What I Love About Being a Passionist!

     For last year's annual fall visit of our Owensboro Serra Club Sr. Rose Marie and Ane Kirstine gave a talk about Passionist life.  As we begin National Vocation Awareness Week I thought it timely to share it with you. ENJOY!       Special thanks to Mrs. Larena Lawson, great promoter of priestly and religious vocations in the Diocese of Owensboro Kentucky, for making it possible for us to post this on our blog.

What I Love About Being a Passionist A look inside the daily life of two young, cloistered Passionists

Serra Club Communications November 12, 2010 Larena Lawson

On November 12th the Owensboro Serra Club was kindly welcomed at St. Joseph Passionist Monastery in Whitesville for what has become an annual visit. The Passionist Nuns offered them a delicious lunch of hot soups and sandwiches and spoke to them about life at the monastery. Mother Catherine Marie Schuhmann opened the program by sharing news from the monastery.

     They have been contacted by Dr. James Shumaker, President of the Paducah Serra Club, who has asked if they could come to the monastery for a visit sometimes in 2011. Mother Catherine was pleased with this request. They have two Passionist nuns who are from Paducah and she would like to see more from that area and asked the Owensboro Serrans to pray that the visit will become a reality and to pray for more vocations to the Passionist life.

     Mother was also very happy to report that in January they will welcome a young woman, Liz, to their community (a 3-month aspirancy program). Liz is from Texas...In closing, Mother Catherine encouraged the Serra Club to continue to get the word out that there is a cloistered Passionist order in the Diocese of Owensboro. She remains mystified at how many people still don’t know they exist. Many times when she is out in public, shopping at Walmart for instance, she is approached by people who have never heard of their order. She wants it to be well known that they exist in the diocese.

    The program speakers for the day were Novice, Sister Rose Marie Schoppe, from Houston Texas and a graduate of Texas A&M, and Postulant, Ane Kirstine Wynn, a convert to the Catholic faith who became Catholic while attending a Lutheran college. She went on to receive a master’s degree in Catholic studies from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota. Those who attended last year’s Serra Club visit to the monastery might remember them telling their vocation stories then. This year they decided to talk about things that they love about being a Passionist.

    "It is a joy for us both to be back with you all," began Ane Kirstine with a big, effervescent smile, "and you may remember from last year that for about seven years now that it has been my refrain and often the subject of friends’ teasing, that 'I love being Catholic because' — and pretty much everything makes me love being Catholic. What I find these days, after about a year in the monastery, is that the refrain is changing a little, now, 'I love being Passionist because' — pretty much everything here makes me love being Passionist."

     When thinking of examples to share, Ane Kirstine said, "the little ways throughout the day, walking down the hallways, glancing into an empty room, walking on the grounds; the little ways that God is waiting behind every corner for us here." For instance, the simplicity of the bedrooms that they live in is sufficient, but points their attention toward God. She continued, "Walking around the grounds seeing the wind go through the trees, the waves on the lake, even the birds flying; you see the power and beauty of God." Sister Rose Marie interrupted and mentioned the herons on the lake and Ane Kirstine told of one of her favorite sights, the sunrise, when oftentimes there is a heron fishing on the lake that is silhouetted against the beautiful sunrise.

     Continuing to list things that make her love being a Passionist, Ane Kirstine said, with a sincere passion in her voice, "Living down the hallway, literally, from the Eucharist, Our Lord, waiting there, abiding with us, at every moment of our life. I heard Christie or someone at recreation saying, ‘I’m pretty sure the Holy Spirit lives here,’ and it’s true, God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is everywhere, waiting for us to notice, and everything about our life does…I love it!

     "Ane Kirstine’s comments led Sister Rose Marie to state that there is integrity to monastic life because practically everything is ordered to help them become more balanced, more whole individuals, so that they can find God in everything. "I think probably, we’ve all experienced," Sister Rose Marie suggested, "how difficult it can be to stay focused on finding God in everything. When you live in an environment of distractions and where a scattered lifestyle may be the norm. I know that as a college student that was my experience. I skipped meals. I didn’t get to sleep but maybe three hours a night sometimes. So, it’s difficult. But in the monastery, it’s ordered so that we can do that. It’s set up for us, so that we don’t have to try so hard. For one thing, the rhythm of our monastery schedule gives us a balance and a discipline in our daily lives. We’re given that time to do the things that are necessary to do in order to stay healthy, whether we may feel like it at the time or not, like getting up to exercise or sitting down to eat a meal or whatever." They eat three meals a day at a set times, coming together from wherever they are at the time. "That’s a really good experience," Sister said, "I never did that at home; simple things, but good."

    She went on to explain their routine. They wake up with the sun, on the verge of the dawn, getting up the same time everyday with nature. They stay busy throughout the day working, praying, recreation, resting, eating, exercising, doing all those natural things that they need to do. They end the day winding down, as the sun winds down, and they go to sleep as the sun goes down. "The natural way of living," Sister surmised.

     Ane Kirstine was then reminded of a time when she was defending monastic life. She was in graduate school at the time, writing her theses and she remembers mentioning to some of her friends how she couldn’t wait until she could enter a monastery that makes her sleep at night. "So basically, there is a respect in the monastic life for a God driven in nature and there is a real, human need that we have, a human nature, just for the balance, in eating, working, resting, relaxing; exercising. So prayer and chapel is not the only way that we find God throughout the day, and I love that! It’s very balanced. And having this kind of a simple lifestyle really gives us the freedom to focus on finding God’s will in all aspects of our day; being able to see His presence in work, in recreation and in each other, as well as in silence and in conversation; putting it all together."

     Generally their work atmosphere is quiet and the work is pretty simple, Sister Rose Marie said, but whether they are peeling potatoes or cleaning the floor or digging in the garden or cooking dinner, hauling wood, working on the computer or whatever they might be doing, they have the freedom to think of God’s presence and "that’s a huge blessing!" Sister shared. "We can think of God’s presence in us and with us as we do it. You can see this reflected in our sisters all the time. You have a sister working in the sacristy and she’s arranging flowers or ironing the linens for Mass and you think, just as she’s focusing on doing that, very recollected and quietly working, well maybe she’s doing that for Jesus, the Child Jesus, imagining doing His laundry, or just making a beautiful bouquet for God to put in chapel."

     Sister then recalled one "cute" thing that she remembered seeing. She noticed that one of the sisters who worked in the cloth room would put a statue of the Blessed Mother in front of her as she worked on sewing the habits. She has Mary with her there as she is working. For Ane Kirstine, she jokingly said that this would be especially comforting to her to know that Mary was there handling the details in the sewing of the habits because she doesn’t know how to. "In more ways than one," Sister Rose Marie added with a chuckle.

     Another way that the Passionists find God in everything is through their recreation. They come together at certain times of the day just to relax and be together and to enjoy each other’s company. They do fun things, play games, arts and crafts, or just talk to each other. Sister Rose Marie recalled, "There have been several times when just in passing conversation that a sister has said something, not even intending it to be to me, or anything, just something she said in passing and it really meant a lot to me. So, I find God’s presence a lot in the people I live with and that’s a beautiful thing when you have the freedom to really do that, to be absorbed and being able to see that."

     Ane Kirstine added that, "It’s amazing to, first, to look at the generality of our life geared toward finding God and then seeing its fruit." Some of her favorite little moments have been seeing the love of God, the love of Jesus crucified, shining through, in an unguided moment of an older sister’s life. "You might catch a glimpse of her in chapel, completely absorbed in her Spouse. You might see her in the parlor talking to some of our guests, just fingering her rosary. In some ways, the barrier between time and eternity has become thin for some of our sisters, the ones who have been here 30, 40, 50 years. It’s inspiring, it’s beautiful to see. It’s something that I very much look forward to allowing the light to permeate me more and to draw into that communion with God."

    Just seeing a sister that they pass in the corridor glancing up at one of the crucifixes, something she may not even think about, showing that little glance of love and all the little caring things that one of the sisters might do throughout the day, also inspires the two young Passionists.

     The Liturgy of the Hours (the prayer of the Church) is also a big part of a Passionist’s day. "It’s so beautiful," explained Sister Rose Marie, "because of the efforts that all the sisters put in to making that beautiful, something beautiful for God in the music and the singing." Ane Kirstine believes that it is not only in the moments of prayer that you see the fruits of monastic life, you also see it at recreation, in the laughter and the love that is shown among the Passionist family. "It truly is a family here," she stressed.

     She sees it when she has spilled something when trying to prepare a meal for everyone and three sisters immediately jump to her rescue with rags and mops and whatever else is needed. "You often have more help than you actually need," Sister Rose Marie quickly added. "Which is great," exclaimed Ane Kirstine with a laugh. "It kind of masks the embarrassment." They also find encouraging smiles and words when they are having a rough day. "Somebody sees that, reaches out to you, is Christ to you."

     One thing that Ane Kirstine has also noticed, that is very real to her, is the sense that all of their individual families are a part of the Passionist monastic family there." The care and the joy that is given in welcoming our sisters, our parents, as they come to visit, and truly the family spirit that is flowing out of our community." (Ane Kirstine’s sister was there for the first time, visiting at that moment.)

     Sister Rose Marie has experienced other little ways the sisters show their love and support. She has witnessed a sister coming to mow her little garden anonymously, or just watering her flowers when she is not able to do it. "Just little ways like that, you have your sisters watching out for you," Sister said with a smile.

     "I think also, one of the things that makes me love being a Passionist is the way that our whole life is drawn into the liturgical life of the Church," stated Ane Kirstine. "Before I entered I thought I knew what fasting and feasting was, you know, you follow the Church here, but, our life allows us to enter in with every part of our humanity, into celebrating or preparing to celebrate the mysteries of Christ that the Liturgy presents. Our fast days and seasons are not just with food, although it does; really it marks the rhythm with what is set on our plates, everyday and every week. But also the activities throughout the day, the times of silence, the times of recreation, even the decor of the monastery, the whole atmosphere follows the liturgical year and draws us into a deep participation in that life."

     One of Sister Rose Marie’s favorite examples of what Ane Kirstine just said about the liturgical life of the Passionist, is, "During Holy Week we have a special tradition of keeping vigil with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament throughout the hours of the Passion, after the celebration of Holy Thursday. For me, that’s just so beautiful because I really feel like I’m getting to experience transcending time so that I can be there with Jesus in His suffering and even with our Blessed Mother and that’s just one way. There are lots of little things like that."

     "As Passionists," Ane Kirstine continued, "it’s amazing to see that mystery of Holy Week and transcending time entering into the Paschal mysteries. It’s actually not just one week a year, but every single week of our lives. Every Wednesday we get a chance to remember the betrayal of Judas. Every Thursday we get a chance to celebrate the Eucharist. Every Friday we set aside the whole morning to walk through the Passion with our Blessed Lord and our Blessed Mother. Every Saturday we keep vigil with Mary in preparation for every Sunday celebrating the Resurrection. It’s this glorious rhythm of the Paschal Mystery that permeates every part of our lives."

     "So, as Passionists," Sister Rose Marie went on to explain, "the Liturgy of the Hours and the Mass are key and central ways that we have of entering into Jesus’ sacrifice with Him and through the Sacraments, especially the Sacrament of the Eucharist, of deepening our communion with Jesus in order to draw the graces that we need in order to unite all of our works, prayers, joys and sufferings to His."

     Ane Kirstine added, "And it’s amazing to see the sacramental uniting with Jesus and flowing out into every aspect of the daily lives of the larger lives of the members of our community, drawing us into a true living the Paschal Mysteries, in our bodies, in our spirits, in our minds; truly learning to abide with Him."

     Sister Rose Marie recognizes that in all of their experiences, in all of their personal and community challenges, big or small; they can be opportunities to share in Jesus’ offering to the Father. They do have those opportunities to participate in His love and in His Passion. "And it truly is a joyful thing," Ane Kirstine acknowledged, "even if it is something that is a true suffering; physical, mental, emotional, whatever it is; a true living that sacrifice and that pain. I have come to discover that there is a joy in there as Christ found a joy in the will of His Father. The agony of Gethsemane is one side of the coin that is the same as the joy of Easter Sunday, and that He embraced that will, that divine love in everything, and that colors our lives and our understanding of what’s going on. Whether it is good or small, or whether I cut myself slicing potatoes, or whether it is truly a lot, or a sacrifice, learning to find Jesus’ joy in my life."

     "One of my favorite things really," admitted Ane Kirstine, "about our Passionist life is, seeing the gift that God gives us in our prayerful life and our daily, monastic rhythm; being a gift for others. You see the fruit flowing out from the side of Christ into the people who come to the retreat house. Mother has always said that they come with the world on their shoulders and they leave absolutely revitalized, rejuvenated, and it is humbling and beautiful to know that I was somehow a small part of that work of grace."

     Sister Rose Marie spoke of the many prayer requests that come to the monastery through their website or through friends of the community. "They trust us with their very, special prayer intentions and that’s an honor to know that through them God is also trusting us to pray for them and to keep them in our hearts. We really experience just a strong bond with them, together in the Church, and we lift them up to the Lord in prayer and remember them and even though we don’t often see how God is working through our prayers for them, sometimes the Lord does give us a little chance here and there just when people come back and they share with us things that God has done in their lives. It’s a blessing."

     To close, Ane Kirstine seriously, but in jest, gave what was not an example of what she loves about Passionist life, but, it is proof that she does love it very much because she can’t imagine anything else that would get her up so willingly and regularly at 5 A.M. every morning. She laughed and Sister Rose Marie responded with an Amen, to agree with her closing remark.