Here in St. Louis I am the only CSJ in formation, and while I was able to share some of my year with novices from other communities, the gathering was the first time I had the opportunity to sit with other novices of the Sisters of St. Joseph. There were eight candidates, eight novices, twice as many initially professed sisters, a handful of recently finally professed, plus all of the directors. There were over ninety of us all together. Talk about energy and connection and sharing. In talking with the novices I felt like everything I have gone through this year, the emotions, the craziness, are all totally normal. The sisters here tell me that, but to be told that by another novice through the sharing of a story from her life this past year helped me to know it in a most real way.
The topic was fabulous! Who knew I could talk, share, reflect on compassion for three days?! We took pieces of Alfredo's talk from this past summer in Milwaukee and combined them with presentations by Sr. Jane, stories of our sisters of the past, and our own stories and we had more than enough to pray with. We sang and ate. We danced and laughed. We stayed up way too late! Every night there would be a group of us sitting in the lounge totally exhausted, yet unwilling to go to bed knowing that the opportunity to be together comes only once every two years. I woke up this morning and could have gone back to bed for at least another three hours had I not been expected at my ministry site by nine.
Mass on Saturday night was amazing! Each group was responsible for some part of the mass. To hear the parts of the creed intertwined with CSJ-ness, the Gospel reflection portrayed in action by the directors, and the last song sung and danced with abandon was wonderful. We heard the plight of New Orleans still recovering from Katrina and that of India still recovering from the tsunami from the perspective of our sisters ministering in those parts of the world and literally sent them the crystal hearts we had held and into which we had poured so much compassion and prayer all weekend. I don't really know how to express it all.
At one point I was sitting at a table with two other novices, two candidates, and two initially professed sisters and we decided that, like the disciples at the Transfiguration, we would love to "pitch a tent." We knew that wasn't the option we would really take, but it was a place that none of us yet wanted to leave. In one respect it is hard to be back here, again the only novice. However, the weekend helped me to see where this year has taken me and where I still want to go. It normalized much of my emotions, not to mention my desire to be a Sister of St. Joseph. I may be the only Sister of St. Joseph in formation here right now, but there are so many that are carried with me as I go.