Time Out

Jan. 12-18, 2006
Time Out
By Claudia Mathis/ SUN staff writer
SUN photo(s) Paul Finch
Sisters of the Diocese Find Ways to Rejuvenate their Lives

As they devote themselves to the practice of a life of perfection by a close union with God, the sisters of the diocese periodically take time out of their day to reenergize and refocus.

Sister Mary Ellen Curtain, CSJ, is spiritual director at the Spiritual Renewal Center and, in addition, has created and is director of the Earth Weaver Learning Center. Sister Mary Ellen said her work energizes her. “I love doing two or three retreats every year at Stella Maris Retreat Center,” said Sister Mary Ellen. “It reaffirms the fact that God is working through me to help others to come to a sense of the sacredness of God.”

At the Earth Weaver Learning Center, Sister Mary Ellen helps people discover that the natural world is sacred and helps them to explore the depth and beauty of spirituality. Through retreats, workshops, lectures and small discussion groups held at the center, Sister Mary Ellen focuses on the story of the universe and spirituality in order to live in greater harmony with the earth.

Sister Mary Ellen has also found that the practice of reading invigorates her. “I love new ideas and I also like to read poetry,” said Sister Mary Ellen. “I’m interested in evolutionary consciousness. Our consciousness is changing — we are becoming more aware of God in our lives today.” Another way in which Sister Mary Ellen refocuses is through prayer and meditation. She also finds that practicing yoga and walking outdoors is very important to her. Additionally, Sister Mary Ellen said the companionship she shares with other people plays an important part in her sense of well-being. “I love conversation — a sharing of the heart with my other sisters,” remarked Sister Mary Ellen. In past summers, she has connected with her fellow sisters when she attended the Sisters of the Earth Conferences.

Sister Rose Raymond Wagner, OSF, spiritual director of Stella Maris Retreat Center, said that helping to keep Stella Maris Retreat Center going has been very energizing for her. She meets with people who are looking for deeper spirituality. Sister Rose Raymond provides people with experiences of prayer and spiritual renewal. “I love creating experiences for prayer,” said Sister Rose Raymond. “I use these talents and gifts I’ve been given to give back.”

Sister Rose Raymond also feels rejuvenated when she sings in a choral group that meets weekly. Comprised of sisters and laywomen, the Hospice Harmony Singers sing at memorial services for Hospice. Sister Rose Raymond also enjoys the art of calligraphy. “I love to do calligraphy,” she remarked. “I make greeting cards and sell them in the Stella Maris gift shop. It’s relaxing for me.” Sister Rose Raymond also said that spending time with her friends is helpful in her attempt to refocus. Sister Rose Ann Renna, OSF, employs a number of methods in her attempt at rejuvenation. One of the most important ways in which she refocuses is to set aside time each day for prayer and reflection. “I have to promise myself quiet time for prayer,” said Sister Rose Ann. “It’s a prayer of quietness — it’s very rejuvenating. I need quiet time — I’m introverted.”

Sister Rose Ann said that her pet dog also helps to keep her focused. “Sometimes when I’m reading a book, he’ll come up to me and knock the book out of my lap,” said Sister Rose Ann. “He’s one of my spiritual directors — he teaches me to live in the now. It’s amazing what I have learned from animals.” Sister Rose Ann also derives a lot of satisfaction from nature. “I love nature,” she said. “I love the element of nature when I sit on my porch, watching the rain.” Another outlet Sister Rose Ann finds helpful is her involvement with music. She enjoys listening to music and she also plays the organ.

“All of these methods feed my spirit and I bring it to my work,” said Sister Rose Ann. She is vice president for Mission Services at St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center. “I help people to focus on what our history and values are as Catholics,” she explained. “My job is very spiritual in nature.”

Sister Maureen D’Onofrio, CSJ, pastoral associate at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Syracuse, said that daily prayer time, exercise and yearly retreats help to rejuvenate her. “The quiet time that I set aside every day for prayer and meditation is very important,” said Sister Maureen. Sister Maureen finds that hiking and brisk walking also enhance her feeling of well-being. “I feel strongly about exercise — I exercise every morning.” Not too long ago, Sister Maureen returned from a sabbatical at the Sangre de Cristo Center, near Santa Fe, N.M. “It was wonderful,” said Sister Maureen. “This was a once-in-a-lifetime thing. I had a lot of time for reflection — time that I don’t usually have.”

Due to a traumatic incident, a serious car accident, in Sister Maureen’s life, her order encouraged her to think about taking a sabbatical. Sister Maureen left Syracuse on Sept. 5 to attend the 100-day sabbatical.

The Sangre de Cristo Center provides a sabbatical program for Catholic men and women religious and priests who are aged 40-70. Participants of the program are encouraged to examine thoroughly the fundamental understandings, motives and movements of a lifetime of ministry. The program also encourages those modes of being and doing that will bring each member’s basic faith and central values effectively into future ministry.

“It was a great atmosphere,” remarked Sister Maureen. “Out of the 34 men and women who attended, only 17 were from the U.S. and the ones from the states were from all over. We did a lot of sharing on a deep level. I learned a lot about myself.”

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