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.

 

Companions in Mission: Caitlin Hardy & Wanty Widjaja

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It is with great joy that we welcome two newest Companions in Mission (CIM), Caitlin Hardy and Wanty Widjaja, who made their First Commitment on Saturday 5 November 2016 in the Genazzano FCJ College Chapel.

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L-R: Wanty Widjaja & Caitlin Hardy, CIM. November 2016.

For a period of eighteen months, Caitlin and Wanty have journeyed together in prayer and formation alongside the companionship and warmth of Pat Fitzgerald and Maureen Merlo, as group leaders. Both Caitlin and Wanty have been associated with the FCJs for a number of years, though in different ways. Caitlin is an alumna of Genazzano (2013), while Wanty first met the FCJ Sisters in her native Indonesia, having since strengthened bonds with the FCJs in Australia.

The intimate ceremony was prepared by Caitlin and Wanty, and attended by family members, friends and a faithful cohort of Sisters. Their public commitment to live inspired by the spirit of Marie Madeleine d’Houët and the charism of the FCJ Society, as Companions in Mission, was formally received by Sr Catherine Flynn fcJ.

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Especially moving was Wanty expressing that she now has even more family here in Australia!

Congratulations to Caitlin and Wanty and thank you, for saying yes to living as FCJ Companions in Mission. May your witness continue to grow and inspire those around you. May our God, our Faithful Companion, bless you.

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L-R: CIM Province Co-ordinator, Pat Fitzgerald; Wanty Widjaja; Sr Catherine Flynn fcJ; Caitlin Hardy and Sr Maureen Merlo fcJ

21 September 2016: Celebrate Being Alive

 

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Pilgrims – celebrating friendship – in the footsteps of Marie Madeleine. 2014.

“A birthday,” said my daughter, “is to celebrate how long you’ve been alive.”

 

We worked out how old Marie Madeleine would be if she were still with us today: two hundred and thirty-five.

Though the years are numbered, one can say that her spirit lives on with each story told, each memory shared and every time we pause to reflect on her life. To celebrate Marie Madeleine’s birth and life, we need not ceremony or lavish feasts, but hearts that are open to meeting her, and in turn, God’s gifts to the Church.* We can read about her, as my daughter has done so tonight in curiosity and interest, or we can hold near to us, what knowledge or insight we’ve gained over the period we’ve known her. We can reflect on the physiological aspects of her life: her birthplace, the family to which she was born, the time period in France, and ponder their significance or effect; or we can look at her legacy in the lives of her direct descendants, or the order of nuns she founded, and in the lives of many whom she continues to inspire.

Today is also the International Day of Peace, and I draw from the words of the newly-canonised St Teresa of Calcutta: “What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family.” Celebrate being alive, with those nearest to you, may they be your family, your community or whomever lives in your heart.

 

*We remember that Marie Madeleine has been declared Venerable by the Catholic Church, formally recognising her saintly virtues. Here is a Prayer for Healing, which you might like to say:

 

More details about the Cause for the Canonization of Marie Madeleine can be found on the Society’s web site.

 

 

Day 20 of #31DaysWithIgnatius

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There’s nothing quite like death, which reminds us that we are mere recipients of this gift called #life; that we are as empty vessels longing to be filled, and that whatever time we have on this earth, may it be as a gentle grace-filled presence.

Lord, we ask your blessing on the souls of those who’ve passed into the next life. Be with those who mourn and grieve the loss of their loved ones. May we who encounter them be as beacons of light and comfort. Ad majorem Dei gloriam. For the greater glory of God.

#31dayswithIgnatius #empty #full #open #death #love #spiritual #community #gift #mourning #grace #living #amdg #grief #compassion

In celebration of Ignatian Spirituality, and to mark the feast of St Ignatius of Loyola (31 July), I have taken on the challenge of posting a picture a day that speaks to me of the lessons learned from all things ‘Ignatian’; including ‘finding God in all things.’ Here it is, as posted on Instagram (@fcjAustralia).

Day 12 of #31DaysWithIgnatius

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I still have a fever so it’s been a little more difficult to concentrate. What I am so #grateful for though, is the way #love is about giving and receiving. A loving relationship is a mutual one, in which there is a rhythm of life, much like deep calm breathing. 💓

#31dayswithIgnatius #gift #receive#gratitude #life #living #mindfulness#examen #marriage

In celebration of Ignatian Spirituality, and to mark the feast of St Ignatius of Loyola (31 July), I have taken on the challenge of posting a picture a day that speaks to me of the lessons learned from all things ‘Ignatian’; including ‘finding God in all things.’ Here it is, as posted on Instagram (@fcjAustralia).

Insight: The Faith of Children

A few weeks ago, my son had brought home to me, a curious little egg-carton with some soil inside.

“What’s this?” I asked.

“They’re my carrot seeds,” he replied. “I need to water it every day and put it on the window sill.”

Not having a green thumb or much exposure to gardening of any sort, I figured this kid would know best since he plays with dirt at school.  I followed his every instruction and added that we ought to have a container to catch any water that might drip from the papier maché carton.

So we waited.

He checked it daily, and watered it. I even heard him tell his ‘plant’ a little story so that it would grow. We all thought it was very cute that he had something to look after, to be responsible for and to tend to. I admit that I didn’t think much of it, save the fact that it was a nice project my son was taking interest in. I honestly didn’t think anything else would eventuate when, today while I was buzzing around from one thing to another in the school-morning rush, my daughter checked on her brother’s plant and exclaimed, “It’s sprouting! It’s sprouting!”

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What I’ve taken from this is the marvel of a child’s faith. Jesus taught this: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt 18:3-4)

In our own faith journey, and especially in our lives as people of God, we often doubt the possibilities of the unknown or neglect to nurture the seed with which we’ve been entrusted. We think we know better in our maturity since we’ve experienced life and its share of disappointment at the times the seed has not germinated. But thanks to God, through the lives of my children, I was reminded again that I ought to be more humble, to love with tender devotion and to embrace the simple joys in daily life.

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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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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From the Archives: Awaiting the Triduum: Holy Thursday, Good Friday and the Feast of Easter

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If you will allow me, I have written here a personal reflection. It is 6 pm local time and in a little while, I will make my way to the church to celebrate Holy Thursday. Those who are acquainted with the FCJ story will know that Holy Thursday is an especially significant feast, marking the foundation of the Society.

It was last year that I did the Nineteenth Annotation of the Spiritual Exercises, a grace of the Spirit and a fruit that my work with the Sisters of the Asia-Australia Province has brought. It was during the Third Week that I had made a profound personal connection in the reading (prayer) material.

In the gospel passage for Holy Thursday, we hear that Jesus “took off his outer robe” (NRSV). He then picks up the towel and begins to wash the feet of his disciples. (John 13:4) My experience with biblical exegesis is basic at best, but what I did pick up on was that the word in the original Koine Greek is the same word that John the evangelist uses in his discourse on the Good Shepherd in chapter 10. Please note that I have yet to recover the sources from which I gathered the information that lead to such a conclusion, but significant enough for now is what it means to me. When Jesus lays down his outer garment, it is symbolic (as John’s gospel likes to be!) of his coming death, where he would lay his life down on the Cross. Jesus, after all, is the Good Shepherd, which by the way, is another section of our faith tradition that is found only in John’s gospel!

Fast-forward then, to the present moment. Something was stirring inside of me – I could not (cannot) let go of that connection between Jesus washing the feet of his disciples (the role of the servant) and laying his life down for us. From this perspective, they are both one and the same. What’s more is that Jesus calls us to do the same: ‘”So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also out to wash one another’s feet.”‘ (John 13:14)

But still the stirring would not go away. I did what any person of my generation would do these days when I wanted to do some research: I googled it. I typed in “Jesus takes off his outer robe”, and sure enough, I came upon a reflection by L’Arche founder Jean Vanier.

I have included the following section and have highlighted what spoke to me as I read it, bearing in mind that there are only hours in the Easter Triduum, only hours between one feast to the next. Only hours between celebrating the institution of the Eucharist with a living, breathing, foot-washing Jesus, and the one who we will crucify (as is traditional among the congregation to voice the role of the crowd in the Good Friday service). It is only hours from that horrific and disturbing account of death and when we celebrate new life on Easter morning!

So here is Jean Vanier, with layers and layers of wisdom and depth:

We had also welcomed into that house, Eric. Eric had lived for 12 years in the psychiatric hospital. He was blind, he was deaf, he couldn’t walk, and he couldn’t feed himself. He was a man with an immense amount of anguish — a man who wanted to die. In the psychiatric hospital the nurses rather avoided him because he wasn’t gratifying, he could do nothing.

He came to our community, and in him there was this terrible desire to die. He vomited everything that he ate. He was just in immense anguish and immense pain. (I mentioned this afternoon Moses with his pain.) But with Eric it was even more painful. His anguish and his desire to die were evident.

I said that, for us in L’Arche or in Faith and Light, our mission in welcoming Eric is to help him to move from the desire to die to a desire to live. We want him to move from a feeling of being no good to a sense of his value and his worth — from a feeling of guilt to a feeling of trust.

I said this afternoon that the only way…[is through] the transforming power of love. Through that love which reveals that you are beautiful; love that understands your pain and your needs; love which celebrates; love which empowers and calls you to be and to be yourself; and a love that forgives.

But for Eric, how will this be revealed to him? He is blind and he is deaf. So the only way of communication with Eric is through our hands. These are the incredible hands that we have been given by Jesus — hands that give security; hands that give peace; hands that manifest love. But hands that also can hurt; can take; can abuse.

I had the privilege of giving Eric his bath every morning. … This was a fragile little man of 16. And through our hands (because it was not just me, but those of our community together) we revealed to him that he is beautiful.

We are to touch people with a deep respect — to touch them with tenderness. Our hands, and not just our voices, may become vehicles of the love of Jesus. The Word became flesh, that our flesh may become word. Our flesh, through the power of the Holy Spirit, can reveal to people their value — that they are cherished and loved by God.

Our hands are, in some mysterious way, a source of revelation of communion. Jesus, as he knelt down in front of the feet of his disciples, knows that tomorrow he will be dead. But he wants to have with each disciple a moment. Not just to say goodbye.

Up until now he has just talked with the group. When you talk with a whole group you don’t have that individual contact with each person. Jesus wants that contact with each one of these people. He wants to touch them — to touch their feet; to touch their bodies; to touch them with tenderness and love. Maybe to each one he says a word; maybe looks each one in the eye. There is a moment of communion.

So there is communion through the Body of Christ, where Jesus says “do this in memory of me.” But there is also this communion as he kneels at their feet. And later he will say “I have done this as an example for you. And what I have done to you, you must do one to another.” So this is a gesture of communion, of tenderness.

For the full article, please click here. And as we move into Holy Thursday, Good Friday and the Easter Vigil, let us remember that wherever we are, whoever we are and however we are, we are to touch people (and let people touch us) with deep respect and reverence, the same kind of reverence shown to the body that is then laid in the tomb.

G. Anderson, 2013.

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Editor’s note: I wrote the above reflection last year, but it remained unpublished. Here it is now, as it was then, for your consideration. All viewpoints are strictly my own.

Blessings for your journey into Easter, from all of us at Keeping Company and the FCJ Mission and Identity Team.