Section tiltle text: Our Mission.

Ministry Stories

We are always sent on mission. The way we live our mission (our ministry) varies according to time and circumstance and our own particular gifts and capacities.

The following FCJs would like to share with you about their ministries:

Fransisca Arti Setiati
Elizabeth Brown
Margaret O'Donohue
Eileen Foley
MaryAnne Francalanza
Marguerite Goddard
Francis Gough and Stanislaus Cowper
Madeleine Gregg
Bonnie Moser
Afra Primadiana
Veronika Schreiner
Paola Terroni
Joanna Walsh

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A Life-giving as well as a Challenging Experience                      Fransisca Arti Setiati, fcJ

It has been a life giving as well as challenging experience to live as a Faithful Companions of Jesus (FCJ). Having renewed my Vows in 2006, I have had the opportunity to change my ministry from teaching at Sanata Dharma University to that of studying Theology at Yarra Theological Union (YTU), Melbourne-Australia where I make contact with many people whose culture is different other than my own.

Photos of Sisca and others.

Sisca with a friend.Companionship through sharing cultures

I find my life as a companion deepens as I move into a new place through companionship with my fellow students and the staff at YTU.  Previously, I attended the Cross Cultural Summer School in Sydney where I learnt about Cross Cultural Issues and met new friends who shared similar experiences and some of them remain in contact with me. It is a joy to learn about their cultures and to be able to share my Indonesian culture with them. It gives me an opportunity to experience our Gospel values of tolerance, dialogue and reconciliation. This life of companionship provides growth in my sensitivity, knowledge and understanding of others and their culture.

Dinner with the FCJ community.Companionship through hospitality

Coming to a new country whose language is not your mother tongue can be an agony. As English is my third language (first Javanese, then Indonesian), I feel the call to be sensitive and to companion to my fellow students particularly those whose English is not their first language andto help them be aware that they are not alone.

Creating a welcoming atmosphere and offering hospitality is an act of companionship. Our FCJ community where I live offers accommodation to young women. We also enjoy the company of friends who come for prayer and meals.

FCJ Community with Sisca and guests.Companionship through sharing spirituality

As well as study, I have also been involved with the Indonesian Catholic Community in Melbourne, particularly with Indonesian students. I have been journeying with them as a companion. They come to our community each month for prayer and sharing.

Companionship with Jesus

As a Faithful Companion of Jesus, I build my companionship with Jesus in prayer and claim his mission as mine. As a woman on mission, I respond to the “I Thirst” of Jesus by being ready to be sent. After completing my study in Melbourne, I have been missioned to Myanmar to establish a community with two FCJs, one from Ireland and another from Indonesia. It has been a joy to be able to share our FCJ Charism with those I am journeying with and to realize the challenge of living it out today with integrity and relevance. What a privilege as well as a responsibility!

Photo of Sisca, her community and guests at a Eucharistic celebration.

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Life is full of surprises                                                                              Elizabeth Brown, fcJ

Photo of Elizabeth Brown.Isn’t it strange? Today I find myself in a completely different world to the classroom. I’ve moved on from teaching little ones to walking with the elderly. My name is Elizabeth Brown and I’ve been a faithful companion of Jesus since 1984. I live and work in Melbourne, Australia.

Over the last 5 years I’ve been connected in some way with those who are no longer able to look after themselves. I’ve worked as a Home Care worker for one of our local city councils whilst at the same time studying at University. I chose a Course called “Community Services: Lifestyle and Leisure”. This Course has entitled me to work in Nursing Homes as a Diversional Therapist. Quite a career change from the classroom where I taught multicultural children for 25 years.

Now you may ask, “What is a Diversional Therapist?” As a Diversional Therapist I work with the frail and elderly. I provide them with activities that help to keep them interested in life and motivated to come out of their rooms during the day. That is the main job description of a Diversional Therapist. In actual fact I believe there is more to my job.

I add another dimension to this role as a faithful companion of Jesus. I offer them a smile which breaks any language barrier or physical disability. This I truly believe thus enables me to bring Jesus into their world. I work in a 170 bed nursing home. All of the residents are high care with the majority of them suffering from some from of Dementia. They come from many faiths but the majority are Jewish. Our building is five storeys high so we travel many miles during the day. My shift is from 9:30am to 5pm. As soon as I step onto Level 4, which is my responsibility, I don’t stop!

So take a walk with me now along the corridors of Level 4 and see how a nun walks alongside people of different beliefs. The personal carers are busy with their trolleys seeing to the bathing and grooming of the 38 residents on our floor. I give out the early morning newspapers. I turn towards the North End and go into Fred’s room. He is an interesting person. He lost all his family in the Holocaust. I asked him one day how did he survive? He wanted to be an engineer so he asked his Polish mother if she would give him her blessing, so that he could go to Palestine to study. She didn’t want to but she let him go. Fred never saw his family again. His parents and siblings were lost in the gas chambers. Fred and I get on really well. I open his door and there he is sitting in his chair, contemplating life. He often says to me, “ Isn’t it strange we get on with each other? You believe in your God and I don’t believe in any God. So why is it that we get on? It’s because we allow each other to live their life and we respect each other.” Fred then invites me to stay awhile and listen to him. When I leave he is sad but he understands I must move on to the other residents.

Next door I drop off the newspaper to Mamie. This lovely person comes to us from Scotland. She is amazing in that her whole day is taken up with reading the Newspaper. Poor Mamie has lost her present memory but her past is all intact. Mamie refuses to come out of her room. No amount of encouragment will entice her to move. Her secret to living is to have “a wee drop of sherry” everyday as this is how she managed her beloved Nursing job for 35 years when she worked for a famous doctor who never began the day without the “wee drop of sherry!”

My friend around the corner is Jewish and has no family back home in Austria; she has Parkinson’s Disease. Her husband also had this illness and died here 5 years ago. As the days go by you can see her body deteriorating little by little. Carmel comes to all the activities. She is totally dependent on all of us as she is confined to her wheelchair. Her zest for life keeps her going.

Dear old Alfred is next. About a month ago he lost his beloved wife from cancerous tumors in the brain. She was his world. I’ve been able to enter into his saddened heart through football. He himself is also suffering from cancer. He is what we call “ A Fair Dinkum Aussie”. He has been a real battler in his life. I often sit on his bed and ask him, “How are you Alf? He replies, “I’m okay.” So then I say, “But how are you really?” “You can’t believe how lonely I feel without my Dolores.” His eyes tell the true story as they fill up with tears. I’ll often find him in his automatic wheelchair going into the lift to venture outside for some fresh air.

Some of my next rooms provide a home for more Holocaust survivors. Their bodies are quite contorted and I often stand beside their beds wondering what stories their lives hold, that will never be revealed. Some of them no longer can communicate nor even feed themselves. All I can offer them is my loving presence. Towards the end of this wing stands an empty room. I know from past experience it won’t remain empty for long. The former resident who occupied this room died three weeks ago. It feels strange to see the room empty with Lily not being there anymore. Lily came to us very angry. She wanted to maintain her own independence. It took several months of quiet encouragement to coax her out of her room. At one stage she was going to take her life. Eventually Lily warmed to me and we became best of friends. Lily would always be found waiting at the lift for my arrival each morning wondering what the day ahead was going to be like. She secretly told me often that she wakes up feeling sad knowing that she was still alive. So I made her days enjoyable, with lots of fun. Lily eventually was granted her wish as she was riddled with cancer. I had the privilege of being with her before she died to say thanks to her for our friendship and to know God took her gently to His heavenly home.

I began this article with the line, “Isn’t it amazing?” This line sums up my darling old Joan who comes from a strong Catholic faith background in Scotland. Joan can’t understand that in every room she enters, there is a picture of her dear old mum. Joan will often say to me, “ I can’t understand it. Mum is here in all of the rooms.” I try and tell her that her mum is looking after her once again. Joan has no present memory so she often wants to go home to Glasgow. She knows the number of the bus but realises she hasn’t got the money. I stay with her and comfort her until she settles. She loves my badge and tells me that she knows what I am and that I must be a good person. Her face lights up when I enter the room as I seem to remind her of someone from her past. I don’t disappoint her as I try to enter her world.

All this happens at the beginning of my day before I’ve begun the activities for the morning. So as you can see, my job involves personal contact, one to one interactions, a listening heart and most of all patience. I feel the residents give me so much as they place their trust in me. It is like walking on the road to Emmaus, not fully realising that God is in our midst. Yet I know that God is in each and everyone of these lovely people who are entering their final journey of life. They have taught me that we all have a story to tell. Let us cherish what we can each offer each other. This job allows me to be truly a faithful companion of Jesus.

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Living Companionship in Yogyakarta, Indonesia                                  Margaret O'Donohue, fcJ

Photos of Margaret.Our Chapter Mandate calls us:
To live our identity as Faithful Companions of Jesus with enthusiasm
We acknowledge the centrality of COMPANIONSHIP in our lives
                    and recognize the vital need for its witness in today's world.

These are some of the ways in which I try to live out this Chapter Mandate in my life and ministry here in Yogyakarta:

Companionship with Jesus - spending time with Jesus in prayer each day both personal and communal. Reflecting on His life and trying to imitate Him in all things.

Companionship with my Sisters in Community - We are five in community - three sisters are in temporary profession and one postulant.  Each of us tries to live out the FCJ charism in a different way, according to our gifts and talents. By living companionship with each other in community we are then able to share this with our classmates, colleagues and the people we meet and work with each day.

Companioning our sisters in Formation: I do this by sharing our FCJ Spirituality and Identity with our sisters; reflecting on the life of Marie Madeleine and our early sisters; accompanying each sister personally by listening, supporting, encouraging, and sharing her joys and sorrows, hopes and dreams - by being a companion to her on her faith journey.

Companioning  students:  by having conversations in English. In doing this, I am in a privileged position to listen as they share their problems, struggles and difficulties.

Sharing companionship with the wider community: Sharing Eucharist with the parish community in our local parish church and having a smile and a greeting for the people that I meet on the road each day. Since the majority of our neighbours are Muslim, it is a great opportunity to build up the Muslim-Christian relationship.

Photos of Margaret.

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Family Therapy                                                                                                 Eileen Foley, fcJ

I work as a Family Therapist in the educational field in three different schools, one post primary and two primary schools. Having been a teacher in a post primary school for a number of years has been an advantage to me in this work.

I meet with people in a variety of contexts - individual students, parents, guardians, parents and students together, and other professional and social networks associated with the students and their families.

I try to empower those with whom I meet to manage their relationships with themselves, with other family members, with class mates and staff members in a more satisfactory way, thereby approaching my work as systemic practice.

Some students are referred to me through the educational system because of presenting behaviour that needs therapeutic intervention. Others, both students and families self refer.

Family Therapy is a broad term for a range of methods of working with families with various biosychosocial difficulties. It tries to avoid the tendency to pathologise individuals, or to apportion blame, by looking at the student in context, that is looking at the two most influential systems in the student's life - the family and the school. Family Therapy tries to bring these two systems together in interactional relationship as part of a therapeutic strategy to deal with difficulties.

Some Family Therapists focus on the role of the family in predisposing people to developing problems, others focus on the role of the family in problem maintenance, but all Family Therapists highlight the role of the family in problem resolution.

The nuclear family has undergone increasing changes in life patterns and styles over the past few years. Some children and adolescents find themselves in a 'blended family' situation, having to negotiate relationships with new adult figures and new siblings while at the same time re-negotiating their relationship with an absent parent figure.

Appropriate confidentiality is safeguarded and assured. While providing a safe place and context for individuals to address their own issues, I try to encourage joint meetings as an effort to understand - and often to be informed by each other!

My work invites me to reach out to families in their difficulties and to young people in particular. Listening to their frustrations, hearing about their pain - hopefully without label or blame, can often bring about a manageable resolution to their upset lives.

While, thankfully, I do not carry away the 'problems' with me, I do carry the people and their lives in my heart.

Photos of Eileen.

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All are welcome!                                                                                                  MaryAnne Francalanza, fcJ

Photo of MaryAnne.There is a favourite hymn of mine that goes:

Let us build a house where hands will reach
beyond the wood and stone
to heal and strengthen, serve and teach,
and live the Word they've known.
Here the outcast and the stranger
bear the image of God's face;
let us bring an end to fear and danger:
all are welcome, all are welcome,
all are welcome in this place.

It has become a bit of a theme tune for the community where I live. I live in a small community of FCJ sisters who welcome young people to come, live with us and experience our community life. This is very life-giving for us and the young people who have come and shared our life have often commented about how much personal and spiritual growth they have experienced.

It is always very exciting … and a big responsibility too, when a new young person comes to live with us. Some come for a week, others come for a few months, and some have come to do a gap year experience. We accompany these young people as they serve the people of the local area in various voluntary activities, and also as they explore their relationship with Jesus.

My ministry is two-fold.

By day I teach at Bellerive FCJ Catholic College in Liverpool. I teach maths (hmmm… often a conversation stopper!) and I love it. My subject continually fascinates me and the children I work with keep me smiling and guessing!

By night and at weekends I work with young adults, organising retreats, quiet days, pilgrimages and finding ways to share companionship in Liverpool Catholic Chaplaincy.

Photos of MaryAnne in her apostolate.

In my free time, I sing! I am part of the Liverpool Welsh Choral Union and once a week we rehearse for two hours. It is a great de-stress technique!

My life by its very nature is varied and God is continually surprising me with new challenges. I hope that I can respond faithfully to the ever changing world of children and young adults … and I hope I am able to be Christ’s hands, feet, smile, … to all I meet.

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Here I am Lord, you called me!                                                                           Marguerite Goddard, fcJ

Photos of Marguerite in Salta with children playing in flood waters.

Marguerite Goddard fcJ.Here I am Lord, you called me! the boy Samuel—in the narration of 1 Sam.:1—answers when he hears his name called, thinking that it is Eli the elderly priest whom he serves in God’s temple who has called him, and later coming to understand that it is God.

When I look back on my life from my present vantage point of 68 years on the journey, I reflect that it can be considered as a series of moments of recognition.

I have not yet met God face to face and at times I wonder if my life is sheer hypocrisy as I become so absorbed in the daily round of getting things done that I seem at times to lose sight of God’s presence. Nonetheless the moments of forgetting are well outnumbered by the constant of that Presence with me.

When I was thirteen years old, I had an experience of God’s presence as light in what seemed total darkness.  I cannot explain it, but it was so profound that I can never deny it.  I knew from then on that Love is the meaning of Life. I had to find how to live Love in my personal life. 

I eventually asked to be accepted in the Society of the Sisters Faithful Companions of Jesus because I wanted to live the ideal of companionship with Jesus who in his human life expressed the fullness of Love. Also, because what I knew of these sisters showed me that they lived out their call to be missionaries—people who shared the love they had found with all with whom they came in contact.

I knew that what I could offer as a Christian to change our world from misery to happiness would be very little if I were alone, but that in a group, a community, a congregation which lived authentically, this possibility would be multiplied.  For this reason I was willing to give up my independence and to live in obedience.

This vocation is a calling that is unusual; it implies leaving aside other possibilities, especially the beautiful vocation of conjugal love and family.  I believed it was my calling.  When I was introduced, in the first days of my life with the Sisters, to the Exercises of Saint Ignatius...30 days of prayer and silence, I had no doubts that this was to be my life. It all seemed to fit together. 

A lot of water has gone under the bridge since then. I have had difficulties of one kind and another but have never doubted that this is where I want to be and should be.

For the past 18 years, I have lived in South America, in Bolivia and Argentina. Until that time, I lived in Europe where I felt every bit as much a missionary as I do here in South America.

I am convinced that it is not where we live, but how we live, that makes a difference to our world, our planet. I have been and am very happy as a religious sister.  The day I made my first vows when I was 21 years old an elderly sister said You think that today you are happy, but you do not yet know the ecstasy of religious life. I remembered her words but did not understand them at the time. They were very wise and true. 

 

As one learns to live outside of one’s human egocentricity God takes over and all is transformed into joy, and this in spite of the suffering that one encounters. This is my experience. This is what I learn from the people with whom I live…my companions in the congregation and the wider community of women, men, young people and children who constantly inspire and challenge me in my faith and with whom I walk every day.

Photos of flood in Salta showing truck stranded in a hole in the road.

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Service with a difference … a tale of two knitters networking!
                                                                     Francis Gough, fcJ and Stanislaus Cowper, fcJ

Sr. Francis Gough, fcJ.Francis writes: Although my mother was an excellent knitter I did not follow in her footsteps. It was not until two years ago, when I was leaving one place for another and was feeling a great loss of friends that I began to knit. I was thinking I would be sitting in a room with nothing to do when my very best friend, who has a weekly knitting group, put two needles in my hands and I was started on a prayer shawl. I was shown the knitting skills of plain and pearl stitch. When I managed two prayer shawls I was given the pattern for these comfort dolls.

In 1990, a soldier on duty in Croatia wrote to his mother for some small toys he could carry in his pocket to hand out to the children. She began to knit little dolls to give her son whose nickname was Izzy to hand out to the children. Her son was killed and the soldiers wrote to his mother to continue the dolls and they would hand them out in Izzy's honour. 

Another man who made trips to Africa visited the Bondo Orphanage, which serves 10,000 orphans. The orphanage is run by ICross, a non-profit organization based in Ireland with chapters in Canada, England and Tanzania.

From this encounter a man began gathering medical supplies for overseas and some of the supplies included medical equipment for Africa. These dolls were used as packing for the equipment. The dolls were given to the children, for many of whom, this gift was the only thing a child owned. They brought great joy and comfort to the children. Many of the children have died and the doll has been buried with them.

Our knitting groups undertook to make this a special project for Africa and they also make little sweaters for the children in Bolivia. Each knitting evening the group end their time with a special prayer which includes a blessing for any finished item. I am happy to help and to be part of this knitting group and to feel that our dolls are a great source of joy and comfort to many disadvantaged children.

Knitted dolls for Africa.

Sr. Stanislaus Cowper, fcJ.When Claire Sykes fcJ was visiting in Sacred Heart Convent, Calgary, she found that Francis had been making dolls for Africa for many months.  Claire asked for a copy of the knitting pattern and gave it to Sr Stanislaus Cowper fcJ who is in the Redriff community at Broadstairs. (Download the pattern here.) 

Sr Stan is a great knitter (knitted cribs are one of her specialities) and now Dolls for Africa have become another.  Stan uses the ends of wool for the dolls and mixes and matches the colours beautifully.   So far, Stan has made over 220 dolls which have been sent to various places in Africa.   Different friends of Stella Maris have a variety of contacts through whom the dolls have been sent from Thanet in Kent to a variety of places in Africa. Some dolls have gone to Kenya, others to Mozambique, and others to the Cameroons.

 

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How I live out our charism of companionship....                                        Madeleine Gregg, fcJ

How do I live out our charism of companionship as a Faithful Companion of Jesus? I can answer this question at Madeleine in front of the College of Education.many levels. 

Most visibly, I am a university professor in the College of Education at the University of Alabama, in Tuscaloosa.  Like my colleagues, I teach undergraduate, masters, and doctoral level students in the department of Special Education and Multiple Abilities Programs. I do research and publish papers.  I serve on committees.  I am the director of the Multiple Abilities Program, a field-based pre-service degree program that prepares elementary school teachers for the public schools. I go out to the local schools and teach model lessons, consult with teachers, and offer various kinds of service. From the university's perspective, this is my job; in my view, it is the privileged and primary context for my ministry as a Faithful Companion of Jesus.

Living my life fully as an FCJ engaged in the ministry of university level education means that FCJ ideas, systems, and attitudes are put into dialogue with university ideas, systems, and attitudes. These two sources of life inter-penetrate one another, so that my university life is colored by my FCJ life and vice versa.

Relationships are at the heart of my ministry, as they are at the heart of the mission which has been entrusted to the Church. Interacting with students, staff, and colleagues provides endless scope for living out the charism of companionship. Part of what this charism means, to me, is companioning with people in such a way that they gain the courage and confidence they need in order to take the next step in their human development. It might be a step in faith, or in their life as an educator, in relationships, or in prayer. My work is to affirm their insights and to encourage them as they risk moving into something new, becoming a new, improved version of themselves!

Building relationships and being faithful to them requires a certain availability, which, in turn, is an invitation to sacrifice. I may be facing deadlines for grant submissions, or a huge stack of papers or projects to evaluate, a dissertation to read, or a class to prepare, but someone phones or drops into my office needing a kind heart, a listening ear, and a word of encouragement or counsel.  Accepting them as gift, believing that ALL IS GIFT no matter what it first appears to be, means putting aside 'my' work and making myself available to do the LORD's work.

I also live out our charism of companionship by attending daily Mass most days of the week. Sometimes, I'm out in the schools, or scheduled to teach a class during the noon hour, or have some other obligation at the University that precludes Mass attendance, but as often as possible, I participate in the daily Eucharist at St. Francis, our local parish and the University Catholic Center. Companioning with Jesus and with the people of the parish through the celebration of Eucharist is important to me as a Faithful Companion of Jesus.

In the evenings, a variety of activities offer me possibilities to live our charism with enthusiasm and joy. On Mondays, I work with our Companions in Mission candidates who are in formation for two hours after supper.  On Tuesdays, I attend the student Mass at St. Francis, sharing with them in contributing to the homily and staying on for supper and spiritual conversation.  On Wednesdays, a small group of women joins us for supper and evening prayer.  On Thursdays, I attend RCIA (The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) at St. Francis and serve as part of the team that guides the formation of people coming into full communion with the Catholic Church.

Picture of Madeleine with small child.Once a month, on a Sunday afternoon, I joyfully meet with our Companions in Mission for prayer and spiritual sharing.  Two of them have moved away from Tuscaloosa and so they participate in the meetings via speaker phone, which adds a certain challenge to facilitating the group!

Sr. Madeleine with a young friend, five-year old Sloane Donovan,
who comes to the convent with her mother on Sunday mornings
after church for a tea party and a piano lesson.
Carol Donovan is a colleague and teaches with Sr. Madeleine
in the Multiple Abilities Program at UA.

I also give days of retreat for school faculties at area Catholic schools and occasional weekend retreats for the Companions in Mission or for young women trying to discern their vocation in life.  Sometimes I offer a 'retreat in everyday life,' typically attended by parishioners at St. Francis. The work I do in designing a retreat or in preparing a session for CiM in formation or RCIA allows me the privilege of re-working core ideas about Catholicism, FCJ charism, living in community, or spirituality in the light of my current understandings, dispositions, interests, and concerns. Thus, my ministry serves as the main source of my on-going, personal formation. Formation is what makes me more able to, more ready to, more willing to, be stronger, better.  It's the magis in action, rather than in desire. I have every confidence that the coming years will be as transformative and life-giving as my FCJ life has been up to this point!

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Ministry in and outreach from St. Joseph's College ...                           Bonnie Moser, fcJ

St. Joseph's College is the Catholic College at the University of Alberta where over 35,000 students are registered.  The College is situated near the geographical centre of campus where the intellectual stimulation of a great university and the integrating power of Catholic thought and life gives unique meaning to the College.  Owned by the Archdiocese of Edmonton, St. Joseph's College is directed by the Basilian Fathers.

Pictures of Bonnie at St. Joseph's College.

One of the most exciting benefits of belonging to and working with an Interfaith Chaplaincy at the University of Alberta is the incredible net-working that happens far beyond my main ministry of doing chaplaincy work and teaching at St. Joseph's College.

Fr. Dave Bittner, Ron Laginski and I form the Campus Ministry team at St. Joe's.  Over 2000 students take courses here in Theology, Philosophy, Scripture, Religious Education, and Bioethics.  The Campus Ministry team is a visible pastoral presence on campus where we help to facilitate the formation of the whole person focusing on the integration of the spiritual.  Our mandate is to train students for leadership especially in the Catholic community.  Students are actively involved in the liturgical life of the College and they assist the campus ministers especially at Eucharistic celebrations, in sacramental preparation and in RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults).

Activities include the animation of various groups such as:  Social Justice 'Ignite', CWL (a women's group), Knights of Columbus, Newman Social Club, Scripture Study, St. Joe's Book Club.  All retreats and activities are student led and the campus ministry team mentor the leaders of the groups.  Spiritual accompaniment is also available to students.

As I mentioned in the beginning, being at St. Joe's has had many 'spin-offs' for me in ministry.  Some that come to mind are:  doing spiritual accompaniment and directing retreats regularly outside of St. Joe's; serving on the Board for the Doctor of Ministry program at St. Stephen's College; volunteering at Ten Thousand Villages (a non-profit, fair trade organization run by the Mennonites); and a recent exciting out-reach project co-directing with an Ursuline Sister the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius at Providence Centre.  Lest I forget-I serve as the Provincial Bursar for the Province of the Americas which enables me to give something directly back to the FCJ Society who has given so much to me.

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Being and Companioning                                                                     Afra Primadiana, fcJ

Photo of Afra.'Sister, you dress like us.  You work like us.  You do your shopping yourself and suffer from lacking water in the house like us.

What's the difference with us then?  What's the point of being a sister (nun)?'

My name is Afra Primadiana FCJ.  I am an Indonesian, and made my first vows as an FCJ in the year 1994.

Now I live in Ende - Flores, Indonesia, where the majority is Catholic.  In Indonesia, which is a moslem country, this is quite rare.

Photo of a beach in Flores.Flores is a beautiful island in the Indonesian archipelago.  It is one of the poorest areas -  No factory in the island (means not many jobs available, prices are high), transportation is very difficult (windy roads, bad roads, or in some areas: no roads at all - you just walk for hours).  In some areas, water is a luxury (in our house: we have running water for 3 hours every other day except during the dry season when we have water once a week for couple of hours). 

Shopping at the market in Flores. Poverty in Flores.
Yet, it is a beautiful island
And it has beautiful people.

 

 

And when I reflect on their questions about the differences between me and them, I think it's in the call to be a Faithful Companion of Jesus.

Afra with a young man. Afra with a group of young people.And in my life today, it means to accompany young people in Ende - Flores.
In faith sharing ...
In their longing for friends and unity ...
In their journey ...
In their seeking ...
In their need ...
With all their joy, anxiety, enthusiasm ....

Facilitating retreats and workshops.

 

There  are many ways to do this.  Here I facilitate retreat days for young people, workshops and training for leadership and personal growth; counselling, spiritual accompaniment.  I work with the pastoral team for youth in Ende diocese.  In the community, we also open our house and share resources (books, music, films) for young people and all who come.  They're always welcome to our prayers, too.

Afra visiting someone who is sick.In the end,
It is JESUS who makes the difference.
JESUS in me, JESUS in all the people I meet, JESUS in everything I see.
I am only God's instrument
And my joy is to be able to dance God's dance, to sing God's song,
to be a channel of God's love.

 

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A Companion to Women in Distress                                                     Veronika Schreiner, fcJ

Photo of Veronika helping people in the Philippines organise an event.After 19 years in the Philippines and 46 years of living outside my homeland, I have now the great joy of being back in Germany. No matter how much one makes efforts to adapt to other cultures, one never loses ones own national identity. What a grace to be able to speak my own language now!

Every country has its own beauty, its own treasures, its own characteristics and its own limitations and weaknesses. In a time of globalization I am privileged to have had the chance of living in six different countries and of visiting about twenty. Living in Munich I meet many people from different cultural backgrounds, be it in the lift of the 20-storeyed building where I live or in my ministry.

I cooperate with SOLWODI (Solidarity with women in distress), an organization founded by a German Sister, Lea Ackermann, in Kenya in 1985, and which now has its head office in Germany. The members care for any women in distress, but especially for those who are trafficked and who ended up in prostitution, or those who come to Germany as refugees or are married to a German man. When they have difficulties the offices of SOLWODI in different German towns will try to help them according to their needs and desires.

Sr. Veronika.I am only beginning to learn about the laws, the many varied organizations and the very different reasons why foreign women are here and why they find life difficult.

My own experience of having been a foreigner for so many years helps me to understand better the loneliness and misunderstandings that one has to cope with when confronted with a new culture and language. I am blessed to be here and hopefully I will be a companion to many women in distress.

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The FCJ Learning and Development Center, Manila                              Paola Terroni, fcJ

Photos of Sr. Paola in Payatas.My ministry is the coordination of the FCJ Learning and Development Center in Bagong Silangan, Manila, Philippines.  The people I work with are families who were relocated to a site next to one of the main rubbish dumps of Metro Manila.  There are more than 500 families in the immediate area, all of them living in very basic small dwellings.  There is high unemployment, and many people survive by scavenging what they can from the dumpsite and selling it.  Others have casual construction work, or are jeepney or tricycle drivers.  Our FCJ Learning and Development Center was started by Sister Veronika Schreiner FCJ five years ago.  For the past three years I have worked there, and at Easter I took over the coordination of the Center.  Sister Veronika has now returned to Germany.

I love my work with the people in Bagong Silangan.  In spite of great poverty and hardship there is a wonderful spirit of joy and hope around.  The Center offers a variety of services, a weekly clinic, educational programs for women, children and young people, leadership training, a  Cooperative with nearly 200 members, a variety of income generating projects, programs to enable the women to grow in confidence and to develop their talents.  In addition we have projects to improve the housing of the families, to install toilets, and to construct water tanks so that rain water can be saved and used for cleaning and washing. We try to be aware of the environment, not an easy task on the edge of a dumpsite!  However, we organize street and river cleaning and try to encourage simple forms of urban gardening.  The Center is a busy place with people coming and going all day.  Celebrations are an important part of the life of the Center, and are always a source of enjoyment and great fun.  The staff members are very dedicated, three of them are women from the immediate area who have invaluable local knowledge.

I see my main role as one of accompaniment and encouragement.  Spending time with the people, walking around the area, listening to the stories is an important part of my work, even though I also teach English and baking.  Together with the staff, I try to be in touch with the reality of the area, the needs of the people and their hopes for a better future.  Together we make decisions about the programs we offer, and about the allocation of the resources at our disposal.  More and more we encourage the people themselves to take ownership of the various programs. Of course it is also important to network with other agencies in the area.

There is always more to do, always a new need to meet, always some unexpected turn of events.  Sometimes the sheer weight of human suffering and struggle can be overwhelming.  The resilience of the people, their trust in God, their support of one another and their joyful spirit is what inspires me.  There is always so much laughter, and much pleasure can be found in simple things. I love the 'earthiness' of the work I do, I love the daily ordinary interactions with people, and I am moved by their openness and trust.  It is a real privilege for me to work with such warm and affectionate people and to be able, in a very simple way, to walk with them as they try to build a better life for themselves and their children.

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How ministry leads me more deeply into the FCJ charism                         Joanna Walsh, fcJ

Photo of Joanna.'Teach me to be a faithful companion of Jesus.'  This is a little prayer that has emerged in me over the years.  With the confidence and exuberance of an 18-year-old American teenager, I entered the Society in the 1960's. I had definite ideas about how things were 'supposed' to go after that. Almost immediately, the road was different from what I had expected, and it has continued to lead me to places (internal and external) that are often still mysterious to me.  So, all these years later, the prayer is still appropriate:
'Teach me. I am still learning.'

Ours is an apostolic Society.  We do not have the seclusion and schedule of monastic nuns.  We are inserted into the concreteness and particularity of a certain part of the world. Immersed in present-day life, we rely on the promise of our FCJ/Ignatian tradition that we can 'find God in all things'. I have learned that the God I find is often not the one of my various false images.  It is a God who is sometimes demanding, sometimes humorous, sometimes enigmatic, and frequently surprising. The journey is one of transformation - but what will be the end result cannot be predicted. How will faithful companionship with Jesus be lived in me, in the uniqueness of  my life?  That is not yet totally clear. 'Trust the process' has been helpful advice for me.

So, presently I find myself in Durham, North Carolina, in the South of the United States. Life and ministry here keep teaching me about aspects of our FCJ charism. For example, there is Jesus.  In this predominantly Baptist part of the USA there is a lively sense of commitment to Jesus. 'Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus?' is not an uncommon question. Baptism is a choice made by someone who wants to 'accept Jesus into his/her life', to be open to being 'saved'. Living in this environment keeps the question alive for me: 'Joanna, who is this faithful companion, Jesus, for you?' 

One of my ministries is in spiritual formation at Duke Divinity School.  I meet weekly with first-year seminarians (mostly Protestant) to help them explore their sense of call, learn more about prayer and the 'spiritual disciplines', and support one another through the first year. For about nine years now I have heard many varied stories of call, and I have told my own story in each new group. Through the insights of these students I receive new insight into my own vocation story.  For example, some students talk about resisting the call for years, feeling unworthy to be a pastor. I am reminded of the ways I continue to resist the leading of the Spirit in my ongoing transformation process.  Over and over again in these small groups I am encouraged to be faithful to my own call.

This year another FCJ sister and I (Mary Leahy fcJ) are offering a new program to train lay people in the ministry of spiritual direction.  As we explore with these 12 men and women what it means to really listen to our own life experience and that of another person and to find God there, I find myself revisiting that aspect of the FCJ charism: discernment.  Where is God in the particularity of my present life experience? How do I distinguish, in the various 'voices' within me, the call of the Spirit?  I am reminded of the value of having a community of disciples to help with this discernment.

Finally, the companionship aspect of FCJ spirituality has always been attractive to me. Perhaps this is why I am drawn to spiritual direction, which allows me to companion another person on their faith journey.  I am amazed by the number of times I have 'heard' some invitation for myself from God in the story of a directee! There are some people whom I have been accompanying for years, and I can see the value of that fidelity in relationship. Just today a long-time directee revisited the story of her broken marriage and came to a new 'crossroads' moment in her present journey towards ordination. What does she need to let go of in order to be faithful to God today?

The charism, the call, is deep and mysterious. It is not a one-time object to be grasped and held. The need and prayer still echo true with me: 'Teach me, O God, to be a faithful companion of Jesus'.

Photos of Joanna fcJ in mission.

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Mahimong angayan nga makaangkon niining ngalan diha sa imong gugma kay Hesus,
       gugma dili lamang sa mga pulong apan diha
                    sa madasigong pagserbisyo alang sa Diyos.     (Marie Madeleine)