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February Brings Changes to St. Augustine MotherhouseAs of February 2nd this year I no longer have the responsibilities of  serving as Motherhouse Coordinator/Administrator. Sister Ann Kuhn, who is assistant General Superior of our Congregation and has been manager of the Marriage Tribunal for the Diocese of St. Augustine for many years, assumed the Motherhouse Coordinator position that evening in a special prayer service in the Motherhouse chapel. 

Sister Ann Kuhn and I stand on right side of altar as S. Kathleen Carr leads Motherhouse Community in prayer over both of us. 

After eight and a half years in this position, I was ready for a change. And, to my delight and surprise, the General Superior and leadership team have gifted me with a mini-sabbatical of two months before I begin my new full-time General Councilor position working in the areas of Congregational communications, strategic planning, and on-going formation. I will remain at the Motherhouse until our Feb. 22nd Congregatio…
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The tibouchina bloom above, sometimes called a Glory bush, is in our Motherhouse backyard. We planted it in a large ceramic pot next to our big kitchen building. It seems to like the location as it has been full of blooms since it adjusted to its being planted.  
On Dec. 28th I visited the one-room school house for African-Americans next to the Mandarin Museum on Mandarin Road for the first time since it opened a few years ago. It was one our pioneer French Sisters of St. Joseph taught in after the Civil War. I wonder how those early Sisters felt being transplanted to a new country, speaking a new language, in a new climate and culture, to serve those who were being neglected by the State of Florida.
The roots of our Congregation may have been in Le Puy, France, but we are now firmly planted in Florida. Sisters have been buried in several locations throughout this beautiful State. We served wherever there was a need, often starting new Catholic schools or hospitals. 
As we move into …
In many Christmas cards we receive, and in Christmas carols we sing at this time of year, we read the word "joy." As Christians we are joyful that a Savior has been born. 
As a woman Religious in a congregation founded by Jesuit priest, Father Jean-Pierre Medaille, joy is an important part of Ignatian discernment in decision making in one's life. Yesterday we received the fall 2019 issue of Human Development, a scholarly journal "for people involved in the work of fostering the human and spiritual growth of others." There is an article in this issue entitled "Discernment: A Partnership with God" by Marina McCoy, a professor at Boston College. The author says there are three simple questions for discerning (according to Fr. Michael Himes):
1. What gives you joy? 2. What are you good at? 3. What does the world need you to do?
These are used particularly for Boston College students to help discern their life paths after graduation. Many of the students go …
Looking at a photo of a hydrangea bloom above, as an extreme close-up, gives an entirely different perspective than looking at the same bloom from farther away. One's perspective makes all the difference.
Today in our country we have significantly less numbers of consecrated women Religious than in the past. Our own Congregation is down to 45 members. Many congregations of women Religious around the country are down to fewer than 100 members. 
Instead of asking ourselves, "Why is this happening to me/us?", we are challenged to ask ourselves "God, where do you want to meet us/me in this experience?"
During Advent we will reflect on meaning-making in times of transition. We are invited to "find meaning in our suffering and transform it into something noble and full of hope." ("The Role of Meaning-Making in Transitional Times" by Ted Dunn, PhD in LCWR's Summer 2019 Occasional Papers).
As Sisters of St. Joseph we are called to be contemplat…
Front of Motherhouse on St. George Street in St. Augustine, Florida being tented. 
Since I entered the Sisters of St. Joseph in 1976, forty-three years ago this month, I cannot remember us ever having the Motherhouse or Our Lady of Lourdes Convents tented for termites.

Emptying houses full of Sisters is no easy task. Besides finding places for all the Sisters to stay, all the food and beverages and medicines and pillows in the houses had to be removed also. The kitchen, a separate building attached to the Motherhouse by a stairwell, also was tented. The maintenance building or workshop is being tented too.

Back of Our Lady of Lourdes Convent being tented for termites. 
Seventeen sisters moved out of the Motherhouse and about fifteen from Our Lady of Lourdes Convent. And this was immediately following ten of the Lourdes Convent sisters having moved into the Motherhouse during the Hurricane Dorian experience over Labor Day weekend and the weekdays following it. They moved into the Mother…
The Grace in Aging: Awaken as You Grow Olderby Kathleen Dowling Singh is a book whose title I came across in an article by a Sister of St. Joseph writing on spirituality and aging in a National Religious Retirement Office  (NRRO) newsletter. Sister Liz Sweeney, SSJ, a Sister of St. Joseph of Chesnut Hill, Pennsylvania, wrote an article, "Contemplation's Impact on Aging: Rooted in Mystery and Poured Out in Contemplation" in the Spring 2017 issue of Engaging Aging, an NRRO newsletter.  Sister Sweeney said over the past five years she had studied two books by Kathleen Singh: The Grace in Dying and The Grace in Aging. Due to their scope and depth, the books qualified for her as wisdom literature. She writes that Singh emphasizes that "while the dying process is naturally transformative, the transformation offered in the self-surrender of aging must be freely chosen and embraced, moment by moment." In the Forward of The Grace in Aging, Singh writes the following:
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…