facebook icon twitter icon

The  Blanket

How a blanket covers what is beneath depends upon its size, but when nature creates its own blanket the beauty of what’s beneath enhances the blanket itself.

The contrast of darkness covered by a brilliant white of fresh fallen snow gives the look of a winter wonderland. As the small winter birds flutter among the branches knocking clouds of snow to the ground, as like children playing on a field of fresh fallen snow as the snowballs float through the air.

Nature’s blanket covers all it touches, no tree, roof or lawn left untouched. The sun makes it glitter as each flake reflects the light from above.

Like any blanket it is tossed off. The gentle breeze removes the blanket from the trees and sheds it to the ground below, uncovering the beauty it once covered. The nakedness once again revealed for all to see.

- Sr. Donna Smith, CSJ February 18, 2019

(Photo Credit: Sr. Donna Smith)


A Wall Never Comes Up Trump 

From day one of my life, they were there.  First, an invisible, ideological one, then the visible one, dividing east from west Germany.  It stretched for 66 miles from north to south. To detain those defecting from oppressive East Germany, the Berlin Wall was erected.  But I am running ahead of myself.  I was born in East Germany before the wall was built. In Wolfen, just a short distance from Leipzig where such famous people as Richard Wagner and Clara Schumann were born and where Johann Sebastian Bach worked for many years, I was born on the wrong side of the wall. 

Walls! All this talk about erecting a new wall in-stead of building bridges. It seems we have always built walls.  Walls, to either keep people out or in.  But, eventually, all walls fail or fall.  The wall of Jericho, the oldest city wall built about 8000 BC.  The Great Wall of China built around 500 years ago. The Western Wall, also known as The Wailing Wall, built by Herod the Great.  These are some of the most iconic walls that have been erected over the years.  Perhaps all walls should be dubbed ‘wailing walls’, be they those visible ones made of concrete or brick and mortar, or those invisible ones we put up internally to protect ourselves from those who might harm us.  Walls tend to make us wail or weep silently.

But let me come back to the walls closer to home.  As my life began behind a wall, I tend to have a deep-seated dislike for walls of any kind.  With all this talk about the Trump wall going up, old memories of walls raise their ugly heads.  Long story short, my family managed to flee to West Germany. I have vague memories of time spent in a Flüchtlingslager in the Black Forest.  These would have been the equivalent of present-day camps where millions of refugees live these days.  Like so many Germans at the time, after a few years we were on the move again.  This time we crossed the ocean to South Africa, another country familiar with walls and divisions separating the ‘European’ from the ‘non-European’, the black from the white.  It has been a seemingly never-ending story of walls.

The irony of the never-ending story of walls is this - those made of mortar and bricks can be torn down.  The invisible ones we build within our inner sanctum tend to be incredibly resis-tant to being torn down.  With blood, sweat and tears, and only brick by brick, so to say, can we set ourselves free.  So, how do we live healthy lives while we carry the memories of those old concrete walls as well as the reality of our inner walls?  Forgiveness extended to others, and to myself, has been key for me.  No, it is not easy.  Yes, it takes a very long time.  It takes time to recognize the inherent dignity in those who have wronged us.  It takes time, a very long time often, to begin to love those who have hurt us.  When I struggle to turn the proverbial ‘other cheek’ it helps to recall the guidance Jesus offers, which is always challenging and counterintuitive.  Finding common ground with those who have hurt us, is counterintuitive, for our natural inclination is to be angry and resentful instead of loving. However, when we come to a place of understanding of the one who has hurt us, as well as of ourselves, it may also be a place of peace, where walls are no longer needed. 

- Sr. Magdalena Vogt, cps


Weekly Pause &  Ponder

The world is in the state it’s in because there are things in me that need changing.  When I begin to take responsibility for the character of the little world in which I live, the world will become a holier place to be for everyone.

Living Well, by Joan Chittister OSB


Living the Mission Through Service  

Ecclesiasticus 34:20 expresses my life’s journey.  It states “you lift up the soul, O God and make the eyes sparkle.  You give health and life and blessing.”

In this blog I want to give you a glimpse into my lived experience of responding to God’s call with deep faith, a living trust and a love that conquers all fears.

The Present

Sky-high snow banks, closed roads, and continuous snowfalls remind me of February 12, 1947.  That day, my father and I left my only sister and our home in Quyon Quebec to enter the convent at St. Joseph’s-on-the-Lake in Pembroke.  Roads were closed. We returned home.  My sister was grateful, she wiped her tears and prepared a delicious meal, celebrating our return and her first wedding anniversary.

The next day we went to Pembroke via Ottawa.  I was fearful enough of the new venture but had no idea that I would be appointed to Ottawa in 1970 to teach French with the Bazilians at St. Joseph’s High School which closed (sold) soon after.

I found myself with the Public Board.  The school paper heading – ‘A NUN!’  Were you or are you a NUN?  My fears and anxieties diminished as time went on and especially when I learned that the head of my French Department had been in the Seminary.

I taught first at Glebe Collegiate with its gifted programs, then at Lisgar, the oldest High School in the Ottawa Carleton District School Board.  There were line-ups even in the snow for cross boundary transfers.

Parents boasted that Peter Jennings, Adrienne Clarkson, Rich Little, and Lorne Green had all attended Lisgar.

After 40 ½ years of uninterrupted teaching, I, along with Sister Eileen Allison, carried out a ministry of hospitality at 476 Wilbrod Street in Ottawa.

We shared our home-cooked meals with our guests.  They shared their experiences which were life-giving and joyful.  There was no lack of interesting conversations, with varied cultures and accents, especially when members of the CRC stayed with us after their meetings, sharing the richness of their time together.

My heart is filled with gratitude for all the blessings showered on me by a loving God throughout my long life.  I believe that ‘You made me in the image of your own eternity.’  (Wisdom 2:23)

- Sister Marie Meilleur



Trump’s Wall vs. the National Butterfly  Center

In Canada, we have witnessed developments that cause seemingly irreparable damage to our environment. Wood Buffalo Park’s habitat is being compromised due to damning of rivers in BC, logging, oil sands development and industry. Warming climates are causing ice on lakes to thin and permafrost to melt. A collapsed damn in Brazil has killed hundreds and buried towns under toxic mud. We are endlessly told about the damage pf plastic in our oceans and the threat of extinction for caribou, birds, fish, whales, and animals.  Yet, somehow, the threat to monarch butterflies pains my heart.

In September 2018, the United states Congress approved $1.6 billion to construct a 36-foot wall along a section of the Rio Grande in Mexico to prevent illegal migrants from Mexico to enter the United States. The Department of Homeland Security has issued waivers for 28 laws protecting public land, wildlife and the environment.  Construction of this wall, scheduled to begin in February 2019 will cut the National Butterfly Center in two, sandwiching 70% of the Center between the wall and the Rio Grande. Access to this area will be blocked for campers, tourists, and workers.  A 150-foot enforcement zone will be cleared of all vegetation.   Cleared land will eliminate, degrade, and fragment the wildlife habitat and butterfly sanctuary. Access to water and food for wildlife will be blocked; migration will be blocked.  Searchlights at the top of the will be deleterious for the nocturnal animals. Thousands of scientists have written letters denouncing the wall and there have been lawsuits have been instituted to prevent its construction.

More than ever, the voices of individuals are needed to persuade governments, industries, and corporations to place the welfare of our world above financial and political interests.  Each of us needs to pay attention and use our voices, pens, and actions to change our political and social climate as we strive to care for all of creation.

- Sr. Pat McKeon


Copyright 2013. Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph in Canada.