Women religious find God’s presence in all things

Sister Catherine Marie

Sister Catherine MarieMYRTLE BEACH—Women religious were encouraged to appreciate God’s presence in every facet of their busy lives during the annual Collaboration for Ministry Initiative conference Nov. 16-18 in Myrtle Beach.

The weekend’s theme was “Being Present,” with workshops led by Sister Macrina Wiederkehr, an author and retreat leader who has lived monastic life for more than 50 years and is based at the Sisters of St. Scholastica, a Benedictine monastery in Fort Smith, Ark. Sister Macrina has a background in elementary and religious education and has written eight books on prayer and spiritual reflection. Her sessions were based on her book, “Seven Sacred Pauses: Living Mindfully Through the Hours of the Day.”

Sister Macrina told the crowd that taking time throughout the day to pause, pray and reflect on God’s gifts, constant presence and love can help them work more effectively in their chosen ministries and, in turn, be more present as a witness of Christian love to those they serve.

She offered guidelines on how to take time throughout the day to discover the sacred meaning of each hour and use the passage of the day as a guideline for prayer and reflection.

Early morning, for instance, is a perfect time to focus on the miracle that occurs with each new sunrise and the blessings that will unfold throughout the day, she said. Mid-afternoon and evening, meanwhile, are good times to focus on life’s impermanence and fragility, and the need to express gratitude and kindness.

“Even the act of waking up is a wonderful metaphor, a spiritual practice,” she said. “Living awake is medicine for the world. We need to wake up from complacency. Look at all the miracles before you.”

Sister Macrina urged the women to take care of themselves, both physically and spiritually, and not neglect their need for personal time with God. Even a few minutes spent in prayer, reflection over Scripture, or just looking at creation and focusing on God’s presence in it can rejuvenate someone who is tired or stressed out by multiple demands or encounters with negative people, she said.

She encouraged the sisters to look for holiness in every facet of their work, whether it is the central task of their ministry or simply the daily routine of housework, and to find the “beautiful humility” that comes through service.

“When you work mindfully, you realize that whatever you do, it is all sacred,” she said. “If you are just trying to get things done, you miss the sacredness of the act itself. Learning to work with joy is a practice.”

Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone visited the sisters and celebrated Mass for them. During a question-and-answer session, he discussed the need for promoting vocations to religious life, how the new health care law might affect diocesan ministries, and other issues of concern.

He said the conference offered a great chance for the women from different communities to meet and support each other, because many of them work in relative isolation in the diocese.

“I say a prayer of thanksgiving for the many wonderful ministries reflected in this room,” Bishop Guglielmone said. “I have gratitude in my own heart for the good you do, and I know you are close to the hearts of people in this diocese.”

The conference drew 70 participants from various states.

“This weekend is a time for sisters to get to know each other and share wonderful stories about their ministries,” said Franciscan Sister Kathleen Adamski, director of mission for Roper St. Francis Healthcare in Charleston. “I really look forward to this each year, because we also are kept abreast of current church issues, especially the needs of the poor.”