At least once a week, as the season changes, we can watch the squirrels during morning prayer as they cross the power lines in front of us. They do it well but seem to know if the crossing should be energetic or slow or just steady. How do they know? Beats me. In any case, they never seem afraid to cross (well there was that one morning when the crows were a little more pushy than usual!). The squirrels take one step and then another and then run or saunter or whatever gets them across. There is no evidence of fear as they navigate the thin power line. They just know they have to get somewhere!
As we celebrate Christmas and enter the new year, what will our power lines look like? Will we have fears about crossing them? Will we saunter or walk briskly or run? We know we have to cross them wherever they are or whatever they look like. There will be crows now and then, too. What will guide us? I’m thinking prayer, prayer and probably prayer. That keeps us grounded even when we dangle high in the air on our life’s journey which is now embarking on a new year!
Rejoice in the glories of Christmas and look with expectation and hope to the new year.
“Elizabeth filled with the Holy Spirit proclaims ‘And how is it that the mother of my Lord should come to me. And Mary said: ‘My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my savior.” Luke 1:43,46
The gospel account from Luke of the Visitation ushers in the Fourth Sunday of Advent 2021. As I reflected on this gospel, I was drawn to the depiction of the Visitation by Brother Mickey McGrath. His painting is one of my favorite depictions of the Visitation of Mary and Elizabeth because it reflects such joy and love as these two pregnant relatives greet each other. Both women, the young Mary, and the older Elizabeth, offer support to each other in the unfolding of the mystery of their “yes” to God.
The love and faith in God of Mary and Elizabeth, provided the foundation for their deep openness to God in their life. This openness to the Spirit of God fostered their joy in accepting how God was being manifested in and through them. Steeped in faith and love, they were able to draw on God for strength during their times of uncertainty and challenge.
Consider the risk of Mary’s “yes,” being young, unmarried, and pregnant in her culture. Think of the difficulty that Elizabeth experienced during a time when barrenness was a source of shame. Both Mary and Elizabeth faced uncertain and challenging situations, yet they persisted in their trust, love, and faith in God. When I think of the uncertainties and challenges of our times, this joyous encounter of Mary and Elizabeth, is a reminder that the same Spirit that was present within them, dwells within us.
As we continue our Advent journey, I invite you to reflect on recognizing the visitation or movement of God’s Spirit in your own experience? Perhaps you experienced God’s Spirit in the comforting support of a friend or in the unexpected kindness of a stranger. Maybe it was simply an unexpected sense of peace. How has God’s Spirit, which dwells within you, moved you in your life recently?
As we draw closer to celebrating Emmanuel—God with Us, like Mary and Elizabeth, may we too, rejoice in the gift of God, our Savior!
If you feel the Spirit of God moving you to consider religious life as a Sister, please contact us to walk with you through this time of discernment.
Blessings on the rest of your Advent and on the Christmas holidays!
Dominican Sister of Peace Patricia (Agnese) Gavaghan, OP (83), died on December 12, 2021, at Mohun Health Care Center in Columbus, OH.
Sister Pat, one of two siblings, was born in 1938 in New York City to Catherine Crehan and Patrick Gavaghan. Her early life was marked by loss, as her older sister died before Sister Pat was born, and her father died when she was only five weeks old. Sister Pat valued the close relationship she had with her mother, who was a woman of joy and a special role model.
Sister Pat was a student at our Saint Vincent Ferrer Grade School and was inspired by the joy she saw in her teachers. She graduated from Thorpe Secretarial School, then entered the Congregation in 1957, made first profession in 1959, and took her final vows in 1964. She cared for her Sisters and for God’s people for 62 years.
Sister Pat’s special ministry was molding God’s gifts into delicious meals. She began her ministry as a cook at the St. Joseph Priory in Somerset, Ohio. She went on to cook and serve at a number of schools and convents in Connecticut and New York.
While serving at St. Andrew Convent in Flushing, NY, Sister Pat stepped into the role of Parish Minister. She enjoyed “bringing the Eucharist to the residents of the Bridgeview Nursing Home, praying with the residents and listening to them,” sharing spiritual food with those she served. She was also patient and helpful with the residents, completing shopping and other errands for those residents when needed.
Sr. Pat was known for her gentle sense of humor, which was an important asset when she moved to Columbus to serve as a Driver for the Motherhouse Sisters. She also served the Congregation in the Supply department at the Mohun Health Care Center before retiring to a ministry of prayer and service at the Columbus Motherhouse. Sr. Patricia’s final ministry of prayer and presence at Mohun Health Care began in 2016.
She was preceded in death by her parents, Patrick and Catherine Crehan Gavaghan, and her sister, Anna Marie Gavaghan.
A Vigil of Remembrance Service and wake was held on December 20, 2021, at the Columbus Motherhouse. The funeral liturgy, also at the Columbus Motherhouse took place on December 21, followed by burial at St. Joseph Cemetery in Columbus, OH.
Recently, my direction in glazing pots has been moving towards underglaze surface decoration: reds, blues, purple, black, greens, and a yellow that’s got a hint of orange.
More notably, I have discovered these marvelous little birds that I create that I think I must have seen somewhere — because I don’t think it’s an original idea. Regardless, I like the whimsy, I like the spontaneity of drawing them and I see them as a simple way to bring joy to the beholder. They’re just plain fun. I have also explored stylized red poppies using thin black lines to help create the shape and it is so spontaneous for me — a welcomed shift away from feeling somewhat constrained by my glaze palette of commercial glazes that I used for a very long time. So I feel like I’m in a new moment.
My deepest desire is that my pots make a connection with another human being so that when someone is using a bowl or mug or pot of mine it becomes special for them, not because I made it, but because it holds meaning for them. The real source of joy for me is the meaning-making in making art. So when Sarah, my mentor, and I talked about these cute little bird mugs, I was mildly embarrassed by them because I thought they were just fun and not to be taken too seriously. Much to my surprise Sarah saw something different than what I saw in them and I think that’s what meaning is all about — it depends on what the other person sees.
“Do you want to know what I see?” Sarah said. “I see diversity, community, and they are intergenerational.”
Wow! And I was worried people would not take my work seriously. Like most serious potters, I put so much attention and time and love into my pots that it is important to me they be valued by the people who ultimately own them. Not speaking even about monetary value, but the value of excellent pots, worthwhile objects that bring joy, that connect one human being to another.
What strikes me the most in this Advent/Christmas Season — and having just celebrated Gaudete Sunday when the pink candle is lit–that the moral of this story today is: pursue what brings you joy. Throughout this Advent/Christmas season, given all that we have been through the last two years of pandemic, we surely have realized that true joy is being with people dear to us. Be led by the light of joy, that comes from a sense of belonging and cherishing what is truly important to you. Be led by the light of joy and take what you have learned from the pandemic that has made a positive impact on your life. Be led by the light of what matters most to you. Celebrate that this Christmas.
A few days ago, on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, we heard the story of the Annunciation of the birth of Jesus. As I prayed with this story from the Gospel of Luke (1:26-38), I recognized that this reading really exemplifies the discernment process. Let me share with you how I see this Gospel reading mirroring the key steps in discernment.
Be open to God
We know that Mary received her calling with openness. Who are God’s messengers in your life who help you to be open and responsive to God’s call?
When we are open to God, we may find that God is closer to us than perhaps we imagined. For example, Frederick Buechner wrote that “the place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” Your desire and God’s desire for you may converge as you listen to how God is calling you.
As we strive to be open to God, we may find that “what we are carrying will make something leap for joy inside the other and that reaction will help draw the Magnificat out of us, and, like Mary, we will want to stay with that other for mutual support,” which Fr. Ron Rolheiser notes in his article, The Visitation Revisited. What then is the message that God is asking you individually to carry out to others that will make something leap for joy in the other and simultaneously bring out your Magnificat?
Pray with the idea and examine your relationship with God
Luke writes that Mary pondered what was being asked of her. Mary was aware of her deepest desire of loving God, yet she prayerfully pondered her gifts and talents, her strengths and weaknesses, her fears and dreams, her values and goals. She pondered and prayed as she discerned the path to follow.
What is God asking of you at this time? How does your prayer life take into account your daily life experiences and bring you closer to God?
Prayer is the key to any discernment process – and prayer works. At the beginning of my own discernment journey, I was very restless. I felt God nudging me, but I didn’t know how to respond. Or was I restless because of the fear of the unknown? Or nwas it because I wanted to cling to things? But the more I prayed about God’s call, the more peaceful I felt. And from that peace came joy, and I realized that living out God’s call brought out my best self. Whenever we are able to give God our worries and are able to be attentive to God’s presence in our lives, we, too, find ourselves rejoicing in God.
In the “Nativity Story” movie, we hear Mary voicing her worries about Joseph: “How is he going to believe this?” Elizabeth responds: “We will pray for guidance.” Are you able to talk to God about your concerns? Are you able to rely on God’s guidance? Reflect on God’s presence in your life. Mary and Elizabeth found reasons to rejoice even in the times of challenges. Make a list how/where you experience God’s presence and God’s grace in your life.
Talk to someone you trust
Mary talked to Elizabeth. Both Mary and Elizabeth were asked to carry out God’s plan: Mary conceived a child before being married, and Elizabeth was bearing a child at an older age. Mary and Elizabeth supported one another as they fulfilled God’s plan.
Becoming a religious Sister is not what most people do. You may have a similar question to what Mary asked, “How could this be?” or you may ponder, “What am I supposed to do?” or “How am I supposed to tell my friends and family?”
We all face difficult decision-making questions – whether it’s about a degree you wish to pursue, or about the call we sense from God about living out God’s love. Our first human reaction might be like Mary’s –questioning and fear. It is normal to have these feelings. But what is most important is that we feel grounded in our faith, like Mary, so that we can ask God our questions. We can also talk with our spiritual directors, our vocation mentors, or our best friend to ask for their feedback on what they see and hear in our story. Although Mary went to help Elizabeth, she also had several conversations with her. Elizabeth, being more “seasoned,” was there for Mary, showing her compassion, patience and offering her peace, or a sense of calmness. You, too, may want to talk to someone you trust so that you can receive feedback and support as you discern God’s call.
Seek information and insights
Mary asked, “How could this be?” (Luke 1:34) I, too, was ready to serve, but I had so many questions. Even in the novitiate, I kept saying: “I have a question…” The novices and directors kept smiling, saying: “Just ask it.” So, yes, I encourage you that whenever you pray about God’s call, be sure to ask your questions as you keep taking steps toward a deeper clarity about what God is calling you to.
It is important that you gather information and insights. Here are some questions that may help you in this step:
What am I discerning?
In what part of my life do I long for clarity and direction?
What question(s) do I have?
Am I open to God to show me how to proceed?
When looking at different congregations, what values do I hold dear?
What is the religious community’s charism?
What does their prayer life look like?
What mission do they serve?
You can find some answers to frequently asked questions on our webpage, or you can ask your own questions here. Pay attention to how you feel about the information and insights that you learn in consultation with others.
Make a decision and take action
Both Mary and Elizabeth used their faith in God to respond to God’s call. They made a decision to accept God’s plan for them and their actions led to others receiving many blessings. Also, the joy of the Visitation probably served as a source of energy for them in carrying out their missions. We, too, can turn our challenges into blessings and joys. With faith in God and with Mary’s companionship, we can find courage to face our fears and the unknown, and we can find strength even to rejoice. Give it a try. Take the next step in your discernment journey.
We are all called to be Christ-bearers. How is God calling you to bear and share the Good News of Christ?
If you feel inspired to pray about or want to talk to someone about whether God is calling you to religious life, contact us.