Wednesday, January 24, 2024

New Beginnings

I am Stephanie Morris, formerly the Director of Archives of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament and an Associate of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament (ASBS). Sister Annette Marie O’Donnell had begun this blog as “Companions on the Journey” but has retired from actively writing. St. Katharine said we are all typewriters in the hands of the Lord; it has been a pleasure and privilege for me to serve as St. Katharine’s typist for many years.

The year started with readings from Luke’s Gospel (chapter 2, verses 22-38) about the Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple. Anna and Simeon recognized the Holy Family, that their Infant was the Messiah. How did they see that special aspect of this particular family, among the thousands of families who presented babies over many years? St. Katharine noted that “activity follows from the spirit of prayer.” Their prayer life enabled Simeon and Anna to see beyond surface qualities and to see the God in them. Perhaps our prayer life could help us to see beyond the superficial, to see the God in others.

         Saint Katharine’s activities followed from her spirit of prayer. As a young woman, Kate had considered entering religious life, favoring a cloistered community. A cloistered community allowed the reception of Communion daily. But Kate also wanted to work on behalf of the African and Native American peoples. How could she have daily Communion and an active apostolate among the African and American peoples? After much discussion with her spiritual director, Bishop James O’Connor, Kate prayed and adopted the path of founding her own religious community with daily Communion and an active apostolate. On February 12, 1891, after a period of religious formation with the Sisters of Mercy in Pittsburgh, Kate pronounced her vows of poverty, chastity, obedience, and “to be the Mother and Servant of the Indian and Negro Races.” On that day, Miss Catherine Mary Drexel became, in religion, Mother Mary Katharine, foundress and Mother General of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament for the Indian and Colored People.

         This February may we continue to pray for the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament and their ministries.

         In Bensalem, we have just completed our “Unity Week.” Different houses of worship hosted a brief presentation, e.g., on Rev. Martin Luther King, followed by light refreshments. Saint Katharine said, “Working for social justice can take many paths.” For the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, education was their primary ministry path.

         Lent will be upon us soon. In 1911, Saint Katharine wrote to the Sisters at St. Catharine’s, proposing that the Sisters undertake “to Fast interiorly.

                  To Fast from uncharitable thoughts and words,

                  To Fast from unkind, ungentle, want of meekness in words to each

                           other and the children…

                  To Fast from distractions at prayer or deliberate venial sin.

Then if there be failure in any of these to say a certain aspiration for each kind of failure in going around, or in the chapel without taking extra time, and offering these prayers for the souls in purgatory that they may aid and bless our old and new Missions. Won’t you all join this Fast and penance?”

         Perhaps we could try to think a moment, remembering that God hears our every word, before we speak. Not easy, but we can try.

         We don’t have to do huge things; not all of us can go on a long pilgrimage to Rome or to the Holy Land. Indeed, Saint Katharine tells us “It is downright folly to be waiting for an opportunity of doing something great; little duties, ordinary actions, well done, are already achievements.”

         Like the baby steps the Infant Jesus took after His birth, we could continue to try to take small steps in deepening our spirit of prayer, one day at a time.

 Stephanie Morris, ASBS

January 16, 2024