Sunday, March 25, 2018

Humility Check

I am NOT the best thing since sliced bread.

My childhood was filled with building up my ego – and this is healthy development. I learned how I was different from others. I learned that I did not need my parents to survive. I developed my own interests, passions, and the ability to make my own decisions. I learned what I was good at, and stayed away from what I didn’t excel in. I learned to love my body and what it could do as my self esteem grew into early adulthood.

But it seems to me that the experience of my adulthood, and especially my experience in formation, has been to breakdown the ego I spent the first part of my life building. Although each person is unique, God has been teaching me about our commonality and unity as being beloved of God. I have realized that while I can survive without asking others for help, in order to thrive, I must rely on the experience and wisdom of others. I am learning that while I am good at many things, I don’t know everything and still have a lot to learn. I recognize that being pushed out of my comfort zone into the realm of things I don’t excel at is necessary to further growth as a person. And this new phase of temporary profession and ministry is no exception.

God has placed within me a passion to accompany others on the journey. He especially has placed on my heart journeying with the poor and all that comes with it. My other passions, science, research, building and creating things, had built in skills developments within my schooling. And now, in pursuing these other passions that God has placed on my heart I am realizing that I don’t know anything. There is no school to teach me what poverty is like for those who live it. No class is going to be able to teach me how to make all the right decisions when walking with a person in a crisis situation. Only experience and listening to the advice and wisdom of those who have done this before me is going to teach me what I need to know. And for now, when I’m still learning, when I’m still experiencing, I need to remember to swallow my ego and ask for help.

After experiencing a situation in my new ministry where I felt over my head and like I couldn’t make the right decisions in the moment because of lack of experience or training, I asked God “how am I supposed to do this? I’m not cut out for this job. I just don’t know how.” I thought, I am broken, so how can I fix anything else?

Exactly, brokenness loves brokenness. Fixing is not the goal, love is.

I have spent so much of my life learning how to fix things, invent new solutions, discover the next best cure. But with ministry, with people, the goal is not to fix it, the goal is love and empowerment. And I need to remember that even when I am looking at outcome measures, even when I am evaluating the attendance patterns of my students, and especially when I am listening to a student’s story. I don’t need to fix you or the situation, I just need to love.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Bonded: A Reflection on First Profession

“I get it now.”

My best friend looked at me with a wry smile on her face and love in her eyes. We were sharing about my first profession as a Sister of Notre Dame just days before.

“At a wedding you’re saying your vows to each other, and the priest is right there, but it was just you, facing the altar, saying your vows to God. I get it now.”

My best friend had walked through all the steps with me. She was one of the first people I told about my desire to be a sister, and I had even practiced my vows in front of her just a week before my profession. She had heard all my doubts and all my joys along the way. She was the one who helped me realize that I couldn’t picture any other future for myself except one dedicated to God through the vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience. But it took her witnessing me vow my life to God to fully understand.

So what does it mean to me to profess vows? The experience was surreal. At the same time nothing and everything changed. I cherish the moment of surrender as I spoke the desires of my heart in profession. I remember with love the act of abandoning myself to God as I flung my arms out in orans posture and each of my sisters joined me in singing the Suscipe. I found joy in watching each of my family members involved in the special ceremony. But most of all, I cherish that the ceremony and celebration had such an impact on each person who witnessed my profession. Countless persons commented on how different parts of the ceremony moved them. Guests talked about crying. Live stream participants felt connected and present. My sisters remarked at the spiritual renewal my profession was for all. As the focus of the day, I couldn't pin down my emotions long enough to have a connection to what was happening. For me, the meaning of profession has come after the ceremony in living it out. At the same time nothing and everything changed. 

The "Suscipe" in which my sisters join me in abandoning our lives to God.

Singing the Magnificat with my sister, father, and Sister Michelle.
Nothing has changed because I have been living into the vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience and preparing for this day for three and a half years. But something is different. Everything is different. I feel a physical difference in how I am, how I relate to God, and how I interact with others. After publicly committing my life to God, I feel more bonded to Him in some mystical way.

About two months before my profession I met with our provincial superior for an interview before I was accepted for first vows. Toward the end of our time together she asked, “will your identity change after professing vows?” As I answered I explained that I have been living as if I were vowed during novitiate. And in fact, following my vocation to become a Sister of Notre Dame is helping me to become more the person God created me to be. The vows, the charism, it was all a part of me from the very beginning. She looked at me with a quiet smile and said “Well, I think you’re ready then.”

So no, after professing vows my identity did not change, but it sure did get stronger and more bonded to the one who calls me into being the best version of myself.

I get it now.

Ready to profess!

With Sr. Margaret, our provincial, and Fr. Oleksiak.

My friends and fellow young sisters came to support me as we have for each other over the years.

My family flew in from all over to be a part of my profession.