Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Epiphany on Moreland Street

In the light of the night
they lay
unceremoniously discarded by the roadside
conifers cast aside with
season's cheer and a chill in the air

and as I drove past
the only guide, a set of headlights
I wondered- when does room at the inn run out?
what price must be paid for new life?

And there in rings as bright as day
like stars traced out across the sky
the stumps answered in
a chilled chorus of Hallelujah:

Keep your gifts.
It takes a life.
To make a manger...
to take the journey.

Colleen Gibson SSJ

Sr. Colleen currently serves as a campus minister at Chestnut Hill College. She is the author of the blog Wandering in Wonder,  columnist for the Global Sisters Report, and has been published in various periodicals including America, Commonweal and Give Us This Day. She made first vows as a Sister of St. Joseph in Philadelphia in August 2014. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

One Among the Many

The upper porch of St. Mary’s by the Sea has long been a sacred place of prayer
for me. Gentle whispers of insight speak to me
as I listen to the waves and the song of the gulls.
God’s Majesty and Mystery are visible as invisible grace
kisses my soul.
My heart opens to welcome the Holy One.

When I sat there on The Chair on the 60th anniversary of my entrance
I asked the Trinity to bless me with creative energy, generous compassion, and
deep listening. I asked for the grace of holy self- surrender. (Maxim24)
I could almost hear Jesus chuckle and tell me to be still
because every time I pray I ask for this blessing and grace.
Jesus said: Be still…I am here, always with you.

Jesus has been my compass and guide throughout my journey as a Sister of St. Joseph.
In my senior year of business school I was planning to enter a different community
until I met the Sisters of St. Joseph at Holy Souls Convent, Philadelphia. A Sister with a
beautiful smile invited me into the house and served me a cup of tea. I heard laughter
echo from another part of the house. Years later the image of Jesus laughing among those
Sisters blessed me to tell me that it was Jesus who led me to SSJ. Jesus set the compass
of my life by laughing along a few happy women.

The more I learned about our history, the more I desired to visit our roots in Le Puy and Lyon.
The stories of courage, simplicity and the fidelity of our Founders showed me that the
Little Design was truly God’s Design for me. It has been at the center of my sharing our charism
as a teacher, pastoral minister and spiritual director. It is often the focus of my poetry.


I am happy to be one among the many.

Mary Catherine Walton SSJ 
Sister Mary Catherine grew up in the Kensington section of Philly, and attended St. Boniface School.
She is the eldest of five born to Bernard and Rita. Sister Miriam Joseph was her younger sister,
George, Joe, and Michael completed the family her dad proudly called "Walton, Inc."
Her ministries included primary education, Pastoral Ministry, and she currently serves as a spiritual
director and retreat leader. 

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

It Wouldn't Be Fair

“It wouldn’t be fair to her or to the Congregation,” was what the doctor told my sponsor, Sister Rita Mercedes, when he medically rejected me for entrance into the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph because of my scoliosis. Still, sister brought me to the Motherhouse saying they expected us for lunch. There, I was given further information regarding entrance. When I asked why I was being told all of this since I was medically rejected, Mother Marie Estelle said that I was accepted on trial. And that was that! I believe that Sister Rita spoke for me, that she spoke on my behalf.

Standing with, speaking up for, and helping others go beyond barriers and limitations, I found, is a big part of being a Sister of St. Joseph. You never stop at the first set back, but always reach for the more and use your voice on behalf of those who are denied one. 

In my 62nd year as a Sister of Saint Joseph, I can say that I’ve experienced many times being called further along in my spiritual journey by the words and actions of others in the community inspiring me to do and be the same, being given opportunities and welcomed, even when I didn’t feel worthy. I’ve been able to do the same for those I ministered to in teaching grade school and high school, in vocation work, as a social worker, as a missionary in Haiti and even now, as a teacher of English as a Second Language.

My life as a Sister of St. Joseph is rooted in prayer and in relationship with God who amazes me in the many ways She uses me. The word trial was never mentioned again, and there’s no doubt about my vocation being fair to me.

Kay Coll SSJ
Sister Kay grew up in Bayonne, New Jersey in an Irish Catholic environment the middle child of a family of 9, where she received the foundation needed for "any and every good work." She taught in a variety of schools, and over time, began to feel a distinct call to work with the poor. Sister Kay has had the opportunity to minister in Haiti, Newark, and now in the ESL program in Bayonne where she is working with immigrants from many different countries.  

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

I Really Want to Thank You, God

As Thanksgiving approaches, I again realize how blessed I have been by so many “circumstances.” I have loved the play Godspell, since I first saw it many years ago, and the song “All Good Gifts” has always stayed with me, especially the line “I really want to thank you God.”

First, I was born into, a then called mixed marriage. My Dad was Italian and Irish and my Mom French Canadian. My twin sister and I were the first ones, and then came two brothers and another sister to complete our family. Living with brothers and sisters, and sometimes a relative or two who came for a while, gave me plenty of opportunities to live our charism of unity and reconciliation.

While growing up in Corpus Christi parish in Philadelphia, I watched the sisters coming and going to Mass, to school, and wanted to share the joy and love that showed on their faces and in their interactions with each other and with us. I had poor eyesight so I never thought I would be accepted into the community, but after a year of being a lay teacher, (a pilot program in 1961) at Our Lady of Mercy in Philadelphia and having the supervisors of our community stay in my class for a week, I was able to join the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Chestnut Hill.  My sponsor, Sister Marie Judith asked me what I thought it would be like.  I said, “Girl Scouts!” In a way, this was true because in Girl Scouts, we did things as a community, shared the charges, and had a code to live by, just like our Constitutions.  Again, I really want to thank you God, for the preparation scouts gave me.  

The variety of missions in Philadelphia and for 34 years in Newark and Jersey City, New Jersey, the diversity of the people I have met, and the opportunities for growth in spirituality have also increased my thankfulness to our loving God. Someone once told me if you have an attitude of gratitude, you will always be happy. I know this is true.

I could go on and on about my blessings, but maybe we should all take time to reflect on the blessings of our lives and say… “I really want to thank you, God.”

Georgette Gavioli SSJ
Sister Georgette has been a Sister of St. Joseph for 53 years.  Most of her ministry experiences have been in the city. In Philadelphia, she served at St. Callistus, St. Stephen, and St. Vincent in Germantown. After that, she spent 11 years at Blessed Sacrament in Newark, New Jersey and is now in her 23rd year at St. Aloysius, Jersey City. While she loves the shore and the beauty of country, Sister Georgette can't imagine herself anywhere else but in the midst of the city.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Only the Shadow Knows

Daylight Saving Time ended today November 1, 2015 at 2 AM.  What a joy it was to wake up that morning in the light! As I write this reflection, it is almost 5 PM. Shadows are now falling.  The early morning light is being balanced with evening’s darkness. In a sense, as far as time goes, we robbed Peter to pay Paul.  As I glance out the window, I see Peter is ready now to collect his due. 

In her book Learning to Walk in the Dark, Barbara Bradford Taylor invites us to consider darkness as gift. When we were young we were discouraged from befriending darkness. As children, we were familiar with the instruction to come inside because it is getting dark. The message was clear. Darkness has a dangerous component. Don’t spend too much time there.

And, we don’t. Bradford draws our attention to our collective aversion to being in darkness.  We are hardly ever away from light. Shopping malls light up the night sky. Highway lights, traffic lights, parking lot lights always companion us.  In the midst of night, our homes are often bright as the noonday sun.

Long before Bradford shared her wisdom of the dark, Isaiah the prophet gave us a chance to see darkness in a different light. Isaiah writes,

        I will give you treasures of darkness, riches hidden away, that you may know I
              am the LORD, the God of Israel, who calls you by name.”  Isaiah 45:3

In January of 1999, I made a winter retreat in Gloucester, MA. One afternoon I had been out for a walk and lost track of time. Realizing it was almost dinner time, an important part of any retreat, I began my return trek. The sun was setting.  Darkness was just arriving. With the absence of light I noticed my shadow.  It was ahead of me. I would venture to say, my shadow was leading me. My shadow would arrive “home” first.
I have never forgotten that moment. The experience reminds me how much I have learned from my shadow—the hidden part of me—the part I often avoid because it seems dark. 
As a Sister of Saint Joseph called to live a mission of unioning love, I need to learn to love the darkness. I cannot unite what I do not first accept. 

This winter, may we learn how to walk in the dark—companioned by God and one another—shadows included.

Marie O' Hagan SSJ
Sister Marie is a native of Philadelphia.  A Sister of St. Joseph for 37 years, Sister Marie has been involved in the ministry of education, campus ministry and parish ministry.  

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

A Passion to Serve God's Children

The mission of the Sisters of Saint Joseph: “We live and work that all people may be united with God and with one another,” has been a hallmark statement for my vocation as a Sister of Saint Joseph. It is a blessing for me to be involved in the ministry of Catholic education in elementary school. As a Sister of Saint Joseph, I am happy to share “the joy of my vocation” with the children, faculty, staff, and parents I meet each day. 
I have had numerous opportunities as a teacher, principal and Regional Director of Elementary Schools to minister to many children and adults in Catholic education. It is important for me to note that the witness and role modeling of Catholic teachers have humbled me over the years. Their love, compassion and prayerfulness reveal God’s life within them and their desire to share His life with the children they meet. Parents acknowledge that the support received from the school community deepens their trust in the school community and affirms their choice to send their child to a Catholic school. The children are just that - children. From the youngest kindergartner to the oldest eighth grader, they enjoy life, fun, and learning. All children want to be treated with respect and fairness and they know “to get respect, give respect.”
I have been involved in education for the past 40+ years. In recent years, it is a justice issue that each child receives a quality Catholic education that parents sacrifice financially for them to receive. Being a lifelong learner models for teachers that there is so much to know, to learn as we educate children for the 21st century.

It is important to keep alive the mission of the Sisters of Saint Joseph in educating and forming children to pray daily, to serve others and to understand the meaning of “justice for all.” Programs, projects, etc., involve the faculty and children to be aware of the needs of others beyond the school community. It has always been my practice, as a leader, to lead by example, to collaborate and to delegate responsibilities. I have learned over the years that, together, we can do so much as a community. 
A passion to serve God’s children each day with love, compassion, energy and creativity drives my daily experiences. Each day I pray for wisdom, integrity and courage to be who God has called me to be “in any and all situations.”

Theresa Maugle SSJ
Sister Theresa has spent over 40 years in Educational Ministry. At present, she serves as the Principal of St. Genevieve School in Flourtown, Pennsylvania, a National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

A Place in the Choir

When feasting your eyes on the painting “All God’s Critters Have a Place in the Choir,” you
can affirm artist Oblate Brother Mickey McGrath’s creativity. He depicts two-legged and four-legged creatures, crawling and flying critters, colorfully-clad Asians, Africans, Caucasians, solemnly robed rabbi and bishop, a bare-chested Buddha, lively sax player, dancing minstrel, and even a bird of prey all joined in praising God!

Then, visualize this eclectic ensemble while listening to Celtic Thunder’s foot-stomping, hand-clapping rendition of “A Place in the Choir. Their tempo and
                         Some sing low and some sing higher
             Some sing out loud on the telephone wire
             Some just clap their hands or paws or anything they got, now” *

are positively contagious!  Enjoying these unique “choirs” offers a sensory experience!

The Founders’ Day Liturgy at Saint Joseph Villa showcased an equally extra-
ordinary Choir under the dynamic direction of Mary William, SSJ. Melody
Makers, arriving on walkers, in wheel chairs, using canes, or stepping gingerly, many
sporting hearing aids, lifted our hearts and refreshed out spirits!  Despite any
physical limits, their hearts and voices soared through descants  (Blest Be the
Lord, You Are Called) and rounds (Rejoice in the Lord) expressing unbounded
joy!    Surely, this commemoration of the 365th anniversary of the founding of
the Sisters of Saint Joseph deserved such a glorious choral tribute!
Yes, these octogenarians and nonagenarians embodied Psalm 8: “Till the end
of my days, O Lord, I will sing your praise”  bearing concrete witness to the
joy of vocation!

* Google: Celtic Thunder Heritage, “A Place in the Choir”

Fran DeLisle SSJ
Sister Fran is a native of Philadelphia. Her first 30 years as a Sister of Saint Joseph she ministered in elementary and secondary schools in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Fran began ministry among “Seniors” in 1991 spending one year at Bethlehem Retirement Village before coming to Saint Joseph Villa in 1992 where she currently serves as the coordinator of the Guild.