Thursday, December 11, 2014

To what are you up?

The title of the post is a nod to our Sister Mary Paula, a former English teacher from the days we had a high school aspirancy program. Sister Mary Paula is in our "Queen of Apostles" community here; more about that below.

I arrived back in the States at an interesting time: as soon as I landed, practically speaking, it was Thanksgiving. Last week around the country our sisters hosted "Baby Jesus Birthday Parties" with anywhere from two dozen to three hundred guests; the past two weeks have seen our choir members (alas, without me!) on concert tour--and this weekend, the concert comes home with three performances in our motherhouse chapel. This calls for a lot of community participation.
Makeshift Chapel: Before

Makeshift Chapel: After
Yesterday while two sisters prepped the Assembly Hall to serve as chapel for the week, I was in the kitchen as part of the cookie team. The dough had already been prepared (oatmeal chocolate chip raisin cookies); all I had to do, alongside Sister Guadalupe, was measure it out and plop the dough onto prepared baking sheets. Sister Joan, the local superior, handled the industrial oven side of things. I forget how many hundreds of dozens of cookies we actually need, but the process continues today. I also had my first turn filling in at the switchboard yesterday. There were (mercifully) few calls!

Being back at the motherhouse is an interesting experience in itself. There are actually three distinct communities sharing the facility: Our provincial government (responsible for our life and mission in the US and English-speaking Canada) is one community; I am part of the biggest community, which consists mostly of sisters engaged in the publishing house and its radius of activity; we also have a community (the "Queen of Apostles" community mentioned above) made up especially of our senior sisters, including those who need various levels of nursing assistance. I am learning to get used to the sound of walkers squeaking down the hallways, and loud "whispers" in chapel, as well as the need to simply s-l-o-w down when walking through community areas. The eldest member of the family is Sister Augusta, who is looking forward to her 99th birthday. No walker for her! She speeds along the halls and up and down the stairs with a cane draped over her arm. (I just learned the most interesting anecdote about this Italian missionary: when she was 12, during the Nazi occupation, she and her sister were on a black market errand, and got picked up for questioning. Thankfully, that was all it was, and the girls were sent back home--but 98 year old Sister Augusta still remembers the Nazi officer's beautiful blue eyes!!!)

The three communities share Morning Prayers, Mass, breakfast and lunch (this includes leading the prayers for the first two, and washing the dishes for the second set of activities), but times of formal sharing the Word, community activities and (for the most part) apostolate are specific to each group. One team of senior sisters meets daily in a workshop where they pray the rosary while making the rosaries for our book centers and web store. They are indefatigable.

Meanwhile, a lot of the talk at the dinner table has been about the new "reality" show on the Lifetime network. The Sisterhood purports to follow a group of young women as they "discern" a vocation to religious life. Our postulants watch the show with their phones set to Twitter: using the hashtag #RealPostulants, they give real-time feedback on the show. I confess, I have yet to watch a single episode (they are all on the Lifetime website, so you and I can catch up), but I have been following the Twitter posts, and three of the sisters have done some very reflective blog posts about the show, what it is and what it isn't (Sister Rose, Sister Marie Paul, Sister Hosea all have something to say). One interesting phenomenon that I have observed on Twitter is the number of (real!) communities of sisters who are gathering to watch (and live-tweet) the show together. Have you seen any of the episodes? What stood out for you as particularly authentic (or inauthentic!)?

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