This week is a (mostly) quiet week – squashed between two ‘away’ weeks.
Last week I was in Ottawa. It was so wonderful to be back in the office with my coworkers and have the chance to work together in person rather than by email or over the phone. I also had to spend in the evenings with friends that I love and miss (check out the gorgeous painting created and given to me by the talented 5 year old Maria!) and spend time at my old parish. I had so much fun. I felt like I was on a high all week.
And yet, I was equally happy to come back to the Abbey and see the sisters here.
When I first moved to Toronto, I felt a real mix of excitement and apprehension. I didn’t know what I was getting into (still don’t, frankly) and I worried that I was making a huge mistake. Being back to Ottawa last week made me realize that as much as I love that city and the people in it, it really isn’t the place where I am meant to be right now. It felt so good to visit, but I know that God is calling me to something else. It was a true gift from God to recognize that I am at peace with my decision to be in Toronto, discerning this vocation.
Next week, I go to Southdown Institute for a candidate assessment (psychological assessment). Four days of learning about my personality, and my strengths and weaknesses (I hope there will be chocolate). I’m not really looking forward to it, but it’s part of the journey and could turn out to be yet another gift.
On Wednesday, we had an evening reflection entitled “Praying with our Experience”, facilitated by Sr. Margaret Kane, CSJ. As the first in a series of special community sessions for the Year of Consecrated Life, Sr. Margaret led us through a reflection on Mary Ward’s gift to the IBVM and to the world.
We were given a series of images of Mary Ward (posted below) to meditate on and questions to guide our reflection. It struck me as the sisters were sharing their reflections, how much they love Mary Ward, how she continues to inspire them, and how she has influenced their lives.
Many of the sisters talked about her courage, her determination, her resolve to follow God’s will no matter the opposition or obstacles she faced. The images show Mary Ward as a woman of vision, a woman who is grounded in the person of Jesus, a woman who was free to always move forward.
Sr. Margaret then talked about one of Mary Ward’s gifts to the IBVM community: the freedom to refer all to God. Much like St. Ignatius of Loyola, Mary was able to find God in all things – in her apostolic work as much as her contemplative prayer life. Her sense of freedom extended to her relationship with God, whom she called Parent of Parents and Friend of Friends. For Mary, God was at the centre of life.
Sr. Margaret encouraged us to be like Mary Ward and to pray using our daily experiences. Through the daily Examen prayer, we can look upon our day through God’s eyes, moved by the Holy Spirit to see God working in the stuff of our daily lives, and find the freedom to give all that we have to God.
Tomorrow we celebrate the Feast of Mary Ward (we have been celebrating Mary Ward week this week, beginning with Wednesday’s reflection, and school Masses on Friday, and culminating tomorrow). We will have a special Mass and community gathering to remember Mary Ward and reflect upon her life. I feel very happy to be here for this celebration and to witness the impact Mary Ward has had on the women I live with and the larger community in Toronto.
Today we celebrate significant milestones in the lives of the sisters. At a special jubilee prayer and dinner this evening, we will honour the sisters who have spent 50, 60, 65, 70 and 75years in religious life. It’s really quite phenomenal. For someone who has spent only 6 or 7 weeks in a religious community, it seems an incredible feat to give 75 years to this life!
What strikes me, each day, is how happy the sisters seem to be. Even though they may struggle with physical ailments and limitations, they radiate happiness and joy, and they give me hope for my own future in religious life. Certainly, if the sisters I live with were unhappy or felt a sense of hopelessness about the future, I would be plotting my escape. But their dedication and their joy is a true inspiration. Time to celebrate!