Saint Angela and the Ursulines

The following is a reflection that Sister Mary Jo Gramig, OSU, gave to the Sacred Heart Model School students on January 27, 2020, at their Mass celebrating the feast day of Saint Angela Merici. Sacred Heart Model School is a coeducational Catholic school for children from Kindergarten through Eighth grade and is sponsored by the Ursuline Sisters of Louisville.

I thank Father Burke for asking me to say a few words about why I became an Ursuline Sister.

When I was growing up I attended Holy Spirit Grade School in Louisville, where the Ursuline Sisters taught us. Being around the Sisters was very much a part of my school experience. We knew the sisters as our teachers, but also as people, who really cared about us and knew our families and friends.

They were there to teach us to be good students, to know our faith and to be strong Catholic Christians, striving to love God and others as Jesus did. Just like your teachers here at SHMS. They help you to be the best students you can be and also to learn about our faith, about Jesus’ special love for each person and how we are called to love and serve God each day, especially as we strive to live the Ursuline Core Values: Leadership, Community, Reverence and Service.”

I was in 2nd grade when I started to think about being a Sister. It was the example of the Ursuline Sisters who taught me which inspired me to think about Religious Life. The Sisters’ life of prayer, living in community and serving others is what led me to want to become an Ursuline Sister. I always loved young children, which is why I became a teacher and taught preschool and primary grades for many years.

As Ursuline Sisters we follow in the footsteps of Saint Angela Merici, the foundress of our community, whose feast day we celebrate today. Angela listened to the voice of God who spoke to her heart. Both her parents and her sister died when she was a young teen. The grief and loss drew her close to the sufferings of Christ, which inspired her to give her life to God in loving service.

Angela lived in Brescia, Italy where many children, especially girls, didn’t have an opportunity to learn about their faith. Angela was deeply concerned about this and decided then to dedicate herself to the education of children. Eventually Angela gathered some companions and young girls to go into the homes of the children in hopes of helping families come to know and love God.

In 1535 many of these women became the first members of her Religious Community, the Company of Saint Ursula. Angela chose to name her community after Saint Ursula who was a popular saint at that time.

Angela continues to call us as Ursuline sisters to a deep life of prayer and service in meeting the needs of others.

Ursuline Sisters today, besides being teachers, follow their call to service in many other areas as well—as Church leaders, providing social services to the poor and immigrants, mission work in Peru, health care, hospital ministry, retreat work and spiritual direction, to name just a few ministries.

Angela had a deep trust in God, a love of scripture and a love of the Church.  She also had the gift of inspiring the Sisters to live in unity, charity and joy.

As we honor Saint Angela on her feast day, may we pray for the grace to listen to the Holy Spirit as we follow God’s call in our lives each day, “Being Glory to the Only God,” which is the meaning of the Latin words, SOLI DEO GLORIA that is engraved on the cross we wear …which means, “Do everything for the Glory of God.”                                                                                       

Making Room for Joy

By Sister Ruth Ann Haunz, OSU

It’s Christmas, and I love the season.

I want to write about “Joy to the World” and “Deck the Halls” and “Silent Night;” however, I am blocked! I want to experience the joy, decorate not only the halls but every room, and encounter the peace of silent nights.

Joy to the world—I look at the news and I hear national leaders calling others childish names; accounts of senseless mass shootings; people fleeing from their homelands because of ethnic or religious purging. Joy to the World?

Deck the Halls—I watch devastating fires, crippling rain or snow storms; bombed out shelters (homes) with no walls to Deck.

Silent Night—I feel the chaos and noise of consumerism, frantic purchasing, and blaring clamor seeking my attention. Silent Night?

I seep into the cliché, “the reason for the season,” and my blocks get whittling attention. I am gently touched by a larger spirit of the Christ presence in our imperfect world. I make room for the joy, and the decked rooms, and the sweet silence of presence in my heart. Thank you, Jesus.

Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,

which means “God is with us.”
MT 1:23

Our Lady of the O: The Expectation of Mary

By Sister Carol Curtis, OSU

O Virgin above virgins high thine, Expectation’s joy is nigh:
The Word of God made flesh in thee: Behold! Divine the Mystery!
Rejoice! Rejoice! Immanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!

Advent is a maternal season, a time of hidden gestation. Some devotees christen their new calendar by penciling in the coming year’s Advent retreat: the winter cold and long nights seem to deepen their sense of expectation. The new liturgical year opens our hearts with a spirit of welcome: those who receive the Word-become-Child are themselves quickened as children of God (Jn 1:12).

In the early centuries of the Church, the Great O Antiphons gave expression to the promise of salvation. Read in reverse, the first letters of the Messianic titles of the Great O’s leading up to Christmas form the Latin acronym, Ero Cras: tomorrow I will be there. Amid jingling bells and decking the halls, O Come, O Come Immanuel sustains the anticipation of a hope infinitely greater than a gift card. Yet, less familiar is the quiet tradition of Our Lady of the O, an antiphon drawn from the almost forgotten Advent celebration of the Expectation of the Blessed Virgin Mary (an old English breviary annotates: “looking shortly to be delivered!”).

This Marian Mass dates to the formative years of the liturgical calendar when in certain places the feast of the Annunciation was commemorated during Advent. Later, when the date of that feast was fixed nine months before Christmas, the Marian celebration in December focused more on the mystery of God-in-the-womb of the Blessed Virgin Mother, an unseen coming like dewfall. The Magnificat antiphon intones:

O Virgin of virgins! How shall this be? for never was there one like thee, nor will there ever be!

Drawing from the Canticle of Canticles, the Virgin’s response intimates the divine espousal of humanity:

Ye daughters of Jerusalem, why look ye wondering at me? What ye behold is a divine mystery!

Mystery. Wonder. Silent awe. Not yet the deep sighing of the Great O’s in the octave before Christmas, but the little oh! of an unexpected kindness, or the breath-taken ah! of a sunset seen out the kitchen window. These gentle courtesies attend the mystery of God within, like an aureole of baby’s breath surrounding a rosebud. A medieval English carol captures these delicate God-comings:

He came all so stille, there where his mother was, as dew in Aprille that falleth on the grass.
He came all so stille, to his mother’s bower, as dew in Aprille that falleth on the flower.
He came all so stille, there where his mother lay, as dew in Aprille that falleth on the spray.

Pause to reverence the little o moments, in which God comes so still, where we are, without a splash. Be open to receive the baby’s breath caresses of the Spirit in the little fingers expectantly opening the doors of the Advent calendar, the glistening pattern of frost on the windshield, the rush hour sunset in holiday traffic. Thomas Merton prays: To You I lift wide and bright faith-filled eyes in the night…the cold, dark, starry night.

The heaviness of those final days of expectation in the bleak midwinter is also sacred. The posadas remind us of the fatigue and disappointment of closed doors. John of the Cross sings of the Virgin, pregnant with the Divine Word, a passerby seeking shelter: Del Verbo divino la Virgen preñada viene de camino, si le dais posada! Carmelite poet Jessica Powers translates the verse and adds her own invitation:

The wayfaring Virgin, Word in her womb, comes walking your way:
Haven’t you room for the Virgin and Mother? Haven’t you room?
When Bethlehem’s coldness bids her depart, oh, say to the Virgin:
Come to my heart with your heavenly burden! Come to my heart!

Embracing Advent’s burden of hope lights a torch in the stable and prepares us to behold the bundle of joy:

Ah! Ah! Beautiful is the Mother!  Ah! Ah! Beautiful is her Child!

Artwork: “Mother of Life” by Nellie Edwards
Used with permission.

No Longer Waiting

By Sister Sue Scharfenberger, OSU

It’s been many years ago that during the first week of Advent I wrote an Advent song. We used it in our liturgies, and the words were something like:  Waiting, waiting, we are waiting for your coming Lord, O come Lord Jesus come.

And while the song comes back to me at this time of year it no longer speaks to me of what I understand the Incarnation to be about. And I no longer “Wait”.

That divine energy that started and has been communicated long before the birth of Jesus Christ is calling us now to wake up to a presence, a way of being, a way of relating that is within us and all around us. Rather than an attitude of waiting for something or someone, it seems there is a call to stand in wonder and awe at what already is and at the same time what is in process of becoming.

 Changing instruments of war into instruments of peace requires a creativity and commitment that is not in our hands only. We must believe and become aware that peace is in the making and join our forces, our energies to this great and challenging task. There is a transformation that is happening as part of the evolutionary process and we are invited to become a part of it.

For me, there is something too passive in “waiting.” The cultural dynamism  of cyber communication, instant everything, fingers glued to the cell phone, the great facility to know everything instantly, perhaps facilitates our communication of information and top of the head opinions. But it does nothing to foster relationships.

Building and maintaining community and communities calls me to a contemplative place where I can notice what are the patterns in the relationships around me and respond to the invitations to foster, encourage, reach out to, strengthen and celebrate the activity of the divine who is among us already in simple acts of love.

 Sometimes even the waking up to what is happening calls me to a place of forgiveness, asking and giving. I can never reach a time when I can say it is finished, we have completed the task. The movement is too spiral, too dynamic, and too cosmic. But I can notice. I can pay attention to the transformation and allow myself to become open to being a conscious part of it.

For love is birthed daily. I cannot absorb it all, but I can stand in wonder of it all. And the wonder is itself a great act of love. Isaiah says it better: “Do not cling to events of the past or dwell on what happened long ago. Watch for the new thing I am going to do. It is happening already… you can see it now”. (IS 43: 18-19)

A Season of Hope

The following is a reflection given by Sister Janet M. Peterworth, OSU, on Sunday, November 17, 2019 at a Mass celebrating the 50th anniversary for Sacred Heart School for the Arts in Louisville, Kentucky on the Ursuline Campus.

So much for the good news of Our Lord Jesus Christ!

Here is some more good news. “The Amazon is burning, storms are raging, islands are drowning, Jakarta is sinking, aquifers are going dry, species are going extinct, land is changing to desert, and places throughout the globe have experienced one of the hottest summers in history; meanwhile, laws meant to protect our planet are being lifted. As more and more people suffer the pain of the desertification of the planet, the lack of food and clean water, the sinking of their cities, the suffering and desperation of migrants, …the pain of grief and lamentation escalates.” So, says Patricia Bergen, writing in a recent issue of the National Catholic Reporter.

As I thought about these passages from scripture and Ms. Bergen’s article, and I remembered why we are gathered  here today, I thought there must be some music that could reflect all of this “good news” we have just heard. I asked Dr. Chipe to work with me on this. Listen and see if we feel Jesus’s words in music. Let the art take you into the feelings expressed in this Gospel. (Music played)

Did you feel it?  This is exactly what Jesus wanted his disciples to feel. At least one scripture scholar says that Jesus was probably not inside the temple when He engaged his disciples in this conversation, but he was likely seated on a hillside overlooking the temple and this small group was discussing the beauty of the structure. As the disciples were commenting on the beauty of the temple, Jesus just casually says, “Yes, but it will be destroyed.” They knew that other temples had been destroyed and so they were not surprised, but they wanted to know now so they could be ready.

As a matter of fact, Luke wrote this Gospel about 50 years after Jesus made this prophesy. The temple had been destroyed and the people who were reading his writings knew that. For them it was history. But life had gone on. Persecution had begun. By now all of the disciples that knew Jesus personally were dead. People knew that Paul had been dragged before courts and seemed to be able to defend himself by depending on the Holy Spirit to give him words and courage. So, again what Luke’s audience was reading was history. However, they knew of martyrs in their own day. Jesus is telling his men and Luke is telling his readers, if you stand firm, you will win your souls. Not a hair of your head will be destroyed.

And a few verses later, after additional gloom and doom in verses 20-28, Jesus ends by saying, “But stand up straight…hold your head up…your salvation is at hand.” I couldn’t help thinking isn’t it true in our lives, that it is often darkest just before the light seems to come? Isn’t it true that when we think we can’t go on, God sends someone or some grace that helps us get out of the darkness and helps us begin to see the light? You may have experienced it. Again, to quote Patricia Bergen, “Who could ever believe that this pain could be a blessing? And yet it is. When pain sears the core of the heart, when lamentation fills the Earth and outrage cries out from the deep soul of humanity, this can be the fertile ground from which powerful visions emerge. Pain, lamentation and tears can be a blessing, for these reveal the end of being blind and deaf, the end of denial — and this is reason to hope!”

Not long ago, I heard a talk that illustrates this. The speaker told of one of those terrible events of nature that happened not too long ago. Some here remember when Mount St. Helen in Oregon erupted. It was 1980. The speaker said that a friend of hers who lived in Oregon related the absolute devastation of the lava and ash from the volcano. It ran down the side of the mountain killing everything in its path. There was nothing for miles around but grey ash. But once the ash had cooled somewhat, (this was a year or so later) and cracks began to appear in the surface, wildflowers began to come. They bloomed; they came up in the cracks. They added color to the grey ash that was still there. Today these many years later, people come from all over to see the blanket of wildflowers covering the side of that same Mount St. Helen that was covered with ash. Somehow for me these wildflowers reflect Jesus’ words, “Stand up straight, hold your head up…your salvation; your hope is at hand.”

We are moving into a season of hope, the season of Christmas. Pope Francis recently said, “While hope is a virtue that cannot be seen, it should be the air that a Christian breathes.” He called on the world to be open to the promise of hope in Christian life that is kept alive by the “Spirit that works in us.” He goes on to pray and I join him, “May the Lord give us, to all of us, this grace of living in tension, in tension but not through nerves, or problems. No; in tension through the Holy Spirit who keeps us in hope.” 

Before all this happens, however,
they will seize and persecute you,
they will hand you over to the synagogues and to prisons,
and they will have you led before kings and governors
because of my name.
It will lead to your giving testimony.
Remember, you are not to prepare your defense beforehand,
for I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking
that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute.
You will even be handed over by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends,
and they will put some of you to death.
You will be hated by all because of my name,
but not a hair on your head will be destroyed.
By your perseverance you will secure your lives.

—Luke 21: 12-19

Life, Faith and Love Are Stronger than Death

The following blog post is a reflection that Sister Jean Anne Zappa gave at our Mass of Remembrance on Sunday, November 10, 2019.


32nd Sunday Ordinary Time
Maccabees 7:1-2,9-14; II Thessalonians 2;16-3:5; Luke 20: 27-28

Last year, on October 27, I was in Pittsburgh visiting my family. That morning we just found out that a mass shooting was taking place in real time at a Jewish synagogue while three different congregations were at worship. We were only a mile away from the synagogue as this was happening.

Shock and terror hit not only that neighborhood but the entire city because this neighborhood was one of the most diverse and friendliest neighborhoods in the city. After all, this is where Mr. Rogers had lived too.

Later, we heard that 11 worshippers were killed and six were seriously wounded. My sister knew three of the victims. It was announced that a prayer service would be held the next day. However, a teenager was interviewed and said, “We cannot wait till tomorrow. We need to be together in prayer and hope and faith in the midst of these people dying for their faith.” That evening, 3,000 people showed up in the pouring rain across from where the shooting happened. They prayed for hope, peace forgiveness and reconciliation.

As I prayed over todays readings, this experience came to me. In Maccabees, you hear a family being tortured and killed for their faith, not unlike what happened in Pittsburgh or the Baptist church in Charlottesville; or the mosque in New Zealand; or where there are so many religious wars of people dying for their faith. 

The author of Maccabees was not a careful historian, but had the gift of presenting many stories of personal faith that would help others in similar times of persecution and martyrdom. The brothers in Maccabees died for their faith as they professed obedience to the Law and belief in the resurrection of the body. In praising their fidelity, the book describes an afterlife with God for those who live a just life.

In the gospel, a controversy ensues between Jesus and the Sadducees, who try to trick him about relationships in the afterlife. Of course, Jesus goes to the heart of the matter and teaches them that the resurrected life is for everyone right now within the community who are faithful in relationships. Do not be over anxious about the final coming. Live now to the fullest, embrace relationships, be faithful here and now—then, at the end, you will know that God is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and of all of us, for God is the God of the living, not the dead.

So, Maccabees was written to help families who were struggling with persecution and who lost loved ones, to have faith and to assure them of a new life. Jesus reminds us that fidelity in relationships are important, so that we may enjoy God’s presence and each other now as well as on the other side of this life more than we could imagine. Remember, in the preface for the Mass of the dead we say life has not ended, but has changed.

St Paul got it right for the Thessalonians. God has loved us and given us encouragement and hope to strengthen us in deed and word, now. The Lord is faithful, God will strengthen us as we direct our hearts to love of God and Christ and each other.

We gather today to remember our loved ones who died. Our relatives and friends who touched our lives, whose relationships we cherished and shared so much, folks who may have suffered a long time or died suddenly. We miss them dearly because we had a deep relationship with them. We may slowly learn to live with their absence, but we will never forget them because we never forget love.

This is the hope and the new life Jesus promises us in the gospel. Embracing to live the present in relationship with others is a glimpse of the continued life with God. Forever.

The movie Coco tells the tradition of the Mexican celebration of the day of the dead, not unlike our all soul’s day celebration. It is a time to remember the loved ones who died, to reunite with the spirit of the ancestors. In the movie if the dead are not remembered, if the living do not believe they are alive in a new way, they have what they call “a final death.” At the end of the movie, the character Miguel says we never forget; because we are in relationship with them, we are all family. Through Jesus and our faith and hope we know there is no final death but life eternal that begins here on earth.

Father Ronald Rolheiser in his book, The Cross and Resurrection, said, “Love triumphs over hate, peace over chaos, fidelity over despair, life over death, good over evil.”

Back to the synagogue shooting—the next day, all across Pittsburgh there were already banners and t-shirts that said, “stronger than hate.” A few weeks ago, at the one-year remembrance gathering, the rabbi who was wounded in the shooting said, “We are still here, faithful to the Torah, still praying, still remembering, still doing acts of mercy, love and devotion, still people of faith.”

So, my friends—life, faith and love are stronger than death, we are stronger because we are people of faith, because of God’s fidelity and our relationships with God, our deceased and each other. We are stronger than death.

Adios, Peru

This is the ninth and last in a series of blog posts written by Elizabeth Williams, the daughter of Kathy Williams, director of communications for the Ursuline Sisters of Louisville. Elizabeth provides a fresh and witty travelogue of their trip to Peru September 29–October 13 2019.

Posted bylizzyonthemoveOctober 13, 2019Posted inUncategorized

Well, the day has finally come that we had to return back to the U S of A. We have landed in our beautiful city of Louisville. It’s bittersweet. I’m super sad to have left, but I know I have made memories that I’ll always keep near and dear to me. All of the wonderful people I met have truly impacted me. They all have a special place in my heart. I will especially miss Sister Sue, Yuli, and Kathy. They are cool ladies.

Before I discuss yesterday, I would just like to say one more time how much I love Sister Sue. We went out Friday evening to run some errands with her. On the way back she looked at us and said, “would you like to take a moto taxi home?” Oh, would we ever! We were ecstatic because this has been on our bucket list since we arrived in Peru and Sue had known that. We decided that they look like little beetles zipping in and out of the streets. The ride was as scary as we imagined it to be. I took a video of our death defying ride.

First time we saw the Sun in Callao!
Spendin’ the rest of our money on chocolate
The moon
Chicken anyone?
Fruit anyone?
Sister Sue for the win

Yesterday, we had a relaxing day. We hung around the house and packed and took it easy. Of course, there was a nap thrown in there. What am I going to do without my daily naps now that I’m back in the real world???

At 5:30 pm the school had their 54th anniversary celebration. They treat it as a birthday. Their theme this school year is taking care of the Earth with a focus on the Amazon. Each grade did a performance that focused on this. They were so sweet! All the performances were very good and you could tell the students had put a lot of work into their skits. Some made me really wanna cry. One of the older grades showed the Amazon now and in 50 years. In 50 years there was nothing but one tree (a student) left standing. Then some of the students got up and spoke with such confidence and animation about the Amazon. I was very impressed with a third grade class who had their speeches memorized. They really performed with such strength. They pronounced their words very clearly. For how young they were, they had such confidence when delivering their speech by themselves to the audience. I could never have done that at their age.

I was freezing by the end of it. It was outside in the courtyard. Everything takes place in the courtyard. It got over about 8:30. At the end of the night, a huge birthday cake was brought out on the stage and the teachers were asked to come up. Happy birthday was sung while the teachers danced around the cake. Then cake was passed out to everyone! Then, more dancing took place. Just when my mom and I were planning our escape, Sister Yuli found us and pulled us into the dancing circle. My mom and I said we felt like stupid Americans trying to keep up with these Peruvian dances. Peruvians like to hold hands in a circle and go round and round with intricate foot work that foreigners have no chance of keeping up with. AKA my mother and me. Finally, when the circle broke and turned into a train of holding hands going around the court yard, I broke the chain and sneaked out. My mom didn’t get the hint and was left in the train that was sneaking through the left over people from the celebration. She looked at me and I laughed. Finally, she got her chance and joined me. She found us and said we needed to eat before the taxi came to take us to the airport.

Backdrop and the students made
This group sang “Heal the World” by Michael Jackson. They did great!
Aztec girl
Our Amazon

Human cutting down the trees in the Amazon
Happy 54th birthday!

The teachers were all going to a restaurant after the bday celebration to celebrate some more. Like you do. Sue is so caring and had us get there first. She’s also a lifesaver from saving us from our circle dancing. She said we couldn’t leave without having eaten. We also got our sangria first. Yum. We were getting it poured in these tiny glasses, and then Sister Yuli picked up her wine glass and said hmm I think I want it in this. I died laughing. You go Yuli! Oh how I’ll miss her. We had french fries and chicken, again! I’ve consumed a lot of chicken the past few days, but I’m not complaining. We literally ate and ran. My mom mentioned it might take 10 minutes to say goodbye to everyone, and Sue firmly said no, that we didn’t have time for that. Aye aye captain! We stood up, said our goodbyes as we were walking, and everyone yelling at us to have a safe trip. Adios, teachers!

Sister Sue and Sister Kathy had us power walking back to their house. Man, those ladies can move. I could barely keep up with them! And I have long legs! We got there with plenty of time to spare. The taxi arrived at 10 pm and we were off. She and Kathy walked us as far as they could and then we had to say goodbye. I hate goodbyes. We hugged and all that sentimental stuff. After Sue and I hugged, she told me I had to come back. I agreed and said maybe to teach. And you know what she said? She said, “ya know, I’ve already thought about that.” That Sue. I love her so much. Brace yourselves for Lizzy in Peru part 2.

Thank you for following our two week journey through Peru! Adios… for now 😉 -Lizzy

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Posted bylizzyonthemoveOctober 13, 2019Posted inUncategorized

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