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.

 

13 November (Feast of St Stanislaus Kostka): Thank You for Saying ‘Yes’

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Today (13 November) is the feast of St Stanislaus Kostka SJ, patron saint of novices. I admit that I am not familiar with this saint, apart from hearing his name in passing, and upon some research, discovered that he died at the young age of seventeen. Despite his short life, and even shorter time still, within the Society of Jesus (he entered as a novice in October 1567, and died August 1568), we can still see in him, values and virtues to be admired and imitated. As such, we pause to remember and pray for all who have said ‘yes’ to God’s calling, as religious, and especially our novices within the Society of Sisters, FCJ. We thank you for being open to the Spirit of God at work within your lives, and thank you for choosing to say yes and accept the gifts and challenges that life holds.

Surrender does not come easy to most of us, yet in all of us, we are called to do just this. It is not just for those discerning a vocation, or for the youth, because we are all called to surrender to the greater dream God has for us. It takes humility and trust to be empty vessels in which to carry living water. And it takes courage and strength to be open to the workings of love within us and for us.

We continue to pray and work for the building of God’s kingdom through the formation of people. We continue to say ‘yes’ and to say, ‘thank you,’ especially to our novices and those in training.

 

Our Lady’s Blessing

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“Our Lady of Tenderness” Icon, written by my own mother, Cecilia Tan, 2012.

For Mother’s Day today, we pause to remember the maternity of Marie Madeleine, but also of the many sisters who followed in maternal likeness. We continue to pray for the Society, and for the FCJ Sisters; that each may continue to strive toward and serve in the likeness of maternal selflessness, warmth and compassion. We remember our own mothers and mother-figures too.

We ask the intercession of Our Lady, the model exemplar of motherhood to inspire and encourage us in our mission as companions of Christ. We do so, in the recitation of the FCJ Society prayer,

Our Lady’s Blessing

Holy Mary, Immaculate Virgin, Queen, Superior General of our Society, our Mother, Mother of the Novices, Postulants, and Companions in Mission, and Mother of all those to whom we are sent, pray for us.

My good Mother, beg of your divine Son to give us his blessing, and please give us yours also: in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

ICYMI: Article in ‘Kairos Catholic Journal’, Vocations Edition 2015

This week in Australia, we celebrate National Vocations Awareness Week.

In case you missed it, we have an article published in the Kairos Catholic Journal for the Archdiocese of Melbourne, which you can read here:

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Too Pretty to be a Nun?

Angela Svec has been told she’s too pretty to be a nun.

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Image via Huffington Post

But on the Huffington Post blog, she writes:

Their questions have forced me to confront my self-image. Who do I see in the mirror? How do I appear in God’s eyes? How does one affect the other?

Angela Svec is a visually stunning woman. And it does make you stop and think. But her questions remain true of all of us: who do I see in the mirror? How does God see me? And what is the difference?

Faithful to the End: In Memory of Sr Teresa Hennessy FCJ

Teresa Hennessy shakes hands with young Miles.

Sr Teresa Hennessy FCJ is greeted by a youngster at her Jubilee celebration, 2014.

Sr Mary Teresa Hennessy FCJ, formerly resident of the St Albans FCJ community passed away at Caritas Christi Hospice in Kew on 7 February 2015, after a long battle with cancer. She had recently celebrated 65 years of religious profession with the Faithful Companions of Jesus and this is my personal reflection of one aspect of Teresa’s life: her faithfulness.Letter from Teresa Hennessy FCJI was very touched last year in 2014, to receive a handwritten letter from Sr Teresa Hennessy FCJ. It was a welcome surprise since I hadn’t written or given her anything and thus she had ‘nothing’ to give in reply. When I opened it, it became clear, the intention of her note – it was in response to a general letter I had sent out to all the sisters for the World Day of Prayer for Vocations (full text available here). Teresa had written it in May, but it had only reached me in August. Nevertheless, I read with eager eyes, what she had to say:

Thank you for your encouragement to us in our efforts towards Vocation Promotion. Unfortunately you have caught me during a month spent mostly in hospital but Vocation Promotion has been dear to me during my 65 years as an FCJ but I was particularly impressed by the themes you proposed for us today viz. the manifestation of truthfulness in one’s living, our call to the ‘magis’ and our witness to God’s love in imitation of Pope Francis in his living his exalted office in simplicity, truth and justice.

What really made an impression on me was the next point in the letter:

…Prayer for Vocations and for Perseverance in Religious Life is the most important of my activities today… This intention seems to me of great importance particularly at this time in history when permanence is so important yet so feared by many. Yet our God is ever faithful – we know in He whom we believe and who loves us so.

It is not only life-giving and encouraging for a person in my position to receive support in the work of vocation promotion, but on a deeper level, a wonderful gift to be able to see the enduring faith and fidelity of one woman’s love for God through her vocation. In her humility and acceptance of the state of her physical life as one no longer spritely or even able-bodied as she once was, Sr Teresa still embodied and lived out faithfulness to her vocation, to God and to her sisters, to the end.

Before she moved to Caritas Christi Hospice, which was to be her final residence in this life, I had the honour and privilege of meeting and conversing with her. She took the condition of her illness with courage and even grateful acceptance for the life she had lived and for the people whom she had encountered.

I was very proud to be a messenger to her on one occasion, after having met Bishop Eugene Hurley of the Darwin Archdiocese. He had asked me to send Teresa his regards and to tell her to contact him. They had worked together years ago in the Philippines and Teresa began to tell me of their wonderful friendship in those days. A few days later when I checked on her, she had told me that she was just sitting down to finish her letter to him.

Despite her limited capacity to do very much toward the end of her life, she did what she could do, with the utmost care and sincerity of heart, echoing the words of another (Blessed) Teresa: “In this life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love.”

I am sorry to have not known Sr Teresa for long or to have enjoyed a greater level of intimacy with her, but for what she has given me and for the small moments we’ve exchanged, I remain grateful and inspired to in my own way, be faithful to the end.

-Geralyn Anderson, February 2015.

Perhaps you have memories of Sr Teresa? You’re welcome to share them in the comments below.

A Golden Opportunity: Just Begin (31 July 2014: Feast of St Ignatius)

Please join me in a little cross-congregational companionship. Here’s the prayer for today from our friends at the Redemptorist order (CSsR) via their Bread4Today page, on 31 July. It’s also the Feast of St Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) and the Ignatian way of life that the Faithful Companions of Jesus embrace.

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One part of Ignatian prayer is to “ask God for the grace you’re seeking.” Sometimes in prayer, as in life, we don’t know what we are looking for, so coming to the awareness of such knowledge can be grace itself.

I’ve taken the liberty of highlighting what I see as a good ‘first step’ in beginning a prayer: Just show up. Just begin. Check in with God, make that time for God and for you,  even if it’s as little as two minutes of heartspace.

When your prayer isn’t flowing or when you struggle to begin, how do you find ways to make that transition?

You’re welcome to share these insights with us.

Have a blessed day, wherever you are, and however you’re praying.

St Ignatius of Loyola,  pray for us.
All saints named and unnamed, pray for us.

Sunday 11 May 2014: Vocations, Witness to the Truth

Good Shepherd Sunday, Watanabe Sadao washi | Keeping-Company.com

Image: Good Shepherd washi, Watanabe Sadao as seen on BowdenCollections.com

Good Shepherd Sunday has over the years become a day where the Church prays together for vocations, especially religious vocations and those to the priesthood.

Pope Francis has set the theme for the World Day of Prayer for Vocations as: Vocations, Witness to the Truth.

Click here to read the letter on this theme, that was sent to all the FCJ Sisters in the province, as well as to the Companions in Mission.

For related links

Message from Pope Francis
Catholic Vocations (Archdiocese of Melbourne)

 

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.

An Easter Greeting

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Chapel Interior, FCJ Convent Moonbria | Photo courtesy of Sr M. Merlo fcJ

I was sent this photo on Easter morn of the sacred space in one of our community houses. Thank you to Sr Joan Cartlidge for the beautiful display. On behalf of the FCJ Mission and Identity Team for the Province of Asia-Australia, we wish all a blessed holy and Eastertime. May the life and light of the Risen Christ fill our hearts with joy! Alleluia!