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In November, I think of Tony. I was teaching then, and he was one of the difficult students in my class. His parents were going through a bitter divorce – so I tried to be patient with him as he wreaked havoc in our classroom. One day, he came in and said, “Sister, my Dad gots me now!

He seemed calmer after that. He knew who ‘had’ him and where he belonged. Free from worry about his security, he had the focus he needed to be a regular fifth grader. He needed to know where he belonged and to whom he belonged.

Just as Tony worried, we too might find November a worrisome time of year. Our feathered friends have flown south for warmer weather; our furry friends have found warm holes in which to hibernate. The trees have shed their glorious color, and at this latitude – especially in Michigan – clouds cover us most days.

The news is mostly grim – of wars, and crime and horrendous events – even our beloved church seems to be questioning the validity of our way of life. Media comments make it starkly apparent how little is understood about apostolic religious life in America. If one didn’t know better, one could become anxious and depressed. So I turned to some of our elder Sisters – those on the other side of 80 – to hear their wisdom on who ‘gots’ them now:

  • November for me is a time to look at life with our Creator with new eyes, new ears and new hearts. I am reminded of the Little Prince who learns (through his encounter with the fox) that it is ‘only with the heart that one can see rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eye.’ Jesus is constantly talking about new life and telling parables with deeper meaning. For me is a time to deepen my commitment to God, to trust the God who is faithful… We will continue to look at life with new eyes, new ears and new hearts because we know that what is ‘essential is invisible to the eye.’ ~ Sister, age 94
  • As Catholics, we really do not understand the Incarnation. God did not send Jesus to show us how to die, or even how to pray, and certainly not how to land in Heaven. God sent Jesus to show us how to live; how to fall into the arms of God. Jesus showed us how to mature beyond the rules and to trust God in everything. ~ Sister, age 93
  • I have lived my religious life before Vatican II and after Vatican II and I would never want to return to the old way. Now we know the ‘freedom of the spirit of God.’ We will not be distressed about this inquisition because we are Gospel people. ~ Sister, age 86
  • This investigation has brought me to a great awareness of religious life and the contributions of American women religious. I love what I hear and read. Karl Rahner’s statement rings in my ears: ‘Unless we become mystics, we’ll be nothing at all.’ This investigation pushes us in that direction. ~ Sister, age 84

These Sisters, in the autumn of their lives, give us joy and hope. They are, as Psalm 92 proclaims, “Vigorous even in old age, still fresh and green they proclaim that the Lord is just.”

The Dominican Sisters ~ Grand Rapids pray that everyone finds hope, joy, and caring people with whom to share a peace-filled Thanksgiving – 2009.

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