Summer is a time when many of us hope for some experience of rest, relaxation and renewed energy. The Religious of the Sacred Heart in the United States have been gifted with such a summer experience. In July more than 230 members of the province met in Chicago for our provincial assembly and chapter, a gathering full of hope and energy.
Heart is published two times a year to highlight the mission and ministries of the Society of the Sacred Heart, United States-Canada, for a wide circle of friends. The covers, photographs of hearts in nature, symbolic of Christ's presence at the heart of the universe, bear witness to the contemplative dimension of the Society's "wholly contemplative, wholly apostolic" mission: To discover and reveal God's love through the service of education.
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The past few months have been rich ones in the life of the U.S. Province as we have enjoyed the visit of two members of our General Council: Sister Clare Pratt, superior general, and Sister Jane Maltby. For this visit, we chose to focus on conversations – with RSCJ, with associates, with colleagues and friends – about the joys and challenges of living a life grounded in and responsive to God’s love in the context of the United States.
"Our service of education and instruction is directed chiefly towards the young and those who bear within them the future of the world." — Constitutions of the Society of the Sacred Heart, par. 7
The sentence from our Constitutions cited above has taken on new meaning for me. In November I attended our international Assembly of Provincials in Uganda, where representatives of the Society’s forty-four countries met to talk about issues related to the Society’s future.
“Home” and “homelessness” have been themes running through my mind and heart in recent months. Just a year ago, hurricanes Katrina and Rita forced thousands of people to leave their homes. These same storms dislodged many others from familiar patterns as they opened their houses and their hearts to the evacuees. As the months have gone on, we have heard stories of people and communities rebuilding their homes and their lives. During this same year, our elder sisters at Kenwood in Albany, New York, have begun creating a new home at Teresian House, a few miles away.
This issue of Heart arrives during the Easter season. We most often experience Easter as the culmination of the journey of Lent, the unexpected burst of new life in the midst of grief and suffering, a gift which comes after a forty day journey of purifying our hearts, our vision, our desires, our choices. We celebrate with music, flowers, food, gathering and – we hope – a beautiful spring morning. For most of us, Easter lasts a day, perhaps two, and we return to ordinary time, hardly noticing that in the liturgical calendar Easter is fifty days long!
Since the last days of August, our minds and hearts have been filled with images of New Orleans – a city ravaged by wind and water, a people devastated by the loss of family and friends, of homes and jobs, of their very way of life.
Saint Madeleine Sophie Barat had a great desire for her sisters and for all who would call themselves part of the family of the Sacred Heart. Generosity, she said, should characterize our lives – great-heartedness, a way of living with open hands, a lavish way of being with others in freedom of thought and expression, in giving of self and our personal gifts, in spreading love and joy without self-interest.
The e-mails and phone calls started well before the full scope of the tragedy was known. Had we heard from the Religious of the Sacred Heart in Jakarta? Were they caught up in the devastation? What of their families and friends? Was there any word from India? Were our sisters safe? Of the twelve countries devastated by the tsunami, the Society of the Sacred Heart calls two of them home.
We are poised between two seasons as I write these lines, the season of the 2004 elections, now mercifully behind us, and the days of Advent that lie ahead. I find such a tension in the two...
There we were, nearly one hundred Religious of the Sacred Heart from all over the world, gathered in a General Chapter in the year 2000 – gathered in Amiens, the birth place of the Society in its bicentennial year, and faced with a reality virtually without precedent in the Society's history: We admitted we could not find the right words to give fresh expression to our spirituality.