Archive for May, 2007


From today’s Gospel:

When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting,
the infant leaped in her womb,
and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit,
cried out in a loud voice and said,
“Most blessed are you among women,
and blessed is the fruit of your womb.”

For some reason, this feast touches my heart in some inexplicable way, as I’ve never been pregnant, and thus have never felt the stirring of a child in my womb.

On some level, though, I know what it is like to have a visceral reaction when I encounter someone I love deeply or when I recognize that another carries the same God-story in her being. It happened to me the first time I visited the motherhouse at Baden, when I had bargained with God to stop bothering me once I reluctantly visited Baden – the trouble was that I liked it – that wasn’t supposed to happen… And it happened as recently as a couple of weeks ago, as I was visiting a new friend whose story of God’s action in her life touched the same deep place in me where my God-story dwells.

It may not be a literal child that leaps within me at these moments, but most certainly it is a stirring of new life in my soul…

Happy Feast Day to all those for whom this feast has special significance!

N.B. Thanks to Fran for the image. I don’t know where it came from, so if anyone recognizes it, please let me know so that I can give the proper credit to the artist.

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I’ll bet those of you who know about my love affair with my worship community were wondering when I’d get around to a post on our Pentecost celebration…

First, I have to tell you that this feast is one of two Sundays (Christ the King is the other) when Gesu cancels the 8:00 and 10:30 liturgies and has a single Sunday liturgy at 9:30, so it really does stand out as a feast of note.

As is pretty common, at least here in the Detroit area, folks try to remember to wear red on Pentecost. And let me tell you, a lot of folks remembered. It was so inspiring to look around and see a sea of red all around.

To me, this celebration is all about acknowledging that the Spirit of Jesus is alive and active in my life, and really pledging anew to lean into the grace of this experience of God, letting that “holy passion” flow in and through me. What a gift it is to have good GREAT communal liturgy to support and feed that passion!

Musically…things were spirited as usual…the only real flub on my part came as I was introducing the psalm response on the clarinet. I was handed the sheet music literally seconds before I was to play it, and since I wasn’t expecting to play it, my adrenaline level spiked a bit, then transposing on the fly, I hit one clinker…but it was just a brief note, and if anyone noticed, I’m sure they forgot soon after, so no big deal.

I think that’s what I like about Gesu so much. Everyone says our music is fantastic, and what I really think it is, is not so much a talent thing, but that our music ministry is first and foremost, genuine prayer. Of course, we like it when we do something well, but there is an unspoken agreement that we are about prayer, not performance. And if others’ hearts are lifted by our prayer, then that’s an added bonus. Another added bonus is that an occasional mistake is not a big deal…that’s not true in every group I’ve played with…

Listening…that’s the key to making good music. The sounds I get out of my instruments are noise if they are not created in a setting of a team of musicians listening to each other for changes in tempo, key, volume, intensity, etc.

I think that listening is also a key to receiving the gift of the Spirit. I’m reminded of that story of Elijah from 1 Kings, Chapter 19. That God was not in the wind, fire or earthquake, but in a tiny whispering sound. If I don’t make an effort to step away from all the things and activities that crowd my mind, there’s a real risk of missing how God is showing up for me. That’s why an annual retreat is not so much a luxury, but a necessity for me. That’s why making a commitment to regular prayer, even in the busiest of times, is so important. Could I do better with this commitment? Absolutely!

I hope all of you who are from the Christian tradition had a blessed Pentecost!

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Ok, so this sounds more noble than saying I was playing around to avoid having to do my “work” work… Can I get away with saying it wasn’t avoidance, but just a break?

Anyway, from our last Chapter back in 2003, we had four Chapter Initiatives. The committee I signed up for was for Initiative II: Develop further collaboration at the membership and elected leadership levels with the Federations of the Sisters of St. Joseph on issues of ministry, organization and resources.

Another committee (Initiative III) is working with the following directive: Form congregational structures and commit our energies and resources to implement the values inherent in our Directional Statement, especially social justice and the integrity of creation within the context of global solidarity.

One of the things that our Leadership Team learned more deeply on a recent trip to the United Nations was the critical importance of local action when it comes to the promotion of social justice. So one of the things that the Initiative II and III committees are trying to focus on is how all the Sisters of St. Joseph in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania can put their voices together and effect change at the state and local levels.

My little contribution to this effort is to figure out how to create some kind of visual image of where Sisters of St. Joseph are located throughout all of Pennsylvania. My thought was a map of the state with pins indicating the location of CSSJ residences or places of ministry.

So this week, I asked a couple of colleagues in our Civil Engineering Department what software I needed to do this. Turns out I can do it in Google Earth, which I had already installed on my machine, well, just because it’s so cool. (I used Google Earth to show visitors to my web site a bike ride I took while I was in France last year…check it out.)

Now the present task turned out not to be so simple, as I wanted to have the ability to import a list of zip codes and have Google Earth create all the markers on the fly. But I found out you have to pay $20/year for that capability, so being the cheapskate I am, I poked around a bit more and found a site that provides a spreadsheet listing all the zip codes in the US, along with their geographic coordinates. I then found a freeware program that would take these coordinates and put them into a file format that could be opened in Google Earth. All I need now is for someone to provide me with the list of zip codes where Sisters of St. Joseph serve in PA and I’ll have the map done in almost no time. Below is a test run, using a few randomly selected zip codes from the database.


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During my weekend trip to Chicago, I had the lovely opportunity to go for a bike ride with a friend among the many sculptures at the Skokie Northshore Sculpture Park. It was just as close and a lot less crowded than the lakeshore. I found myself wishing that Detroit had more spots like this.

fairy-circle-sm.jpgHere’s a picture of one of the sculptures that really caught my attention.

SCULPTURE: Fairy Circle
ARTIST: Mark Chatterley
MEDIA: High-Fired Clay – Crater Glaze
Chatterley’s work is self-described as “life scale primitive figurative
sculpture.” “Fairy Circle” is both evocative and mythic in character. The figures appear to be engaged in a rhythmic dance or ritual activity. Like the graces or muses of Greek mythology, they are suggestive of beauty, nature, human creativity and fertility. “My work is about traveling in the dream world — the place that exists between wakefulness and sleep … I try to make pieces that are timeless yet contemporary, as if the sculpture was dug up from a civilization yet to exist,” says the artist.

On reflection, it seemed to me that my attraction to this piece was partly a recognition on some level that the search for deeper relationship with God is not a solitary quest, that we need each other, even though at times we may drive each other crazy.

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I just returned from a trip to Chicago for the weekend – went by way of Grand Rapids to bring Natty along for the ride…it was worth adding a few extra miles to have the company on an otherwise boring drive. Some construction delays near the Michigan/Indiana border prompted us to hop off I-94 and drive along U.S. 12, through the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. It was such a nice change of pace that we took the same way back today despite no signs of traffic delays. (I offered to climb Mt. Baldy with Nat…maybe she’ll take me up on that some other time…)

Have you ever spent some good quality time with people who are truly kindred spirits? That’s the kind of weekend I had…one that gladdened my heart, one might even say an “Emmaus moment”. The purpose of the trip was to gather with some sisters, some I’ve known for several years, others I’m just getting to know, who have mentored, affirmed and loved me through one of the most significant transformations in my life (Chicago LESTERS, you know who you are…), and who continue to support my continuing integrative process of claiming all of who I am as God’s beloved. It was fun to be able to be playful, relaxed, even giddy, knowing that no one was going to judge my behavior as offensive or inappropriate.

I also was able to spend a couple of hours with Sr. Pat Bergen, who was my spiritual director when I was at Notre Dame for grad school. It did my heart good to reconnect with her.

Nat and I enjoyed the awesome hospitality of Maco and her community – generous women! It is obvious that they have some intention about engaging in a ministry of welcoming.

Well, it’s time to put a period on the weekend and get ready for another week of what I hope will be some productive catching up work…

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In the process of doing my reading assignment for the workshop I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I came across the following quote by Florida Scott-Maxwell (The Measure of My Days, 1983):

“You need to claim the events in your life to make yourself yours. When you truly possess all you have been and done, which may take some time, you are fierce with reality.”

I don’t know about you, but that quote really grabs my attention. I don’t often think of myself as “fierce”, but I know deep in my gut that the experiences I’ve had so far in my life – yes, even ones through which I suffered deeply – have contributed to a sense of integrity, of wholeness that I’ve come to value so greatly that I find myself loath to agree to anything that compromises that integrity.

Those of you who know me know that that I’m a reasonable sort, always trying to be fair, building consensus, working out conflicts. So you know it is not true that I never compromise. And I am definitely not saying compromise is bad; it really is necessary at times. But when it comes to maintaining my sense of personal integrity, well, that has become a non-negotiable for me. To me, a violation in this arena is what we Christians call sin. I think it’s because my most frequent, pervasive, and abiding experience of God is that God lives in that deepest, truest place in me. Asking me to compromise at the level of my personal integrity feels to me like asking me to push aside the reality of my experience of God.

How about you? Does this quote speak to any of you? Do you get what I’m talking about?

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To my regulars…please excuse me while I extend a brief welcome to any colleagues who find their way here from the CADE course website. Feel free to poke around, leave some comments and participate in any conversations that may get going from time to time.

In case you are wondering, CADE is an online course for faculty members from Jesuit colleges and universities in the U.S. (perhaps I should say North America, as one of my “classmates” is from Mexico City). CADE stands for Competency Assessment in Distributed Education. I signed up for this workshop for several reasons; partly because I’m our department assessment coordinator (and more recently have taken on the college assessment coordinator role), and partly because of its focus on a Cognitive Apprenticeship framework for developing meaningful learning experiences for students, something I’ve been pursuing on my own for the last couple of semesters.

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by Julia Ward Howe

Arise then…women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts!
Whether your baptism be of water or of tears!
Say firmly:
“We will not have questions answered by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage,
For caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We, the women of one country,
Will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.”

From the voice of a devastated Earth a voice goes up with
Our own. It says: “Disarm! Disarm!
The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.”
Blood does not wipe our dishonor,
Nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil
At the summons of war,
Let women now leave all that may be left of home
For a great and earnest day of counsel.
Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
Whereby the great human family can live in peace…
Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
But of God –
In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality,
May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient
And the earliest period consistent with its objects,
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of international questions,
The great and general interests of peace.
Happy Mother’s Day!!

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This week’s Sunday Detroit Free Press had a thought-provoking column in the issue of comprehensive immigration reform by Brian Dickerson. I highly recommend reading it in its entirety, but here’s a brief excerpt:

I understand the argument that those who partake of public services should bear their fair share of the cost — although I suspect that, on a per-capita basis, Michigan’s 50 highest-paid corporate chief executive officers consume a larger share of government benefits, and avoid a higher percentage of their ostensible tax burden, than the state’s undocumented workers. But where do those of us lucky enough to be born in this country get off expressing so much moral indignation toward those who weren’t — even when they skirt U.S. immigration laws in pursuit of economic security?

It was a third-generation Texan named George W. Bush that political gadfly Jim Hightower had in mind when he described a fellow “born on third base who thinks he hit a triple.” But Hightower might have been talking about any American, as seen from the vantage point of a hundred less prosperous nations.

I just thought this was something I wanted to think about a little more, since during a segment of our congregational meeting over the weekend, we heard from several undocumented immigrants about the hardships they face.

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A remarkable man

I just want to recommend to you the web site of Bill, a 53-year old man who keeps a blog called “Dying Man’s Daily Journal.” He is blogging his way through his process of dying, in the hopes that his story will be of some help to others. It’s no surprise to me that he claims that it has helped himself more than he would have imagined.

I’ll be in Canada when you read this. I headed there on Monday for a couple of days with some other CSJs on Lake Huron. Won’t have access to the web, so I’m timing this to come online Tuesday while I’m away…isn’t technology wonderful?

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