Saturday, October 19, 2013

Finding my way . . . 2013

I have not made an entry in this blog since I left Visitation Monastery last January 7 - and now it is October. So there is a gap of some 10 months. How do I bridge from where I was then - at Visitation Monastery - and where I am now, with the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Monroe, Michigan?

I will try to make a bridge that will fill in the gap. But journeys are not always simple, as you will see.

When I left Visitation in Minneapolis, I went first to California where I celebrated my 75th birthday with my family. Then home to Forks, WA in February to settle back into my home of nearly 40 years, where I stayed, for the most part for the next several months, giving myself time to assess and own all that has been happening to me these past two years.

I knew that my Visitation experience was necessarily time-limited. I was there for the 6 (to 12) month Monastic Immersion Experience - which I encourage others to check out! It was an amazing, life-giving, and life-changing experience. I will never be the same, and I'm grateful for the gifts which I took with me when I moved on - gifts of prayer, community, and a vision of Gospel living which I will continue to try to implement wherever I am.

I knew when I went there, that I would go from there to pursue a relationship with the IHM Sisters.

Mass at Visitation Monastery 2012 
Preparing for Jubilee Mass at IHM Motherhouse 2012

The IHM sisters are an apostolic congregation - famous for their high level of education, for their work as educators and for their leadership in implementing Vatican II in religious life. Their lives were very different from the monastic Sisters of Visitation. They taught school, worked in college ministry, were professors in universities - too many ministries to even try to summarize.

Forks High School
as it was when I taught there.
When Don and I moved to Forks in 1974, it was with a clear sense that God was calling us there. This is where I finished raising my kids and where I taught for 27 years at Forks High School.  My students and colleagues at QVSD are my lifetime friends, as are my fellow parishioners at at St. Anne's Parish where I have lived nearly all of my Catholic life. I needed time to enjoy being in Forks and to make preparations for what was to come. I have never before ever considered a life not based in Forks.

In June I traveled with my daughter-in-law Mary to Monroe, Michigan to begin a new life with the IHM Sisters. I had discovered that I really would like to be a religious Sister, a nun, but I am too old to be accepted for profession. However, I am becoming an Associate member of the IHM congregation. I have been here nearly four months now, and I love my life. I live across the parking lot from the IHM Mother House in a facility called Norman Towers.

It used to be called the Hall of the Divine Child (more familiarly, "the Hall"  back in the day when it was a military school for elementary school boys). Most of the older Sisters lived here in summers when they were "home" from their missions. Now it is a retirement residence. I have a two room apartment here, which I have made my home. My room is on the third floor in the southwest corner - hidden behind the evergreen tree to the left.

I go every morning to mass at the Motherhouse. I take most of my meals with the Sisters in their dining commons. I do some volunteer work in the house - mostly reading to Sisters who have failing vision. I participate in retreats, attend concerts in the chapel, and generally share life with the retired Sisters who live there. And I have friendships with some of the Sisters who are still active. Several of them live in Norman Towers where I live. I am taking a turn at Norman Towers leading Sunday communion services for those unable to get out to church.

When people ask me why I am here, I am almost at a loss to know how to answer. I always knew what my calling was - I was called to marriage, to motherhood, to a career as a teacher, to live in Forks, Washington. But after Don died in March of 2009, I began to have a longing to a different sort of life - a life that was focused, prayerful, sacramental. I wanted to live among religious Sisters and share their lives, even if I couldn't be a Sister myself.

When I visited the Monroe IHM campus for the first time it was to attend a conference of folks involved in the "A Nuns' Life Ministry," an online ministry helping people to discern the call of God in their lives in a very broad sense. I had begun volunteering with this ministry after I closed down my educational consulting business. I have had a great interest in how to build and maintain online communities since getting involved in the Virtual High School toward the end of my 30 years of teaching, so working with an online community of folks interested in prayer, spirituality, and religious life was a real joy for me.

But in coming here, I began to recognize a real hunger for the life I saw here . . . and I began to discern with others here - and with my spiritual director - what might be still possible for me at this point in my life. I was grateful to be invited to the Monastic Immersion Experience at Visitation along my way, because I was seeking a life of deeper prayer and meaningful community.

So now I am in Monroe, MI. I'm just completing the formation process for becoming an Associate member of the IHM congregation - my family will be coming in December to celebrate that event with me - which means more to me than they can possibly know.

So, having provided at least this fragment of a bridge, perhaps I can begin to share the bits and pieces of my life here that I find so very rich . . .

Come with me.  I'd like to share this journey with you . . .