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One of the things we do as consecrated Religious women each year is to make a retreat.  For us, as Sisters of St. Joseph of St. Augustine, Florida, our Constitutions say the following: "Annually, each sister sets aside at least six consecutive days for retreat." (p. 52) The times and the places of our retreats vary, but many make them in the summer.

 A retreat for us is different from those retreats made by corporate teams.

For Catholic women Religious it is a time of silence, prayer, and solitude except for meals, liturgy, and meetings with directors or confessors. Some sisters make preached retreats, some make silent directed retreats, and some make other types of retreat such as contemplative or centering prayer, nature retreats, or artistic retreats of some kind. Some make private retreats, often using books or tapes or CD's for input and reflection. Silence is needed in order to quiet one's mind and heart and really listen to God.

This year there were two silen…
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May 2019

Daylilies are blooming now in abundance in the front yard flower beds at the Motherhouse. We have several different colors of blooms - yellow, burgundy, pinkish rose, and an almost purple shade. However varied the colors of the blooms, they all have one thing in common: they all only bloom for one day and then they wither and die and I cut them off the stems the next day.

Daylilies remind us of the brevity of life. They also remind me of some of the things I am reading in a book called The Grace in Aging: Awaken as You Grow Older by Kathleen Dowling Singh. Singh says that we need to be able to wrap our heads around our own mortality, and that it is helpful to let go of all that binds us far before the hour of our death (p.21)
As Sisters of St. Joseph we are called especially to practice the virtues of humility and charity which we promised when we pronounced our vows. On our seal we have violets symbolizing humility. Since violets do not grow well here in Florida, I think daylilies s…
Even in the dreariness of a cold, wet winter's day there is a loveliness to the grounds of our Motherhouse  in St. Augustine, Florida. Yesterday afternoon, when it was much warmer and not raining, I was out weeding the front flowerbeds  when a visitor to the area stopped and took a photo of the house and asked if we had any retired sisters living in the house. I said yes, we had retired sisters in the house but we also had active sisters living here. There are at least five of us in full-time ministries who live at the Motherhouse.

The thing about being a consecrated Religious is that one never retires from one's vocation as a Religious, and no matter what your age or your abilities, one is always called to live a life of faithfulness to your congregation's mission and charism, which in our case is working towards "love and service of God IN the love and service of the dear neighbor."

As Sisters of St. Joseph we are called to be "contemplatives in action.&q…
Pansies have a way of making me smile. These winter annuals, that tend to die as soon as hot weather comes to Northeast Florida, are welcoming, friendly flowers. As a gardener I prefer to plant perennial flowers that will live year-round as they are a lot less work. But there is something about pansies that makes them worth all the effort for a few months of their beauty in the garden.

We all have things in our life that we think are worth the extra time and effort they take to nurture and develop. For some it may be practicing a musical instrument, taking walks or playing a sport, spending time with friends, or reading good books. For others it may be baking bread or painting or some other kind of artistic expression.

I have read that a balanced spiritual life has these four elements: prayer, work, study and leisure. Our Puritan work ethic in this country is so strong that many of us have difficulty with leisure. And some people may think that once they finished college or high scho…
Monet's Gardens at Giverny
December 2018
At the end of the year we often look back on events and reflect on our lives. This year I am reflecting on a trip I was blessed to have taken to France in the summer of 2015. It was the trip of a lifetime to Nice and Paris and a cruise through Southern France (Provence) with stops in Lyons and Avignon and several other towns. The photos in this blog entry are photos I took at Monet's Gardens at Giverny, one of my favorite parts of the tour. Giverny is outside of Paris and is where Monet painted some of his works. 
My sister Barbara Ponce, who died in the summer of 2013, and whom I still miss terribly, gave me the money that made this tour of France possible. I use these photos as a screensaver on my computer so I never forget the beauty I saw that summer. 
I had always wanted to see Paris, and I know now why people love to go there. It is a beautiful city. We went to see the palace of Versailles and its gardens also, which were entirel…
October 2018 Do you like to look at old photos? Most of us do, even though the quality of the photos may have faded over time. Here I am at about age 11 or 12 standing with my Mother and my sister Barbara's mother-in-law, Mrs. Leila Ponce, in Mrs. Ponce's front yard in north Jacksonville. My Mother, Grace Stovall, is holding my first nephew and her first grandson, Patrick Ponce, in her arms following his baptism, I believe. This was around 1960 or 1961. See the old cars behind us?

My nephew had to find a copy of his baptismal certificate recently because he plans to get married in April in a Catholic church up in North Carolina. He was baptized in our home parish, Holy Rosary, in Jacksonville. At this time I was a student at Holy Rosary School. My parents allowed me to go there after it opened, which for me was when I was entering fourth grade. My first teacher in Catholic school was Sister Philip Neri, an Irish Sister of St. Joseph who died tragically in an automobile crash.

August 2018
What does it mean to live the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience as a Sister of St. Joseph today? How do we explain the evangelical counsels to others?  On Aug. 2-5 a meeting was held in Chicago of the CSSJ (Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph) Into the Future Collaborative entitled "Self-Emptying Love: Living the Vows for Our Times." Four Sisters of St. Joseph of St. Augustine attended: Ss. Diane Couture, Mary Kuester, Rosa Lopez and Carol Stovall. The gathering was held at the Felician Sisters central convent in a suburb of Chicago.
Sisters Diane Couture and Mary Kuester in front of Felician convent, Chicago.

Sister Mary Pellegrino, from Baden, Pennsylvania, spoke on the vow of obedience. In the reign of God , she said, the way things are is that all belong, all have what they need, all are loved and all are free. Religious life is called to model life in the reign of God.  She began by explaining the root of the word obedience is "to listen.&qu…