Oh, the places you'll go!
Sometimes my summers feel like the title of that Dr. Seuss book. I never know where I'll be sent and where I will go next, while other years my summers are much more predictable. As a teacher who has their "summers off" we give our summers to the community as needed. It really is beautiful. I often marvel at the true gift of self that our Sisters experience as we trot across the globe of the United States, filling in for each other so that we can take time off to retreat and renew ourselves in the Lord. It is in this very act of selflessness that unknown cooks are born, florists are discovered, and above all a greater appreciation for the apostolate of your Sister is experienced and embraced. A little humility is always good for us as we step outside of our comfort zone.
If we are not working in one of our convents you can very often find us doing one of many summer programs. That was my summer this year. I think I lived at various camps for almost 5 weeks. From the mountains of northern Georgia to the northern woods of Minnesota, you would find Sr. M. Catherine and myself, or Sr. Mariela and I with hundreds of teenagers. I truly felt like St. Francis traveling in pairs with my sandals and "carry on bag" in hand. St. Francis has given us the original example of carrying the gospel to all people and our new Holy Father Francis reminds us:
"People today certainly need words, but most of all they need us to bear witness to the mercy and tenderness of the Lord which warms the heart, rekindles hope, and attracts people towards the good. What a joy it is to bring God's consolation to others!"
We didn't go alone however. We went surrounded by the prayers of our community as we ministered to these young people and were able to share Christ's mercy with them. Most of the high schoolers I encountered had never met a Sister before, and for some, we would probably be their first and last encounter with religious life. The intense praying, ultimate frisbee playing, preaching about the Mass and vocations, white-water rafting sisters who sit on a rocking chair until 11pm listening and counseling about the difficulties of their life and playing 4 square with you the next day...(pause for breath)... singing the songs from the depths of their hearts and playing capture the flag, would be your encounter with joy and God's love through us. It may have been really late nights and equally early mornings on our part, but I pray that they experienced the joy of the gospel from some simple Franciscans.
There were many graces that God was pouring out upon us and all the young people we encountered. If you are familiar with Dr. Seuss' book that I mentioned at the beginning there is a line in it where he says..." You're on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who'll decide where to go....” And yet for us we experienced the opposite. God was with us, working in so many young peoples lives this summer. I know that I was NOT alone. I relish that I have been given the faith that I have and that HE is all knowing. And that it's His will that I am always trying to do and not my own. So if I am sent out to spend weeks at Catholic summer camps with bugs and canoes, God's will be done. I don't really mind, sprained ankle and all!
- Sr. Mary George, FSGM