A place called home

Today I have a special blog post written by an IHM Sister reflecting on her “home” in community. She graciously allowed it to be shared for the public’s enjoyment. I resonated so much with my own feelings about our home and listening to some of our elderly members speak about the Mount that I offer it to you with some additions and omissions.

“For 98 years,” we have had one place-which we call home: our motherhouse at
“8001 Cummings Road.” It is here where most of us were introduced to the
religious life as “Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph.” It is
here that the foundations of our uniqueness as “Ursulines” were planted, nourished
and nurtured. It is here where we returned every summer (until the early
70s); it is here we come for conferences, learning seminars, congregational
updates, meetings, assemblies and chapters. It is home for our major
celebrations; especially our “profession of vows”,jubilees, anniversaries, and funerals.

It is a place of new beginnings when a sister makes her first vows and it
is a place of retirement when one no longer can actively minister. It is
the place where we make our first commitment and it is the final resting
place when God calls us home. It is the intangible bonds which have
developed over the years, the spirit underlying the relationships which
define our uniqueness. Nothing can replace these relationships. What is it
that makes this home? for me?

What is the strong link that binds me to Home?

It is rising each morning knowing that in a short while our family meets
together around the table, the altar in our simple but elegant chapel for
morning Liturgy or the Eucharistic Celebration. Whether I am confined to my
room using in-house channel or brought down in my wheel chair, walk with
a walker, and drive myself with a mobile cart or walk unassisted I actually
physically, participate with all our sisters in what is one of the
essential parts of our religious life—daily Eucharist. We know Jesus Christ in the
breaking of the bread and in sharing the cup of salvation. We believe that
where two or three of us are gathered in his name, Jesus is in our midst
and that whatever we ask in his name he will give us.

It is in this place where we come together for communal evening prayers. It
is here where I can sit quietly in the Presence of God uniting my prayers
with the needs of the entire global world. But I am not alone; everywhere
around me are sisters affiliated with me in an sacred, invinsible, specific
covenant. Like Jesus, who prayed-in solitude-in the midst of action, and-in
public gatherings of his people, we promise to be faithful to personal and
communal prayer.

It is here where the Eucharist is central to our lives; where the
sacraments of reconciliation and anointing are celebrated communally; where
we extend our times of prayer to the People of God who sometimes gather with us in petition and intercession. The link among us is situated in the call we
all answered in entering this congregation. This relationship is real but
intangible embedded in spirituality but lived in practicality.

This Home is indeed sacred space for me: it is not just brick and mortar
but rather the vitality which the various spaces imbibe from the
relationships that formed our history, enhance our present and gives us
courage to move into the future.

Its bricks remind me of the sacrifices our first sisters made and so many
of us continue to make in order to ensure we would have a home. Whether I
walk slowly through the “hallways” leading to the dining rooms or to the
chapel or the “hallway” leading to health care or residents rooms it is this
kinship which enables me to be.

The windows of this dwelling place bring in the light of God’s external
beauty- a landscape of flowers, bushes, trees planted and nurtured by the loving
hands of many of my sisters; where each segment of the land recalls a
blessed piece of “MSJ” history in time and space.

The various wings of the building make real for me my life as a member of
this religious family:

The community room where relationships begun earlier now enable us to
discuss our lives as women religious; our ministries; or come together to
socialize when we celebrate jubilees of 80,75, 60, 50, 40 and 25 years of service.
The community room a hallowed area in which we have been called to make
serious decisions as a family; where each of us has actively entered into
these life giving processes. This place is a hub for fun times like card
games or bunco; even a tailgate party-another opportunity to meet with my
sisters regardless of walkers, wheel chairs, scooters and or canes; for
reflective times when we gather for contemplative prayer, yearly retreats
or remembering those who died during the past year. Again entering into a
close alliance forming the I into the we a vital source of synergy.

The library where our minds are fed with knowledge needed to carry out
ministerial activities but more so where the soul finds great theological
and spiritual resources; a quiet place to catch up on the news, locally and
nationally; a book mobile that comes to my room if I am not able to get to
the Reading Room or the stacks and if I wish, a time to be an active
member of a book club And it is all mine for the asking. Thus, the
lifelong learning process begun in early years gels into savoring wisdom
and expanding mental acuity even as the aging process shows its signs.

The Health Care Center where so many of our elderly sisters reside; what
sacredness is felt as one walks these hallways knowing here live those who
no longer can be active among us but are with us physically and
spiritually, whose active life was an asset, gift to community and now is
dependent on family, whose countenance glows when another sister visits,
stops in to pray with or helps with reading or addressing envelopes or
simply reminisces days of yore; whatever is needed is there at the hands of
another sister, family member. Lovingly and graciously anytime of the week, day
or night ties of a distinctive union spanning time and age ever increasing
our relationships we are drawn together in community by our passionate love for Jesus Christ and each other.

“Saint Joseph Villa” where I know I will be cared for no matter how
incapacitated I will be, I will never be away from family. I will never be alone. That even though I receive the best of care from staff, one thing I am certain, I
can always be physically present. To this community and to the activities I
have committed myself as a religious member of this congregation whether it
be via channels on the television or having an aide wheel me to the area of the
specific activities. My sisters will be there waiting for me to enter into
the event or in many cases bring the event to me. Again, the ever present
relationship-connectedness which no one can ever take from me for the love
of Jesus Christ unites us in community.

The dining rooms where we meet for meals several times a day; an
opportunity for me to be with my sisters-my family-where I can be part of a
camaraderie that is integral to a family’s life and energy. Whether it is in
the main dining rooms or the dining areas throughout the campus, sisters find life
in discussions, reminiscing, reflecting, sharing today and yesterdays in
laughter or in somber wistfulness or in compassionate sorrow. Kindred souls
empathize, intimately allied in vision and mission as we continue to forge
vibrant forces within this community; this one of a kind family in my
home, our home.

This home is indeed sacred space for me:

Where else can I hear the resounding peals of our chapel bells calling us
to prayer at ” seven am, noon and at four thirty pm most” every day, a united family heeding the call
of Jesus to be who we are and do what we do best?

Where else can I seek the willing hands, hearts and counsel of other
sisters in pastoral care or close sister friends who understand the
queries, the fears and joys I experience as a religious woman?

Who can count the sense of belonging whenever I encounter a sister in
hallowed “hallways” narrating sacred history of who we are together by just
being together?

Who can measure the sense of security, love and affirmation that envelopes
your very being as sisters remember your birthday with a shaky scrawling
signature on a homemade card, or greeted by a great big smile,”smothering you in a warm embrace” even at
times belting out the happy birthday tune wherever and whenever one is met?

Who can describe the underlying “of Angela Merici” that melds us as family in
a home that breathes the very spirit of our founder, which reminds us in
every nook and cranny of the commitment we made living; our life of vows
within community.

Where else will I find the loving attention of my sisters sitting with me
as I begin my last journey of dying; no matter how long the process knowing
that their physical comfort and encouragement and powerful prayers are with
me even to the last?

Or who can ignore the sense of coming home when we meet the body
of a sister as she is wheeled into our front foyer and met by all her
sisters with a hymn or prayer of Thanksgiving and Praise for who she was among us,
raising our hands in blessing as she enters into her final home with God?
What more fitting manner to celebrate the end of ones physical journey as
sister among sisters gathered around the table in our magnificent chapel to
celebrate the Eucharist, rejoicing in the shared gifts of a family member
who has gone home to God? “Who is reunited with the earth by a moving hymn of angels, our Ursuline sisters singing the Magnificat.”

Home is indeed a sacred place where each lives for the other and all live
for God.