On Pilgrimage: Sr. Karen Mohan Reflects

Journey _ Photo_by_Melissa_Borgmann-Kiemde

“We shall not cease from exploration…”

by Sr. Karen Mohan, VHM

In my early years of teaching middle grade girls at Visitation Academy in St. Louis, I once decorated the September classroom bulletin board with the Chinese proverb, “A Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins With a Single Step”. I’ve always been drawn to the theme of “journey” or “pilgrimage” as a metaphor for life, so much so that when I made my final vows as a Visitation Sister in 1971, the front of my invitation read, “We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started, and know the place for the first time…” (T.S. Eliot)

With the “spiritual“ compass given us through our Baptism, we are active participants, and it is through our choices that our life pilgrimage reaches its goal.” 

What is it about a pilgrimage that is so evocative? Maybe it’s because our whole life is like a pilgrimage. The people, events and experiences on this journey are not “dumped” on us as if we were passive recipients of some destiny outside ourselves. With the “spiritual“ compass given us through our Baptism, we are active participants, and it is through our choices that our life pilgrimage reaches its goal.

When I hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, I was aware that it was essential to be very observant and deliberate about each “next” step. Other times, like when I was recovering from a broken ankle and had to keep my foot elevated for a few weeks, those steps became more like a metaphor for an inner walk that requires a different type of attentiveness.

Currently I’m doing some remote preparation for a golden marker moment on my life pilgrimage. Next June 6, 2016, I will celebrate my 50th anniversary of religious profession.   As part of this preparation, I will occasionally share some reflections on this blog about the  people, events and experiences of my life as a Visitation Sister. Please feel free to respond to my musings!

Karen Mohan, VHM

Sr. Karen Mohan

In the spirit of “pilgrimage”, I will end with one of my favorite poems from Wendell Berry:

We travellers, walking to the sun, can’t see

Ahead, but looking back the very light

That blinded us shows us the way we came,

Along which blessings now appear, risen

As if from sightlessness to sight, and we,

By blessing brightly lit, keep going toward

That blessed light that yet to us is dark.

ON MARY: ANSWERING AN INVITATION

May Alter: Honoring Mary so alive in all of our hearts!

by Sr. Suzanne Homeyer, VHM

At the very beginning of the beautiful month of May I received an invitation I couldn’t refuse. A friend invited personal reflections on Mary, the Mother of Jesus, during this traditional month of celebration, reflection and special devotion to her.

Being raised in another faith tradition didn’t stop me from celebrating the month of May in a special way. Growing up in an ethnic neighborhood in Chicago was an entre for me to do so. Ours was one of two Protestant families on the block and all but one of my grade school friends were Catholics. Each year the month of May would come and the preparations for May altars began. I’m sure little girls all over the world make sure their bedrooms are extra neat and their dressers cleared off for the special little altar that will be a temporary home for Mary.

Sr. Suzanne Homeyer, VHM

Sr. Suzanne

“Several times during the month my Catholic friends (and the other Presbyterian girl) and I would stand in front of my dresser and sing Immaculate Mary and during those years I learned the Hail Mary by heart.  What was missing, of course, was a statue or depiction of Mary. But that didn’t seem to matter to my friends. Mary was somehow present in our gathering as little women.”

My bedroom was no exception. My mother had the best flowers of all the mom’s in the neighborhood so, of course, we would have the May altar in my bedroom.  Great- Grandma’s hand-crocheted doilies were carefully arranged on top of the dresser and the special vases that I had purchased with my allowance came out of the bottom drawer for the occasion. I helped Mom choose some particularly gorgeous blossoms and arranged the little nosegays just so….

Several times during the month my Catholic friends (and the other Presbyterian girl) and I would stand in front of my dresser and sing Immaculate Mary and during those years I learned the Hail Mary by heart.  What was missing, of course, was a statue or depiction of Mary. But that didn’t seem to matter to my friends. Mary was somehow present in our gathering as little women.

Years later, while taking instructions to become Catholic, I had the opportunity to ask my priest-catechist ‘any question’ I might have about the faith. A somewhat lengthy discussion on praying ‘to’ (my word) Mary and the Saints followed. This wise man asked me if I ever asked my deceased Grandmother or other relatives for help with a particular situation in my life. Of course I did! (not only asked; but I counted on them!)

I still have my May altar. There will be a flower or two. They will never be as lovely as my mother’s and I might hum a few lines of Immaculate Mary. And I still have the sense of being united with my friends and others, honoring, not a statue or picture but the Mary who is so alive in all of our hearts and the memories of my now deceased Mom, Grandma and Great-Grandmother who are always present in my spirit.