Associate Director Julia Townsend’s presentation to CSM Chapter 2019
This was an emotional get together for all of us- Sisters, Martha Associates and Board of Directors- meeting at the Retreat Centre the evening of May14th. Indeed, a great deal of ground was covered that night. To set the tone, we began with our Associates Prayer; ‘MAY WE CONTINUE THROUGH THE RADICAL CALL OF THE GOSPEL TO BE INSPIRED BY THE MARTHA CHARISM AND THE MISSION, VISION AND VALUE STATEMENTS’.
Joan Magliocco led us in prayer and four Board Members were introduced: Elda Barva, Deb Tarnava, Lise Schmidt and our own Associate member Kathy Gillis. Oten through tears, Kathy spoke about the future, the loss and the journey before us. She read us the history of Martha Associates and asked us to think about and share with the group how our individual Associate roles have been influenced through the years by the Martha Sisters.
Caroline Martin, Sister Theresa Parker and Sister Josie MacLellan took turns offering up words of inspiration and hope while Annella Wehlage, who recently had the privilege to attend the Antigonish Chapter Meeting (Keeping the Vision,) talked to us about the impact it had on her.
Mark Nixon, our new Executive Director, was also in attendance. He took over in September and is being mentored by Sister Theresa Parker. He unveiled some of his plans for the Martha Retreat Centre inviting us to continue to remain involved and work together as the journey continues.Yes, it is daunting and there is inevitable trepidation coupled with sadness and loss at the impending departure of our precious Sisters, yet, what prevailed that evening was a tangible sense of optimism and undaunted hope.
A chapter has closed and the Sisters are now going home to rest awhile and work out fresh ways in which to serve their own beloved members and their community at large. We here in Lethbridge will move forward with solid leadership at the helm and God as our Captain to help steer us safely through the calm and the muddy waters. For this, O Lord, we pray.
Ina Boyden (Associate)
In their usual manner of Hospitality and generosity, the Sisters of St. Martha welcomed four Martha Associates to participate in 2 ½ days of their general Chapter (April 2019). This was unique and extra special, as Associates are not usually invited to attend any of the general Chapters of Religious Congregations. The Sisters of St. Martha continue to be wise visionaries!!!
Martha Associates, Mary Gillis, River Ryan, CB ; Annella Wehlage, Lethbridge, Alta; Gary Rankin, Trenton, NS; and Julia Townsend, Sydney, NS, were guests of the Sisters during this sacred time in their history. It was our privilege to attend the excellent presentations on Wednesday, April 24 and Thursday, April 25, 2019 given by Sister Elizabeth Davies, RSM, Congregation Leader of the Sisters of Mercy in Newfoundland. In addition to being an extremely well educated Lady, as well as a Scripture Scholar, Sr. Elizabeth was also delightful, with her lilting Newfoundland accent, warm smile and wonderful sense of humor!!!
Sr. Elizabeth opened her presentations with a little history that General Chapters are the oldest forms of democracy for Religious Congregations, going back 1700 years. This event allows all voices to be heard, even the youngest voices! It is pure gift!
Sr. Elizabeth then followed with a beautiful song entitled: “The Mystery of Your Gift”, by Josh Groban (Words on Web Site). An amazing beginning to the two days!!
Sr. Elizabeth’s focus throughout her presentations, was to provide input to the Sisters of St. Martha which could assist them to build on their Direction Statement of Chapter 2014. The Sisters of St. Martha continue to live their lives as mission, seeking “to creatively break open conversations around communion, living community, and ways to respond to the Prophetic call of Apostolic religious life today” (CSM Chapter prayer, 2019)
Over the two days of presentation, Sr. Elizabeth prepared seven sessions. The themes were as follows:
1. Setting out on the Way
2. Exploring this moment in the Martha Charism
3. Sacred Communion of all creation: seeking communion
4. Witness to Life Giving Choices: Prophetic call
5. Living undaunted hope
6. Living our Charism of Gospel Hospitality
7. Weaving the threads into a new tapestry
Sr. Elizabeth’s words were life giving! These are some phrases that spoke to me over the two days of Chapter that we attended, that I would like to share. You may wish to ponder their meaning within your Associate Groups.“Creation is the Body of God” (Richard Rohr)
There are two incarnations: (1) God incarnate in creation (2) God became flesh in Jesus
- “ Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting Covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth” (Gen 9: 16)
- Flourishing humanity; thriving earth; evolving universe (Elizabeth Johnston)
- We have abilities to be “Cantors” of the universe
- Many Religions, one message! Every religion is the one true religion! We all come on many different roads, but every religion has same basic message!
- Vatican 11 says we are a Pilgrim church, always in need of reform and change! A Church in need of conversion and forgiveness, growing in grace, working to understand the truth! In our Church, we have both seekers and dwellers! We do have a Church that is able to embrace all of us, and able to help us to deepen and enrich our faith. Is that happening?
- Pope Francis says we are: ”Missionary Disciples”! The Church which goes forth is a community of Missionary Disciples who take the first step, who are involved and supportive, who bear fruit and rejoice! (Joy of the Gospel)
- Reflect on your intimate connection with the earth.
- “ But I know somehow, that only when it is dark enough, can I see the stars” (Martin Luther King Jr.)
- “There is a crack in everything; that’s how the light gets in” (Leonard Cohen)
- We must keep giving: what more can we give?
- Sisters of St. Martha have been exemplary leaders in sharing the new understanding of the Universe story. The strongest voices have been those of women religious!!
- The heart of Cosmology is the communion of all creation!
- When we gather as a community, the Cosmic Christ is with us, and , we together, are changing all of creation!
- When we pray together, we are changing all of creation!!
- Each of us is unique! God meant there to be absolute diversity!!
- Living the Promise through the pain!
- We need to develop contemplative hearts! Come to the quiet! Stay in the present, experience God there!
- Remember that each one of us holds a piece of the truth!
- Actively listen to each voice!
- “Detuning the strings to get the new sounds” Find out what you can make with what you have left! (Yitzhak Perlman)
- “ Only when we know and name our broken rocks, only then can we be prophetic”
- In the Eucharist, the only ritual which Jesus asks us to repeat, we remember the brokenness of Jesus.
- Five moments of compassion:
- Contemplative seeing
- Heart filled with compassion
- Mercying : what we do
- Building Circles of Gospel Hospitality (Community)
- Building a culture of Gospel Hospitality
- “Our task must be to widen our circle of compassion. To embrace all creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty” (Albert Einstein)
- Every good we do changes all of creation!
- “Tapestry” (Marcienne Reinstra)
It was a blessing to have been present with the Sisters to hear Sr. Elizabeth. There is much for us to reflect on and much for us to do as Associates in helping to live and share the Martha Charism.
On a beautiful spring evening, Thursday, March 21st. what a pleasure it was for all of us, Sisters and Associates, to welcome back Julia Townsend, Director of Martha Associates, our guest and speaker from Antigonish.
It was most fitting that in her forty five minute power point presentation, Julia chose OUR CALL TO HOLINESS as her theme. This topic served to seamlessly reinforce the message from the Document of Pope Francis’ Rejoice and Be Glad. Our group has been reading and discussing this Document at our regular meetings. In summary Julia stated that we are all called to the vocation of holiness; called to be the best versions of ourselves. Through the grace of our Baptism, she related various ways each of us can respond to this call to holiness. Weaving in the lives of some well known Saints, it was interesting to note how they each had experienced enormous struggles and challenges on their own faith journeys. She closed her presentation with an inspiring and uplifting message from Father Bill Burke which was followed by a quiet reflection.
Julia had spent a great deal of time and prayer and preparation putting this presentation to paper and we are all grateful and abundantly blessed by her efforts and enthusiastic spirit!
Next Martha Associate meeting takes place A WEEK EARLIER, April 11th. All members of the Martha Board of Directors will be invited to attend. We’re looking so forward to building and exploring our relationships with them and with our precious Sisters departing this summer, discussing how best to move forward together as we ‘attempt’ to fill some awfully large shoes!!
Joan is in charge of prayer and Annella, Kathy and Ina will provide snacks for the evening.
The last Saturday in May, the 25th, five o’clock,will be our bbq. Please mark this date on your calendars!
Your Associate Scribe,
For our February evening meeting, a huge harvest-like moon hanging low in the sky served to direct us as we made our way to the Retreat Center situated on that ‘holy hill.’
Kathy Gillis used her book SACRED SPACE thoughtfully leading us in chapel prayer. Caroline followed to shepherd discussion on the third chapter of Pope Francis’ document, GAUDETE ET EXSULTATE (Rejoice and Be Glad.) This one dealt with the Beatitudes, and in the Pope’s own words, is a “Christian’s identity card.” To quote further from the document, Pope Francis writes, “Jesus explained with great simplicity what it means to be holy when he gave us the Beatitudes.” I think we all agreed that within that chapter’s nineteen pages, there was much to ponder and pray over, to guide and challenge everyone of us.
For our March meeting, we will be graced by the visit of Julia Townsend from Antigonish. We are all looking forward to her message of inspiration as well as her generous happy spirit. Romano will be our leader of prayer while Sharon and Caroline have volunteered to provide snacks. Our April meeting will be moved a week ahead to the 11th.
On Sunday, February 10, 2019, during our regular monthly meeting, the Sydney Martha Associates welcomed three students from India who are studying at Cape Breton University. One of the students, Stephy, is also the house guest of Anne and Terry Campbell, both Martha Associates. What a lovely way to show Gospel Hospitality!! Stephy shared a little with our group of going to Church in India.
Stephy attends Holy Family Church in Nazareth, India. Her Church has 6 Masses on Sunday. There is standing room only at each Mass, in fact, many people stand outside the Church, if there is no room to sit on the floor of the Church!!! There are at least 1500 children enrolled in the Catechism program! The children range in age from four, up until 18!! Every Catechism teacher must take a 5 day preparatory course to teach religion! Stephy was herself, a Catechism teacher in India! She expressed her surprise at how few young people there are at our Sunday Masses!!
Our Associate group was also blessed to welcome Stephy’s friends, Rajshree and Jay. Both are Hindu. Raj spoke a little about the traditions of her Hindu Faith. First, Raj told us a little about India. It has a population of 1.3 billion people and is the largest democracy in the world! India is very diverse. While there are at least 22 different languages spoken in India, the official language is (surprisingly!), English, although most people speak Hindi! There are several faith groups in India: Hindu, Christianity, Jainism, Sikkism, Islam, Buddhism. The number one faith tradition is Hindu, followed by Christianity.
Raj explained the Hindu greeting of “Namaste”, recognizing the Spirit within yourself and in another. She also told us that at the core of the Hindu beliefs is LOVE! Jay also helped in some of the explanation of the Hindu faith. It was wonderful to learn something about a faith tradition that was different from our own beliefs, yet anchored in LOVE!! It was all about love. Listening and learning about another faith tradition is a wonderful way to show respect and love for others who may have different beliefs and traditions. It is one way to live Gospel Hospitality!!
Father Varghese is a religious priest and a member of the Indian Mission Society (IMS). He spent most of his time in the Seminary teaching and guiding the Seminarians. Teaching them the Synoptic Gospels.
Some words of wisdom from Father Varghese on the Synoptic Gospels. Our first call is to serve and follow Jesus. Our call is not to worship Jesus. We are call to come together as a community weekly at Mass. We are to deny ourselves and carry the cross and accept the suffering.
Jesus love for us is unconditional. Our suffering is unconditional love for him. We need to empty ourselves by giving up and loving unconditionally.
Jesus identity. What was his Mission? Why was he born. Jesus was born to give us fullness of life and unconditional love. He didn’t come to die he came to live. Jesus was about good news to the poor. Isaiah – God of the Bible – preference was given to the poor. The poor need God and depend on God. The rich want God and want God’s blessings.
In the new testament there is no mention of Jesus as a Priest. He came to challenge the rich and question their value system. Nothing is mention in the NT about the commands of Jesus.
Why did Jesus become to be the Messiah? The Messiah came to change society. He couldn’t change society. He came to save us. The mighty deeds of Jesus and his healings. Healings is a fundamental aspect of God’s reign.
Jesus never came to establish a religion. Christianity is always the way. It is not an organization. Jesus never came to give us teachings or exhortations. He never gave us a charter of Christian life. He gave us the Good News of the Gospel. The Good News is that someone loves us. Jesus never ask us to Love God. The commandment love God is not of Jesus. The good news is that God loves me.
Most Christians are busy loving God.
In Canada most are involved in loving others. We worship God once a week. Loving your neighbour is what Jesus is all about. Jesus only gave us the good news to love one another. Good news to the poor.
1 Samuel Chapter 17 verse 34 & 35
Pastoral Ministry – Meaning of Pastoral (Shepherd) lay your life down. Meaning of Ministry (Service) – method of priesthood. One who risk his or her life to save the sheep. Risk your life to give service to others. Method was service. Not to be served but to serve.
We are trying to be Christian. Travelling to become more Christians.
Disciples – always failed him. They denied him and abandon him. He always forgave them and called them back.
We all have God’s DNA. I am a child of God. You are a child of God. I make mistakes and you make mistakes. We are God’s children. This is the good news.
Have an attitude of gratitude. Put positive energy out there.