Vale Sr Margaret Mary (Peter) Wilson fcJ

peterwilsonfcj.jpgToday, 20 December 2016, the FCJ Sisters in Australia, together with all the Sisters of the Society linked through prayer, and their friends, farewelled Sr Peter Wilson fcJ at the Genazzano College Chapel.

Sr Peter was most recently a resident at St. Catherine’s Aged Care Facility, where she continued, despite the frailty of age, to bring joy and companionship to those around her. True to her profession and calling, Sr Peter remarked: “What brings me joy as an FCJ Sister is when we gather as a community or at larger FCJ occasions, there exists beautiful bonding which is our companionship with Jesus and with others.” I learned at the Vigil held yesterday on 19 November for Peter, a few outstanding things about her. One was that putting others’ needs ahead of her own was something she did so naturally right til the end. Another was her beautiful sense of joie-de-vivre and fun, which her family and fellow-FCJs so readily recounted with fondness.

It is always a sad time when a life ends, and I express my sympathies to the family of Peter, as well as to the FCJ Sisters, but as we remember during this Advent time in the lead up to Christmas, God is with us, and it is for that I am so thankful and certain of Peter’s peace and delight.

Sr Peter Wilson fcJ was born, Margaret Mary Wilson in June 1932. She made her First Profession on 4 September 1953. In her long life, she was missioned to the Indigenous people in Broome, WA; Norwood in Adelaide, SA; Frankston, VIC and Shepparton, VIC. She was reunited with God on Wednesday 14 December 2016.

 

Update: Celebrating the Year of Consecrated Life #YCL2015

Greetings, salutations and apologies for not having written anything in far too long.

My excuse is that we have been busy behind-the-scenes, preparing for the Year of Consecrated Life, which begins on 30 Nov 2014.

And for that we are very excited and joyful because…

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Please join us in prayer, support and kind works for religious vocation. And please stay tuned for more updates!

Thank you for your patience and ongoing companionship!

Geralyn
(on behalf of the Mission and Identity Team)

21 September 2014: Happy Birthday, Marie Madeleine

We were driving through the French countryside as Sr Mary Campion told us about the caring quality of Madame d’Houët. This was not news to us since we know that as a landowner, mentor,  founderess and caregiver,  she was a woman who looked after and cared for  the many in her charge.

What did occur to me however was that in the midst of hard work and discipline, Marie Madeleine ensured and encouraged that those in her care took Sundays off to picnic, play games and simply enjoy each other’s company. Her love for dancing as well as playing with the many children in her domain taught me that life for this woman, was ultimately for living and for celebrating, echoing the gratuitous joy expressed in the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius:

Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my understanding, my memory and my will. You have given all to me, and I return them. Give me only your love and your grace, for that is enough for me.

How have you celebrated today?

I know that for two of our FCJs in Melbourne, they celebrated their own birthdays with their sisters gathered around them with cream sponge cake.

For other companions, glasses were raised in memory of Marie Madeleine.

As for me, although I had a very sombre and much-needed day of rest, I now have champagne to sip on as I wind down for the evening with my husband and children.

Thank you, chère Marie Madeleine, for reminding me that life is for living and for celebrating, no matter how unceremoniously. That we take time to to pause and reflect and ponder the gifts given to us in this world is grace enough,  don’t you think? What are your thoughts?

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VIDEO: How To Change The World

The following post contains a video.  If you cannot see it in your email, please click here.

I have only just discovered “Kid President”, a series of web clips starring a young boy with a huge heart. Many of his videos are remarkably refreshing, injecting humour,  dynamism and authentic goodness into the online world. This one in particular has a wonderful message for us all: the world is changed by ordinary people – little people living out big love.

On Canonisation, Happiness and the Catholic Faith (A Personal Reflection)

You know that spark of energy you sometimes get in the morning (perhaps after coffee)? When you open your eyes and feel so grateful for another day? I had that today, and it’s not even my birthday. Though the morning has worn off, I’m still bursting to share my joy with you because it involves you too. True story: I woke up feeling especially good about being Catholic.

Making headlines the world over is the canonisation of two of the twentieth-century Church’s most influential Catholics, the late popes, John XXIII and John Paul II, on this Divine Mercy Sunday. I’m not old enough to remember the ‘good pope John’ and have a smattering at best, of the significant events of John Paul II’s pontificate. But today I rejoice in celebration with the millions of faithful worldwide as the current pope, Francis and his predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI officiate at the ceremony in this historic event. What’s there not to be happy about?

Keeping-Company.com

Photo: Reuters. Pilgrims pose with cut-out pictures of the two pontiffs in Vatican City.

Feeling a little left-out of the events in Rome, I rummaged around before Mass this morning, for a photo of John Paul II that I had kept from among my grandparents’ snapshots. It shows the then-spritely pontiff descending a plane which had landed at the miniscule dot of an island-nation known as Singapore. The year was 1986. If memory serves me right, it was one of the proudest days for my grandfather, who often told us stories of his pilgrimages to various holy sites around the world, including Europe and the Holy Land. With the pope in his hometown, my grandfather must have been over the moon that a part of that world was now in his backyard.

John Paul II, Singapore 1986. (C) Keeping-Company.com

It is this precise universality of the Catholic faith that I treasure today. I recalled the funeral Mass of John Paul II that was televised internationally. I remember seeing the masses of people, from all over the world, notable and unknown alike. I recall the reported conversions and return of many Catholics to the Church attributed to the death of such a holy man. I remember that this man installed World Youth Day, the largest international gathering of Catholic youth in the same place at the same time.

Yes, as crowds gather, and news reporters, photographers and videographers prepare their devices to record this day in phenomenal numbers, it is easy to say that the Catholic faith is a beautiful thing.

But in truth, this feeling of joy and pride at being Catholic came about on Saturday at some point. I know we are in the season of Easter, typically marked by hope, rejuvenation and joy, but yesterday was especially so, at the ordination of some friends in the Redemptorist congregation (CSsR) to the Order of Deacon. Both provinces of Australia and Vietnam were united in prayer. Members from the Kew community of FCJ Sisters were in attendance, in support of their Vietnamese neighbours, whose monastery they frequent for daily Mass.

Keeping-Company.com | Spirituality, Mission and Identity

Photo: G. Anderson, 2014. Stole and Dalmatic (liturgical garments) laid out, ready for Investiture.

I have written about this topic before, but I will say it again: to be present at a public profession of faith is something remarkable. To witness and pray with and for a candidate – and friend – is a humbling experience that makes the presence of God almost tangible.

PicsArt_1398482807411Officiating the ceremony was Auxiliary Bishop of Melbourne, Vincent Long OFM Conv. who spoke an impassioned and heartfelt homily to the congregation. Bishop Long’s speech lamented the current climate of Catholic identity in Australia as “a seriously damaged brand, at least at the level of public perception in the wake of the Royal Commission Hearing.”

But he goes on to say that despite the “battered, bruised” image of the Church, we are nevertheless at a “critical juncture as the new exile.” He called for the congregation, but especially the deacons, to be as prophets at this time, “prophets who accompany their people and point us to the sign of the new kairos (reign/kingdom of God), and lead them in the direction of the kingdom” with humility, service and simplicity.

What gave me hope is that these are words that I, an ordinary member of the Church, can believe in. Bishop Long acknowledged the real brokenness of our time, but not with despair. “Our wilderness [as Catholics], our exile is daunting, disorienting and challenging. And in the pope’s words, we are bruised, hurt and dirty.”

For all our efforts to promote the mission and identity of the Church, and the gospel at large, such a statement speaks from a place of truth, from a place of reality that we cannot ignore. Yes, this wilderness Bishop Long speaks of can sometimes feel like a rather isolated place, and that “the wind of secularisation has blown away what’s left of our defenses.” But more so are we encouraged to band together, and “…not to retreat fearfully. Not to disengage with the world, not to, as [the] pope says, not to engage in self-referential pop, but a time of faith, a time of courage as we are called to accompany our people in the new exodus.”

I draw emphasis on the themes of accompaniment and companionship that the FCJ Sisters live by. I thank most graciously, our friends at the Redemptorist community, especially to the new deacons, who have shown us by example, what beauty, grace and joy there is in professing our faith. May God’s blessings continue to be upon Pope Francis and his fellow leaders, and all the faithful. May we, like John Paul II and John XXIII, all aspire to sanctity – the radical sanctity that comes from true humility, selfless service and love for Jesus Christ.

How is that for challenge and inspiration? If I have not convinced you, let me end here, with a quote from a saint:

Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and ‘Hallelujah’ is our song. | John Paul II

By virtue of our internationality and universality, in what joins us and in what diversifies us, may we continue to true to the gospel as members of the faithful. For all Christians, this is indeed a happy day. Alleluia, alleluia! Not just this day, but every day.

Insight: What I learnt about Marie Madeleine from a basket of oranges

KEEPING-COMPANY.COM | FCJ Spirituality, Mission and Identity

The story of FCJ foundress, Marie Madeleine d’Houët really caught my attention when I learnt that she was a wife and mother, as well as a religious sister; I suppose because this distinction resonated with me as a young wife/mother with a yearning for a deepening spiritual identity. In her latest book, Grit and Grace, Ann Rennie devotes a chapter to the maternal side of Marie Madeleine, surveying the various experiences Marie Madeleine went through during the course of her life, including her sudden widowhood, which was followed by motherhood. The chapter looks at aspects of her character from what we know of her relationships with others – with family, her in-laws, her son, Eugène, the students at the college he attended, etc. and what we find is a devoted, loyal and exceedingly faithful mother in Marie Madeleine.

But what of this business of founding a religious congregation? What of the fervent prayer and religious practices that sustained her spiritual life? What of the personal discernment, which resulted in entering religious life? In the second stage of her life as a religious, Rennie writes:

In the first half of her life, Marie Madeleine was able to prioritise the domestic and familial, while in the second half of her work [as founder of a religious congregation] – God’s work – was pre-eminent. | Grit and Grace (2013), p.23.

One anecdote on the maternal nature of Marie Madeleine that I personally love is the way in which she cares for and fusses over others, especially in matters of health and nourishment. In her letters to her daughter-in-law, Louise, Marie Madeleine seems insistent on sending the young family a case or basket oranges from her orchards.

Marie Madeleine writes:

My dear daughter, I am very distressed to know both of you are ill…I beg you earnestly, each of you to look after yourselves and not to tire yourselves. It is great foolishness not to look after your health and this will be the greatest wrong you could do for your children. …I would love to send you a case of oranges for them [the children] – for you too, but they are not quite ripe for another month. I shall put them on a coach and I hope that they will reach you promptly. | Letter, stamped Nice, 12 February 1839.

While many rightly understand this to be a show of Mme d’Houët’s generosity, I have on reflection, come to see it as particularly symbolic of her utmost devotion and continual fidelity as ‘mother’, even though she was well and truly immersed in the duties and domain of life as a religious sister. Of course Marie Madeleine was a generous and conscientious person, and it is normal that we read about her saving items to send to others, but there is something about these oranges that captivates my imagination.

Perhaps Marie Madeleine really loved oranges, or perhaps they were a favourite of Eugène, but that four of the twelve letters to Louise that we have translated into English express a great desire and almost urgency to send these oranges, seems to me, to point to something more.

Oranges are known for their high quantity and quality of nourishment. They are pleasing in fragrance, palatable to many (including fussy children, in the form of juice) and are wonderfully versatile around the home. What do you think about the possible link between these oranges and Marie Madeleine’s maternal nature? It seems that as a practical woman, experienced in both household and estate management, the ‘basket of oranges’ may well reflect Marie Madeleine’s overall approach to life: zesting and bursting with flavour, and always in the pursuit of perfection as a creature of God.

Please note

Copies of Grit and Grace may be ordered from the Province Centre. Kindly send an email to secretary@fcjasau.org.au for more information.

Image: Calling All Ignatian Women…

Our Lady wore gold roses on her feet. The Franciscans have their trademark brown sandal. The Discalced Carmelites have only in relatively recent history starting wearing footwear (that’s a joke!) and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has his preference of jolly cardinal red footwear.

The mission is laborious, the journey can be tough, as Ignatian women then, what do you think of these pumps?

Keeping Company

Thank you to Fr Paul Campbell SJ at People For Others for bringing these to my attention.

Lesson: Don’t forget to laugh and share in the silliness. We’ll walk with you…

The Advent

Aside

theadvent

The Advent

by Anthony de Mello SJ

The events of history were controlled
for my coming to this world
no less than for the coming of the Savior.
The time had to be ripe,
the place just right,
the circumstances ready,
before I could be born.

God chose the parents of his Son
and endowed them with the personality they needed
for the child that would be born.
I speak to God about the man and woman that he chose to be my parents
until I see that they had to be
the kind of human beings they were
if I was to become
what God meant me to be.

The Christ child comes, like every other child,
to give the world a message.
What message have I come to give?
I seek guidance from the Lord to express it
in a word
or image.

Christ comes into this world
to walk a certain path,
fulfil a certain destiny.
He consciously fulfilled what had be “written” for him.
As I look back I see in wonder what was “written”
and thus far been fulfilled
In my own life,
And for each part of that script,
However small,
I say, “Thanks”
To make it holy with my gratitude.

I look with expectation
and surrender
at all that is to come
and, like Christ,
I say, “Yes. Let it be done.”

Finally I recall the song the angels sang
when Christ was born.
They sang of the peace and joy
that give God glory.

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As we travel more closely toward the Feast of Christmas, may we continue to be mindful of all that we have been given in terms of graces, insight and memory. May we continue to strive to walk with God and follow Him, and to do so especially with those who need our help.

Thank you for your support and encouragement, input and contribution. We would like to wish you a happy holy and Merry Christmas, filled with the peace of Christ and the joy of salvation.

Advent at Twilight: The Coming of the Lord is at Hand (3rd Week of Advent)

Coming of the Lord is at Hand | Keeping-Company.com3rd Sunday of Advent: The Coming of the Lord is at Hand

Written by Geralyn Tan for Keeping Company. 2013.

We’ve been on the journey for some time now. We began our Advent journey by walking in the light of the Lord. We looked at what that means in restoring right relationship in the example from Isaiah, yet the readings from the Third Sunday of Advent – Gaudete Sunday – remind us that although our journey is well underway (and we cannot turn back), there is much more to come in the promises of joy and light! This is the dynamic of light and shade, of in-between time, where we live in hope for what is to come.

Listen to David Arkenstone’s rendition of Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring:

Time has been an underlying theme. The coming of the Lord is at hand, but we are not passive players. The waiting that we do involves that we wait patiently, as in the exhortation of the Second Reading:

Be patient, brothers and sisters,
until the coming of the Lord.
See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth,
being patient with it
until it receives the early and the late rains.
You too must be patient.
Make your hearts firm,
because the coming of the Lord is at hand.

We are given some indication of how to wait patiently and productively by reflecting on the ways in which God deals with his people. In both the psalm and the gospel passages, we hear that God is merciful, just and compassionate. The God of the Old Testament and the coming Christ we read about in the Matthew’s gospel is one and the same, whose presence in our lives is not impartial. In other words, the action of God is very much at work in our lives.

And so too are we are called to care for one another.

We ought to remember that Mary and Joseph, for all their holiness, were also like us in their waiting. It’s not as though the baby was fully formed inside of Mary and she waited till she got to Bethlehem to give birth. Jesus, fully human as we are, but divine, would have gone through the same process of development all humans go through. And this period of gestation has particular elements of selfless giving and relating, one to another.

Before Jesus is born, a hidden world of interactions takes place inside his mother’s body. Whatever she eats, he takes in. Whatever she hears, he will also hear. And whatever she experiences, he is able to respond, in a kick or stretch here and there. Imagine the role of Mary as nourisher, protector and carer of the unborn child.

Note again, what the scripture says about God looking after us. His people are uplifted, the hungry are fed and justice is secured for the oppressed. And so too are we called to do for others in their favour, to look after them.

Mary and Joseph are also messengers of God. Inside her body, Mary carries the Word Incarnate.

How are we messengers for God? And in what ways do we carry this good news, this message in our lives?