This morning at Bible Study, we read and discussed this past Sunday’s readings, including the responsorial psalm (118) with its refrain, which we sang: “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, his love is everlasting.”
This refrain brought back to mind the preparations I am making for next week; I have been asked to speak at an event at my home parish (St. Joseph’s Church in West St. Paul, MN) Preparing this talk and speaking with the youth director who asked me to come led me to reflect on my journey to religious life. As I did this, I was reminded of God’s goodness to me and His guidance through the years; gratitude was stirred up within me “…for he is good, his love is everlasting.”
In this post, I thought I’d share some of the thoughts I’ve prepared for my talk next week. When Gina called me up and asked me to speak at this benefit dinner, I had to be honest with her. I said, “I can’t be your poster child.” She had become youth director at St. Joe’s when I was already well into my high school career. When “youth group” started up with her I went by force, rather than by choice: my mom made me. I remember wishing I could ditch and roam the halls of St. Joe’s School instead. I was already helping teach CCD and thought the material she was presenting was too fundamental for me; I knew it all already. However, that fourth commandment (Honor your father and mother) kept me going. However, during my college years I was involved as a leader with the group and went with on four of their summer trips.
On one of these trips, we had some fun with scripture. We went around the bus, enthusiastically reciting a modified version of a passage from Jeremiah. “For I know well the plans I have for you…(insert name here)…says the Lord, plans for your welfare, not for your woe, plans to give you a future full of hope. Jeremiah 29:11 (We cited the verse using certain vocal intonations and holding out the 9). As I’ve reflected back on my journey, I’ve recognized with gratitude how true this verse has been for me. A verse from St. Paul’s writings also deeply resonates with me as I look at where our Lord has brought me: “Now to him who is able to accomplish far more than all we ask or imagine, by the power at work within us, to him be glory…to all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Eph. 3:20). During my early years, I had no clue what plans God had for me; the gift of my religious vocation which I live today is far beyond anything I could have asked or imagined.
It is beautiful to see how God used so many things in my life to teach me and prepare me for things to come. Gina asked me to share my top three things about being a Sister. I would say this:
- The gift of Consecrated life, of belonging to Jesus in a special way as His bride – it is an amazing gift!
- The gift of closeness to Him – we have the Blessed Sacrament in our Chapel. When I moved to Grand Forks, where I now serve, I was asked if I had a preference in which bedroom to have – my room is on the same floor as our little chapel. So Jesus is right down the hall! Plus, as sisters, we make prayer a priority and I get to (am obliged to) spend an hour each day with Him, plus the Mass and Liturgy of the Hours.
- The gift of our lifestyle – we live in community with Sisters to support us and challenge us. Also, we serve as a community and our work is the building up of God’s kingdom, rather than working for commercial reasons and for profit.
“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, his love is everlasting.”
Sr. Christina M. Neumann, OSF