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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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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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The Sisters of Notre Dame were recently featured in the Acorn Newspaper! Click the link here to read the article.

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By Sister Mary Rebekah Kennedy, SND

The time of Lent is a concentrated period in which we gaze contemplatively at the face of Jesus. Each of us might search for something different in his eyes – acceptance, understanding, love, forgiveness, or guidance.

We often approach Jesus aware of and burdened down with our failings, our shortcomings, our biases. My wish for all of us at this season, however, is that in our contemplation of the face of Jesus we might see not our faults and foibles reflected in his eyes but that we might see ourselves as only he sees us. In the Spiritual Canticle, John of the Cross writes:

When You regarded me
Your eyes imprinted your grace in me,
In this, You loved me again,
And thus my eyes merited
to also love what You see in me…
Let us go forth together to see
ourselves in Your beauty.

These words give me hope. They remind me that God has made me in His Divine Image. The faults and flaws that I see in myself are invisible to his eyes. When I am present to Jesus as my constant companion I am able to see myself reflected in his eyes and to love myself as He loves me. I then can become a true reflection of the Divine Image.

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They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we would like to see Jesus.” John 12:21. Is this not what I ask of God every day? What a grace in my life it would be if, on a daily basis, Jesus and I went forth together, my eyes seeing in myself and in others the goodness He sees and loves. When Jesus looks at me, he does not see a fragmented person. He sees me whole and holy, as he made me, his beauty reflected in me. Gazing on the face of Jesus, loving in myself what he unconditionally loves in me can lead me to also see others as a reflection of his beauty.

And so, during this Lenten season, what will each of us seek? Will I seek my own way? My own preferences? A front-row seat to my own opinions? Or will I seek the face of Jesus, asking Him to hold me as well as every person in His loving gaze, going forth together (Jesus, my family and friends, myself) to see ourselves in His beauty.

 

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DSC_0063LISTEN to Sister Cristina Marie Buczkowski share the experiences that led her to become a Sister of Notre Dame.

This post is in celebration of National Catholic Sisters week and the wonderful difference sisters have made around the world.

Do you have a story about a sister you would like to share? Click here to tell us all about it!

 

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In one of Pope Francis’ reflections on consecrated life, he hit upon a reality that resonated deeply with me.  Speaking about community life, Francis acknowledged that

“It’s good for the elderly to communicate their wisdom to the young, and it’s good for young people to gather this wealth of experience and wisdom.”

I experienced this when I entered the community at the age of 18.  It was a different time, and at 18 women were marrying out of high school, so entering the convent was not such a surprise.  I was responding to the voice of my God and I simply trusted.

At that time there were four retired sisters living in the same building as we were as postulants and novices. It was an experience in history for me. Sister Mary Brigid, Sister Mary Walburge, Sister Mary Cletus and Sister Mary Balbina embodied all that it meant to live a lifetime commitment to consecrated life. At the time I didn’t even suspect what I didn’t know about the new life I had chosen- or that had chosen me!  But I could recognize that these women had succeeded in making it a lifelong choice. These were prayerful women, holy women, women who had lived the Gospel and their vowed life with joy and dedication.

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I remember walking by their small rooms, noting the rosaries in their hands, and being sure that they were praying for me and for the needs of the world. It was only years later that I learned more about the many sacrifices they made in coming to California from their native Ohio, and about the many challenges they embraced in beginning a new venture in California. All I knew as a young postulant was that these were holy women, models of all I wanted to be. Their quiet lives in prayerful retirement motivated me to want to

“…carry it forward, not to safeguard it, but to move forward with the challenges that life brings us, to carry it forward for the good of their religious orders and of the entire Church.”

Pope Francis said it so well! As we celebrate our consecrated life, Francis’ words challenge us to allow the Holy Spirit to animate us, and to live our lives with joy

“always open to the voice of God who speaks, who opens up, who leads and guides us toward the horizon.”

– Sister Marie Paul Grech, SND

Sisters Mary Walburge and Balbina were among the first SNDs to come to California. Follow their journey here.

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Sister Mary Grace Leung reflects on a diversity workshop she attended during Province Day on January 25th.

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Last weekend presenters from the Kaleidoscope Institute were invited by the Ad Gentes Committee (Sisters Mary Lisa, Jane Marie, Mary Paulynne, Florette Marie, Mary Bernadette and myself) to conduct a workshop for our Sisters on developing competent skills for nurturing relationships in our lives and ministries within a multicultural context.  Although many Sisters have extensive experience living and working abroad, the purpose of the workshop was to help us grow in communication skills for the continuously changing diversity around us, to be sensitive to people from different cultures, and to understand ourselves better by examining the cultures we grew up in. 

Each of us is a sum of cultures – family, cultural, geographic, educational, ethnic and professional. The workshop used a variety of methods to explore some of our beliefs, values and personal preferences through table discussions, scripture study and spontaneous responses to the facilitators’ questions. We were encouraged to use listening skills in a deeper way that would be mutually inclusive.  For example, the Kaleidoscope Bible Study Process asks that a scripture passage be read three times. After each reading, participants are invited to share their reflections based on a question posed by the facilitator. Mutual invitation is the process where a participant invites another participant in the group to share their reflection. As a result, everyone is given time to respond and no one is left out.

Another method of discovering oneself was the examination of low and high-context communication styles. For example, a low context person is individually oriented, and focuses on action and solutions. A high context person is group-oriented and focuses on relationships first before taking action.  We discover our preferred working styles and learn how to stretch and accommodate others who have different preferences.

As a result of the workshop, I was reaffirmed in who I am and how I use my communication skills for building community. I was also challenged to recognize that there are many ways to work together. I am bi-cultural, born and raised in New York City by Chinese parents. This workshop shed light on what my communication style is based on all my different “cultures.”  I am really looking forward to part two of this workshop which will be held in March. We are Sisters of Notre Dame looking to a future full of hope, one that will see increasing diversity in our members, and that is truly a wonderful thing!

Sister Mary Grace Leung, SND

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1512560_673410886036339_1966250748_nSister Mary Karlynn Werth’s job as “house administrator” keeps her busy maintaining the Provincial House in Thousand Oaks, California where she lives. She and her small staff keep the convent clean and in proper working order year-round, doing everything from carpet cleanings to elevator repairs.

Recently she took on a part-time position at the Hilton Fund for Sisters in Agoura, California. She handles mail from Catholic sisters all over the world who are seeking grants from the Fund.

The Fund was established 1986 by Conrad N. Hilton (who founded the Hilton hotel chain) to support the apostolic work of Roman Catholic sisters. Any project supported by the Fund must have a sister involved in it.

Sister Mary Karlynn is moved by the heroic projects that come across her desk.

“I feel honored that I’m able to do this. When you hear about these things, they make an impression on you. You have to stop and think: What do we really need?” she said.

The sisters who request grants from the Fund need help in many forms.

“The things they ask for are very simple,” Sister Mary Karlynn said. Some groups need educational supplies like desks or computer training resources, others want nails or wood for building projects, and still others request pens, pencils, or sewing machines.

One cause that stood out to Sister Mary Karlynn was the mission of the Good Shepherd Sisters in France to help a community in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) negatively affected by the mining industry. The Good Shepherd Sisters run a school for children in Kolwezi (DRC) and offer meals to them so they can escape grueling and dangerous work in the mines, where many begin working when they are just three years old. To learn more about the children of Kolwezi, click here.

Sister Mary Karlynn is pleased that the Hilton Fund for Sisters is able to support the work the Good Shepherd Sisters are doing. She hopes to stay on at the Fund as long as she can. Previously, Sister taught intermediate and junior high school, and served as a principal for many years. She was born and raised in California, and took her final vows as a Sister of Notre Dame in 1967.

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Martin Luther King, Jr. once said that “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”

Each day we encounter the incomprehensible, we often do not see the “whole staircase.”  There are so many opportunities for us to demonstrate faith in ourselves, in others and mostly in God.  When I was in Uganda several years ago, I was touched by the parish community’s heartfelt rendition of the Creed each Sunday. These were people who had little.  The church itself had a dirt floor, simple benches, and no glass on the windows. People had walked from as far away as eight kilometers to come to Mass.  The Creed was sung with alacrity, resounding in the tiny church to the beat of drums and homemade instruments.  With each sung article of the Creed, the refrain was almost shouted:  “YES, LORD, I BELIEVE!”

Still today, I try to sing this in my heart. We do not understand so many things in life: the death of a young person, “YES, LORD, I BELIEVE!” The destruction and suffering caused by a typhoon, “YES, LORD, I BELIEVE!”  The conflict in a neighborhood or in a family, “YES, LORD, I BELIEVE!” The anxiety of unemployment, “YES, LORD, I BELIEVE!”  The debilitating aging process, “YES, LORD, I BELIEVE!”

If we have faith, we know that in all things, God is still here. That knowledge doesn’t take away the pain, but it does give us a measure of hope.  Pope Francis is a man of hope, a leader who reaches out to the neediest among us.  He is not afraid to embrace suffering humanity and to give us an example of what it means to live a life of faith and integrity.  As we come to the end of the Year of Faith, hopefully our faith is deeper, stronger, and more embracing of those whose lives we touch.  And if we still feel we have work to do, we can always make a commitment to make the next day, the next week, or the next year another time of faith, and give ourselves another chance to fall more deeply in love with the God who loves us so much!

I read the following statement recently about faith and our need to continually work at it:  “I was playing on the surface of my faith most of the time and not plunging into its depths.  I was splashing about in the shallow waters, when I needed to be scuba diving.” (Tom Mangan)

So, how about it?  Will you continue the journey of faith?  Will you join me in the scuba dive?

God didn’t promise days without pain, laughter without sorrow, or sun without rain,

but He did promise strength for the day, comfort for the tears, and light for the way.

If God brings you to it, He will bring you through it.

-Sister Marie Paul Grech, SND

 
 

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Dear friends,

I have recently relocated to California from Cleveland, Ohio to join the staff of the Hilton Fund for Sisters as the Executive Assistant for Administration and Finance.  As a Sister of Notre Dame from the Chardon Province, I have had broad and varied ministry experiences.  Earlier in my career I was a teacher and assistant principal, and then a counselor.  More recently I have worked as a program administrator for clinical services in a community mental health agency, and as an assistant to the facilities director for our Notre Dame educational center complex.  Before coming here, I served in the role of dean of students in an inner-city Catholic high school.  I am excited to use all of the skills I have gained, especially in administration, to contribute to this important work to support the ministries of other Sisters.  I feel privileged to be a part of the philanthropic legacy of Conrad Hilton.

Sr. Julie Bruss, SND

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