Recognizing the Advent Candles

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Sharing the Gospel as vowed religious women is a chance to witness how Jesus shines through each of us
Cholewinski Elise Sr 2016-400px

In my parish I participate in a small group that meets periodically to view a video and engage in a discussion about its message. Recently one of the questions focused on people who were influential in our lives. One of the men reflected for a moment and then recalled how, when his brother died several years ago, a Sister in his brother’s parish had been exceptionally kind in helping the family cope with their loss and prepare for the funeral. As pastoral minister in that parish, the Sister had shown great compassion and gave the family as much of her time as they needed. When the man mentioned the name of the parish, I immediately recognized the Sister as one of our own.

The day before the First Sunday of Advent this year, our Community sponsored a day of reflection for women in our diocese. Two Sisters shared an imaginary reflection on Mary’s experience of the Annunciation. Another Sister gave a very informative presentation on the women in St. Matthew’s genealogy. A Sister and two associates told stories of their times of waiting. Those attending the day found it to be a rich beginning to the new liturgical season.

On the first Sunday of Advent I found myself at St. Norbert Abbey in De Pere, conducting a Confirmation retreat for high school students from a small parish near our St. Francis Convent in Green Bay. When I was speaking on the topic of prayer, one of the girls interrupted me and started asking me questions about my personal prayer and about praying the Liturgy of the Hours. Our tour of the abbey later in the day lasted longer than scheduled because the candidates were asking the young Norbertine guiding the tour about his life at the abbey and his preparation for the priesthood. Toward the conclusion of the retreat one of the boys remarked to an adult facilitator that this retreat was “really kind of cool.”

On the first weekday of Advent the Church presents to us a reading from Isaiah (2:1-5) which pictures the city of Jerusalem, with its magnificent Temple, shining on a mountain and drawing all peoples to itself. This is an image of the Church, called to be the Light of All Nations. Is this not what religious life is to be, for the Church and for the world? In this time of tremendous darkness, I look back at what I have heard and what I have witnessed in the past week, and I ask, with a deep sense of conviction: Is religious life not still that city on a hill?