Thursday, May 29, 2014

Sisters Are HUMAN!!!

Why is it that people are so intrigued by religious sisters, or those of us who are discerning our vocation to the religious life (thinking about becoming a sister)?

I have been living with religious sisters since June, 2012 (just shy of two years). I have lived in two different houses and have lived with four different Sisters. Every Sister I have lived with or those I have been privileged to get to know beyond the superficial level, I have found that each one has a unique personality, as well as unique likes and dislikes. It has taken time but I have learned that religious sisters are human too! They do not live in a different world and neither do they sit or stand on an imaginary totem pole that is higher than my own. Being human they share in the same feelings and realities as the rest of us. For example, Sisters feel pain when a loved one, fellow community member or friend dies; when a friendship takes a bad turn; or even when the fall down. Sisters are not super human. I do not think there is any better of a way to show how Sisters and those of us who are thinking about becoming Sisters are human than to show some of the things we do.

My house community currently consists of two professed sisters, a discerner from Guatemala and myself a candidate. Although community prayer and ministry are at the center of our lives, we do many things together as community beyond prayer.

As a community we enjoy playing games together. We garden together and plant flowers. We cook and eat together. Sometimes we even go to the store together. I grew up going to the grocery store, the local Kroger store, with my mom.

Shopping together is fun, because you can shop twice as fast. And shopping with a community member is especially helpful when you are going to be going to Costco to buy months worth of food and other household necessities.

Last week three of the four of us were home and it was a nice warm, summer day, so one of the good sisters decided she wanted to wash her car. So when I got wind
of this, I went outside and pulled my car out of the garage. I wanted to give it a good wash down anyway. It was pretty dirty. The three of us ended up tag teaming on the two cars. It was so much fun washing each others cars!

On certain holidays like Memorial Day and the 4th of July, various sisters gather at a community house. This gives all of us an opportunity to get to know each other and eat and play together. This past Monday we celebrated Memorial Day at one of the community houses. The house was large enough that groups of people were able to break off in various places to play cards, corn hole and crockett. Crockett was a lot of fun. Another Sister and I laid out the course in a very difficult pattern. Nothing says Sisters are human, than when you bring them together to play a game. Each come with their own customs and set of rules. Quickly as a "young sister" you learn to referee so that everyone playing can compensate and agree on one set of rules. Right before the hog dogs and burgers were ready, the rain started coming down pretty steadily. I was surprised though that after dinner everyone wanted to finish the game. Being competitive, I just wanted to start a new game, but it was decided to just throw our balls down approximately where they were.

After the game of Crockett I played Corn-Hole, which is one of my favorite outdoor games. It was especially fun to be the champion of all four games I played and I even had a different partner each time. I think Bela enjoyed playing! She caught on rather quickly, she is cool like that.

You see, Sisters are human. Just because Sisters take the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience this does not automatically mean they are "different," non-human, or above anyone else. There are many different orders of religious sisters and each have different charisms and rules they live by. Religious life is not easy and it is not for everyone. No life one chooses is "easy." Those who do choose religious life, live happy lives serving the Lord in multiplicities of ways, there are hard times and there are fun times while living community life.


Friday, May 9, 2014

What is the difference between a "NUN" and a "SISTER"? A Brief Introduction

Have you been wondering what the difference is between a "nun" and a "sister" is? The following video is about three minutes long and it is a brief introduction. I hope my viewers enjoy it and keep coming back as I hope to post as often as I can on a variety of topics related to my journey to religious life. 

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The State of My Heart

Note to reader: This was originally written many months ago. I am just now publishing it because I feel I am at a place that I can do so. 

My heart is beating, my heart is beating so fast, I cannot rest, I cannot rest. The past nearly 48-hours, I have been with my community. This is the second time we have come together to explore our soon-to-be-future. Why? What? When? How? Perhaps now is the time to concentrate on the "Why?" and "What?" however, I am not going to focus my attention on any of these questions. This blog is going to focus on myself and where the state of my heart is at this time.

My aunt died in July. Mary Louise Hoelscher was a Sister of the Precious Blood (Dayton). I would be lying if I said I was not close to her.
Her death came very suddenly and I am just now, many months later, finding myself grieving. Normal? Yes. Yet despite my understanding of grief, I am still very unexpected by its late-coming. This afternoon, after being with the community all morning and afternoon, we were asked to spend some time with God and find ourselves in His presence. I was pacing all throughout the Mother House because I was not sure where I should go. My heart was racing, it was beating very fast and I felt very overwhelmed. I was not sure I would be able to find God in my current state. I decided to take in the brisk, 55-degree air. For the first time since her death and burial I went to visit my aunts grave.

 I do not know why all of a sudden I felt compelled to do so. Obviously, it was God's way of telling me something. At first I just stood there next to her dirt-pilled grave. I was disappointed to find that she does not have a headstone yet, but this really does not matter and it is besides the point. Then I sat down on the chilly pavement, at the foot of her grave. I was wearing nothing more than a t-shirt, basketball shorts, and of course low-cut, black socks and sandals. Just because!

In our hour and a half of quiet time we are being asked to first center ourselves and then recall the events over the past two days. We were to pay attention to the feelings and emotions that were rising up inside of us. Making a pilgrimage out to my aunts grave reminded me of many stories both happy ones and sad ones. Many regrets came flooding into my head too. Notably I am acknowledging my grief. I think back to the day she died, July 9, 2013. Then my memories fast-forwarded me two, maybe, three weeks,  to not even a month after her death I remember receiving my acceptance letter to the candididacy. If she is not still looking out for me, I do not know who is! I was so excited, so honored! I grabbed my phone and I searched for her name and I was about to dial, then I remembered that she was dead, and then it sunk in that she already knew. I was disappointed, I wanted to tell her, I wanted to hear her excitement on the other end. This is only possible in my imagination now.

After sitting in quiet much of the time and struggling for the confidence to talk to her at her gravesite, which has never been my thing, I was able to speak these words: have to keep caring for me. It is your job to have my back...

After I said this to her, it hit me like a ton-of-bricks. I knew the answer to one of the most pertinent questions we are being posed today. Or perhaps just an insight on how I feel about my vacation right now:

I am torn-my heart feels like it is being tugged into two different directions. I feel alive when I am with the sisters. I feel like I can be whomever I want to be or become with them. I still do not know who this person is exactly but who does at 24-years old? At the same time, I know that religious life is not all about the beautiful flowers and pretty butterflies. Religious life is not easy. One wise sister once told me,  "religious life is not easy, but it is worth it and I would not change it if I had to do it over again" (Un-named CPPS, Sister).

What is Jesus saying to me in this moment?

After my insight I left my aunts grave feeling unstoppable. I continued walking around the cemetery and looked for God in the way I know best through my camera. When I am on a God-Quest, particularly in nature, I may see something beautiful, or I may see something that moves me for some reason or another. I capture these things with my camera. My God-Quest's are a mode of theological reflection. 

My reflection begins immediately with my naked eye, before I point and shoot. My careful selection is important to me as a photographer. I look and wait for pristine images to be captured through my camera. Each image documented allows me to go back and reflect further on that particular God-Quest.