|Artwork by Brother Michael O'Neill McGrath, OSFS|
as seen on the cover of America the National Catholic Weekly magazine
Letter from Philippine November 2012
Dear Sisters and friends,
This is my first electronic letter, a challenge, but I was never daunted by a worthwhile challenge and I deeply believe communications, even from afar, through times and space, hold us closer and more united. There are several things I wish to explore with you. First, I am sure each of you rejoiced with the hosts here above at the public canonization of Kateri Tekakwitha, my, our, native American sister in Christ. Really there are so many more un-named, but we all rejoice in the recognition that hopefully will come to indigenous peoples through this public act.
A second thing I rejoice with you about is the coming together of the Canandian and United States provinces – more like my “new world”, this large, expansive, land mass filled with people longing for the Love of the Lord to meet them in their everyday lives, joys, and sufferings. I spent the first half of my life in France and Europe and the second half in the “new world.” For me, the ocean was not a barrier, for you the border must not be a barrier. We share this sense of mission regardless of the place where we are called to share our strong belief that Love builds a single world, a single Kingdom.
For my small group, who came representing the Society, times were difficult, decisions did not neatly fit into known patterns. There were cultural differences that caused misunderstandings. There were losses, with sickness and deaths of religious and students. The vision, which had seemed so clear back home in France, at times seemed impossible. There may be moments when these will be your experiences and feelings too, but these things can teach you to truly count on each other. I used to write Sophie and complain that what was true for France did not fit the situations here and we had to change to enter fully into our reality. You, too, will need that ability to let go and change for the good of the whole and the mission. Culture can be an obstacle, or a richness. Clearly you will work to mine the richness that is offered with this new diversity. It really does challenge and gift us with its power to open our hearts.
I mentioned how difficult were the losses and deaths, among our own and our parents, students, neighbors. I write in sympathy for those of you who shared these recent last journeys of sisters, friends, and family. “Unless a grain falls into the ground”, a timeless message to recognize how life and death are meant to be about new life. There is pain in these losses; let it not pull you down, but forward, with renewed life. It is that life to be shared which called us into this time and place. You may feel, as I often felt, with our smaller numbers, perhaps we were stretched too far. But, when each of us looked about and saw the people who, in so many ways cried out for the Love of God to enter their lives; we recalled how Sophie continued to expand against the limits: she was a believer. Can you be any less?
I know many of you have taken my experience of night prayer over the world to heart. I also know many of you lie awake at night wishing you could fall asleep. First, a challenge, why are you so awake? Is it overwork? Anxiety? Remember the work is the Lord’s and he would prefer you trust Him. Or, are you awake because, like Samuel, you are being called in the night? If so, I offer again my experience of prayer over the world. Lift a people, a country, a concern to the Heart of our loving God. Share the burden and the hope. The night may pass more easily united in love. Second, I feel humbled that this experience of mine has also brought this call to pray with our broken world in a new way into our schools. The European Network set up a world wide ” uniting with Philippine in prayer” initiative, inviting any school that wished, to choose a country experiencing difficulties, find out about the country, write a prayer for that country, share the findings and a prayer for the country electronically with all the participating schools. Perhaps, you can do this too, exploring a part of our world that seems remote but is close to the Heart of our God.
Lastly, I know many of you love that image that depicts me in my elder years kneeling in prayer among the Potowatami. You see them leaving leaves and stones on my habit wondering if I move without them knowing it. This image gained me the name “Woman-Who-Prayers-Always “. Lately, I have reflected on that and I offer you my thoughts. I was praying in sorrow, in failure, for I could do nothing else – not speak, not really cook, not carry water. They did not see my weakness or failure. They saw strength in me knowing my real place in the scheme of things. Your sister, Melanie Guste, recently called this element of my spirituality “finding my knees”. I think it is apt, but I challenge you to look again at what is not working in your lives or plans, what seems without hope of success, and knowing as you do, that the work is the Lord’s, find your knees. It may not turn everything around, but who knows what others will take from your humble need of the Love and compassion that you so wish to pass on to others.
I am delighted to celebrate with you. You think this is my feast, but it is really the feast of our mission. Today, be in touch with that mission. May your prayer lead you deeper into the Heart of our God who calls us His own and wishes us to find as many ways as possible to share that love with others. May your actions lead you deeper into His compassion for each other and for all who are pressed to the margins. May your day begin with Thanks and end with Thanks, and between, be lived to the fullest.
Editors Note: I received this most wonderful email on Friday and with permission from Sr. Kearney share it with you today. May you find "Philippine's letter" as inspiring as I did!
Happy Feast of St. Rose Philippine Duchesne! Through the creative devotion of Bonnie Kearney, RSCJ, we have this wonderful “letter” from St. Philippine to inspire us on this feast day and in the days to come. May Philippine’s love for God and for people continue to guide our way.
The Provincial Team, US Province
Barbara Dawson, RSCJ, Meg Causey, RSCJ, Sheila Hammond, RSCJ, Diana Wall, RSCJ