Reflection: We are Everyday-Teachers Met with Hope

I do not consider myself to be a teacher or leader or spokesperson with authority but this morning, it occurred to me that part of Christian-living means that we are everyday-teachers met with hope. To be Christian is to be hopeful and by our example in choosing God, we become as models and teachers to one another.

Parenthood is a domain in which I find myself living this out. What looks like clutter and a mess of children’s things became for me, an actual encounter with hope. At school, they’ve been learning about Advent. At the shops, they ask for advent calendars with chocolate inside. A few weeks ago I found a neglected plush advent wreath I had bought years ago and decided it was time to mend the broken pieces and make a replacement for the one candle that went walkabout. And today I found rather unassumingly among the mess, a deliberately placed solitary purple candle, with the other three tucked away.

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Someone’s little hands had removed the four candles I had put in place so that they would not go astray and rightfully let one stand.

I am continually humbled by the presence of children, for their wisdom and simplicity. But today, it is hope that stands out for me. Children do soak things up, they do listen to what we say and watch very closely what we do. But when we can see the connection that has been made, for me at least, it is a sign of God’s hope in the world, the kind of hope we hear echoed in the words of St Paul to the Corinthians:

I give thanks to my God always on your account
for the grace of God bestowed on you in Christ Jesus,
that in him you were enriched in every way…
God is faithful, and by him you were called to fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. (1 Cor. 1:4-5a, 9)

With St Paul and like St Paul, I give thanks to my God for the graces given to each one of us, especially through children. The FCJ Sisters began from this lived experience of caring for children and always through instruction, formation and education. To be Christian is to be hopeful: not only because we await the presence of God-with-us through Jesus Christ, Emmanuel at Christmastime, but also because of God’s first faithfulness and love for us found in everyday moments.

Now God creates all things but does not stop creating. God forever creates and forever begins to create and creatures are always being created and in the process of beginning to be created. | Meister Eckhart

As we begin this new liturgical year, as we make way to commemorate the beginning of the Jesus story, let us be mindful that wherever we are on life’s journey – young or old, new to the faith or seasoned – by our actions, example and beings, we are teachers to one another, co-creators of life and sharers of good news.

On Pilgrimage: Peace Follows

I will not lie. It has not sunk in that I’m heading to the airport tomorrow. I haven’t even finished packing and there are still last-minute errands to run. I am nervous about it and by nature, prone to anxiety, but these are the realities of my experience.

However as I have slowly put things together, I have received messages of kindness and blessing from the FCJ sisters, who’ve gifted me with this opportunity to France. So to you sisters who have wished me well, thank you.

I would never have thought I’d be here right now. A few years ago I applied for a job that was advertised. It seemed to fit my requirements yet still accommodate my family-oriented lifestyle. I didn’t know then how long I would last in the role, whether I would like it or whether we’d get along (the job and I). I didn’t know what the future would bring. I had no knowledge of the FCJ charism, barely any formal work experience, no familiarity with the schools and no background link, except for my faith. All I knew was that an avenue of faith expression was important to me. I didn’t particularly seek to work in the Church or with religious sisters.

But trust in my gut I did, and I applied for the job. An outsider, an unknown into a brand new role that had no precedent or predecessor. I knew that whatever story I had to read, become acquainted with and eventually promote would not be an easy task. But on board the train I jumped, to Destination Unknown, and here we are now.

It’s funny how things have worked out. I’ve not ever really focussed on one goal or career path. I studied and grew up with girls who were driven from the time they were fifteen. Many have since become the doctors, lawyers, accountants and other professionals they set out to be. I left school, signed up for a degree with no definitive job prospect and here I am.

Looking back at the uncertainties and risks I have taken, with regards to a career or livelihood, it’s safe to say that I have lived rather ‘carelessly’ in the lack of planning I have actually done.

But what have I done? I have noticed in myself anyway, the propensity to, on arriving at a situation or life-stage, give it a go, with the little that I have and a whole lot of sincerity and best effort. I trust wholeheartedly in the guidance and protection of God who goes before always. I don’t always go where God calls me (I am human after all), but this same human can and does also attest to the fidelity of God.

No matter where you are in life, or where you want to go, peace follows where God leads. I suggest you go with God.

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A ‘Back to School’ Reflection

Our summer holiday period has come to a close here in Australia, as many homes and families begin to adjust (back) into the school year. My own six-year-old took his new toy plush this morning, looked him in the eye and counselled as only a sage of astute wisdom can do: Now, Robin, I’m going back to school today. I’m going back to my normal routine, which means I’ll be at school. It’s a bit different for you because you haven’t quite done this [experienced this] before, but it’s OK… Cow will be here, and Batman too. And my mum will be home to play with you.” I marvelled at his words and actions and the way in which he understood that a new pace of life will be put in motion. My son also accepts that it’s part of his role, his ‘job’ at this stage of his life, to go to school.

It’s important to remember that for many children in the world, education is a privilege. There are those who want it and are willing to risk their lives for it, and on the other end of the spectrum, there are those who begrudge it. But receiving an education, whether it’s appreciated or not, is inevitably a gift that engages and enables life.

Shabana Basij-Rasikh is a courageous young Afghan woman, whose story is one that values and embraces the importance of education. In the following TED talk, she speaks of the devotion and determination of her family who, contrary to custom and the law, made sure that she and her sister went to school. Of her father, she says, “There was no question that his children would receive an education, including his daughters, despite the Taliban, despite the risks. To him, there was greater risk in not educating his children.”

The task of educating people, especially girls, has been present since the beginning of the FCJ Society. Marie Madeleine saw to it that boarding houses, schools and centres for the support and betterment of women’s lives were established. To this very day, education remains a prolific part of Mme d’Houët’s legacy, and further more, is instrumental in the shaping and forming of young people in the ways of the gospel. Its importance, though we may take it for granted from time to time, must never be overlooked.

KEEPING-COMPANY.COM FCJ Sisters Australia

We remember all those who are not fortunate to receive a safe and sound education. We remember all students, teachers and members of the community that work and devote their time and gifts, in this domain. We give thanks for our teachers, our guides and mentors, for our parents and families who’ve supported and continue to support our learning, regardless of our age. We ask for the graces of wisdom and discernment, that we may continually open and avail ourselves mentally and spiritually to the new and different ways in which God calls us to life.

In relaying the story of my son, I wish to highlight the grace of detachment, shown in his ease of transition. As much as he loved his school holidays, he accepts that he has to change his routine, and thankfully (or hopefully!) continues to welcome each change. Each day is a wonderful gift in his eyes, and I know in myself that I can learn a great deal from my children.

Often change can be unnerving. It has to do with uncertainty and letting go. Nervousness builds up on the first day, be it at school, university or in a job. We are always ‘new’ at some stage, new to a group, new to a family, new to a community. Being able to adapt is part of surviving, and without change, we cannot thrive. Even people who’ve been at the same place, in the same community or state of life for their entire existence also encounter opportunities for change. Where change is unsettling, subtlety and gentleness are key to a happy transition. What my son said to his toy is an example of quiet confidence and gentle affection that we can emulate, as adults. A kind word, a gesture of tenderness and the gift of presence to another can turn what seems unpleasant, into something more bearable.

-GA

Related links:

Another remarkable example of education-for-life is the story of architect and community-builder, Diébédo Francis Kéré.

Click here for a list of FCJ current educational centres and institutions around the world.

Sunset Panoramic – Frankston, VIC

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Sunset Panoramic Frankston Victoria

Image | Geralyn Tan, October 2013.

Overlooking the horizon off the Frankston foreshore: How broad, how wide, how vast is this beauty in God’s creation. How broad, how wide and how vast God’s love for us is!

Frankston (VIC) is home to John Paul College, a regional high school, half of which was formerly Stella Maris FCJ. John Paul College still remembers its FCJ heritage through its past pupils, its connection with the Sisters, as well as having one faction of their House System called D’Houet, after FCJ Founder, Marie Madeleine d’Houët.

Prayer | For Students

Keeping Company, Keeping-Company.com, prayerHigh school final exams are approaching. University assessments are underway. Here is a Prayer for Students, which the senior classes of our two FCJ Colleges (Genazzano FCJ and Benalla FCJ) will receive, as a token of our support. We are circulating these, assigning each student to a prayer partner from within the Society, the Companions in Mission (CiM) and the office staff.

As the good Jesuits from Ireland have made clear: “When you pray, you are never alone. You are part of a global community.” And so for you and for you to pass along:

A Prayer for Students
Loving God,
I ask to know your presence
In all that I do,
in all that I think,
and in all that I say.
Guide my hands, my eyes and my ears
In my writing, reading and listening.
Still my heart, calm my nerves
And inspire me through your Spirit.

With thanks for the gift of learning
And for the privilege of education
May I never forget
That no matter the outcome,
All the work I do is yours.

Amen.

So, did you hear the one about the Jesuit from Myanmar?

Well there really isn’t a joke here, despite the opening line…But what we do have is cause for celebration – the ordination of the Fr Wilbert Mireh SJ, Myanmar’s first Jesuit priest. The ‘firsts’ of things are always exciting, uplifting and inspiring.

In the spirit of community therefore, I’d like to share with you, something about the Faithful Companions of Jesus Sisters in Myanmar.

There is a community of FCJ Sisters in Yangon, Myanmar, the Province of Asia-Australia’s youngest mission. It is a vastly different context from that of Australia, with the majority of its population being Buddhist. Myanmar is also one of South-east Asia’s poorest countries, having seen political, social and economical upheaval. However through education, support groups and leadership formation, Srs Agnes, Sisca and Marion FCJ live and work with the people for a better world:

We also continue to support educational and development needs in poor areas in central Myanmar by providing educational resources, toilets, and wells to schools and villages.

Hospitality is an important part of our community ministry. We welcome many people to our community each year. Some come to join us for prayer and a meal, others for short stays of a few days and some for a month.

Our community is greatly enriched by all. | Sr Marion FCJ

To read more about the FCJ mission in Myanmar, you can visit the Society’s web site. Congratulations to Fr Mireh and continual gratitude to the FCJ community in Yangon for their lives of dedication, service and love, for God’s greater glory!