There’s not a lot to report this week. I will be going live sometime next week to share with everyone our parish plans to transition back to public liturgies the weekend of May 30/31st the Feast of Pentecost.
Let’s continue to pray and ask the Holy Spirit for guidance and wisdom.
I’ve included in the bulletin some reflections from our seminarians and from Sr. Holy Family. I’m waiting to hear from Sr. Brianne Feldpausch. When I do hear back from her, I’ll publish her update in a future bulletin.
It’s been an interesting semester to say the least. Just after getting into the groove of being back at the seminary after coming back from winter break, we were sent home in mid-March. While we continued having classes online, many things which are built into the seminary life became not as accessible or easy, like community among other seminarians, personal prayer and my own motivation to do coursework. So, this semester, I have been grateful for the opportunity to grow in my ability to reach out to others and grow in motivation to pray and work on my own.
Through all the uncertainty, all the difficulties which COVID-19 and the subsequent quarantine has brought into all our lives, something which has become increasingly apparent to me is God’s faithfulness. A few weeks ago, my parents celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary. As I reflected on this occasion, it struck me how crazy it is that ‘in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health,’ for the last 3 decades, my parents have continued to say ‘yes’ to each other. And this directly parallels to the spiritual life. Even though we might be in the midst of sickness and bad times, the Lord still chooses us and desires to grow ever closer to us. Knowing that God is still so faithful and doesn’t desert us has been bringing me a lot of hope in this difficult time. Thank you for the continued support and prayers and know of my prayers for you!
When we think of allowing God to lead us through life, we think of God holding our hand as we take baby steps. However, this semester felt like I was trying to hold on as God decided to run a 100-meter dash!
One day I was in Rome eating gelato, one day I was hiking up a mountain above Assisi, and then the next thing I know my study abroad semester is cut short and I am on a plane coming back home because of the coronavirus! What a ride! My time in Rome was amazing, and though it was cut short, God has taught me to rely on his providence in whatever situation I find myself in.
One particular grace from this semester has been taking a course on Saint John of the Cross. Through reading his works and praying with them, he has been showing me that I am a beginner in the spiritual life and that I rely every moment on God’s mercy and grace.
Living at home has been tough after learning to love community life in seminary, but the Lord continues to show me his will and how he is taking care of me in these delicate times.
So far, this has certainly been an interesting semester, but also a very blessed one. At the very beginning of this semester, I attended a silent retreat with the rest of my seminary class, which was focused on abandonment to God’s providence. It was an excellent retreat and little did I know that I would have to put those lessons into practice very soon. I was blessed to be able to study abroad in Rome with my classmates, but after a month in Italy, we had to return home due to the coronavirus. This change was hard and at times stressful, but I was able to look back at that retreat and see it as a great opportunity to practice the abandonment and trust I had learned so much about. This grace of increased trust that God is with me no matter what happens has been a powerful fruit of that time and has continued to grow as I walk with God day by day at home. My classes have continued online from Rome and I am also keeping busy with all the work on the farm that needs to get done at home. Although I am not physically at the seminary I still keep connected with my classmates and take part in spiritual direction and formation. Please continue to pray for me and know that I am praying for all of you.
Dear Father and all at Most Holy Trinity,
Happy Easter to you all!
I hope in this special time of quarantine you have all been keeping well and still following the quiet prompting of the Holy Spirit.
Here in Ireland things got quiet pretty fast. At the beginning of Lent every week was packed with apostolate: Traveler Girls Group, Kid’s Club, Youth Group, House Visits, Family Movie Nights, Ladies Prayer Group, Rosary and Mass or Communion at two nursing homes, Stations of the Cross, 40 Hours, Catechism Classes and eminent preparation for Confirmations and First Confessions. Then within only about a week or two as the news spread about the virus and orders of closure and social distancing came out we were down to private daily Mass and Rosary with our two Reverend Fathers and the four of us Religious Sisters. At first it seemed like a perfect way to spend Lent: silence, more prayer, sacrifice of normal activities and mobility. Then as Holy Week approached it became clear that we would still only be celebrating the ceremonies with the six of us and that the Easter season promised to be equally as simple.
While some people are losing their jobs or are at least not able to work at this time, the great thing about religious life is that nothing prevented us from completing our profession. Namely loving God! Surly this is the only thing necessary in a sense for every Christian to fulfil their vocation but as religious our state of life is completely oriented to the ordering our lives to the building up of the Kingdom of Heaven. Our founder, Fr. Buela, says, “The religious can only be understood for what she is, not for what she does.” We do not need any particular set of external circumstances to make our life meaningful. We are who we are and we express our identity, brides of Christ, by letting our love pour forth into the building up the Kingdom of Heaven. If this is our first priority then, as Jesus promises, all else will be provided. Many things can be helpful for us to reach our goal but it would all be useless without Christ.
Our Constitutions say, “We must understand clearly that without Jesus Christ we can do nothing, and that we must always tend to grow in virtue with all our strength”. Therefore our first essential activity is union with Jesus through purity of heart and prayer. After that comes the practice of the virtues. Virtues embellish our souls but they also benefit our closest neighbors (i.e. those we live with) in order to build a strong community life. With those first two elements in place we can reach out to help the rest of our neighbors through works of apostolate.
I will begin starting with the last element: apostolate. With virtually all personal contact prohibited we didn’t waste any time thinking of ways to creatively maneuver in our new field of evangelization: technology. Since our parishioners couldn’t come to Mass we started broadcasting the daily Masses online and praying the Angelus and Rosary on Facebook live. We began calling up our friends, families, and benefactors to give a word of encouragement over the phone. They for their part were active in responding to their own call to fraternal charity and our front porch started filling up with donation after donation.
Some of the Kid’s Club parents expressed their interest in us keeping up contact with their kids virtually. So, taking the example of other communities in our province, we started a bit of a WhatsApp Oratory sending video greetings and catechesis and PDF’s of coloring pages. The parents are good at sending proof of our little ones participation. The 40 Hours of prayer for vocations was also able to continue easily since an hour of prayer, albeit preferably spent in front of the Blessed Sacrament, can still easily be offered at home for the holiness and perseverance of our priests and sisters.
The young lady in charge of the FDYS afterschool program and Traveler girls group was not long in waiting before she contacted us about making some material to keep the kids busy and learning. We printed out some activities and coloring sheets that she left on their door steps along with some Easter treats. We decided to start a group chat with the older girls, a few of whom have promised to login to our daily Rosary. The live Rosary is also an opportunity for our beloved “old people” at the nursing homes to join us for prayer. Of course doing things through the medium of technology lacks a certain quality that can only be experienced in the presence of the other, but for right now we are making the best of it.
Speaking of heaven, that brings me to our last point but first essential element of religious life: our relationship with Christ. As Spouses of Christ it is clear that this relationship is the very soul that must animate the religious sister in all her actions, thoughts and words. St. John of the Avila says that a Bride of Christ must sigh for her Spouse in all her activities; prayer, work, study or apostolate.
This emphasizes the importance of constant “remembering” of God through prayer. We try to have a spiritual life of deep personal prayer and also community prayer like the Liturgy of the Hours and the Rosary. Even in the very first days of cancelation of our activities our community began augmenting our schedule with more hours of Adoration, an extra community Rosary, the Divine Mercy Chaplet (especially for those who are now unfortunately dying alone and many without the last rights).
I cannot express how grateful I am to continue to be able to receive the Sacraments. At a time when so many people are deprived of all the normal spiritual assistance of the Church’s Sacraments I realize all the more my responsibility to respond to this grace by becoming holier. By letting my heart be purified and giving it more generously to God. If we receive Christ into our hearts every day like the chalice, we should be full chalices that pour their superabundance on all the rest (cf. Constitutions 7).
By the grace of God this time of quarantine has given us all an unexpected moment of tranquillity that lends to a spirit of recollection and silence. I have been trying to take advantage of this moment to dive deeper into Sacred Scripture as well as our Constitutions, Directories (i.e. my guide to life). As a province we are all preparing to spend a lot of extra time studying. Some of the subjects that are part of our formation are Theology, Philosophy, Sacred Scripture, Ethics, Morality, History, Languages, Cannon Law, etc.
Finally I just want to say that I have never forgotten how blessed I am to live in a house with a tabernacle. But now more than ever I am thankful for this blessing as so many have to live far away from Our Lord’s Eucharistic presence. In a “perseverance” video series one of our fathers does he said, “love and distance are like fire and wind. If the fire is strong then the wind only serves to strengthen the flame but if the fire is weak then the wind blows it out”.
May Our Lady grant us that in this time we may not allow our love of God to be blown out but instead to grow. May our souls become the fertile gardens that God wants them to be by His grace. May we live not like those who only have this life, but to those who have died with Christ in baptism and are raised to a new life, a life that never ends.
In Jesus, Mary and Joseph,
Sr. Mary of the Holy Family