Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Dear Sisters,

Greetings on this last official day of business in Rome when all the Carmelite nuns met here at the Salesianum with Fr. Saverio and members of the Generalate. What a relief not to start the day getting on a bus and spending long hours in crowded security lines! The biggest crowds we had to deal with were those gathered around the coffee-maker this morning.
At 8:45 we met in the chapel for a short prayer service prepared by the French Sisters. Our meeting followed in a comfortable hall capable of hosting simultaneous translation, which was a great help. It's made a huge difference being in places that have the technology capable of supporting good communication.
Our meeting room and distinguished hosts...

Fr. Saverio prepared a proposal for on-going formation to begin the meeting. Thankfully, the Generalate made copies which were distributed in each of the languages so that we could follow the written text as he read it. As soon as I get back home I will scan it and send copies to the CCA communities. BT and I found it to be excellent - as did all those we spoke to about it. It is not specific - he is leaving that to the text coming soon from CICLSAL re: contemplative life. Rather it is focused on formation as the capacity for the full integration of the human person in the light of our identity as religious, contemplatives and Teresian Carmelites. 
We shared in small language groups following (3 groups for English). Once again, I acted as a secretary. Sr. Jennifer (Australia) moderated our group and did an excellent job. 

The Eucharistic celebration, in Spanish, followed at Noon.

Fr. General and BT had a lovely sharing during lunch.

In the afternoon we started with group reports. Srs Jennifer and Lucia companioned me in finalizing our group report - most helpful - which I delivered very slowly so that the translators had a chance to catch it.  
Following the reports we listened to a Spanish Sister describe the work she had done on a website during the Teresian 500th.  We assumed that her report related to the suggestion that we develop an internet site for on-going formation related to Fr. General's formation proposal. However, this was never clarified and the dialogue that followed had no direction or outcome as far as any of us could tell. 1 1/2 hours were given to this topic in the full group. This was frustrating as our time together was so precious. In conclusion Fr. General said he heard that we affirmed his proposal for formation including the development of a website and he would go ahead with it. 

Sisters Allain and Shelagh prepared a lovely prayer service in English (Alleluia!) to end our time together.

Some shots of our sisters. I'm not certain of many names! Below - Sr. Lucia on the right.

Below: Sisters Monica and Brenda - Ireland.

Looking back on our time in Rome; the meetings with the Congregation and the Generalate, it is hard to name with any certainty what really was accomplished. Even though it is possible to name this or that event, it is most probably the quiet conversations, the connections and resulting hidden changes in attitudes that constitute the heart of this meeting. I know I come back to CCA somehow renewed and changed for having participated in this amazing experience in Rome. Seeds have definitely been planted and one day we shall see the blossoming, look back and recognize where it happened. For now gratitude and more gratitude for having been a part of this amazing moment in CCA's own historical unfolding.

Tomorrow Fr. Rafal has graciously offered to accompany several of the American contingent to Assisi: Srs. Mary Clare, Angel, Celeste, Virginia Marie, BT and I. It is about a 2 hour drive North from Rome. As we leave the following morning, I am not sure I will have time to write a blog tomorrow night. So I leave you with a warm arrivederci! 

Blessings, dear sisters! 

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Good Evening, Sisters,

Vatican Gardens
This morning Srs Mary Clare, Angel, Bernadette Therese and I set out for the Vatican Museum...bundled up and ready for the day!

The entrance hallway of the Vatican Museum looks across at the dome of St. Peter's. It is a most-amazing place! We spent about 3 hours here walking, listening to the recorded explanations in awe and wonder to simply BE here!

I was particularly touched by this sculpture in the museum of modern art.

We spent the most time in the Sistine Chapel, which was not too crowded (I can't imagine what it's like in the busy season!). Photos were forbidden and from time to time the guards would ask the people to keep silence as it is a holy place. 
I couldn't get over how small the Sistine Chapel actually is! I couldn't imagine fitting all those cardinals in there for a papal election.  On the TV it looks 5 times as long and 3 times as wide as it actually is!

 The display of frescoes, sculptures and artifacts is literally dizzying...a veritable walk through history. We would have loved to go into the Vatican Libraries (below) but it was not allowed.

The exit staircase from the museum...

We walked over to St. Peter's in the afternoon in plenty of time to get through security for the Papal closing Mass of the year of consecrated life/Feast of the Presentation beginning at 5:30pm. Only those with tickets were allowed in.  Even so, there was a veritable crush of people lined up for blocks. It took us over an hour to get into the Basilica. Again, I felt for the people with canes and walkers struggling on the cobblestones. I was very sorry to learn later that many people had to sit outdoors because St. Peter's was full. This included many of our Carmelite sisters.

 One last opportunity to see the beautiful Holy Doors.
BT and I were seated just across from the Blessed Sacrament Chapel

I shot this from our place.

Right: the crowd of people seated behind us.
And our view of the altar
 We were all given lovely programs and votive candles as we entered the Basilica. Just before Mass started the person at the end of the aisle had their candle lit and passed it down the rows. Lights were low. It was beautiful - as was the music! Hundreds of priests - and finally Pope Francis - processed in with candles lit. 

Our view of Pope Francis!
We don't know what the homily was about as it was in Italian but I'm sure it can be found on the Vatican website.

After Mass Pope Francis went out to the front of the Basilica to address those who were seated outside. This was very gracious of him and served as a real consolation to our sisters who were there.

The final view of St. Peter's for the evening...

Thanks be to God for this year of consecrated life and for the invitation extended to all of us to be there to close the year. It has been a great gift! 

Tomorrow all the Carmelite nuns will meet here for the day with Fr. General and the Definitors. It will be a full day - with the focus on formation. Keep us in your good prayers! 
Each of you are held in love!
Happy Feastday!

Monday, February 1, 2016

Dear Sisters,

It is the end of a very long and exciting day...already 11pm in Rome...but the adrenaline will need time to simmer down before I can sleep!
Sr. Bernadette Therese and I decided to take a cab with 2 of our Filipino sisters in order to get a better seat and hopefully a better look at the Pope. So we were up shortly after 5pm and left at 6am. Our plan was to stop by McDonalds for an Americana coffee and an egg mcMuffin. But they weren't open that early so we opted to sacrifice our McDonald's for fresh Italian pastries and coffee at a bakery close to the Vatican.
                                       It was still dark when we got in a packed security line!

A bleary-eyed American with 2 lovely Filipino Srs May Catherine and Marion. 

We pass this lovely site on the way in to Paul VI the way, our first sunny day in Rome. 
We listened to talks from 9 - 11, which is the hour the Pope was to appear. Thanks to BT we had good seats - the 3rd and 4th in from the aisle about half way down the hall. (We were working on the assumption that the Pope would enter down the main aisle - and this proved true.)
When the 11th  hour struck - there was a scramble of people and when the dust cleared - BT was on the aisle - wonderful! 
Srs. Mary Clare and Angel were just across from us. All eyes turned toward the entrance of the hall where we awaited the first glimpse of white. And we waited, and we waited and we waited - in the crush of people standing on chairs behind us and pushing in around us - for 50 minutes. 
The Pope finally appeared and the crowd went wild. He was SURROUNDED by security, moved quickly and did not stop to reach out to anyone. But I managed to get these shots as he passed by:

That's BT in front of the Pope!

He stood to speak with us for between 10-15 minutes.  (below) a TV projected his image on the R side of the stage. My little transmitter bit the dust so BT and I shared ear pods again to get the translation. As the Pope spoke extemporaneously, he mentioned that his prepared txt would be on the Vatican website. 
He spoke specifically to the religious about 3 things: Prophecy (in relationship to obedience), Proximity (in relationship to our fraternal relationships in community) and Hope (in relationship to our declining numbers). It was in his usual soft-spoken and simple style - comprehensible to all. He exudes peace and authenticity. It was a privilege to be in his company! 
After he spoke to us he came down from the stage and passed along the front row where religious with walkers and wheelchairs were seated. We were able to follow his movements because the TV cameras followed along and projected the image on the huge seen. All the Carmelites erupted in cheers when we saw him approach our German Sister, Mariam (Sp??), who was seated in a wheelchair. How thrilling for her! Only one other Carmelite greeted the Pope Francis personally - the President of the French-speaking Federation of  Africa: Sr. Domitille. In greeting our sisters we felt he greeted each one of us personally! We are so happy for them and with them!

We had lunch and Mass at the Urbiania College chapel following the Papal audience. (I've since taken to calling it the Banana college. I'm too tired to pronounce the other!)

BT and I were presented with an opportunity to visit the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel tomorrow. We stopped in a shop to get tickets so we can avoid the long lines. From where we stood in the shop buying tickets - very near the Vatican - I took this photo of the police - ever present at crowded locations: 

 A very, very beautiful concert was prepared for us in Paul VI Hall to end the evening. Below is a photo of the program: 
The trouble they have gone to in preparing this week for us is really amazing!
The photo is blurry - but the program featured a huge choir, orchestra, speakers, soloists, dancers and narration. The music was by Msgr. Frisini, who also conducted. He is an Italian composer who writes beautifully! 

The end of an amazing day! And tomorrow will end an amazing year - the day we celebrate the Feast of the Presentation in the temple. The Pope will offer Mass in St. Peter's for us at 5:30pm. And by now you can guess what that means...long security lines! But somehow, with the spirit of joy that surrounds these days - it is all taken in good humor and patience. 
You can be absolutely sure that you will be remembered in our prayers on this very special day. 
May the Spirit bless each of our communities, and through our love and care for each other, stir into flame the Spirit of hope! 

Love and Alleluia!

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Dear Sisters all,

Today all the contemplatives gathered again at Urbaniana Pontifical University. We listened to talks by members of CICLSAL: Fr. Paciolla on autonomy, Msgr. Carballo on enclosure (biblical/theological roots) and Msgr. Pepe on the present and future of Federations. In sharing with Srs Bernadette Therese, Mary Clare and Angel during breaks we all affirmed the sense that the Congregation actually read and listened to our answers to the Roman questionnaire, which was heartening.
None of the speakers want to commit to what the final document that is "in the hands of the Holy Father" will say but their talks gave a sense of the wide sweep of it. My guess is that the un-associated monasteries will still have a choice about the matter. However, the emphasis placed on the importance of considering it as an obligation was very strong indeed. Great emphasis was placed on the PURPOSE for enclosure - our response to an invitation to give ourselves entirely to the search for God - rather than the structures of enclosure. It was actually inspiring. In the Q&A session during the last hour today we were urged (again) - particularly those who are Major Superiors - to take the responsibility for our own choices without asking permissions. From what was said it is possible (perhaps even likely) that the issue of a religious assistant for Assoc/Feds will rise from the ashes again. I'm certain this question will be raised at the meeting with the Generalate on the 3rd.
Speaking of which - Fr. Rafal made an appearance at the Salesianum, where we were finishing our dinner (around 9pm!) to announce that the meeting with the Generalate will take place there - at the Salesianum - on the 3rd, rather than at the Teresianum.
So! A few photos...
Here we are - ready for another day. 

Fr. Paciolla is speaking here.

As we had a 3-hour break in the day (including lunch), BT and I went exploring. We did not have time to tour the Coliseum but we got there and could experience it from close up. 

A hallway looking into the Coliseum. Really awesome to be there! We both spoke about connecting this experience with Therese's. 

Lunch at a nearby cafe...Pizza, of course!

Tempted by the near-by beverages!

Back for the afternoon session - Notice our American Sisters: Mary Clare, Angel in the back, Mother Virginia Marie and Mother Celeste in the front. 
A French Carmelite and two Italian OCD's to Mother Celeste's right.

Today the headphones worked seamlessly! Alleluia!

Tomorrow is going to be a big day. The Pope will speak to all the religious (4,000+ expected) in Paul VI Hall. BT and I are going  early in a cab with Mother May Catherine and her companion, Marion (sp?) in hopes of getting a better seat to see the Pope! BT has a way of managing the crowds that's awesome to witness. I may just give her my phone to take a selfie when she gets near enough to meet the Pope!

Blessings and love to all!