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This post is part of our Lenten Reflection Series: Be A Fountain of Mercy
Authored by Sister Mary Regina Robbins, SND

“Quick, bring the finest robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet because this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again.” Lk. 15

Even though the Gospel for this Sunday is familiar to all of us, we never tire of it. It shows in bas relief how in Christ old things can pass away and new things can come. It is possible to let go of the old if it bogs us down, and believe in new life. So we hear again the parable of the Prodigal Son returning to his father who receives him with open arms and abundant blessings of love and gratitude. With a little imagination we can picture Jesus, the storyteller, holding his listeners spellbound as they wonder how the story will end. Surprise, shock! Jesus has come up with a terrifically radical, unforgettable story to get across the mercy of God, the loving Creator-God. He reveals his Abba as one who waits for us, refusing to take away our free will and who even lets us wander and fall until we find how miserable we can be apart from him.

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Especially parents can identify with this story as they feel an aching longing for their departed children. Many parents are tortured by what may have gone wrong or what could have been different in their relationships with their children. They hope and pray for their children to realize that they have a home and are painfully missed.

But the story is not just about others returning. It is also about us. In many ways we wander, straying from goodness and close dependence upon God. During Lent we are invited to spend time looking at where we are and where we have wandered. We allow ourselves in quiet prayer to recognize our plight. By facing our inner truth we come to an awakening, “I must return.”  The Church, especially during the Holy Year of Mercy, opens its doors, providing the sacrament of reconciliation and doctrinal promises of forgiveness and acceptance.

As Saint Paul says in the second reading, God our Father is reconciling us through Christ. As we prepare for the Easter renewal of our baptismal vows we believe: “Whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold new things have come.”

What are these old things for you and what might the new things be? For the Prodigal Son it was very clear. Is it clear for you?

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Watch the recent reception of Sister Mayra Marie and Sister Nicole Marie into the Novitiate:


 

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Dorothy Ann Furey was born on February 8, 1925 in Toledo, Ohio, the oldest of Teresa Tillman and Edmond Francis Furey’s four children. Although Dorothy grew up in Toledo, most of her summers were spent in near Houghton Lake in Michigan swimming, boating, horseback riding and frog catching.

In 1930 Dorothy was enrolled in Our Lady of Perpetual Help School. Her parents, however, felt she needed a more challenging curriculum and transferred her to Notre Dame Academy on Bancroft in Toledo in 1937. Sister’s years at NDA and later at Notre Dame College, Cleveland, were filled with activities. She participated in sports, dancing, and, in college, she worked in her aunt’s bookstore and ushered for the Cleveland Opera. Sister Mary Josanne graduated Cum Laude from Notre Dame College in June 1945 and entered the Sisters of Notre Dame on Ansel Road the following September.

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At first, Sister Mary Josanne ministered in secondary education in the Cleveland area. In 1960 Sister was transferred to California where she taught at Notre Dame Academy inLos Angeles (1960-1966, 1983-1984), La Reina High School in Thousand Oaks (1966-1983), and St. Bonaventure High School in Ventura (1984-2006). As principal at La Reina Sister Mary Josanne initiated the addition of the seventh and eighth grades.

Mathematics was among Sister Mary Josanne’s first loves. At La Reina Sister started her own mathematics competition for 7th and 8th graders. When she transferred to Saint Bonaventure, she initiated the competition there as well. The following year, the Mathematical Association of America invited her to join a team of 15 mathematicians who gathered once a year to formulate original math problems for 25-question, timed tests for the American Mathematics Competition.

“The problems weren’t simple,” Sister Mary Josanne said, “I had to create the circumstances to make them difficult.”

Another of Sister Mary Josanne’s loves was the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame – an affinity she had acquired in childhood. During football season the children at Our Lady of Perpetual Help sang the Victory March and listened to a recording of Knute Rockne’s famous speech each morning before class and were rewarded with a candy bar every time the team won.

Sister Mary Josanne described herself as “a community person.” As she herself admitted: “By nature I am not a solitary soul…I don’t have a problem making friends.” Sister attended the Congregation’s Centennial celebration in Cleveland (1950) and its Sesquicentennial in California (2000). She also participated in the 1974 General Chapter as and visited both in Toledo and Florida. All were occasions for her to renew important relationships with her family and friends, especially with the sisters in her entrance group with whom she remained very close throughout her religious life.

In 2007 Sister Mary Josanne joined the community at Notre Dame Center where she remained active- helping in the finance and development offices and working jig-saw puzzles, enjoying a good mystery, and cheering for St. Bonaventure’s football team. Sister quietly and peacefully went home to God on Friday, January 29, 2016, just two weeks before her 91st birthday.

Those who wish to pay their respects to Sister Mary Josanne Furey are invited to a wake and liturgy on Tuesday, February 9, 2016 at 7:00 p.m. The service will take place at Notre Dame Center in Thousand Oaks, California. It will be officiated by Reverend Joseph Shea, Pastor of Saint Rose of Lima Church. Sister will be interred at Assumption Cemetery in Simi Valley, California, on Wednesday, February 10 at 9:30 a.m.

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This post was written by Sister Betty Mae Bienlein.

On Christmas Day, 2015, Sister Mary Rebekah Kennedy and I joined the Conejo Valley Interfaith Association to participate in a small gesture of solidarity with the Muslim community in Ventura County, California. The event was organized by the Conejo Valley Interfaith Association to promote inter-religious relationships. Reverend Julie Morris, an Episcopalian Minister and parent at La Reina High School and Middle School, invited us to attend this event.

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About 75 non-Muslims stood in unity with the Muslim community supporting them, their values and faith, and denouncing Islamophobia in all its forms. We gathered on the lawn in front of the Mosque with signs and banners, greeting the passersby with peace and solidarity.

All were invited to join the Muslim community for the Friday Jummah prayer. We listened as Imam Ahmed Patel graciously thanked the visitors for supporting them especially on “the most holy day, Christmas Day, of the Christian religions.” He also spoke about the Muslim religion as one of peace and respect for others and that their religion was not one of extremes. “If the Quran says we pray five times a day we do not pray six times a day.” Imam Patel also stated, “That for a Muslim, we are first human and then a Muslim.” As we left the gathering we were treated to donuts and many hugs and kisses filled with gratitude.

Imam Ahmed has posted the following statement on the Center’s website.

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The Sisters of Notre Dame continue to support our Muslim neighbors and strive for peace and unity among all religious individuals.

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Vision & Challenge is published three times annually by the Office of Mission Advancement for the Sisters of Notre Dame in California. This issue highlights the important work that sisters are doing at Our Lady of Guadalupe School in Oxnard. It also includes a special report on the positive impact we have made on the community this year. If you would like to be added to our mailing list, please send an email to cvieira@sndca.org.

Click here to read the online version.

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This post is part of our Advent Reflection Series – a collection of original blog posts written by the Sisters of Notre Dame.

It seems hard to believe that we have already reached the second week of the Advent season, when we revisit the story of John the Baptist calling out to us in the words of Isaiah: “Make ready the way of the Lord! Clear him a straight path!”

We might choose to lament that “making ready” has come to mean decorating and shopping, planning, scheduling and traveling; but how sad it is if we don’t move beyond those thoughts to make our own preparation for the coming of the Lord. Imagine how Mary was preparing in those last weeks before her son’s birth. She had to be so focused on that life within her, what his birth would mean, how her life would change. She was clearly making ready and clearing the path for him.

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So, we may need to ask ourselves: What am I doing this Advent that is different than previous years to make ready the way of the Lord in my heart, in my life with others, in the larger world? What am I actively doing to clear Him a straight path?

We need to make within us place and space. This may mean that we need to focus on gratitude and joy, and weed out the negative and our tendency to judge others. It may mean that we are called to simplify our life in some way: reduce our commitments and our busy-ness; clear out our possessions to pass on to others; challenge our own decisions so we give time and attention to relationships that are healthy and helpful.

Maybe this year, clearing the path is about dealing with a thorny relationship, or something we are holding on to which blocks the path for the Lord’s presence. Perhaps it’s about reaching beyond ourselves and forming new relationships with persons who have something to offer from a background, culture, experience, or education that is different from our own.

It may mean that we spend more time in silence and prayer to foster a greater openness within, a clearing out of our own heart, to make way for the message God has for us. As we celebrate this week of Advent, how will we respond to the question: Will I be ready to hear what he has to say to me this year?

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This post is part of our Advent Reflection Series- a collection of original blog posts written by the Sisters of Notre Dame.

Ah, Night! Bursting with new-born-stars
Strewing pathways of fire as they soar
In silent pilgrimage through endless space,
And I stand smallened by their hugeness.
And yet within me, deeply rooted, is a light
Already safe at home and never to be dimmed.
– (Rainer Maria Rilke translated by William J. O’Malley)

The stars are lighting up the skies even when we cannot see them clearly. Our God is present in our midst even when we are unconscious of the very real presence of the divine. The divine spark is within each of us even when we focus only on our failures and limitations.

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When I was a postulant, the bulletin board outside our dining room had the following Advent reminder:

“Many saw the star, but only a few had the courage and wisdom to follow the star that led to love!”

Advent is a time for renewing ourselves in seeking and finding and celebrating the light that is Jesus. It is a time to get back in touch with the star that calls us to believe, to follow, to discover the gift that is Jesus living within me. Do I have the courage?

It is a time for pulling away (for a few moments each day, for perhaps an hour or maybe for even a day) to put aside the hustle and bustle of the pre-Christmas season to concentrate on the star that is beckoning.

Advent is a time to reach into my own soul and find the God who dwells within; the Child who yearns to be born anew in me; the Child who has perhaps been forgotten in the busyness of everyday life; the Child who needs to be tended to, loved, cherished in my heart; the Child who is the Prince of Peace.

Advent is a time of preparation. It is a difficult time if we use it properly. It is not limited to buying gifts, but is discovering anew the gifts within ourselves. It is not limited to decorating trees, but is challenging us anew to prepare (yes, even decorate) our hearts for the rebirth of Jesus in our lives. It is not limited to cleaning our homes for guests, but is calling us to “clean up” and get rid of the clutter in our lives that is preventing us from being a truly Christ-welcoming home. Do I have the courage to follow the star of Advent, the star that leads to love?

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With sadness in our hearts and gratitude for her friendship and good example, the Sisters of Notre Dame announce the death of Sister Mary Donnamay Weigler on Saturday, October 24, just one month short of her 87th birthday.

Sister Mary Donnamay was an only child whose mother died unexpectedly when she was 11 months old. Although her father eventually remarried, Sister later wrote: “It was my grandmother who raised me and had the greatest influence on me during my early years.”
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A devoted educator and musician, Sister Mary Donnamay enjoyed reading the newspaper and working on jigsaw puzzles. Before she passed into eternity last Saturday, a number of residents and nurses at Mary Health of the Sick Nursing Home in Newbury Park commented that Sister never complained about anything. The SNDs who lived with her over the years can attest to her patience and good example.

During her life, Sister always felt especially close to the Blessed Virgin. As she explained: “Three special events in my life happened on a Saturday. I was born on a Saturday, entered religious life on a Saturday, and made Perpetual Vows on a Saturday.” Lastly, Sister Mary Donnamay quietly went home to God on Saturday, October 24.

We thank and praise God for the many graces that she shared with each of us. We can be confident that she will be our powerful intercessor until that day when we see her again. 

Those interested in celebrating the life of Sister Mary Donnamay can join the Sisters of Notre Dame on Saturday, October 31, from 9:00 to 10:00 a.m. at Notre Dame Center (1776 Hendrix Avenue, Thousand Oaks 91360) for a visitation. A service will follow at 10:00 a.m. officiated by the Revered Padriac Loftus, Pastor Emeritus at Saint Mel’s Church in Woodland Hills.

Click here to see Sister’s obituary on the Ventura County Star website. 

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Vision & Challenge is published tri-annually by the Office of Mission Advancement for the Sisters of Notre Dame in California. This issue highlights some exciting new ministries of the sisters, including Sister Jennifer Marie Zimmerman’s position at Christus Ministries. If you would like to be added to our mailing list, please send an email to cvieira@sndca.org.

Click here to read the online version.

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Inspiring Catholic school educators with the charism of the Sisters of Notre Dame is one of Sister Marie Paul Grech’s top priorities. Put simply, that charism (or what the sisters believe) is that God is good and provides for us. They strive to look at the world with hope; and what could be more important in a classroom than a positive attitude?

Sister Marie Paul loves this part of her ministry. Her love for teachers and her respect for the role they play in the lives of their students shows in her dedication to faculty and staff retreats.

“These men and women who give of themselves so generously to touch the hearts of the young are always an inspiration to me. It’s a real joy to continue spreading our Notre Dame charism and spirit,” Sister said.

She taught secondary school for more than 30 years in Ventura and LA counties, as well as in the sisters’ mission in Uganda, Africa. Armed with her faith and a lifetime of experience as a sister, Sister Marie Paul shows others how to infuse their classrooms with joy and compassion.

“Teachers continue our mission in our sponsored and affiliate schools where we are no longer physically present. God’s call to teachers in every Catholic school is vibrant and it is my joy to be part of their ongoing response to that call,” she said.

Sister recently led a retreat for 20 teachers from Saint Jude the Apostle School in Westlake, Calif. The retreat began with a morning Mass and breakfast, followed by small group discussions and a video presentation.DSC_0455

“Your job” Sister Marie Paul told the group “is to help children connect the dots- between science and religion, between what they learn on the playground and in the classroom. Your job is to teach them how to learn.”

Deana Herrera (pictured at right in the photo below) has taught at Saint Jude the Apostle School for seven years. She was motivated to apply Sister Marie Paul’s lessons in her fourth-grade classroom.

“Her positive spirit reminds us to see the good in our everyday lives,” Herrera said. “Sometimes when things don’t go as planned, one of my students will say something really funny. Those moments are God saying ‘Lighten up!’”DSC_0470

Sister Marie Paul is the coordinator of Kindred Hearts Ministries (KHM). KHM offers prayer programs, spiritual events, retreats and many other services for local parishioners provided by the Sisters of Notre Dame. To learn more about KHM, visit www.sndca.org/khm or email Sister Marie Paul at mgrech@sndca.org. Click here for the KHM calendar of events.

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