(This post is a continuation of my attempts to answer some recent questions posed to me about family and religious life.)
It was around the Feast of St. Francis, 2004, when my two ‘families’ met, you might say.
Sr. Sara Marie (who had been overseeing my first days ‘in the convent) and Sr. Donna (provincial superior at the time) drove me back to West St. Paul after several weeks of experiencing life with the Sisters.
At the time, my dad was finishing up his chemo treatments for cancer, and had little to no hair. This made a definite impression on Sr. Donna; it was her first impression of him.
In preparing to answer the questions I shared earlier related to a Sister’s family, I got a little feedback from my own parents and sister. My dad shared: “We were very supportive and extremely happy with the order [you have] chosen. We’ve seen you blossom a lot during the years with the Franciscans.”
My parents have actually become good friends with the Sisters in Hankinson. When I was a few hours further away in the novitiate in Rugby, North Dakota, this relationship blossomed.
My family was not permitted to visit during the intensive time of my “canonical year,” when we are given the opportunity to step away from the world and deepen our spiritual life. Nonetheless, they made trips to Hankinson, helping with the Sisters’ big craft/bake sale and enjoying many games of Pinochle. It has been neat to see how the Sisters and my parents have grown close, independent of me. My mom shared her gratitude that they now “have a larger family with the Sisters included.”
Nowadays, I see my family more often. We are offered two-weeks vacation each year, which includes our ‘home visit.’ My parents also are invited to visit when they choose. Since my mom’s family is from north-central North Dakota, Grand Forks is not really out of the way for them if they go back to her home. They usually stop through a few times a year.
A prayer we say upon the death of one of our Sisters is interesting to reflect on when thinking about familial relationships. We pray: “Lord, Jesus Christ, you have promised one-hundred fold reward to all those who have given up claim to possessions and family for the sake of the kingdom…”
I think this is key; we have given up all claim. Our relationships with our families now are not for our own sake. Might I say, family relationships are now”for the sake of the kingdom.” Everything we do now is to be for Jesus, our Spouse, so if I visit my natural family, or extend hospitality to them, it is for the sake of Jesus, loving Him in them. After all, He said: “Whatever you did for the least of my brothers, you did for me.”
Sr. Christina M. Neumann