Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Cross in Green Bay, WI

Experiencing the Presence of God

Experiencing the Presence of God
Pandemic-related frustrations are washed away with a reminder of God's love

by Sister Elise Cholewinski

In addition to wearing a mask, staying home, and practicing social distancing during the current pandemic, I developed that habit of walking long distances every day. I would usually walk along the sidewalk surrounding the athletic fields of a nearby high school. As Lent turned into Easter, I became more and more anxious. I was scheduled to help direct retreats at the Jesuit Retreat House at Oshkosh during weekends in April and May. I was also scheduled to make my own retreat there later in June.

One by one the retreats were being canceled. One afternoon my anxiety reached a feverish pitch and I stopped in the space between two trees on the tree-lined terrace that ran along the sidewalk. Choking back tears, I poured out my heart to God. I was really angry, at the virus, at the government, and at a few other things. I was filled with frustration and deep disappointment. I felt a little guilty for complaining to God that way. As I felt myself drifting away from God through my attitude and my words, I had the strange sensation that God was very close.

On a Saturday afternoon in July I took my walk along the same route. I had just returned from making my retreat. Keeping silence for eight days, walking the country roads early in the morning, meditating on the Sacred Scriptures, sitting on the dock in Lake Winnebago and imagining myself being in a boat and conversing with Jesus, all made for an incredibly beautiful experience of the Presence of God. Now, on this Saturday afternoon, I paused between those two trees on the terrace. I was keenly aware of God’s deep personal love for me.

Sometimes all we can see before us is a vacant desert, an empty wilderness. Then one day we retrace our steps and return to the same place. There we behold a burning bush.


Millie Hayes
07/27/2020 3:09 pm

Thank you Elise. You are inspiring.

07/27/2020 3:41 pm

Silence works every time SOOO someone told me long ago :)

Kris Van Roy
07/27/2020 10:24 pm

Getting away from the news and enjoying God’s creation in a prayerful manner are the best therapy! I love the imagery in your story. The boat with Jesus, and the burning bush are powerful! I am so thankful that you experienced this!

07/28/2020 4:59 am

Thank you for your wonderful insights. I, too, have been walking more frequently through the abbey to decrease my anxious thoughts. Nature has a beautiful way of distracting us from negative thinking.

Sandra Heinzl
07/28/2020 11:27 am

Thank you Sr. Elise. You are always so reassuring.

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