Holy Union Sisters
WINTER 2021 VOLUME 9, ISSUE 15
The seed of God is in us (and as) pear seeds grow into pear trees and hazel seeds into hazel trees, God seeds into God. Meister Eckhart
WINTER 2021 PAGE 2
LEFT TO RIGHT: Sister Carol Sister Kathee Sister Joan
United States Province Leadership Team Dear Friends, Last May, we drafted a letter for the issue of Response that reached you in July. In it we wondered where and how we would be then. Would the pandemic have ended? Would the rising death toll from COVID-19 have finally collapsed? Would we have begun to heal from what we had endured? Now it is December; we are writing again and our questions have not been answered as we hoped. Instead we are being warned of “a surge upon a surge” and a long bleak winter ahead. Once again, we are wondering how all of us will be when you receive this issue of Response.
And when you receive it, you’ll see that Planting Seeds is our theme. In a lingering and deadly pandemic, that’s a counter-intuitive theme for sure! Reflecting on the theme, we noted that although Jesus had lots to say about seeds in the Gospels, he never talked about when to plant them. But his parables were always surprising, with a counter-intuitive twist; maybe he did talk about planting seeds “off season,” in stories that have been lost to us! Disciples of this master storyteller, we are filling this issue with stories of seeds, some planted decades back, others just months ago; seeds that bore fruit the planter was unaware of; seeds that didn’t sprout where they “should” have but flourished in other soil; seeds sown in tragic circumstance; seeds promising liberation and hope. The “sowers” in these stories are Holy Union Sisters, but we hope they will stir memories of others who have sown seeds in the good soil of your lives, seeds that have flourished. We hope you will recognize yourself as a sower of strong, healthy seeds; your support is such a seed in the life and mission of our province! In Fratelli Tutti, his recent encyclical issued during this brutal pandemic, Pope Francis reminds us that it is truly “noble to place our hope in the seeds of goodness we sow … (seeds) whose fruits will be reaped by others” (#196) and, although he didn’t quote St. Paul himself, we can easily imagine Pope Francis adding Paul’s admonition to his own: sow seeds “in season and out of season … whether the time is favorable or not.” (2 Tim). Trust that the seeds you sow will take root and flourish in God’s good time. For, as the medieval Dominican theologian Meister Eckhart tells us, The seed of God is in us (and as) pear seeds grow into pear trees and hazel seeds into
hazel trees, God seeds into God. We thank you!
Kathleen Corrigan, SUSC
Joan Guertin, SUSC
Carol Regan, SUSC
WINTER 2021 PAGE 3
Kenneth Gustin Director of Mission Advancement and Communications
Dear Friends, As the New Year unfolds before us, and a very difficult one recedes behind us, it is time to embrace hopefulness and begin to plant seeds for a brighter future. Our stories in this issue are about seeds of many kinds. A seed seems such a small, simple thing. We all plant seeds everyday whether we realize it or not. My wife tells a story of a particularly wearing day many years ago when our three children were young. It was one of those days when the kids had a little too much energy and nothing seemed to be going right. Things were tight financially, her mother was having health issues, and the daily grind was feeling completely unsatisfying. As the kids played in the driveway she sat on the front steps feeling especially wrung out, which was unlike her. Our neighbor across the street was a wonderfully kind older woman named Janet. She must have noticed the scene and recognized my wife was feeling the weight of the world on her shoulders. She quietly crossed the street and sat down next to her on the stoop. She put her hand on my wife’s back and said, “You know you’re doing a wonderful job”, and smiled a genuine smile that seemed to say, I know what you’re feeling, but hang in there. It’s worth it. She planted a seed of hope my wife remembers to this day, and it still helps her through the tougher days. And Janet was right. My wife later told me she felt like someone had given her a million dollars. That simple kind remark at that moment lifted her spirits and gave her the strength to keep going. How many small gestures have you made that planted a seed that yielded fruit for many years for someone else? I’m sure you’re unaware of most of them. But those you touched have never forgotten you. Sowing the seeds of God’s love can be so simple, and yet so powerful.
I hope you enjoy this issue of Response, and I wish you a New Year which will yield an abundance of grace for many years to come. Be Good !
...we know deep in our hearts that the Lord is with us in every moment and will in some way bring good out of this whole situation.
by Sr. Alice Michael, SUSC
New York City
WINTER 2021 PAGE 4
Planting Seeds of Perseverance Our call to be at the heart of the world revealing God’s love has challenged me to reflect on how I could live up to this when finding myself quite limited and enclosed in the four walls of my home during the worst months of the pandemic. However, many opportunities emerged to accompany and console so many. Though I am very conscious that everyone has had his or her own experience of the pandemic, I would like to share just some of my personal experiences. All of New York City but especially my county of Queens was really hard hit. All day and night we could hear the blaring sirens of ambulances. It sent shock waves up my spine. Each day I was getting calls notifying me of persons who were extremely ill or had been called home, some of whom were my friends, two priests that I knew very well, and a deacon whom I had taught in the diocesan diaconate program. The father of two of our children in the Faith Formation Program died also. The father of a six-month old baby who was to be baptized in April succumbed to the virus. I must honestly admit that I was scared. In my building we had three persons infected, two of whom died from the virus. Prayer and the support and encouragement that I received from sisters, friends, and colleagues through calls and emails gave me peace amid the sufferings. My cousin, Father Jack Oliveira, has been checking in on me daily ever since the pandemic began. The support that I received enabled me to virtually accompany and be a listening ear to so many in their grief, to spend time on the phone with them, to arrange for wake and burial prayers via iPhone set on speaker, and to even solicit money to help defray the cost of burial for the husband of one of my catechists.
I am sure that many of you saw the horrors of Elmhurst Hospital with its huge vans outside for all the corpses. One of our parishioners was taken there. She saw patients lying on the floor with their backs to the wall and a rolled-up towel for a pillow waiting to be tended to. After eight days she was transferred to Roosevelt Hospital where she gradually improved and was allowed to come home. In communicating with my youngsters preparing for Confirmation, I suspended their twenty hours of service emphasizing that I was more than convinced that each of them had been witness and hopefully part of so much self-giving as families struggled to help one another. High rents In Brooklyn and Queens make it necessary for two families to live together in very small apartments. All of this contributed to extremely high numbers of victims in some of our areas. That has been one of the reasons that quite often whole families contracted the virus. In one family that I know, the mother and father, and 40-year-old daughter died leaving three children. The present horrific reality of racial injustice, violence, shootings, protests, etc. is contributing to our present anxieties and fears. There just seems to be so many pent-up emotions, anxieties, and fears! However, we know deep in our hearts that the Lord is with us in every moment and will in some way bring good out of this whole situation. May we stay close to God and in little or big ways find opportunities to share our faith and accompany so many struggling for healing and peace. God’s love is powerfully revealed in small gestures: a smile, a note, a phone call. Be mindful of this as we all seek ways to reveal God’s love during these days when it is most needed. Courage!
WINTER 2021 PAGE 5
The word spread quickly and each year we had a growing number of requests. These came from international novitiates of priests and women religious.
by Sr. Therese Theroux, SUSC
Planting Seeds of Self Awareness Often people think Holy Union’s efforts in Cameroon focus only on healthcare, education, and helping the poor. But there is a personal, interior element to our ministries, as is evident by this account from Sr. Therese Theroux, SUSC. I first went to Cameroon in 1961 and was missioned to the city of Dschang where I worked initially in a nursery with orphans and other children whose families could not care for them. That was when I met Soeur Marie Dominique, SJS, from France. She was giving PRH workshops in different parishes and groups. PRH (Personnalité et Relations Humaines), an international “school”, has been present since 1970 in more than 30 countries spread across 5 continents. Its Founder, Andre Rochais, said, “We learn a lot of things…however, we do not learn enough about how to live according to our being and be comfortable and happy in our own skin”. At its essence it is a training to learn how to be oneself. I had started a domestic science school for young girls where they learned to be good housewives and mothers. One evening a week I met with couples seeking a better way to live their faith. When I learned that S. Marie Dominique was to give a PRH workshop in December 1974, I decided to follow the session as it seemed to be something that I needed as a person and it would help me in my relations with the school girls and couples. The first session I followed was entitled “Who Am I?”. The discovery of self, especially through a method of interiorizing, became a tool that gave me new life! I felt PRH was a program I could also begin using with the girls and couples to help them recognize the value and potential they had within themselves.
I felt called to continue this work in a serious way and asked for some time to receive more comprehensive training. Since I was due to go home in the summer of 1975, I requested a year to do so. Montreal was the closest place for these classes and so I attended workshops on 3 themes: My Inner Being; My Affective Life; and My Relation to God. These were the basis of the work of our group sessions and our one-on-one meetings. After the training I returned to the US and was able to give a few workshops where I was missioned. After 2 years I returned to Cameroon, qualified to give PRH workshops. At first, each time I organized a session, it was under the supervision of S. Dominique. I often organized workshops in English, while S. Domi gave hers in French. It was difficult as we lived quite far from one another, but by 1980 we had relocated to a more central place, Bafoussam, between the Franco and Anglophone areas of Cameroon. At this time Heidi, a midwife from Switzerland, began her PRH training and we formed a team. By 1982 we had given workshops to high school seniors, lay persons, sisters, and priests who had heard of the benefits of PRH and wanted to follow the Workshops. We began receiving requests for PRH sessions and formation from Cotonou, Benin. S. Dominique went to Cotonou to see what groups were there and what the possibilities might be. Many college students were interested and attended her sessions and she felt that there was hope for a PRH team in Benin. The word spread quickly and each year we had a growing number of requests. These came from international novitiates of priests and women religious.
WINTER 2021 PAGE 6
Cameroon is a beautiful country with its mountains and valleys, and we loved it. But the future of PRH was to be in Benin, a flat, hot country! We moved to Cotonou on the edge of the Atlantic in 1991. We dreaded leaving Cameroon, but word had spread to other countries and international novitiates of men and women in Ghana, Burkina Faso, and Nigeria were requesting sessions as well. By 2000 we were a team of five, which included Beatrice from Benin, Heidi from Switzerland, S. Dominique from France, Maurice and Georgette (a married couple) from Cameroon, and myself from the U.S. (left to right in photo). In the photo background you see the French priest Andre Rochais, creator of these life-giving PRH
Programs. Although S. Dominique and I returned to our countries in 2016, the PRH Team we had formed and worked with continues the programs effectively to this day, and we know they are helping so many persons to live happier more fruitful lives. I’m very grateful to God for leading me to this life-giving treasure, to all our leadership and sisters for trusting me as I advanced in this work, and for all those I was blessed to teach and watch grow. As I reflect back over the years, now from my community here in Lawrence, MA I know I am living a life filled with blessings. Learn more about PRH here: http://en.prh-international.org/
PRH (Personnalité et Relations Humaines) believes that: • There is a universal dimension within the human being that goes beyond all cultures and belief systems. • Each person is indwelt by a life force that propels them to become themselves and actualise their potential • Each person, by pausing and questioning themselves to understand themselves better, accelerates the natural process of personality development • Each person has a place and role to play in society, based on their unique potential • Discovering and living our personal mission brings happiness • Finding meaning in our life is possible, despite ordeals • Understanding each other, and respecting differences, lead to a genuine connection with others and to a better way of living together • The experience of true freedom and equality amongst human beings is achievable • Engaging with others in constructive activities enhances the person’s development, their effectiveness and innovation for society
WINTER 2021 PAGE 7
Planting Seeds of Kindness Sr. Helen’s Famous Fudge
Years ago, Sr. Helen McPeak began making batches of fudge for children celebrating their birthdays at St. Vincent’s Services in Fall River, MA where she ministers. From the beginning it was a hit with the children and their friends, so after a while, she began making it for gatherings of sisters in the province and sending it to friends and family just to let them know she was thinking of them. Wrapped simply in tin foil, the arrival of Sr. Helen’s fudge has become an event! From the beginning she claims there was no real recipe, but rather a tinkering with a basic set of simple ingredients she came across in a magazine article. Our times cry out for small ways to lift our spirits and so, for the first time, we are publishing what Sr. Helen calls her “how I make fudge story” (not a recipe). As they used to say, it’s as much fun to make as it is to eat! Enjoy.
Here we go! • Pour into a mixing bowl, 1 package (12oz) Chocolate morsels and ½ cup of water. Stir and place into Microwave for 2 minutes. • Remove and pour off excess water. Add whatever you’d like to make it special (peanut butter, raisins, marshmallows, walnuts, or whatever you’d like). For grown ups you can even add a little liqueur! • Pour onto a foil lined sheet, spread evenly and place in the freezer for at least ½ hour or until firm enough to cut. • Use a pizza cutter to score into bars then into bite-sized pieces and enjoy! That’s it! Stay safe and God bless !!!
WINTER 2021 PAGE 8
Eliminate Human Trafficking
Planting Seeds of Justice by Sr. Mary Lou Simcoe, SUSC Holy Union Sisters have been aware of and concerned about Human Trafficking for several years. We learned that the buying and selling of persons, especially women and children for sexual exploitation, is today’s most common form of slavery. This led the U.S. Province in 2013 to take a corporate stand to educate ourselves, take action and pray for an end to Human Trafficking. Although the 13th Amendment abolished slavery in 1865, in the United States today over twenty-thousand women and children live in servitude as sex workers and domestic workers. According to the Polaris Project, a leading anti-trafficking organization, twenty-five million people are trafficked world-wide each year. In 2019 Polaris saw a nearly 20% increase in victims and survivors reaching out to their hotline. This frightening reality takes place in every state, in urban and rural settings with victims coming from every social class. A Presidential Proclamation in 2014 designated January as Human Trafficking Awareness Month with January 11th as National Human Trafficking Awareness Day. February 8th is the Feast Day of St. Josephine Bakhita, an African slave who was brought to Italy and freed there. She was canonized in 2000 and is the patron of victims of human trafficking. The United Nations World Day Against Human Trafficking on July 30 continues to raise international awareness about human trafficking.
Catholic sisters are in the forefront of efforts to educate and combat human trafficking. U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking offers a monthly newsletter and reflections on Human Trafficking. The Boston Anti-Trafficking Coalition, composed of congregations of women religious, holds a silent vigil on the Sunday closest to January 11th at the Motherhouse of the Sisters of St. Joseph in Brighton. Each year Holy Union Sisters have been well-represented. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the 2021 vigil will be virtual. We have placed a sign at the Motherhouse on busy Cambridge Street in Brighton, reminding all who pass by of Trafficking Awareness Month. Visit the Justice and Peace section of the U.S. Province Website for resources to educate yourself, take action, and pray for an end to what Pope Francis has called, "a crime against humanity." Several years ago, the U.S. Province distributed decals which were placed in the windows of the cars that sisters drive. The decal contained the National Hotline’s text and telephone number to report incidences of human trafficking. Victims trying to break free, or persons who think they observe a possible situation can call this hotline for help at any time of the day or night. A similar decal is contained in this issue of Response. You can help us in this cause by simply applying the decal to a passenger side window in your car. Together, we can sow the seeds of Justice for the victims of this terrible practice.
WINTER 2021 PAGE 9
We want to introduce you to a new local community of Holy Union Sisters. We can all remember the traditional community setting and mission that most sisters lived for many years: the parish convent and elementary school, often on the same compound as the rectory and very near the parish church. As sisters’ ministries changed, so did their living arrangements and their understanding of community life. And now, more changes are occurring as all of us, sisters, friends, and family, move into new seasons of our lives.
Planting Seeds of Community by Sr. Rita Theresa Goulet, SUSC In December 2019, Sisters Beatrice Rogers, Constance Gagnon, Gertrude Pare, Lorraine Sirois, and Rita Theresa Goulet were living in four different locations: Pawtucket, Central Falls, and Cumberland, RI, and Tewksbury, MA. Today, these five sisters form the Holy Union Community at Anchor Bay, an independent and assisted living facility in Johnston, RI. Why? What happened? The simplest answer to those questions is that life happened! But prayer, personal reflection, conversations and meetings, exploring options, envisioning new possibilities for community and ministry also happened and between July and September, a new Holy Union community at Anchor Bay took shape. Five sisters embarked on what Sister Rita describes as a “new adventure,” and while that’s certainly the case, they are remaining true to their belief that God’s call “brings us together in community and sends us forth on mission” (SUSC Constitutions, #11) throughout our lives. At Anchor Bay, the sisters form community among themselves and with other residents, visiting them, listening to them, praying with and
for them, sharing stories, socializing … in all, being truly “sisters” to their age-mates. When COVID restrictions are finally lifted, our sisters will continue their ministry of presence at Anchor Bay and resume their external activities as well. Reflecting on their experience, Sister Gert stressed her belief that our Founder, John Baptist Debrabant would “absolutely” have affirmed the route they have taken. “Because each of us was willing to let go of the old and familiar ways of being and living, God has blessed us with new ways of being at the heart of the world revealing God’s love. … Like seeds planted in new soil need to germinate before growth can take place so we too have the potential for new life within each of us. May our longings and desires for a future full of hope be realized.”
We have similar communities at the Landmark in Fall River, MA and Mary Immaculate in Lawrence, MA, where seeds like those now being planted at Anchor Bay are in full bloom!
WINTER 2021 PAGE 10
St. William of York, Baltimore, MD
Since we began reaching out to you in email several months ago we have received so many wonderful notes from you in reply. Many recount specific memories or incidents which have stayed with them for decades, or impacted their lives in some way. These notes truly warm the Sisters’ hearts. With the writers’ permission, we’ve decided to share excerpts from a couple with you below. We’d love to hear your story! Be kind to someone today!
Immaculate Conception Catholic Academy, (Immac) Astoria, NY
Seeds that Have Flowered From Steven Whalen, who attended St. William of York, Baltimore, MD Sister Rita was quite simply a huge influence in my life. Her decision to have me skip the 3rd grade (along with three others of my then-second grade classmates) ended up defining who many of my lifelong friends and acquaintances would be, including the lovely lady named Nancy who graced my life by becoming my wife right after we graduated from college in August, 1971. I knew Sister during her tenure at St William’s as “Mother Catherine Agnes.” Although rather diminutive in stature, she was an absolute dynamo of energy and enthusiasm. God smiled on me twice ... I then had her again four years later as my 7th grade teacher. She was one of the two best teachers I had from kindergarten all the way thru earning an MBA. I’m glad you cleared up Sister’s last name, which I’ve been repeating incorrectly as “Gavigan” for the 20+ years since the last time I saw Sister at a St William’s anniversary event which she kindly came up from Florida to attend. “Galligan” of course is every bit as Irish as Gavigan. God rest her beloved soul. She was one heck of an impressive and dedicated lady. I shall always remember her with great affection. Thank you!
From Phyllis (LeBlanc) LaMontagne We would ask you to keep our whole family in your prayers and that God will keep them safe from the virus and every other kind of evil. We have lost two elderly friends from the virus, and so it feels like it has touched home. I place my trust in God each day, knowing that He Alone controls this malady and everything else. It’s a lesson that I have to learn anew each day, I must confess. However, I have the tools I need. I grew up with loving parents and siblings, and I was nurtured beyond that by the Holy Union Sisters, with whom I spent fifteen years. I remember them for their great charity, for their simplicity, and for the way they have cared for each other all these years. I have seen this in Lowell, and Roger and I have remarked on it after our visits in Lawrence. I will always be grateful for what you have given me. Thank you from the bottom of my heart !
WINTER 2021 PAGE 11
Have You Visited Your School’s Alumni Facebook Group? If you’re a Facebook user and haven’t yet connected to your old school’s Facebook alumni group, we urge you to do so! It’s a wonderful way to find former classmates, share old (or new) pictures, and even find some of your former teachers! We have connected to all the following Facebook groups where Holy Union Sisters used to teach. We hope you connect and follow them soon! St. William of York, Baltimore, MD (470 Members) – https://www.facebook.com/groups/75311467103 Sacred Heart School, Fall River, MA (340 Members) – https://www.facebook.com/groups/567228193361624 Sacred Hearts Academy, Fall River, MA (446 Members) – https://www.facebook.com/groups/482182308554931 St. Francis de Sales Elementary, Manhattan, NY (411 Members) – https://www.facebook.com/groups/56070078115 Immaculate Conception Catholic Academy (Immac), Astoria, NY (520 Followers) – https://www.facebook.com/icsastoria/ If you know of others please let us know by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
St. Francis de Sales Elementary, Manhattan, NY (Church shown at right.) Academy of the Sacred Hearts, Fall River, MA
Sacred Heart School, Fall River, MA
Music Memories Some may remember the four albums our Sisters recorded in 1960 and 1961. Last year we digitized those albums and made them available for listening on our website. This past September we officially announced the availability of a new 2 CD set called Music Memories which includes all four albums (all 48 songs)!
Your donation allows us to continue our many ministries and supports the care of our Sisters, and our congregation’s work in Cameroon and Haiti.
Please visit us regularly online at: www.holyunionsisters.org. Go to our “Contact Us” page to send us your email address and we’d be happy to send useful and timely faith formation information and other interesting content directly to your inbox. It will also give you a direct line of contact back to us for your prayer intentions; so the sisters can raise them up for you.
May God bless and keep you. Kenneth Gustin Director of Mission Advancement & Communications PO Box 410, Milton, MA 02186-0006 (617) 696-8765 ext 19 Fax: (617) 696-8571 email@example.com
You can watch a video of the story of the making of these albums on our website at www.holyunionsisters.org, with pictures of the Sisters performing. The artwork for the CD case is by Sr. Paul Rita, SUSC, making this a truly Holy Union effort start to finish. The CD set is being sent as a thank you for donations of $50 or more. Just visit the donation page of our website and follow the simple instructions.
Exploring Estate Planned Giving The Holy Union Sisters would like you to know that there is an array of ways that you can remember Holy Union in your Estate Plan. Including the Holy Union Sisters in your Estate Plan demonstrates your love and support for the Holy Union mission. If creating an Estate Plan is something you are exploring, please consider including the Holy Union Sisters in yours. For more information about how you may do so, you may contact: Kenneth Gustin at firstname.lastname@example.org or 617-6968765, as well as your own Estate Planning Professional.
Anne Martens, Designer 22 Cape Cod Avenue Plymouth, MA 02360 (508) 224-2648 email@example.com Printer: Image Resolutions, Norwell, MA 02061
Please visit the Donate and Mission Advancement page at www.holyunionsisters.org in order to: • Make a one time, or recurring, donation on line • Learn about other ways to support our ministries
Response is published twice a year by the Mission Advancement and Communications Office for friends and families of the Holy Union Sisters. www.holyunionsisters.org
This is the Semi-Annual Newsletter of the Holy Union Sisters' US Province, an order of Catholic Sisters with a presence in 17 countries and...
Published on Mar 5, 2021
This is the Semi-Annual Newsletter of the Holy Union Sisters' US Province, an order of Catholic Sisters with a presence in 17 countries and...