Thursday, February 26, 2015

Lenten Reflection: Going Within to Live Without!

Do you ever stop and think about the fact that Lent lasts a very specified amount of time each year--40 days? So what does that really mean? Is it that we are to be especially good during these 40 days? That we are to reflect on our relationship with God and God's people for 40 days? And what about the other 320 days? Yes, there are also the four weeks of Advent--another time set aside for looking a bit more deeply into our relationship with God. But that still leaves a pretty big span of "open" time during the year. What happens to our relationship with God during those "unlabeled,: "unspecified" periods of time?

We all know that God wants this relationship with us--each of us in a uniquely personal way--to be an ongoing relationship. Are these specific "set apart" times of the year days in which we focus more deeply on our uniquely individual relationship with God? Perhaps we need the intensity of these times to deepen and strengthen us for our ongoing journey with God, almost like taking time apart and retreating to our depths--to the mountains or deserts of our hearts--to renew the God-life within us!

The Mountain Speaks…
Learn from me…We are much alike,
you and I.
We didn’t “become” in an instant,
in a year,
or even in a lifetime.
We are becoming…
adding layer to layer,
from within by time’s embrace,
allowing hidden depths to surface
holding in our souls
a beauty
mystical and deep,
steeped in myst’ries that in time
will burst their bounds
and find their own reflection
in the strength and beauty
of our awesome
                                                                Ann Marie Slavin, OSF

 © 2010 Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia.  Poetry for Prayer:  Volume II.  All rights reserved.



Friday, February 20, 2015

Reflection: A Positive Look at Lent!

It's strange how things converge--thoughts, ideas, readings, events. Some would call it coincidence but I really believe that such convergences are the power of the Spirit fully alive in our lives. Some years ago one of your sisters introduced me to the word "synchronicity"--that also works for me because I see the touch of the Spirit there as well.

So...what am I rambling on about? Well, I've long believed that Lent is so much more than a time for "negative" actions. Sometimes it's harder for me to react positively to someone who normally annoys me than it is to refrain from eating candy. (Who knows...maybe a piece of candy would sweeten me up a bit when I'm grouchy!) Or maybe I need to spend time chatting with someone who's lonely when I'd rather be reading a book. Then yesterday I attended our regular Lenten prayer service for which we gather with many of our employees each week during Lent and Advent. As part of the service, we each received a copy of a Lenten calendar prepared by Sr. Ann Lyons, FSSJ, which has a practice for each day during Lent--each of them very positive. Today, for example, simply says to take time to compliment someone. Another says to be sensitive to your spiritual needs and still another to see the holy in life.

Then, in case I still didn't get the message, this morning I saw an article called "Pope Francis' Guide to Lent: What You Should Give Up This Year" by Christopher Hale, a senior fellow at Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good and cofounder of Millennial. Basically what Pope Francis is saying is that whatever we do for Lent should include fasting from indifference toward others. "Indifference to our neighbor and to God also represents a real temptation for us Christians. Each year during Lent we need to hear once more the voice of the prophets who cry out and trouble our conscience."

Finally when I started looking on You Tube for a Lenten hymn to use for this blog post, the first one I found was Ricky Manalo's "In These Days of Lenten Journey." When I listened to it, I thought I could hear God say, "You know, Ann Marie, some days you might be just a wee bit dense so I have to send my messages in multiple forms!" I guess that's what conversion is all about!!

And finally--a bit of poetry that I think captures the idea of both conversion and the willingness to step out and take steps for which we might not be totally comfortable! Happy Lenting to each of you!

I’m ready
…for newness
…for life
…for taking chances
on living
on loving
on seeing each new day,
called by love to start again
to shed the fear,
the caution
that impede God-love,
that tie me to the now
and blind my heart to

with open heart and hand
to love the doubt,
embrace the new,
to live today
without the fear
of what tomorrow holds,
free to shout my
to all my God will give
to all God’s love holds out
with gentle care,
enticing me to dream anew
and gather to my heart
the promise of my
Gentle God
                                                              Ann Marie Slavin, OSF
© 2010 Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia.  Poetry for Prayer:  Volume II.  All rights reserved.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Nyumbani Journal

Sr. Julie Mulvihill is busy with the day-to-day tasks involved in working at the Nyumbani Children's Home in Nigeria. Below are just a sampling of what is happening there. The photo to the right is of Sr. Julie and some of the folks with whom she works.  

January 16, 2015

 Our audiologist from Giant came on Monday and met with Wesonga and myself to check out our audiology equipment and give us some suggestions for setting up the room.  So, we are moving forward with our plan to open an audiology center at Nyumbani with support from the Giant Hearing Center.  

Tuesday morning Julian, our volunteer from the U.S., and Therese, our volunteer from Canada, headed up to the village.  After I saw them off, I made sure their rooms were ready for cleaning.  After Mass I passed the keys onto Mum Alice so she could start housecleaning the rooms so they are ready for the Board Summit at the end of the month. I also took some time this week to start the washing of the windows in Noel House. 

Wednesday started with a meeting with the Mums/Uncles that Sr. Teresa had called.  We discussed the Saturday Program and the Evening Homework Program, each Mum and Uncle reported on how the Christmas Holiday visits went for their children and how things were going in general in the cottages/hostels.  I also spent time trying to firm up the Self-Reliance Training Program for our young adults.  It will start in February and continue every 1st and 3rd Saturday until October.  The program will be held at Don Bosco Youth Center which is down the road from us.  It is primarily for our young adults but it will also be open to other young adults from the area.   It is being sponsored by the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia. Please say a prayer all goes well.  Right now Helen, our social worker, is notifying our young adults to share the schedule and encourage as many of them as possible to attend. We want them to sign up in advance.  Some may not be able to attend because of their classes or work schedules. 

On Thursday we had visitors from Johnson & Johnson.  Sr. Mary and Protus met with them and gave them a tour of the facility.  Of course, our Paul Miki Singers and Dancers under the direction of Sr. Emily entertained them. As usual they did a great job and made our visitors very happy.  Of course, the knee hugs they got from each of our little ones is always a big hit. 

Some of the children who were home from the primary and high school got to go on an ecological tour all day Thursday. The big Giraffe Center bus picked up 47 children at Nyumbani and toured them all around Karen. 

Their tour included the Giraffe Center, the Animal Orphanage, the Elephant Orphanage, and Mamba Village where they had their lunch. Their  guides were very knowledgeable and were able to share a lot of information with them.  Teacher Margaret and Uncle Joseph accompanied the children. The children were especially happy for this trip because the schools were on strike and they had been home for almost two weeks. Hopefully, they will return to school on Monday.  Something has been negotiated that will allow the schools to open before all has been settled. The little ones especially cannot wait to get to school, especially those who are beginning Standard 1.   

Lloydie and her friends have arrived back in Kenya and will be here on Saturday and Sunday. The highlights of their visit here will be their meeting with Sr. Mary, the tour of Nyumbani, meeting the children, and, best of all, having lunch with the AB boys in their hostel.  Ask God to bless Lloydie and her friends for all the good they will be doing while here in Kenya.  They have a very busy schedule. 

Please pray for peace as we continue to see so much violence happening in our world.   We saw the terrorist attack in Paris. What was much worse was what is happening here in Nigeria on a regular basis.  The violence our children are suffering around the world is unbelievable.  Please keep praying. 

February 3, 2015
Hello from very sunny Kenya!  I wish all of you who are experiencing the BLIZZARD OF 2015 would be able to come and enjoy our warm weather with cool breezes and no humidity.
Saturday we followed our normal schedule. Some of the KEST travelers joined us for the day.  Two of the travelers were involved with Helen, our social worker and both the new Standard 1 and new Form One children. Others went to the cottages/hostels and spent time with those children as they traveled to computer, art, and library classes.  After lunch the KEST travelers had  art and craft activities with the children who created sea lion’s hats  and fancy designs out of tissue paper.  In the end what they enjoyed the most was riding on Jon’s shoulders. It did not take long for Jon to get tired out but our little guys could have gone on all afternoon.  Luckily for Jon, the children let him take a needed break. 

Sunday was our monthly birthday party day.  We had lots of celebrants this month.  We started with recognizing each one of them at Mass, followed by singing “Happy Birthday” and a special birthday blessing from Fr. Francis.  In the afternoon each cottage had a party.  We had lots of goodies followed by presents for each celebrant.  Moses in Cottage E really enjoyed his car that, once revved  up, moved ahead on it own with the headlights flashing. You should have seen his eyes light up! 

Monday morning Protus went to the airport to pick up Marta and Marian from our Spanish board and Jose who came from Spain to teach solar energy at our Polytechnic in the village.  They arrived back just in time to celebrate our staff birthdays. Monday would also have been Fr. Dag's birthday. 

Tuesday and Wednesday were the work days we needed to finalize our preparations for the Board Summit.  Since we still have some college and high school students home, we had plenty of help with the final preparations. We picked up members from the boards in Italy, the UK, and the U.S. and got them settled in their rooms. On Thursday morning our Board Summit started in the Father Dag Hall.  Maureen and her catering team did a great job getting the hall in order for the meeting.  Partitions were in place to separate the meeting space from the dining area.  The tent and tables were set up outside Sr. Mary’s office for tea breaks.  Sr. Teresa and I worked together with Maureen to set up all the food and drinks. meet with our young adults. We ended the day by going out for our traditional dinner sponsored by our U.S. Board.  Gail was a great hostess for the annual event.  It is so nice just to sit, relax, and enjoy each others company as we share a meal together.  Nyumbani would not be what it is today without the vision of Father Dag and the dedication of Sr. Mary, Protus, Nicholas Makau, Nicholas Syano, all our staff  and our board members.  Working together as a faith-filled family. we have accomplished much.  Sticking together as a  Faith-filled family we will be able to face and overcome the challenges we face now and in our future. We have experienced the goodness of God since our founding and we believe the Kenyan prayer that says God is good all the time.  All the time God is good

 February 14, 2015
 Happy Valentine’sDay, everyone!  May it be a day when you grow more aware of God's extravagant love for you and more aware of how loveable you are. 

Our first Self-Reliance Training was held last Saturday at Don Bosco Center. The first topic was Self Awareness/Discovery.  We had contacted everyone by phone so we were hopeful that all would attend.  However, only a few were able to make it but those who came enjoyed it.  Since last week Protus contacted all who had registered, thanked them, and encouraged to attend on the 21st.  Bernard is also contacting each of them.  Our next topic will be Building Self-Confidence. We’re confident that more of our young adults will attend.  Please keep everyone in your prayers. 

I spent three days sorting clothing and packing it into bags to be sent to the village or putting it on the shelves in the container.  Once I got it sorted, I started packing birthday bags. This week I just jammed things onto the shelves. I know I’m still short on jeans for the middle age children. I’m truly grateful to the many people who donated so much clothing for our children.  It all gets put to good use.   

I also got items together for our new high school students.  Each needs blankets, sheets, pillows, pillow cases, towels, face clothes, and slippers. Edel, Owen and Kevin started in their new schools this week.  When Edel was leaving the primary school, they teased her about having “no more chips” when she gets to high school.  The little ones know that the high school students crave chicken and chips . The primary food they get in high school is githeri (beans and corn). Everyone had a good laugh, even Edel.  Please pray for Edel, Owen, and Kevin and that we soon get placements for Rose, Doris. and Beatrice. 

On Tuesday afternoon I went to the airport to pick up Ira, a new volunteer from a small country bordering Russia. She has spent the last 12 years living and working in Egypt and will return there after she completes her time at the village. 

On Wednesday I was busy all day with meetings.   In the morning the Mums/Uncles and I attended a workshop on the Child Abuse Policy we are implementing at Nyumbani.  The whole process was very interactive and informative.  The program made everyone well aware of what the policies are and how they are to be implemented.  Our children are precious gifts and it is our job to lovingly watch over and protect them from any harm.  In the afternoon we had our management meeting. 

Today I worked some more on the birthday gifts.  It takes a while to get them together.  I also got to meet the assistant- principal from Karen C School today.  It was so nice of her to come to visit us at Nyumbani.  That means a lot when a school administrator takes a personal interest in our home.  I also drove into Karen to purchase some items for Valentine's Day.  I got juice and ketchup for the children to go with their chicken and chips tomorrow and I bought flowers for the Mums/Uncles to go along with their Valentine candy.  Tomorrow I'll get the children to give their little presents to the Mums/Uncles as a way of showing love and appreciation for the many loving things they do each day. Sam and John will also be making Valentine cards with the kids at Art Class tomorrow—thanks to some of the lovely arts and crafts items donated by Lloydie and her KEST travelers. 

All of the children are fine but I would ask you to keep what one of the girls in the respite care in your prayers.  She is about 13 years old and malnourished.  With your prayers and lots of TLC from our respite care staff, we should be able to turn her around. Elizabeth and the Mums do a great job with all of the children in respite care.







Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Highlights of Our Open House at Our Lady of Angels Convent!

Two words can best describe the February 8 open house at Our Lady of Angels Convent: HUGE SUCCESS!  Approximately 250 people accepted the invitation.  Srs. Donna Desien and Julie McCole, assisted by Srs. Kathy Parisi and Andrea Likovich, had every aspect of the afternoon well organized.  Sisters from the motherhouse and some of the nearby convents served as tour guides, gave short presentations on various areas of the building, both welcomed and bid farewell to the guests, and acted as hostesses when refreshments were served.
Sisters gathered in the Copper Beech Room for an overview of the afternoon's activities and to get their name badges.

 As the guests arrived, they were greeted by several of our sisters. 
The first guests arrive and are welcomed by Srs. Geralda Meskill and Therese Yanda.

Sr. Ellie Moore welcomes one of our youngest guests.
While they waited for their turn to begin the tour, they gathered in the reception area where Sr. Ruth Bernadette pointed out the various rooms there and shared a bit of history about the St. Francis statue that graces the entrance hallway. 
Sr. Ruth Bernadette shared information about the reception area.
What better place to wait for your tour to begin!
Guests were taken to the Copper Beech Room in groups of 30 for a short presentation and video. 
For the official opening of the tour, guests were taken to the Cooper Beech Room where Sr. Kathy Parisi again welcomed visitors and showed a DVD giving a "birds eye" summary of our history and ministries.
Then, in groups of 10, they were taken by their tour guides through the Magnolia Room and Neumann Gallery into chapel.  There they were greeted by Srs. Helen Jacobson and Marijane Hresko who gave a brief overview of the history of the chapel and pointed out some of the features of the chapel.
Tour guides wait to be assigned their groups.
Guests take a brief tour through the Magnolia Room.
In chapel our guests view the beautiful stained glass windows and learn about the history and current use of the chapel.
From there each tour group headed down the main corridor where tour guides made a brief stop in the Heritage Room and allowed time to browse the heritage display in the corridor.  They also pointed out various congregational offices and explained that these areas originally housed the postulancy and novitiates. 
After leaving chapel, visitors checked out the heritage display in our main corridor...
...and stopped for a visit in the Heritage Room. Is she or is she not real?!
A trip on the south elevator took the guests to the fifth floor where they got a look at some of the guest rooms on their way to Visitation Convent.  Srs. Joan Cooper and Kathy Flood offered a brief tour of their home and explained a bit about the structure of the various living units at the motherhouse. 
A brief stop at Visitation Convent on the fifth floor of the motherhouse gave visitors a glimpse of what the living units in Our Lady of Angels Convent are like.
When the visitors made their way across the hall to the Canticle Room, they were greeted by Srs. Florence Hee, Julie Keegan, and Elaine Martin who shared bits of the room’s history.  Our guests were fascinated by conversion of the former dormitories into this spacious and comfortable room—easily adaptable to so many uses.  The visitors were particularly impressed with the scenic and expansive views available from the windows lining three sides of the room.  The windows also offered at least a glimpse of some of our other buildings that—because of time constraints—were not included in the tour.  And of course, the view of the big red dome as seen through the skylight elicited more than a few exclamations of “Wow!” and “Oh, my goodness!” 
Sr. Florence Hee points out some of the attractions of the Canticle Room...
...including a look at the huge red dome that sits on the very top of our building!

Heading back down—this time to the basement—our guests were greeted in the dining room by a number of sisters who joined them for refreshments and pointed out the displays and the many “take home” items available: copies of our DVD and Good News, information on the spiritual center’s programs, postcards about the upcoming day of service in July and the afternoon of prayer in September. 
Lots of material to study and to take home.
And what's a party without refreshments and a chance to socialize! 
Many people shared stories about their earlier experience with our sisters.  One man, for example, said that he grew up in the stone house across the road and remembered both the sisters and many of our earlier employees.  One woman asked when I had entered the convent.  When I said that I came in 1959, she explained that she had wanted to enter in 1960. When I asked why she hadn’t, she laughed and said “I met my husband!” Another woman simply said, “I’ve lived near here for years and have always wanted to see the inside.  Now I’m Here!” 
Both our sisters and our guests enjoyed spending time getting to know one another. 

The day was, indeed, a graced experience for all involved—both for our guests and for our sisters who were so happy to share a bit of our home with them.
And a great time was had by all! 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The Mutuality of Healing Love

I always love David Haas' music and this one is no exception. My sense is that most of us are fairly quick to turn to God when life isn't going so well. At the same time, we're usually grateful for friends who lend a hand at those difficult moments. And most of us--even though we might not always acknowledge it--are apt to extend that same care to others. What I think we sometimes forget is that these efforts to reach out to others--and to graciously accept their efforts to support us--are all extensions of a sort of God's loving and ever present care of each one of us. Imagine what our world would be like if each of us attempted to live out these mutual efforts to heal, help, and love as God heals, helps, and loves us!

Healing Love
Teach me,
Father, Mother God,
To carry others
As you have carried me—
Not smothering them with me.
Healing them with the warmth
Of your tender loving heart. 

Then teach me how–
As gift to others–
To let them carry me
Knowing that their arms are but
Extensions of your own
Their own hearts beating
With the rhythm of your tender love.

 And in the holding
And the healing
Your godly love will
Heal the tender scars
That mar our hurting world.
                                                        Ann Marie Slavin, OSF

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Tidbits From Haiti

Sr. Vicky DellaValle just sent an update from her ministry in Haiti. I thought I'd get it posted while it's "fresh"! Hope you enjoy it! I especially enjoyed seeing the children in their new school uniforms!
January 2015
This month we received our third visit from Dr. Richard Paat and his medical team of 20 people.  They were here from January 4-10 and as always, did a wonderful job in ministering among the people. They set up clinics in four different villages using the school buildings.  In each village they offered classes for our village health monitors—people who have been chosen from among their fellow villagers to learn basic first-aid techniques in order to help their people when doctors are not available.

Our dentist also returned again this year which was a great blessing.  You wouldn’t believe the condition  of people’s teeth here.  Very often all he could do was pull the teeth because they were in such a state of decay.  He used a lawn chair for his patients—probably one of the most comfortable chairs they had ever used.
The dentist in action!
The team also treated expectant mothers, babies, young children, old people, and people who were just not feeling well. The team had a pharmacy at each clinic from which they distributed medications.  Some people actually walked five hours each way to get to a clinic. Some of them left home the night before and slept outside with nothing to drink on the way. At our KPA meeting the following Wednesday, we discussed this. We’re going to work on improving  the situation next year so that people who must travel far distances can have shelter and provisions while they’re waiting.
Adults and children wait to be seen by the medical team. In the second photo, Banave translates for the patient, explaining to the nurse what the woman's problem is.
Sr. Jo and I took turns visiting the different clinics until our jeep got a flat tire.  While I was visiting the clinic in Toma Eli, I sat in on the monitor class which was on delivering babies.  I should actually say that I “stood in” because there was only one bench for 20+ people.  Dr. Paat was a scream. At one point he pretended to be the voice of the newborn, letting out a huge “Wah, Wah, Wah” from a crying infant. He used a special baby doll that even had an umbilical cord!  Everyone was laughing.  The nurse who presented the class and her assistant, a Haitian-American nurse who translated, did a great job. There were several Haitian-Americans present in the group. It was a very busy week and a very fruitful one as well!

Dr. Paat (playing the part of the mother!) and Nurse Susan show the village health monitors how to deliver a baby.
This week our little St. Rose School reopened and the children came in their new uniforms for the first time.  They looked so nice and we all felt so proud of them.  Right before Christmas vacation, they received their report cards for the first trimester.  Quite a few of them earned certificates for good grades, good behavior, and/or good attendance.  We have also started “extra help classes” each day for students who need assistance in major subjects as well as enrichment classes for students who are doing quite well. We have five new students this semester—four first graders and one second grader.  We’re very happy to welcome them to our little school.
Second graders proudly display their certificates for earning outstanding grades, behavior, or attendance on their first trimester reports.
Mali, our director assistant, helps children space themselves so they can begin to sing the Pledge of Allegiance.
First and second grade boys give a big "Hip, Hip, Hoorah" for St. Rose School on their first day back.
This child lost both parents. She lives with neighbors who are extremely poor. She and the neighbors' child attend St. Rose School. Sr. Vicky saw the little girl reading her book. Thanks to the kindness of St. Rose of Lima School in the States, the children have reading books and can practice at home.
The other day I was walking home from St. Rose and I passed a couple  of men, one of whom was carrying a rooster under his arm.  He was carrying it sideways with the feet tied in the front and the head poking out the back.  I always feel so bad when I see that, thinking about how frightened the little animal must feel.  As I passed by, that rooster let out a huge “cock-a-doodle.” We all laughed. It was such a surprise!  I would never have expected that creature to do that in the condition in which he found himself.  It was a very good lesson for me about positive thinking.  No matter how bleak things look at times, “keep cock-a-doodling”!




Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Of This and That!

Just a few updates--actually a few outdated updates--as to what our sisters have been doing
On a December evening, a group of our sisters gathered for prayer on the front porch in Sea Isle—joining the national and worldwide efforts of Lights for Lima. During December world nations gathered in Lima, Peru, for a final global session of negotiations on climate change. This year—2015—meetings in Paris will hopefully finalize a new global climate agreement. In support of and to pray for the success of these meetings, various groups around the country and the world gathered in prayer for the success of these negotiations.

Sr. Nora Nash was among the individuals chosen for the Irish Echo’s “2014 Irish Labor 50” honorees. The introductory article to this special edition of the Irish Echo carried the headline, “Irish Hands Behind the Building of America.” The article went on to describe the types of contributions made either by Irish immigrants or by Irish Americans. The remainder of the issue carried a photo of each honoree along with a series of interview questions and answers. In addition to Nora’s job title and place of birth, she was asked about her first job and what it taught her, three things people be surprised to learn about her, her opinion on the relevance of the labor movement in today’s economy, and her opinion on what the labor movement needs to do to adapt to changing times.

The Assisi House Christmas party is always one of the highlights of the season for both the residents and for the sisters who come to join in the fun. The 2014 party was definitely a hit for all involved. The sisters and staff at Assisi House are most grateful to Sr. Martha Pooler and her ever generous, ever faithful team of sisters, companions, friends, and relatives for all that they put into the planning. Martha reported that the sisters in the local houses were especially generous this year making it possible to provide—in addition to the refreshments for the party—even more in the way of additions for the gift bags. In addition to candy treats and very useful gifts such as Kleenex, the sisters were delighted to received gift certificates that they can use at the Assisi House gift shop. So—a great big THANKS and blessings for the new year to all who contributed in any way!
Our sisters at Assisi House, our retirement residence in Aston, Pennsylvania--right down the road from our motherhouse are always ready and willing to share their gifts and talents with others. These are just two examples of the ways in which these sisters continue to give of themselves--habits formed from a lifetime of giving!
How many Christmas cards does it take to make a beautiful wreath for your door?  Sr. Alberta Manzo knows! She shared this very unique craft idea with our sisters during the holiday season. A group of sisters enjoyed coming together to create these beautiful handmade Christmas wreaths, made from recycled Christmas cards.
If you walked through the halls of Assisi House today, your nose would have surely followed the delicious mouthwatering aroma to Marian Hall’s new country kitchen. On a cold winter’s day, sisters gathered to bake Sr. Mary Theresa Carmichael’s beloved Irish soda bread recipe.  The bread was not only fun to bake. It was even more fun to eat!   


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