Walking With Jesus

Sr Jean Anne Z homily

Reflection given by Sister Jean Anne Zappa, OSU on Sunday, September 23, 2018
Chapel Donor Mass, Chapel of the Immaculate Conception, Ursuline Motherhouse

On retreat a few years back, I had an encounter that still touches my heart in a profound way. Walking around the lake in front of me was a young boy with a teenager, presumably brothers. They were chatting and the boy was feeding the ducks. The older brother told him it was time to go, but the boy kept on walking. The brother called his name and said, “Brad it is time to go,” so they began walking up a hill.

All of a sudden, the young boy, Brad, turned around and caught up with me and began to walk with me, in silence. I smiled at him and he offered me the bread he had left over from feeding the ducks. I received it; he smiled and then ran back up the hill. In silence and with the act of handing me the bread, he invited me to continue feeding the ducks. Somehow his goodness and simplicity, but mostly his generosity and trust, sharing his joy, and in his action, sharing what was important to him touched me. When I reflected on today’s readings this experience immediately came back to me.

In the Wisdom reading (Wis 2:12, 17:20) the author is struggling with the questions like: who can understand life, how should humans behave, what is the attitude about life, suffering, inequality and death, why do the wicked prosper, how do human experiences affect our faith, how does one find joy in contemplating God and creation?

The letter of James (JAS 3:16–4:3) struggles with the same question: the inequality is among the community—the body of Christ, starting with the individual and affecting the whole.

So James calls forth repentance and openness to the generosity of God because if tensions are not resolved, tensions manifest as oppression to the poor. James calls for faithful acts of love and service, to be in solidarity with each other especially with the social outcasts.

The Gospel reading (MK 9:30-37) begins with a prediction of the Passion, death and resurrection, which relates to the Wisdom question of the meaning of suffering, especially of the just and the meaning of immortality. Jesus then teaches his followers that the primary reason for faith is repentance and discipleship,  a reminder of what the letter of James calls forth in his message— repentance is necessary, as that leads to  solidarity with the outcasts and acts of faithful service—true discipleship to follow Jesus.

Then Jesus takes a child and says whoever welcomes a child, welcomes me and the one who sent me. We think that Jesus uses the image of children for us to be as innocent, honest and simple as they, yet in the time of Jesus, children were outcasts in society, had no legal rights, many were poor and homeless, not unlike the children of today separated at the border or abused by those in power. Jesus says that true discipleship is when you welcome the vulnerable, when you serve the least, you then serve Christ himself.

The theologian Richard Rohr said, “When at the bottom of society, it is the privileged vantage point for understanding the liberating power of the gospel for the individual and society”. Jesus risked being least and vulnerable entering into his passion death and resurrection. Jesus is calling us to risk vulnerability so we are open to the least and vulnerable for Gospel life to happen.

Back to the experience with Brad whom I met walking by the lake: I hope I welcomed him as he chose to walk with me, share his food with me, and trust me to do the right thing with what he desired. His spontaneous act of offering what was important to him touched my life, to be open and receive what others offer. As we walked together in silence around the lake, without even knowing it, we were contemplating each other’s presence and nature just like the book of Wisdom invites us. He was my Jesus, risking his vulnerability, inviting me to share and join in acts of kindness as James said, to welcome him and others as Jesus calls us to, and to reflect on the meaning of life as Wisdom says.

Today we celebrate and honor you, our donors, who have chosen to walk with us in ministry of Jesus building up God’s reign by the sharing of your resources. You are like the little boy who decides to trust us with your resources to live discipleship together. You are open to share your gifts with us to help preserve this worship space where folks are nourished by the Eucharist in faith and for loving service.

Together, we are open to feed the outcasts and to welcome the vulnerable as you support our ministry fund. Just as the boy did, you as donors walk with us that together in partnership and support we ponder the same Wisdom questions of suffering, inequality and oppression and answer with faith and justice and acts of love. You graciously and generously give and we Ursulines welcome you and thank you. As that boy showed Jesus to me, you show Jesus to us by your generosity and together as disciples we follow Jesus and serve with joy and love.


He Seems to Have Forgotten


By Ginny Schaeffer, Director of Angela Merici Center for Spirituality

While speaking to a group of law enforcement personnel on June 14th, Attorney General Jeff Sessions used a passage from the Bible (Romans 13: 1-2) in an attempt to garner some divine stamp of approval on the  administration’s “zero policy” towards  refugees and asylum seekers crossing our southern border. This is the same immoral policy that is separating children, some as young as a year old, from their parents.

Jeff Sessions needs to be very careful, as we all do, of how he uses individual scripture passages to champion his actions. He seems to have forgotten that Satan used the same tactic with Jesus in the desert—and it didn’t work that well then, either.

He seems to forget that Jesus, whom he professes to be his Lord and Savior, was, along with Mary and Joseph, refugees and asylum seekers from the violence within their home country when they fled to Egypt to escape Herod’s command that every boy under two years of age should be slaughtered. He forgets that Jesus was in the habit of breaking laws, was known to welcome the alien (Romans and Greeks) and that he cared for those in greatest need.  He forgets that Jesus’ anger was often directed toward those in power who used religion to do harm to those who were most vulnerable and marginalized.

Attorney General Sessions also seems to forget that Jesus, when asked by a scholar of the law, which of all the commandments was the greatest, answered:

The first is this: ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love
the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind,
and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
Mark 12: 29-31

Jesus is very clear. There is no other commandment greater than these two. Whenever a commandment (policy or law) comes in conflict with these two, then these two commandments must take precedence. These commandments empowered Jesus to voice his opposition to those in authority, to break Jewish laws and social taboos, to reach out to the shunned, the weak and to welcome and care for the alien.

Jeff Sessions seems to have forgotten that, as Christians, we are to follow Jesus’ example. Like Jesus, we are to stand up and denounce immoral and evil laws and policies. Like Jesus, we are to care for those in greatest need by welcoming the stranger, feeding the hungry, offering healing to the wounded, visiting those who are imprisoned and setting the oppressed free. Like Jesus, we are called to lay down our lives for one another.

We cannot forget what it means to be a follower of Jesus.


What can you do? Listed below are some suggestions:

  • Pray for those who are seeking refuge and asylum in the United States. Remember that the vast majority of us are the beneficiaries of our ancestors who were immigrants and refugees.
  • Pray for our government leaders that their hearts and minds might be open to compassion and wisdom as to how to lawfully and mercifully create policy and laws that heals wounds rather than create them.
  • Contact the White House (https://whitehouse.gov), your senators (https://www.senate.gov/senators/contact) and representative (www.house.gov) and voice your strong opposition to this “zero policy” and that it come to an end immediately.
  • Contact your local Catholic Charities or other charitable organization that supports settling refugees and immigrants in your community. Make a donation. Volunteer.
  • Ask your pastor to preach about this on Sunday. Include asylum seekers, refugees and immigrants in your communal prayers.
  • Find a way to meet with someone who has come to this country seeking a safer and better life for their families. Ask them to share their story with you. Imagine yourself, your children in their situation. What would you have done?






Living in Love

Living in Love

By Sister Jo Ann Jansing, OSU

This year the planets and our liturgical calendars align to give us two events on the same day—one of penance and fasting, the other of candy hearts and romance, to ponder the meaning of love. I receive a little booklet monthly from the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance (OREPA), which contains daily thoughts from a variety of people that are collected and printed for its subscribers’ edification. Two of these “thoughts for the day” captured my heart in the January booklet. One, by John Neafsey, reads, “Love is not only a feeling. It is also a choice we make or action we take, regardless of the feeling of the moment. Steadfast love calls for tenacity and commitment over the long haul, even in trying times.” The other, by David J. Wolpe, states, “Romantic single gestures grab attention and acquire the luster of heroism, but it is the daily, draining effort to be kind, to rise above pettiness, irritation, and limitations that is truly arduous, and praiseworthy.” Each of these quotations gives the two faces of love that we commemorate each year, one on Valentine’s Day when our romantic love is aroused and the other on Ash Wednesday when we ponder what agape love is, that “long haul” love.

Agape, from Ancient Greek, is the word for the highest form of love, the love of God, which we strive to have for our fellow brothers and sisters as Christians. It is different from Philla (brotherly) love, or Eros (romantic) love. Agape is used to describe the love that is of and from God, whose very nature is love itself. The best description of agape love can be found in 1 Corinthians:

“Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.”   — 1 Corinthians 4–8

As a kid, I remember how we counted our valentines each year at school and how we were thrilled or disappointed, depending on the number we received. It meant we were loved or we weren’t. I didn’t think of love beyond what others did to make me feel good. I didn’t pay as much attention then to the love that was shown by my parents as they sacrificed so much personally in order for us to have what we needed, their “tenacity and commitment over the long haul, even in trying times.” That came later as I matured. As a religious, I have witnessed many of my sisters making choices, “regardless of the feeling of the moment,” being faithful to the “daily, draining effort to be kind, to rise above pettiness, irritation, and limitations that is truly arduous.” I have witnessed wives and husbands whose commitment went far beyond the honeymoon and who strive to live 1 Corinthians 13 daily.

It’s still nice to be remembered on Valentine’s Day, but that kind of romantic love doesn’t survive what is demanded for commitment over the long haul, agape love. On Ash Wednesday we initiate the journey of Lent which commemorates the agape love of Jesus, who lived and died as one of us, faithfully committed to us “over the long haul” through life and death to resurrection. During this Lent I want to be inspired to move beyond the “giving up of candy” kind of practice to growing in the agape practice of daily commitment to my sisters, my family, my neighbor, my God. May it be so for all of us. May we enjoy our valentines when we have them but be committed to the long haul of agape love.

Refugees and our call to speak for them


They have no need of our help
So do not tell me
These haggard faces could belong to you or me
Should life have dealt a different hand
We need to see them for who they really are
Chancers and scroungers
Layabouts and loungers
With bombs up their sleeves
Cut-throats and thieves
They are not
Welcome here
We should make them
Go back to where they came from
They cannot
Share our food
Share our homes
Share our countries
Instead let us
Build a wall to keep them out
It is not okay to say
These are people just like us
A place should only belong to those who are born there
Do not be so stupid to think that
The world can be looked at another way

(now read from bottom to top)

Poem by ‎@brian_bilston

Sister Janet Peterworth states that, “The Ursuline Sisters of Louisville are called by their Charism to ministry that supports efforts to further social justice, to alleviate suffering, to promote peace and to preserve the environment. These calls come to us directly out of the teachings and actions of Jesus. The first Ursulines who came to Louisville were not welcomed because they were immigrants…and Catholic immigrants at that. Our ancestors knew the hardships of adapting to a new culture. We have supported immigrants by sponsoring families, assisting with their settlement, offering them employment and housing and helping them adapt to a new culture. Today we see immigration as one of the biggest social justice issues of the day. We stand with immigrants and refugees and want to see just and fair laws that impact their lives.”

Sr Janet quoteSM

Standing with refugees is often controversial for religious sisters. A recent article* by Dan Stockman published in the Global Sisters Report states, “Women religious — who are usually outside of political debates — have not been immune to Americans’ rancor. Stances congregations have held for decades or even centuries have become controversial in some circles.”  Sisters often find themselves as the prophetic voices in the wilderness, crying out for justice in this age of self-interest and polarization. For those without a voice, our sisters continue to speak, just as Jesus spoke for the poor and marginalized.

* <http://globalsistersreport.org/news/equality/some-are-surprised-learn-catholic-sisters-support-certain-issues-51516#>


A Marshall County High School teacher shares her experience from last week’s shootings at the school


By Ginny Schaeffer, Director, Angela Merici Center

A Marshall County High School teacher shares her experience:

“Here is what I want people to know about this past Tuesday at MCHS. Evil entered our building that morning and tried to destroy us, but God was there throughout it all. God was there to lead two precious souls home. God was there when students helped students escape, God was there when the administration, faculty and staff sheltered and aided students. God was there when He guided the first responders. God was there when students ran into local businesses for shelter and aid. God was there in our darkest hour. The only prayer I could say at that time, was Oh, dear God. He knew the rest. Evil may have entered our school but God was there and He conquered the evil a thousand times over. Evil will not win, not in our school or our community!” #MarshallStrong
–Becky Phelps

A week ago today a 15-year-old student opened fire on his fellow students at Marshall County High School. Two 15-year-old students were killed, more than a dozen others were shot and more were wounded in the mayhem to escape. Becky Phelps is a teacher at MCHS who was in close proximity to the shooting. She has shared her experience of that morning. May her ending declaration be true for all of us and our communities.

—Ginny Schaeffer, Director, Angela Merici Center

photo credit: Nicole Erwin, WKMS

MLK, St. Angela Merici and Community


By Sister Agnes Coveney

In reflecting on two important days in January, Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Saint Angela Merici’s feast day, the word community comes to mind. Now here is something to ponder and pray over—the word “community.” We use it for the circles we’re in; such as the Ursuline community, the Ursuline Associate Community, the civic community, and so on.

The Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. often spoke of the Beloved Community. The Beloved Community wasn’t free from human conflicts, but Dr. King believed that conflicts could be settled with peaceful methods and that people committed to nonviolence could cooperate with their opponents.

St. Angela encouraged her community, the Company of St. Ursula, to “Be bound to one another by the bond of charity, treating each other with respect, helping one another, bearing with one another in Christ Jesus.”

In the time spanning the January 15 holiday for the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., and the January 27 Feast of St. Angela, take some time to reflect on how you can bring peace, nonviolence, cooperation, respect, assistance and patience to the circles and communities to which you belong.



The Gift of the Magi

By Sister Janet Marie Peterworth

“The magi, as you know, were wise men—wonderfully wise men—who brought gifts to the Babe in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents. Being wise, their gifts were no doubt wise ones, possibly bearing the privilege of exchange in case of duplication.”

So begins the last paragraph of O. Henry’s famous story, “The Gift of the Magi.” It is a beautiful story of gift giving. One, I think, that should be read every Christmas before one does gift giving. It is about planning and love and sacrifice.

It is no accident that our editorial team chose to depict the Magi with an Ursuline Sister for the cover of our 2017 winter issue of our Dome magazine, because that issue is dedicated to the benefactors of the Ursuline Sisters and our ministries. It is dedicated to all of you who support us with gifts that reflect planning, love and sacrifice, and who support us with time, talent and treasure. Like the Magi, you are wonderfully wise people—people who bring gifts to the ministry of the Ursuline Sisters so that we in turn can bring the gift of the Gospel to others through our prayers, works and suffering. What a wonderful way for all of us to be connected.

And speaking of being connected, I read recently that Archbishop Desmond Tutu once said, “Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”

And so, on this eve of our Savior’s birth, let us each in our own way do our little bit of good no matter if it be time, talent or treasure; or prayer, works or suffering so that together we can overwhelm the world.

Thanks for being our friends and benefactors. God be with you in every way this Christmas season. You are our gift.


Sacred Heart Model School students pose as the Magi with Sister Jane Stuckenborg to celebrate our Gifting issue of The DOME. Sacred Heart Model School Students L to R: Will H., Barret U. and Tristan J.