Friday, May 22, 2015

Prayer for Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College
By: Andrea Beyke

Provident God, as a college family, we cherish our memories and our history as a sacred gift.  As pilgrim people, we trust in the Divine Providence that so far has never failed us.
May the Holy Spirit guide us in wisdom, that we might be receptive to change and growth.  We open our hearts to this same Spirit, summoning courage and refusing to let fear, pride, or ignorance limit us.  Guide us in this time of transition to continue our legacy as a vibrant college that recognizes the signs of the times.  

United in our love for Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, hold us close in comfort as we perceive that you are doing something new.* We ask all of this through the intercession of our foundress, Saint Mother Theodore Guerin.  Amen.

*Isaiah 43:19

Monday, May 4, 2015

Baccalaureate Address
By: Cathleen Flynn '13

The readings chosen for this special day are rich in wisdom and love, and that this class selected them does not surprise me. It speaks to your compassion and authentic pursuit of global service, Class of 2015. There are many “golden nugget” quotes worth remembering in each of today’s readings. I’m grateful for this opportunity to reflect on a few of the nuggets I carry with me, and I know each of you is now empowered with a liberal arts education that will allow you to make your own meaning out of these texts.

In the passage from Matthew we hear of the depth and breadth of Jesus’ empathy for those experiencing suffering in body, mind, spirit, or relationship. “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them…” What was the source of this boundless compassion? Perhaps Jesus’ compassion was divine, sourced in the mysterious love of the Creator. Perhaps it was Jesus’ humanness that connected him so intimately with the suffering of the masses. When we take the time to consider our own experiences with suffering, do we more clearly see those among us who are, in this moment, “harassed and helpless”? Perhaps it is by tapping into the shared human experience of suffering that we gain access to our own wellsprings of compassion and love for one another and for ourselves.

Then in Jesus’ compassionate voice we hear – “The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few; ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into the harvest.” One commentary on this scripture highlights how impossible it would have been for Jesus to do his lifework alone. Just as you needed support and encouragement from friends, classmates, and family throughout your college years, so, too, did the Christ lean on those who journeyed with him. Matthew suggests we need only ask for help and kindred spirits will join us as we harvest what we’ve planted.   

And now, some words from our dear old Mother Theodore. The words we heard, which she wrote to her Sisters working in Jasper, IN, are probably some of the most loved and most firmly embedded within the spirits and psyches of Woods graduates, Sisters of Providence, and others devoted to Mother Theodore. She says – “You may have to wait longer than you would like, you may have to bear privations; but, bear and forbear. Have confidence in the Providence that so far has never failed us. The way is not yet clear. Grope along slowly.” Even when we have to wait longer than we like…even when life turns upside down and all possibilities seem to have withered away… “Bear and forbear”, she says. “Grope along slowly.” Providence will not fail, even when all appearances are against it.  

After writing this encouragement to her children of The Woods, Mother Theodore urges them to continue their harvest by going out. “We cannot do our work if we all stay in the nest,” she says. “As soon as the birds can fly they must be on the wing.” Not “as soon as the birds think they are ready” or “as soon as the birds have everything planned”, but “as soon as the birds can fly they must”. What a bold invitation we receive from our foundress, to risk comfort and ego by leaving the nest just as we’re getting the whole flight thing down! It is a call for the courageous and the humble-hearted, and one that Woods graduates have been accepting for 175 years. As you now continue this legacy by extending your wings, I pray you will trust in your intuition, your Woods education, and the unending support of Providence.

To those who are graduating today – it’s now your moment to leave the Saint-Mary-of-the-Woods College nest, reflecting on all you’ve gained and contributed to this place that will forever be home. We’ll remember you and we hope you return often to stay connected to your roots. In the words of Mother Theodore, “Love us all at home as we love you…” 

Friday, April 24, 2015

By: Andrea Beyke

In a letter from Saint Mother Theodore Guerin to her Sisters in Jasper in 1943, she tells them, “We cannot do our work if we all stay in the nest.”  These words ring true to our graduates at this time of endings and new beginnings.  Momma Teddy has a way of continuing to speak to us, doesn’t she? 

She’s saying GO.  Get out.  Beat it.  Scram.  Go in peace.  But go…you must go.  

When we look back throughout Christian history, we find this theme of being sent forth.  To Adam and Eve, God said GO…leave the garden and navigate the way.  God told Noah to build the ark; take the animals and your family and GO.  Moses was told to “GO to Pharaoh” from the bush that burned.  Ruth’s words to Naomi were, “Where you GO I will GO.”  (Ruth 1:15) And finally, Jesus told his followers, “GO therefore and make disciples of all nations.”  (Matthew 28:16) Over and over, God says GO.

And so we send our graduates, not to Nineveh like Jonah or to Pharaoh like Moses, but we send you to find your own niche.  Your having been here will have made a difference.  The wisdom you have acquired will have changed your hearts.  Your having shared in the charisms of Providence will have developed your spirituality.  Having been drawn together here at the Woods, reminded of your firm foundation, strengthened in understanding, and nourished for the journey, there is nothing left but to go.  Go in that same peace that the world cannot give.  

Too much remains to be done in this world for Woodsies to rest turned in on themselves.  So, we send you.  Go and live the stories you’ve remembered.  Go and be God’s great gift of love.  Go and be Saint Mother Theodore Guerin’s mission in the world.   And above all, know that a piece of this sacred place will go with you. 

Friday, April 10, 2015

How does your faith inform your action?
By: Elizabeth Coley

Do Something. That is the title of one of my favorite Matthew West songs. Matthew West is a Christian artist that I have listened to for years.  He took time during a recent medical sabbatical to reach out to fans and hear their stories. He then wrote songs base on the personal stories he heard. These songs are influential, touching, happy, sorrowful, and encouraging. The first time I heard Do Something, it spoke to me. The backstory to the song can be found on Matthew’s website. Looking at the website, Matthew states,

“Andrea, a former University of Colorado student had chosen to spend a semester abroad learning micro-financing in Uganda.  While there, she happened upon an orphanage in critical condition.  The children were being badly neglected and even abused.  Her heart broke for these orphans who had no advocate.  That’s when this college student decided to do something.  She called her parents and said, “I’m not coming home.”  She refused to leave these children until something was done to improve the conditions.

By sheer determination and refusal to give up, Andrea and her sister convinced the Ugandan government to close down that orphanage, which left about forty children with no place to go.  The government handed the children to her.  Andrea brought this need back to the states with a new vision and desire to create a safe place for these children to grow and learn.  Today, Musana (which means “sunshine”) is a thriving orphanage in Iganga, Uganda, housing over one hundred children!  Andrea prefers spending most of her time in Uganda, not the U.S.  She’s a long way from a sorority house or a college campus.  She’s reaching the world, and bringing hope to people, one helpless child at a time.  When asked what it was that made her fight for these children she simply said, “I just kept thinking, ‘if I don’t do something, who will?’”

While I have not been called to the orphans in Uganda, this song still felt like it had been written for me. It helped put words to what I had been feeling for a long time. In order to make a difference and put my faith into action I must do something.

I woke up this morning
Saw a world full of trouble now
Thought, how’d we ever get so far down
How’s it ever gonna turn around
So I turned my eyes to Heaven
I thought, “God, why don’t You do something?”
Well, I just couldn’t bear the thought of
People living in poverty
Children sold into slavery
The thought disgusted me
So, I shook my fist at Heaven
Said, “God, why don’t You do something?”
He said, “I did, I created you”

I had been raised in the church from a young age, but my own personal journey with faith started in early junior high. I went to church and was involved with my youth group, but I did not think of myself as someone who readily put her faith into action. It was not until college that I really felt my calling and purpose with my faith and relating it to action. Until college, when I thought about mission work, I always thought that I needed to go to a third world country and help there. It never dawned on me that I could be called to mission work in my own backyard. This realization began my acceptance to the calling of helping others close to home. Through opportunities on campus, in church, and through my community, I started reaching to help others close to home. I began tutoring in a Service Learning afterschool program that helped underprivileged elementary students. I had the opportunity to participate in Alternative Spring Break trip 2 years as a student and 4 years as a chaperone. I have taken groups on inner-city trips to help families in need. I spent time in the evenings with at-risk youth as a mentor and friend. For nearly 10 years, I have served as an adult volunteer for my county’s local 4-H organization. Each service opportunity was different, yet all shared similarities. It let me do something.

I’m so tired of talking
About how we are God’s hands and feet
But it’s easier to say than to be
Live like angels of apathy who tell ourselves
It’s alright, “somebody else will do something”
Well, I don’t know about you
But I’m sick and tired of life with no desire
I don’t want a flame, I want a fire
I wanna be the one who stands up and says,
“I’m gonna do something”

Going on alternative breaks was more to me than helping others. It was putting my faith into action. My evangelical style is not necessarily to tell you about my relationship with Christ, but show you. I strive daily to be an individual that people can see Christ in me and see that there is something different about me. It is putting that faith into action. I want others to see that I am God’s hands and feet.

How are you called to put your faith into action? Are you listening to the calling to help others? Remember, you do not have to be called to Uganda to open an orphanage. Look around you for inspiration. Take a leap in your faith and go on an alternative break, stand up as a leader and serve at your local food pantry, join others to help clean up the community, use your talents to help others, whatever it is, do something.

If not us, then who
If not me and you
Right now, it’s time for us to do something
If not now, then when
Will we see an end
To all this pain
It’s not enough to do nothing
It’s time for us to do something