By Sister Judith Benkert, OP
I’m inspired to write about my gift of faith and the grace accepted. Grace is offered many times a day and it’s up to me to accept the grace, to engage and act as a Christian according to my baptismal gift. I would like to identify two specific graces that are an integral part of my life. I received the grace of Baptism very early in my family life and it’s that grace that urged me to accept a second grace, later in my life, that of a call to be a member of religious life, a Dominican Sister. Of course, I ask “Why me? Why not another person, who am I that I have been graced twice with regard to my vocation?” At the time I wanted a family and I wanted to become a sports star (the sports star was a real overreach). Well in one way or another I have accomplished that and much more. As a mother I would have been a guide to my family. As a Sister, I became a guide to many families over my years as an RN and a Certified Nurse-midwife. God’s gifts are only limited by our imagination. I continue to minister even now as an RN in a parish with a commitment to the homeless and service to frail seniors. I’m still preaching with my hands both being ‘in-touch’ and ‘touched’ by the people of God.
What is the direction in your life and are you open to God’s Grace?
This week's blogger is Sister Judith Benkert, OP.
For many years, I was a practicing midwife. I used the undergraduate science degree to become a registered nurse. Some years later, I was working with Nurse Midwives at our hospital in Santa Cruz, California, and then became a certified nurse-midwife.
When I look back on the path I chose, it seems obvious that the pieces of the puzzle of discerning a ministry were rather clear. I’m not the type of person who discerns using a list of pros and cons or a great deal of discussion. My discernment comes in the form of putting one foot in front of the other, and the path seems to open before me to the next step. My answers come in the form of excitement and comfort that the path is right for me.
Another part of discernment is trust. Sometimes it’s a little shaky putting your foot out in a space that is not tested. As a midwife, I felt a major part of my work was to help a woman trust her body. We spent a major part of the prenatal time building trust, letting the woman know that her body was doing the “right thing.”
A midwife is a guide. In discernment, the Spiritual Director is a guide to help us develop trust in the call of God and to become the witness we are called to be. The best we can do is simply to ask God to show us the footpath.
If four strong people were each holding the corner of a blanket, would you let yourself fall back into it with confidence? Probably. If one person dropped their side, what would happen? You would tumble out on to the floor. Or, if another person decided to suddenly raise their side, what would happen? You would slide right out.
I just saw this demonstrated literally at the Dominican College Preaching Conference. The point was: to live well and discern well, we need to have a balanced life. As Dominicans we talk about the four key pillars that keep our lives in balance: prayer, study, community and preaching (ministry or service). While sometimes we might focus on one area more than another, if we completely drop one or over-stress one, we lose our stability. Being in balance helps us to live well and to choose well.
Is your life in balance?
This week we have a guest post from Sister Mary Keefe, OP. Mary currently serves in the Siena House of Discernment where she lives with two other sisters, our candidate, and three young women from Siena Heights University. She recently received the Good Samaritan award from the National Catholic Development Conference for her work in establishing Nun’s Build in New Orleans, where she facilitated many sisters and their friends in helping to rebuild that city. Originally from Oakland, California, Mary has served in Michigan, Nevada, and California. She is an avid crocheter and belongs to the Crochet Ole group, which makes items for sale at the Motherhouse Christmas bazaar. The proceeds from the sales are given to local charities.
I have had the blessing of knowing when it was time to move from one ministry to another, although I have rarely had a good idea of where I was going as I turned in my resignation. At those times I have wondered if I would ever find a new ministry that excited me, a place where I knew I could make a difference.
In early 2007 I decided that it was time to move on. I knew that in response to the devastation of the 2005 Hurricane Katrina, our sisters in leadership invited sisters who were retired or between jobs to go to New Orleans and help in any way they could. During this time the sisters from New Orleans invited our sisters to move there on a more permanent basis and establish a house.
One of our leadership councilors called and said she had heard I was leaving my current ministry and asked if I would be interested in checking out New Orleans. I have learned that when one is looking for a position one checks out all possibilities.
Soon after receiving the phone call I was at a retreat center and met my spiritual director. Because I was looking at the possibility of making a radical change in my life I asked her, “How do you know when you are doing the will of God?” She said, “Oh Mary, that’s the easiest question to answer. What do you want to do?”
I understood what she meant. Finding the answer to that question may take time or it may come in a flash. The answer may be, “Go for it,” or it may be, “This is not for you.” I have had both experiences. What this means for me is that, after praying, talking with people, expressing my thoughts, feelings, hopes, and desires; listening carefully to others and trusting them, an answer will come. If not right away then eventually. I think that most importantly we need to trust ourselves and be completely honest with ourselves, then, I believe, the answer will come. My answer was, “Go to New Orleans,” and it was the right choice.
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Get out your bell-bottoms and platform shoes, because DISCO is here!
Okay, so it's a little less dancing, a little more talking... Sisters Lorraine Réaume, OP, and Sara Fairbanks, OP, have a new video series called DISCO (Discernment Conversations): Dancing with the questions of life!