Mid-Year Retreat Weekend

This past weekend, January 13-15, RMC Emily and I made our way to Sea Isle City, NJ for the mid-year retreat.  The theme of the weekend was a “spa retreat” where we were invited to rest in the comfort of God and reflect on the many ways God continues to offer us support.  The peace-filled silence we experienced while being at the shore wrapped us in God’s comfort and helped to rejuvenate and prepare us, both physically and spiritually for the second half of the year.

“Gradually, you will return to yourself
Having learned a new respect for your heart
And the joy that dwells far within slow time.”
-excerpt from John O’Donohue, “Blessings”

All enjoyed the scenic view of the ocean and appreciated the time for prayer, reflection, sharing, and of course, the good company!  Much gratitude was offered for the beauty of God’s creation and the opportunity to recharge and refocus on God’s constant presence and love.

 

Advent Reflection- Trust

The Gospel reading for the fourth Sunday of Advent focuses on Joseph and his response to God’s invitation for him and his family.  Joseph had made the decision that he would divorce Mary quietly so as not to expose her to shame.  A decision, he felt, was respectful of Mary and their situation, however, God invited them to experience a different plan.  Through Joseph’s faith and trust in God, he was able to respond with courage and an open heart to God’s invitation which did not promise to be easy.  How many of us can relate to those experiences in our own lives where we felt the plan we had for our lives was the “right thing” for us at that time and then come to find God had another, even better plan for us?

I can think of multiple experiences in my own life where I found that when I truly felt I was responding to God’s plan for me I began questioning why it was so challenging.  Wondering where God was in the midst of those struggles.  Several years ago I came across this quote, “Faith makes things possible, not easy” and it has become my life’s mantra because it is so true.  I found that often times the path God invites us to does not promise to be easy, yet it is through the challenges and uncertainty that growth and new life is possible. We are invited to move beyond our comfort zones and experience something new. Reflecting on the life of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph deepens my trust in God.  They were faced with great challenges and suffering, yet remained faithful and in the end new life was able to be born.  As it says in today’s Gospel from Matthew, “Joseph, Son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.  For it is through the Holy spirit that this child has been conceived in her.”

How can you open yourself to the mystery of God working in your life?

Advent Reflection- Rejoice!

It’s hard to believe that the third week of Advent is upon us.  It’s been quite challenging to remain focused on the present moment while my to-do list has not gotten any shorter and the days have not gotten any longer.  However, during this time of expectant waiting, I find hope and renewed focus as we enter into the third week of Advent and celebrate the joyful anticipation of the Lord’s coming being near! This week is a time to rejoice and also remain steadfast and patient.  As the second reading from James in this Sunday’s Gospel says, “Be patient, brothers and sisters, until the coming of the Lord.  See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains.”

Yesterday, the 3 RMC’s and I shared in a day of reflection that focused on “deep listening” to God through several mindfulness practices.  It was nice to be able to take a step aside from all the distractions and busyness of preparing for the celebration of Christmas and to just “be” with God and listen to what God might be saying to us in the quiet.  Taking the time to listen deeply requires great patience but also joyful anticipation that God will respond to us.  During this time, I experienced great joy as we took a meditative walk through the park.  As we embarked, a brisk wind was blowing and a cluster of leaves rustled across our path as if to joyfully greet us on our journey.  The further we walked, the calmer the wind became and a deep quiet and sense of peace surrounded us.  I am grateful for sharing in the quiet together with our volunteers and feel re-centered and open to what these next two weeks of Advent may reveal to me.

Where have you found joy this Advent season?

How might you share that joy with others?

 

RMC Day

 

 

Advent Reflection- Welcoming the Stranger

As we enter into the second week of Advent, and continue to prepare our minds and hearts for Jesus’ coming, this Sunday’s readings speak to us of harmony, welcome and preparation.  Isaiah paints a beautiful picture of a world where justice and faithfulness abound, where great kinship exists among the creatures of the land.  This is a challenging reminder and invitation for all of us to continue to push ourselves beyond our comfort zones and look to form connections with those we may not otherwise.

The second reading taken from Romans, challenges us to “think in harmony with one another” so that with “one voice we may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” It can be easy to remain in the same place, interacting with like-minded people, and remain comfortable, but the readings this week are asking more of us.  They are encouraging us to be welcoming, to “welcome one another, then, as Christ welcomed you, for the glory of God.”

The Gospel passage from Matthew takes this a step further to encourage us to stay active and “prepare the way of the Lord.”  This preparation calls us to step out of our place of comfort, our routines of life we’ve grown accustom to and instead, to go out and be that welcoming presence to those we meet.  It’s an invitation to form connections with all living things, to breakdown the walls of separation and begin to construct a world of harmony, peace, and justice for all. During this season of Advent, a period of expectant waiting and preparation for our Lord’s coming into the world, we can prepare to welcome Christ by first being a welcoming presence to those we encounter each day, whether through a smile, listening compassionately, or opening a door for another.

Questions for further reflection:

  1. As an RMC, how were you welcomed into your new community and work site?
  2. How can you be a welcoming presence to those you encounter each day?

Reflections in Ministry- Emily Guilbert

Trusting in the Process

As a recent college graduate from Atlanta, I had no idea what to expect from this experience working for Comprehensive Breast Care Surgeons and Holy Redeemer Hospital. Frankly, if you had told me I would be living and working in Philadelphia with two people I have never met, in a home sponsored by an order of sisters, I would have politely corrected you, explaining my plan to attend medical school somewhere below the Mason-Dixon Line.  I was recently told that the joke God finds the funniest is when you tell him your plan for your life, and that is certainly the truth. My fellow RMC’s and I have officially lived and worked here for over a month and I am more than confident that we have all experienced something we would have never predicted from our ministries. In my past month of work, I have realized that my actual mission for this year is to trust the process, letting go of my expectations of my life and opening myself up to learn from my many new teachers I have met and will continue to meet this year in Philadelphia about acting as a healing, peaceful presence to others.

Through my position with Dr. Beth B. DuPree and the Healing Consciousness Foundation, I have met many people who have been affected in various degrees by breast cancer in the past month. I have met new patients in the office, coming in for the first time, as well as follow-up patients who have been one or two years since their initial diagnosis. I have been able to sit in on a consult for a person who is learning about the next steps of their treatment; however, to me, the most meaningful visits have been biopsy days, when I have the opportunity to hold the person’s hand and talk with them as the doctor biopsies the possibly diseased area. At that moment, holding their hand, I am able to witness their trust in the process. Many people ask me questions during that time or apologize for squeezing my hand. I am often in awe of their faith at that moment, in the doctor, the technician, the diagnostic process, and, often times, a higher power to be able to think of anything except the procedure that is occurring.  I am learning to embrace this trust that they demonstrate and convey it in my own life, knowing that I am in this position in my life in Philadelphia for a reason, even if it is to only hold my new “girlfriend’s” hand during her biopsy for twenty minutes and show her I am there to support her in this time of uncertainty. Their demonstrations of trust and the connections I feel with them have shown me His presence in my life. My new “teachers,” whether they know it or not, have tutored me about the necessity of healing of the entire person (not just the area with disease) and to realize the incredible gift this opportunity I have here is already revealing itself to be.

I may not have been able to predict my participation in RMC and there are certainly days which are not glamorous (my biology major did not teach me much about postage meters believe it or not); however, I remember those who I have met and held in the office or the operating room and remind myself to have faith that I am in the right place for me at the right time in my life.  I am looking forward to what I will continue to learn from my position, fondly referred to as “Professional Hand-holder,” and am incredibly grateful for it.

-Emily serves as Patient Support at the Women’s Health Center in Southampton and the Bott Cancer Center.

 

RMC Day- “Rest and Be Thankful”

Three times throughout the year, the RMC volunteers do not report to their ministry sites, rather they have the opportunity to participate in a day of reflection, alternative day of service, or a day focused on community fun as a way to continue to nurture and deepen a sense of community.

"A Waltz in the Woods"
“A Waltz in the Woods” by Patrick Dougherty

 

This year’s first RMC day, was the perfect blend of a brisk and sunny autumn day spent at Morris Arboretum, the official arboretum of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Here, the RMC volunteers experienced a bird’s eye view of the forest on the Tree Canopy Walk, admired the beauty of the Rose Garden, took a stroll through the Scarecrow Walk, shared a picnic lunch of hot apple cider and a birthday celebration for RMC, Ian and concluded the day with an hour of quiet reflection.  There was much gratitude for this time of rest, renewal and for the beauty of God’s creation.

Bird's Nest
“Bird’s Nest”
Rose Garden
preying-mantis
Preying Mantis
“Rest and Be Thankful”

 

 

Closing Reflection – Ashley Pickert

On Monday, Ashley made the transition from RMC volunteer to RMC alum with the Closing Liturgy. During the Liturgy, we were privileged to hear Ashley’s reflection on her experience:

“When I begin to think about how God has worked in my life, I am truly amazed. Taking a ‘gap year’ was not in my plan. I wanted to graduate from college and go straight to medical school like most pre-med students. When a series of events forced me to take some time before medical school, I learned to accept it but told God how it was going to be. I told Him how I would just do something that would permit me to get some good medical experience in and look great on a resume. I told Him that’s all I needed. All the while God was up in Heaven belly rolling with laughter at my insistence to be in control and for good reason. Little did I know it would be one of the most challenging, engaging, enthralling, broadening, informative, and sacrificial years of my young life.

            The amount I have learned this year has been extraordinary but I found it in all the places I never thought to look. It was through working in the Cancer Center, where my main job was “to be a presence”, that I was first able to see how much compassion towards others can matter. It was through following a patient from day one all the way to the end of the treatment process that I was able to appreciate the strength and valor someone can have, even when faced with life shattering news. It was through attending support groups and speaking to patients on the phone that I learned that everyone has a story and realized how one person’s story of survival can genuinely save another one’s life. It was through spending time with the Sisters that I learned from and appreciated Sr. Ellen’s dedication, Sr. Anita’s immense generosity, or Sr. Anne’s wonderful spirit, to name a few. However, that was only the tip of the iceberg. 

I could discuss the incredible effect it had on me to shadow in the operating room for hours, to hold hands with a patient as they were biopsied, to attend tumor board and witness doctors working together to form the best plan of treatment, to attend a weekend conference and learn alongside breast fellows, or to assist with a retreat that rejuvenated the spirits of patients fighting for their lives. Yet if God had allowed me to be in control, I would have missed out on all of it. I would just be the girl with words on a page instead of the young woman who grew in wisdom, understanding, love, and appreciation. Hence this past year I have garnered a most crucial lesson: it is giving into Him that I am able to live to my fullest potential.

             Dr. Suess said “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” It’s the end of my time here and I want to express how big of a smile I have. First, none of this would have been possible without the Sisters of the Holy Redeemer and their Redeemer Ministry Corps program. For you all I am eternally grateful. Secondly, my heartfelt thanks goes out to all of my supervisors and coworkers who I now consider lifelong friends. None of you will be forgotten and you all will hold a place in my heart. Thanks again and may God bless each and every one of you.”