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.

 

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

Holy Feast: Holy Thursday 2016

Holy Thursday. The feast of the Lord’s Supper.

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“Did you know that Holy Thursday is a special feast for the FCJs?” I commented.

My daughter replied, “That’s clever!”

“Why is that clever?”

“Because the FCJs were founded on a holy day.”

I probed a little further for her to tell me what Holy Thursday is about. The body and blood of Christ. Jesus’ gift.

I asked if she could explain it to me as if I hadn’t heard of this person called Jesus. “What words could we use to describe it that were universal?” We thought about it together and we both agreed on:

Love and friendship
Communion and community.

It’s about fellowship and companionship and relationship.

As we enter this holy space of the Triduum, perhaps you too, might ask yourselves how you would explain Holy Thursday to someone who hasn’t even heard of Jesus.

Happy Feast to all, and especially to the FCJ family.

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Jesus in daily life with this painting on an urban wall.

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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Accompanying the Novices with Anne Morrison fcJ

So much seems to be happening in recent times! The FCJ General Chapter (See #FCJGeneralChapter for Twitter users!) has been well underway, and we continue to pray for the Sisters and others involved, especially with regards to the discernment process, that will decide on positions of leadership for the next few years.

Somewhat closer to home, a few of our Sisters have been to Indonesia and back to provide input for the three novices in formation. Here is what Anne Morrison fcJ had to say about her time in province of Jogjakarta:

I really enjoyed the time with the novices as well as with the community of Soropadan and Baciro. I went twice there, the first time for a meal, followed by Taize prayer. The second time I presented a session with the community at Baciro and stayed for the evening meal. The postulant from Ende is spending a few weeks there during the chapter.

With the novices I presented various sessions on ecology, cosmology and a few other themes, as well as giving a talk to the community and the novices on the theology of the cosmos. | Sr Anne Morrison fcJ

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Sr Anne Morrison fcJ with our novices in Indonesia. October 2013.

One of Sr Anne Morrison fcJ‘s passions lie in the area of ecology and cosmology. She is a member of the EarthSong Council in Parkville (VIC), which regularly publishes a journal on various issues within the domain of ecology, cosmology and spirituality.

Editor’s Note: Since Anne’s return, Maureen Merlo fcJ has been in Indonesia working with the novices as well. What an example of service and dedication these Sisters in Melbourne have for their counterparts in Asia!

We continue to wish all travellers safe passages, and grace-filled joy for our novices. We thank God for the energy and vitality of the Order, of the mission to spread the gospel, and for the opportunities to do so peacefully.

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Keeping-Company.com, Marie Madeleine D'Houet, FCJ Sisters

Marie Madeleine: A prayerful woman, discerning God’s will.
Image credit: Genazzano FCJ College student.

The navigation menu now includes a section on prayers we have included on this site. This page will be updated as we collect more, so please keep an eye out for any changes! We invite you to have a read through, in case you may have missed any posts. Some of them include links to the original post on the blog. Happy praying!

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FCJ Sisters - General Chapter 2013 | Keeping-Company.comFCJ General Chapter 2013

As a religious congregation, the Faithful Companions of Jesus Sisters have General Chapters, in which representatives from around the world gather together to pray, to reflect and to discern the ways forward that will enhance the mission of the Order.

Upcoming, from 9th October – 1st November inclusive, is the 2013 General Chapter, to be held at Loyola Hall, Liverpool in the UK.

Please keep all participants, delegates and contributors in your prayer. We invite you to pray along with us, the following:

Loving God,

Thank you for the gift of your Son,
through whom we are united as companions.
Throughout all of life’s decisions,
but with special intention during the FCJ General Chapter of 2013,
we ask that your Holy Spirit guide each heart with courage and confidence,
to always choose that, which leads each one and all to love Jesus more deeply, to know him more intimately and to follow him more closely. [SPEX #104].

Marie Madeleine, mother and foundress,
pray for us.

Amen.

Keeping-Company.com FCJ SistersFor more information on the Chapter, to subscribe to updates or to leave a message for the Sisters, please go to the FCJ General Chapter 2013 web page.

Keeping Company… with FCJ Epping North

In our previous post on the anniversary of the birth of Marie Madeleine d’Houët, I mentioned that I proceeded to join the FCJ Sisters at their newest community in Epping North, but had to leave due to a family situation. What I had omitted to say was that what I did see from the car across the street was an array of colour through the windows of the Farmhouse. An intimate community had gathered for Mass, with the light of the near-setting sun washing through the glass.

Supplementing this transient comment is something more substantial, offered in the few lines by Sr Margaret Claver Hayes FCJ (Epping North). It is with thanks and delight that I share the following:

Our Foundress, Marie Madeleine d’Houët, born on 21st September 1781, a few years before the French Revolution, grew up in turbulent times, not too unlike what we watch on our TV each night. Her vision has motivated and captured the spiritual imagination of countless people over five continents for over a hundred and ninety years. As a wife, mother, grandmother as well as a religious, she really is a woman for our time, too.

So we were especially grateful to be able to share something of our FCJ Foundress’ life on the actual day of Marie Madeleine’s birthday, the 21st of September at the Farmhouse in Epping North with Fr. Maurie Cooney our Parish Priest and some of our parishioners after 5.30 Eucharist, where the many families and different cultures of Epping North gather each week at our lovely Sacred Space at St Mary of the Cross MacKillop School.

Sr Margaret Claver is active on various administrative councils within the FCJ community as well as a member of the outreach team at the Campion Centre for Ignatian Spirituality in Kew, Victoria. Alongside her, are Sr Margaret Maher FCJ (who recently celebrated her 50th anniversary as a Faithful Companion of Jesus) and Sr Ann Connolly FCJ, who make up the community in Epping North, Victoria.

Epping North community of FCJ Sisters. Keeping-Company.com

From L-R: Margaret Claver Hayes FCJ, Ann Connolly FCJ and Margaret Maher FCJ in their home.

Thank you, Sisters, for welcoming us so warmly into your community and home. And thank you for sharing the spirit of Marie Madeleine in your various ministries.

April 5th: Feast Day of Marie Madeleine D’Houet

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Dear Marie Madeleine,

Today is the 5th of April, what we recognise as your feast day. I’m a little late, I’m afraid – I had hoped that I would have written something by now in tribute to you. I’ve been mulling over things for hours, thinking of what best to write or how to express it, but the attempts seem to fall short, at least for my liking.

The Sisters with whom I work are now having their Province Chapter. If I am not mistaken, there have been other Chapters running throughout the different regions of the FCJ-family over the past few weeks. To me, that is a sign of renewal, energy and commitment to formally live out the charism that you have brought to the world. I did however, ask if there was going to be any sort of celebration today, being your feast day. I know we’ve just had the beautiful feasts of Holy Week and Easter just past a week or so ago, but in my mind, a feast day is a little like a birthday – cause for celebration! The Chapter however, is still running, which means that the Sisters are in their communities, doing the things religious sisters do (I’m not a Sister myself, so I don’t actually know what goes on, I’ll admit!), so I decided that I’ll throw you and your memory a party right here – online, just like this.

You’re a great woman, and wonderfully inspiring. I haven’t known you for very long at all, and I am very new to your way of life and story. I did not attend one of the establishments that your Sisters set up in their mission nor did I have any other claim to a real connection with you. To be honest, I didn’t even know you existed until I met these wonderful Sisters. But part of my relatively newly formed role is to do just that – to get to know you, to get to know your spirit and the stories that have been inspired by you.

But being your feast day, I will try not to talk about myself, but talk about you instead. I’ve met my share of saints, founders and religious figures through history. You all aren’t a bad lot – courageous, faithful, devoted, discerning and compassionate, etc. That’s why you’re all part of the communion of saints, officially recognised by the Church and in Church history as outstanding, so much so that we, centuries later, still remember your name. But there’s something about you, dear Marie Madeleine, something about you that I really, really like; something about you that makes me pay attention.

I think it has to do with the realness of your story. A lot of saints and religious types have their stories either embellished by hagiographers or fanatics, and some of them sound rather unworldly to me, but yours is proof to me (not that I need it) that God really works in mysterious ways, and so visibly in the world. Ours is a God who meets people where they are.

I too, am striving for my own bit of halo, not in the sense of angelic hosts, but the call to sanctity that we are all invited to by our baptism and birth right. I pray and delight in the intimacy therein that is built upon with Jesus, and I do try in my own way to live out what I see as gospel or good news. But while these things might – at least in today’s culture – see me off to a convent quick smart, my life isn’t as simple as that.

I might have the characteristics of a religious sister, the makings of one in my heart, but in this life, I am a wife and mother. My vocation is in married life. Here’s where the connections come in. I love that although you eventually came to found a religious Society of Sisters, and was Superior of them, you were also a wife and a mother. And even though your husband died at a very young age, and very early on in your marriage, the life of Eugene your son, and his children and so on, continue that part of life which is your motherhood – something which many saints I know cannot claim for themselves.

But all in all, how wonderful God is – how beautiful and how great to be God’s instrument! It does give me hope, you know. My growing adulthood has found me striving for deeper union with God who loves us so much, so loves me so much. Therein lies the search for sanctity, supported by faithfulness in prayer and devotion to everything that is Christ’s light in the world. And now I can say, with thanks to you and your example, I am reminded constantly of God’s protective embrace; that with God, nothing is impossible, that with God, all is well. Sometimes the load of marriage and motherhood is heavy and I can’t carry it alone, so having your example of faithfulness to both states of life is a blessing for me. Your very story gives me courage and confidence in my own life to keep at it on this journey, and to not lose heart.

It is night time now, as I finish this letter. I would have had it written earlier but I spent the entire day with my children. I took them to the movies and their excitement and energy wore me out by the time we got back home. But always present in my heart today has been the desire to write something about you, in your honour and your memory. It’s not exactly how I thought it would be, but I’m sure God knows that my intentions are in the right spirit.

So dear Madame, dear Marie Madeleine – I thank God for you, for your existence and for the difference you have made to the lives of so many. I pray for you and pray with you that God’s will be done on earth and in heaven. Kindly intercede for us, in Christ’s name, and watch over us as we endeavour to further your mission, which was so clearly not yours, but Christ’s.

Happy Feast Day!

Grosses bisoux,

Geralyn

FCJ Mission & Identity Promoter, FCJ Sisters Australia

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Note: According to IgnatianSpirituality.com, April is National Writing Month (though I assume, in America, since I’ve not heard of it down under…). Nevertheless, we’re encouraged to write letters in the spirit of St Ignatius who was a prolific letter-writer in his time. But hey, guess what: Marie Madeleine penned a few herself, many of which have been preserved and translated, giving us insight into her personality and passions.