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Reflection for the reception of Sister Emily TeKolste into the novitiate

Saturday, Aug. 5, 2017

General Superior Sister Dawn Tomaszewski and Sister Marsha Speth bless the novice’s cross that Sister Emily is about to receive.

I have always been intrigued by that saying: “Hidden in plain view.”

And more times than I really wish to admit, I do a frantic search of my office to find my keys so I can leave for the day only to find them hanging in plain view. They are right where I left them —still protruding from the lock in the door — hidden in plain view.

I’m sure this never happens to any of you! But I am often led to ask: What distractions, what planks in my eyes keep me from seeing what is right there in plain view? What keeps me from recognizing that which I need to see?

In the Gospel reading chosen for our prayer today, we have the classic Scriptural version of hidden in plain view. Here Jesus is walking right alongside two of the disciples. But they do not recognize him. Despite all of their conversation with him, it seems, in the words of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin, that the eyes of their souls were closed to him. Not until he took the bread, said the blessing and began to distribute it to them did they see him in a new light. Not until they experienced the Christ in the breaking of the bread, did they recognize him. What do I need to experience to help open the eyes of my soul?

Sister Emily listens to Sister Dawn’s reflection during her entrance to the novitiate ceremony.

The truths hidden in both this Gospel reading and the wise words of our Saint Mother Theodore provide a profound challenge for you, Emily, as you begin your journey as a novice within this community of Providence. What experiences will you welcome to open the eyes of your soul? Will you give the Holy Spirit free access to your mind and your heart so that you will see things in new lights?

And here is what I know about you, Emily, you are up for this challenge! You have spent the past year as an active participant in the life of the community. A significant portion of your ministry time as a postulant found you in the Mission Advancement office writing blogs and tweets, shedding light on the world around us. Even your decision to have proclaimed the Aramaic names of the participants in today’s Gospel tells me you are ready, maybe even yearning, to see things in a new light.

Canonical year

The canonical year before you will be about many old truths that need the light of your reflection, Emily:

• It will be about the call to be Sister and being called Sister; about growing into deeper identity and intimacy as a member of a religious community that seeks to bring love, mercy and justice to today’s world.

• It will be about exploring the charism of this Congregation and experiencing how that charism is alive in you and in your sisters and our associates enabling all of us to lean with all our weight on Providence.

• It will be about discovering how you will, in the words on your invitation and program, PREACH LOVE, and participate in the mission given us by a Provident God to help overcome the world.

But most of all my prayer is that this year will be about deep seeing —contemplative seeing — of paying attention to that which is hidden in plain view—the spirit of God that flows in you. How will you come to embrace more deeply the spirit of God that flows in you?

Richard Rohr, who was a virtual companion for me during my recent retreat, calls this right-seeing and he says:

All of your raw material for right-seeing is within you — because in the Holy Spirit you have your inner “Advocate.” The Spirit is your implanted placeholder who teaches you how to pray, how to hope, and how to love.

To pray, to hope, to love … to see things in new lights … what better curriculum for a canonical year?

Sister Emily is blessed by the Congregation after being received into the novitiate.

Rohr says just let go of whatever it is within you that is keeping the Indwelling Spirit from guiding you. God makes use of everything, absolutely everything.

God wants you

And guess what — in the eternal scheme of things, we discover that all God wants from you is you. Rohr calls it a liberating secret: I am/YOU are precisely the gift God wants — in full and humble surrender. All God wants is Emily of the TeKolste Family, in full and humble surrender. All God wants is your love for the life of the world.

“Take, oh take me as I am, summon out what I shall be — set your seal upon my heart and live in me.”

Our reception of you today, Emily, is our ascent that we, too, are grateful to receive the gift you already are — a gift to us from a loving, Provident God. We, your sisters and associates, will be on the road with you as you continue growing as Emily. We need you for this; the world needs you for this.

So please … receive this year as gift and make it your practice every day to pray, to hope, to love … to see many things in new lights. Hear Mother Theodore urge you to give the Holy Spirit free access to your mind and your heart. Then give yourself over in full and humble surrender. Become that new light hidden in plain view for the life of the world.

***

It is now my privilege, on behalf of the entire Congregation, to call you forth Emily, to be officially received into the novitiate.

View photos from the entrance ceremony here.

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Sister Dawn Tomaszewski

Sister Dawn Tomaszewski was elected General Superior of the Sisters of Providence in 2016. She has been a Sister of Providence since 1975. Previously she ministered as a teacher, as communication and development director for the sisters and their ministries and as a member of elected leadership on the general council of the Sisters of Providence.

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1 Comment

  1. Carolyn Kessler SP on August 11, 2017 at 3:46 pm

    Dawn, your beautiful, warm, loving reflection at Sister Emily’s reception into the novitiate is very moving to read at this distance in Texas. “To pray, to hope, to love” nails our essence. Add the attributes of mercy and justice and there we are – Sisters of Providence. I have enjoyed finding Sister Emily’s contributions on everything from FB to Twitter this past year. I am pleased that she was encouraged to use her voice.

    In Providence,
    Carolyn SP

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