poem, “For poems are made by fools like me, but only God can make a tree.”

We who have journeyed in this Congregation know how deeply blessed we are. Holy Cross is not perfect, but it’s pretty darn good, and it is our home. We were led by the Spirit to that tree-lined Avenue, and down it and into the Congregation. Holy Cross is the place to which God calls us, and in which we find ourselves and our God. Its roots are deep, its branches spread wide, and 175 years after its founding, it continues to bear fruit. As Sister Philippa wrote in the concluding lines of her poem celebrating the Congregation’s 100th anniversary, “She is mine, my community. Through her lips, Christ calls me to come and follow after. O Crux Ave! O Spes Unica!”

"Four Girls"

Thursday, August 4, 2016

This poem by Sister M. Madeleva, CSC (1887-1964) was written in 1941 to mark the 100th anniversary of the founding of the women of Holy Cross.

It was the fourth of August, 1841. Four French girls knelt in the chapel of the Good Shepherd nuns in the town of Le Mans, France. Father Basil Moreau, a young canon from the cathedral, came into the sanctuary. A simple ceremony followed. The girls were clothed in plain serge habits and delaine veils. A new religious congregation had come into existence, the Marianites, the Sisters of the Holy Cross.

Le Mans was not concerned that August day,
The vigil of Our Lady of Snow;
He was a dreamer, Basil Marie Moreau;
You were four girls and young; one could not say
That splendor in your folded futures lay.
Kneeling at Mass a hundred years ago,
Novices newly clad, you did not know
how girlhood, France, and God possessed your way;

How they possess it still, down all the years,
And how new ways out of old have led.
Girls out of other worlds and other climes
Have put on blessed black a thousand times,
Dreaming you dream, saying the prayers you said
A hundred years ago, my dears, my dears!

Celebration of the 175th anniversary of the women of Holy Cross

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

The Sisters of the Holy Cross celebrated the 175th anniversary of the founding of the women of Holy Cross with a beautiful liturgy and birthday party on July 31, 2016. Many Holy Cross family members, friends, employees, associates and volunteers came to pray with and join the sisters in the celebration of this milestone in service to God’s people. Watch a slide show of photos from this day.

Reflection after the Word

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Sister M. Veronique (Wiedower),CSC, Congregation president, gave the following reflection during a special Mass to celebrate the 175th anniversary of the founding of the women of Holy Cross on  July 31 in the Church of Our Lady of Loretto at Saint Mary's. Scripture passages referenced in this reflection are Ecclesiastes 1:2, 2:21-23; Psalms 90:3-4,5-6, 12-13, 14, 17; Colossians 3:1-5, 9-11; Luke 12:13-21.

Today we celebrate and anticipate the 175th anniversary of the founding of the women of Holy Cross by Blessed Basil Anthony Moreau. On August 4, 1841, in the quiet and simplicity of the convent of the Good Shepherd sisters in Le Mans, France, four women received the habit of the Marianite Sisters of Holy Cross and were called by new, religious names: Sister Mary of Compassion, Sister Mary of Calvary, Sister Mary of the Cross, and Sister Mary of the Seven Dolors; four women whose very names placed them in solidarity with Mary their patroness at the foot of the cross. It was to Sister Mary of the Seven Dolors, the youngest, that Father Moreau would entrust the care and future of his fledgling community of women. Qoheleth might well have addressed them, “Vanity of vanities!”
Two short years later, Father Moreau would look at his “harvest,” the women who had joined those first four and now labored side-by-side with the community at Notre-Dame de Sainte-Croix. Moreau,like the man in Jesus’ parable, would have to answer the question, “What shall I do with my harvest?” Moreau thought not of building a larger convent in Le Mans, but of sharing his “treasure” by sending it across the ocean to Notre Dame du Lac. In 1843, Sister Mary of Calvary, one of the first four sisters, now only 25 years old, set sail for America. She was joined on this missionary journey to the wilderness of Indiana by Sister Mary of Bethlehem — the gardener and keeper of the livestock — who was 45 years old, Sister Mary of the Heart of Jesus who was 19 years old, and Sister Mary of Nazareth who was 21 years old. None spoke English; and all had made their simple, private vows to Father Moreau the day before boarding the ship. “Vanity of vanities.”
What inspired these simple, hard-working women to brave the odds, to hope for a rebuilding of post-revolutionary French society, or to hope to establish a school for young girls in the wilds of Indiana which would educate generations of women to make a difference in their world? In the decades to follow, what would inspire the Sisters of the Holy Cross to spend their North American treasure in the lands of Asia, Africa and South America? To Qoheleth’s question about what profit comes from all the toil and anxiety of heart which one endures, they could confidently respond with a resounding, “Everything! We profit everything!”
Why? The answer is found in the words of St. Paul’s letter to the Colossians which we have heard today. These women of Holy Cross, like the Christians of Colossae and all of us gathered here this morning, chose to die with Christ in baptism; chose to put on a new self, one in the image of the Creator God. They and we have found meaning and purpose in life by living each day in union with Christ who “is all in all.”
Today, women and men of Holy Cross continue to respond to God’s invitation through Christ to come and follow, to live lives of service and compassion. We choose to see the myriad needs of today’s world, and to respond as we are able, not to store up treasures of strength in numbers or the prestige of power, but to simply meet unmet needs for the sake of Christ. We serve with faith in the Providence of God, with compassion, in a spirit of community strengthened by our prayer together. And for this we are thankful.
We gather around this Eucharistic table to offer thanks to God for having found us worthy to serve, to contribute to the building up of a world better than our own. We gather courage and hope from the remembered lives of Jesus, of Basil Moreau, Mother Mary of the Seven Dolors, and of the women and men who have lived the spirit of the Gospel in Holy Cross. We give thanks to the many associates, colleagues and friends, students and clients whose lives have touched ours, whether in sorrow and grief, or in joy and expectation. We thank God for each of you who join in praise and thanksgiving to God today, who support us in “the works of resurrection” on which we focus our energies in this place and time. You share with us the meaning and purpose of life found in this faith community and in communities like it around the world.
As we look to tomorrow, we look with eyes wide open to reality. We, as Qoheleth, waken each morning to a world filled with sorrow and grief, and know those who sleep each night in restlessness, fear and anxiety. Yet, we, unlike Qoheleth, hope. We who have died and risen with Christ find meaning and purposeful hope in God’s promises and so serve with strength and courage as we pray with the psalmist, “Fill us at daybreak with your kindness, O God, that we may shout with joy and gladness all our days. May your gracious care, O God, be ours; prosper the work of our hands. Prosper the work of our hands!” Keep our hearts’ restlessness focused on you and your people, O Provident God, that each day as the morning star rises in our hearts, you find us united with Christ your Son, participating in your mission with loving service, bearers of hope, and artisans of peace and justice.