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june 5First Vows 
 june 3Trinity Community: 1 community but 3 households Srs. Madonna, Arlene, Rose Carmel, Karen, June Dorothy Ann

In the space of eight days I received three words for my journey this year. At Pinecroft New Year eve liturgy Fr. Pat reflected on Mary and her posture of ‘pondering’. He suggested that few people would ever choose ‘ponder’ for their word. It fell gently into my heart.

A few days later the daily scripture was from 1 Corinthians 1:26: “consider your own calling”. The phrase delighted me and was received as an invitation to ‘ponder and consider’ my journey as a Franciscan Sister of the Poor these past 40 years.

On January 8th I read an article in National Catholic Reporter by April Guitierrez about the need to ‘savor”…special times and accomplishments in our lives. We so often finished something and quickly move on without stopping to appreciate and savor the moment(s).  So for these past months ponder, consider and savor have been my companion guides. I invite you to journey with me.

The very early inkling of a call goes back as far as high school. I pondered and considered that for over 7-8 years before I took the leap. God kept inviting, calling, and planting seeds. God is persistent and generous in waiting!

In the fall of 1975 I found myself in Chicago partaking in the inter-Franciscan living experience. We had classes in the a.m. and the p.m. was devoted to various ministry outreach efforts among people who were poor. The living situation: slept on cots, no TV, no phone, no newspaper, no furniture except the dining room table and chairs! We thrived. The lesson learned was that I would never be poor in the same was that the people around me were. I had my education health and the security net of the Congregation. We learned that we could live with very little.

After first Vows I moved to Dayton, Ohio to join the beginnings of a new intentional community. There were four of us to start: Srs. Ann Cecile, Maria Klosterman, Adelaide Link and myself. Over the course of 10+ years other sisters (SFP’s and  sisters from various congregations) lived with us. These were very rich years in community living and ministry. As a young sister it was edifying to see my sisters up early in the chapel to pray before we headed off to ministry. Their commitment and witness strengthened my own relationship with Jesus. We all became active in the parish and neighborhood.

My personal opportunities to grow through ministry at St. Elizabeth Medical Center were many: chaplain, organize the Pastoral Care department, vice president of Mission. When I first went to St. E’s I did not understand how some sisters could live in one place for over 10-20 years. After 15 years I understood – ministry is invigorating, challenging, always changing and you make wonderful connections with people. There was no reason to move on.

 

june 4 Aachen at the Tomb of MF: Srs. Madonna, Karen, Arlene, June, Adelaide

However there was always the question in the back of my mind could I let it go if asked to move on? That question became very real in 1993. I was asked to discern if I would serve as VP for Mission at the corporate level of our health system. It would mean a move to Albany, NY. After one month of discernment, I took the leap of faith. By May I was in Albany beginning a new adventure…scared and excited at the same time.

One of the blessings of this position was I traveled to all of our hospitals to collaborate with the local VP of Mission persons. These trips also gave me an opportunity to visit and know more of the Sisters. I had a front row seat in how my Sisters and our collaborators were living the charism of healing poor suffering humanity. I was humbled by their generous and unselfish service.

In Albany I belonged to an active parish community. I joined a monthly small intentional community. It was enriching to share with lay men and women who were committed to their Christian walk. Life was good. I was content.

june 01Easter smiles: Srs. June and Marie Clement

However, God had a few more surprises for me. I was elected to Regional Leadership three different times, three different teams and very diverse personalities! We learned to appreciate our gifts and talents as well as our differences. I found it a blessing to be of service to my Sisters and I appreciated their trust and confidence in me.

Another school of learning was sickness. I had major lupus flares in 2003 and 2007. During my first flare I had a sense that the illness was a ‘gift”. I was very much on the receiving end and experienced great comfort from “the Body of Christ” carrying and supporting me by their prayers, presence and other kind deeds. Chronic illness calls you to let go and to let go some more. With my 2nd flare my mantra was “it is, what it is”. I trusted and believed that my healing God was with me as well as my sisters.

Presently I live at Pinecroft with Sr. Marie Clement. We have been blessed to have several Italian Sisters with us at various points. I am very engaged in my local parish community. I serve as a Guardian for three men. I visit with them regularly and monitor their care. Sr. Jo Ann Jackowski and I are working together to assist our employees to understand our mission, values and vision.

These are some of my pondering, considering and savoring. These 40 years have been a blessing. In closing I would like to share a prayer poem that I encountered on my recent retreat by Joseph G.  Van Den Heuvel: Ministry Prayer Images.

Lord Jesus
The Way

Every step
For You, in You

Every cross
For You, in You

Every joy
For You, in You

My life
For You, in You

My death
For You, in You

 Sr June Casterton, SFP

Published: October, 08,2015