Archive for June, 2007

Before I get into what is sure to be a frivolous post (a little humor can go a long way in difficult times – at least that’s what I’m counting on), I recommend that you check out the ongoing conversation about authority and the use/abuse of power in my entry of June 25. Sr. Regina, who wrote the letter that I posted, has joined the conversation to give some more background about what prompted her to do so. Thank you, Regina – you honor us with your presence!

Ok, now for some silliness I cannot resist…

nuns.jpgA couple of pictures – I’m staying for a couple of days with some wonderful Carondelet CSJs on Maui, and got a kick out of the salt and pepper shakers.

And last Sunday, when I checked in for my engineering education conference, I was given the badge pictured below. Seems a friend on the Board of Directors decided to have a little fun at my expense. I told him I don’t get mad, I get even. And the staff member who aided and abetted my friend has already agreed to help me out. She said we could do something even more outrageous to him, but I’ve wisely chosen not to escalate things, as there would be no end. I thought about putting on his badge “None Member”, but in 10-11 months, I think I can think of something better than that. Let me know if you have any ideas…idtag.jpg

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Well, the work part of my trip is behind me, and I have some time to play. The Carondelet CSJ’s with whom I am enjoying hospitality are great.

Just thought I’d post a few photos from my explorations today. This first one is of the `Iolani Palace. From its web site:

`Iolani Palace was the official residence of the Hawaiian Kingdom’s last two monarchs — King Kalakaua, who built the Palace in 1882, and his sister and successor, Queen Lili`uokalani.


Next, some Hawaiian green turtles (honu) along the north shore of Oahu (Laniakea). They are a threatened species, but like to bask on the beach, just like many humans do.


And finally, a shot from one of the many beautiful sights in the Wahiawa Botanical Garden.botanic.jpg

So tomorrow, I head to Maui for a few days. I’m having a little trouble connecting to the Internet, so you may not hear all that much from me these days…I’ll try to figure out what the problem is.

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Aloha! Someone emailed to me this open letter in the Times Leader newspaper in NE PA. Seems a little scary to me…what do you think?

I’ve pasted the story here, but you can also find it on the web at: http://www.timesleader.com/opinion/letters/20070618_sister_regina_letter_ART.html.

Sister explains reason why she won’t teach at Holy Redeemer

As I locked the door of classroom 26 for the last time, I realized again how much being a Bishop Hoban High School teacher for the past nine years has meant to me. I encountered wonderful young women and men there, some of whose parents I had also taught years ago at Gate of Heaven or St. Aloysius.

I expected to end my teaching career where I began, here in the Diocese of Scranton. Not so.

You see, although I made the cut for Holy Redeemer because of seniority and credentials, there was one last requirement I could not bring myself to do: ask my pastor to furnish a letter to prove that I am a practicing Catholic.

First, the lay teachers were told to get such letters as proof of good standing in their respective faith traditions. Then the sisters were told to do so, too. Most of the 10 sisters at Bishop Hoban, of whom three will serve at the new Holy Redeemer, viewed this as personally demeaning and insulting to our religious congregations.

Our pastors had other reactions: They laughed or apologized.

At a meeting, I privately asked the bishop if he thought that any sister teaching in the diocese would miss Mass on Sunday or teach about the Eucharist if we did not love Jesus Christ.

When another sister from Hoban asked the superintendent of schools about the letter, he responded, “Two reasons: fear of lawsuits by the lay teachers if they alone had to furnish a letter” and “Many sisters in the diocese are living in apartments and we don’t know how they are living their lives.” Strangely, even the few sisters fortunate enough to have parish convents in which to live had to provide the letters.

The superintendent’s latter comment reminded me of a law on the books in the state of Georgia up until the mid-20th century: In an earlier century, the anti-Catholic Georgia state legislators passed a law permitting them to enter and search convents any time they wished. Given the climate in this diocese, perhaps that is next.

I followed up my conversation with the bishop by writing a letter to explain, in detail, how I live my life: rise at five, morning office, scripture reading, daily Mass, school, night prayers, CCD classes on the weekend, etc. I thought that giving my word that I strive to be a loyal daughter of the church would be good enough. Not so.

I thought that recognition of the works of mercy done in this diocese by thousands of sisters for 150 years would be good enough. Not so. I thought that a reminder that if any sister were living a life unworthy of her calling, her religious superior would speak to her directly and that would be good enough. Not so. I thought that being a sister for almost 45 years would be proof enough. Not so.

Since Vatican II, according to the directives of our religious congregations, most religious women live structured — but not monastic — lifestyles. We are used to helping shape the rules by which we live, whether as members of our religious congregations or as U.S. citizens. By vow, we obey lawful authority. But we neither accept nor lock-step to abuse of power, which is a breach of the cardinal virtue of justice.

When I told my students my reason for leaving the valley, one suggested that I “just go through the motions” and get the letter in order to stay. I explained that I could not encourage them to be people of integrity, to question or protest injustice, if I were unwilling to do it myself.

Yes, there was one last lesson to teach.

Sister Regina Werntz, Bishop Hoban High School Wilkes-Barre

P.S. – Arrived in Honolulu yesterday, was delivered to my 2:00 meeting not too late by the kindness of Sr. M. (Mahalo!), got lost walking from my hotel to the convention center, got exhausted from the long trip, and today I’m booked solid with meetings, but I’m skipping the 7 am session, even though I woke up at 5:15.

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God is good

As. I spend a few minutes making my last check of e-mail before heading to the motherhouse for our first session of retreat, I am reminded of a quote from an article that we were asked to read for one of our Congregational meetings.

What enlivens us is a renewed love and commitment to the God who is good, all good, supremely good, all the time and to everyone.

From “Religious Life at a Crossroads” by Fr. David Couturier, OFM Cap., in Origins, Volume 36, Number 12, Aug. 31, 2006.

I have a few things that I really want to blog about that came to my attention today, and I had thought about doing them as time-delayed posts to come up while I’m on retreat, but just ran out of time. So you’ll probably have to wait until I get to Honolulu and get connected to the Internet before I can post them…Aloha!

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Busy days…

Now I’m wondering why I decided to apply for the workshop last week, AND take the online course on curriculum design, AND attend the conference next week in Hawaii… oh, and today, one of only two days at home before I head out on the next set of trips, I’m on the committee for a doctoral defense… Thank goodness that a couple of students were interested in teaching for our summer engineering camp for girls today, or I would have been totally booked up without a bathroom break!

As for San Diego, I must say I enjoyed some mighty fine hospitality. My colleague from Univ. of San Diego, who I actually don’t know all that well, picked me up at the hotel, and took me and her family up to Oceanside on the train for lunch and a stroll. Then I spent the night at the home of friends of mine who had to be away for the weekend, but who graciously invited me to use their beautiful home. The picture below is the view out the back window…yup, that would be the Pacific Ocean in the background.


I have a meeting in Baden at the motherhouse tomorrow night, and then Thursday evening we start our Congregational retreat in preparation for our Chapter next summer. I’ll be skipping the last day of the retreat to catch an early morning flight to Hawaii, where I’ll be cutting it close getting to a 2:00 meeting there. Thanks to the CSJ’s in Honolulu, I’ll have a ride from the airport to my hotel, and then to the Convention Center, to give me at least a decent shot at getting to the meeting on time.

I must admit, I haven’t been able to keep up with responding to your comments lately, and I apologize for that. I don’t know how much I’ll be able to do for the next several weeks, especially during retreat later this week and my own directed retreat that I’ll start when I return from Hawaii on July 6. But when I get back to Detroit around the middle of July, I should be able to get back on a regular schedule.

I hope to make one more post before retreat starts on Thursday…and I’ll probably write about the retreat itself, kind of a way for me to prepare myself interiorly.

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Well, one drawback to workshops is that they really make you work…I’m not complaining – I’ve learned a whole lot about using technology to enhance my efforts to make my classroom more of an active learning setting rather than me just standing up there and talking while eyes glaze over…

Despite the long hours, our hosts had some great opportunities for us to enjoy. My favorite was having about an hour and a half to stroll along the coast in downtown La Jolla. I chose to go off by myself…it gave me an opportunity to think and pray and enjoy the sun and the ocean…and the marine life. Today, I’m getting together with a colleague who teaches at Univ. of San Diego, and then tomorrow I head back to Detroit.

Here are pictures of a sea lion hamming it up for the camera, and a colony of harbor seals resting up after a deep dive. Very cool…


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Every once in a while I engage in a little creative writing, and I think my preferred style is allegory. Sometimes the best way for me to write about something that bothers me is to write about something else. I know that may not seem to make sense, but for some reason, it works for me. So let me offer you this little flight of fancy, and I’ll leave it to you to decide what it is really about for you…

I recently attended a symposium that addressed the challenges facing members of the Church of the Way who happen to be left-handed. This Church, sometimes referred to by its nickname, “Church of the RIGHT Way,” has some interesting teachings regarding persons who are left-handed. For example, despite overwhelming scientific evidence to the contrary, the leaders of the Church of the Way assert that left-handedness in a person is an objective disorder, and that engaging in left-handed behavior is an intrinsic evil. They also speak of left-handedness as an inclination, as if it were something that could and should be corrected.

Most of the attendees at the symposium are faithful members of the Church of the Way, and many of them are employed by the Church, either as lay ministers or ordained clergy members. The purpose of the symposium was to have thoughtful discussion about the experience and role of left-handed persons in the Church, especially in regard to their participation in the Church’s sacraments. The speakers, many of whom are right-handed, spoke very convincingly for the full inclusion of their left-handed sisters and brothers, at all levels of membership and leadership.

The conversations shared at the tables in the assembly hall were full of hope, joy, and – yes – pain, as participants shared their stories of encounters with persons in the Church who are in positions of authority. One woman shared the pain she experienced at having her application to enter the seminary rejected simply because she was left-handed. This, despite the fact that she had remained faithful to Church teaching, refraining from using her left hand – for the entire 50-plus years of her life. It seems the problem was that she had come to a healthy self-acceptance of her left-handedness and could not in integrity hide this significant part of her identity. Apparently, a well-adjusted left-handed person who was not willing to misrepresent herself as right-handed was not acceptable for the seminary in question.

Because the symposium took place over a weekend, the organizers had included in the agenda a celebration of the liturgy that is celebrated throughout the Church of the Way on Sundays. Upon arriving at the symposium, however, participants were informed that the local leader of the Church had denied permission for the liturgy to be celebrated as part of the symposium, despite the large number of ordained ministers who were present and available to preside. It is ironic that over 500 Church members were deprived of an important sacrament during a meeting whose theme addressed the issue of inclusion in a sacramental Church. Talk about weapons of “Mass” destruction…

So I’m headed to San Diego tomorrow for a workshop. I’m sure they plan to keep us plenty busy, so if I have time to make another post this week, it will likely be a short one. Of course, as usual, I’ll be looking for you to join the conversation on this or any other blog entries, and I’ll reply as time permits.

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Today is the feast of Corpus Christi – the body and blood of Christ. It’s a feast to celebrate the institution of the Holy Eucharist. We had a visiting priest today (a Capuchin) who had some interesting things to say which sparked some of my own reflections.

He mentioned the saying, “You are what you eat,” something I usually tend to remember only when I’m stuffing my face with some kind of junk food, alas… Anyway, if I consider Eucharist as eating the body and blood of Christ, then it’s not a bad thing to aspire to become what I’m eating, and our presider (sorry, I didn’t catch his name) said that this is more the contemporary understanding of Eucharist. Some of the Eucharistic devotions of days past have deep meaning for those who practice them, and I am in no way denigrating them when I say that adoration of the Blessed Sacrament placed in a monstrance on the altar is not something that appeals to me these days. It is only when I take in, chew and swallow the real presence of Christ that Eucharist takes on its full meaning. Not for me the gazing on a piece of bread from afar – better the intimacy of becoming one with Jesus in His love for God and neighbor.

On my way to Ohio to visit my parents today, I was listening to a CD by Kathy Sherman, CSJ, called “All is One”. On this CD is a song called “Bread Breaking Song.” The lyrics are powerful, and the way all of the parts fit together is beyond powerful. And…they speak to me of what this feast is about. So let me share these words with you:

Bread of All Inclusive Love, Bread of Love outpouring,
Bread of Animating Love make us bread for all.

We are one; All is one. We are one, make us one for all.

Make us bread for all. Make us bread for all.
Make us bread for all. Make us bread for all.

May we all be one. May we all be one.
May we all be one. Make us one for all.

This CD and so much other wonderful and inspiring music and other art are available from www.ministryofthearts.org. Do your soul a favor and do a little shopping there.

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Today, I took the time to ride my bike out to Oakland University (about 19 miles one way) to cheer on our students who are participating in the 15th Annual Intelligent Ground Vehicle Competition. Today, they were scheduled to give their presentation for the Design Competition. The two students (see picture, right) who made the presentation did a fantastic job. A little later, a local TV channel came by the tent to interview some of our students. From what I was able to overhear while working on something, everyone who was interviewed also did a great job representing the university.


Here’s a photo of the entire team with the vehicle:


They will do their vehicle qualification tomorrow, and Monday is the main competition day for the Navigation Challenge and the Autonomous Challenge. Great group of students…I wish them the best…

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So sorry I haven’t gotten a new post out to you the last several days. Things got a bit crazy, and I’m scrambling to configure a new computer to get it ready for a workshop next week in San Diego. Sometimes, I really wish I could just get by with Linux…I really do dislike Windows…sigh. Unfortunately, some of the applications I have to use are only available for Windows…

Another reason for my silence has to do with a very cool (as in awesome) response on Monday from my parents about something I was concerned they would be upset about, but at this point, it’s kind of an “unbloggable”. Let’s just leave it at I feel a new sense of freedom and acceptance after my conversation with them. God is good!

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