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Pope Francis wrote "Responding to God's call means allowing Him to help us leave ourselves and our false security behind, and to strike out on the path which leads to Jesus Christ, the origin and destiny of our life and our happiness."  Are you being call to a life as a religious woman?  If so please feel free to send an email to Sr. Janice Bemowski
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Flying a Kite
A Reflection for the Year of Consecrated Life
(and for everyone who is called to put all into the hand of God)

One Sunday the weather was so beautiful that I decided to go outside and fly the kite I had made. With the wind just right, it flew marvelously and I was able to let out every inch of string, so that the kite was high above the trees—and it was beautiful, with light shining through the tissue paper and the bright red tail trailing behind against the blue of the sky.

After flying it for a while, I debated about what to do next. Should I reel it in? Or should I yield to the quixotic notion to cut the string and give it its freedom? Now you should know that it had taken me quite a long time to make this kite, and today was the first time it had flown really well; but finally it seemed that there was something appropriate to the moment in the gesture of letting it go.

So I did. I cut the string.

And of course my soaring kite immediately started to sink, because a kite won't fly without someone holding the string.

But then, as I watched . . . I was amazed to see the kite rise again into the sky and begin flying on its own, as if another hand had taken hold of it. What had happened, it turned out, was that a tree had caught the string, and the tree was flying the kite. I have had some beautiful moments of kite-flying, but that was the most beautiful of all, watching my kite fly after I had let go of it.

- - - - -

We read in the book of Ruth that the men in Naomi's family—her husband and both her sons—have died in the land of Moab, where the family has been living. So Naomi decides to return to her own country of Judah. But her sons have married Moabite women whom Naomi loves. She begs both of them to return to their families, rather than traveling with her to what would be a foreign country for them. She says to them, “May the Lord deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me” (Ruth 1:8). One agrees, but the other, Ruth, who loves her mother-in-law very much, responds:

    Do not press me to leave you
    or to turn back from following you!
    Where you go, I will go;
    where you lodge, I will lodge;
    your people shall be my people,
    and your God my God.
    Where you die, I will die—
    there will I be buried.
    (Ruth 1:16-17)

So Naomi and Ruth leave Moab together and travel to Bethlehem.

In the loving faithfulness of Ruth we see a letting-go and a dying to self. She will be in a strange land, far from all she has known. Nevertheless, she says to Naomi, I will not go my own way, but I will go with you. And into this letting-go of self the power of God becomes manifest. Ruth, the foreigner, the Moabite, of a people often seen as enemies of Israel, becomes the great-grandmother of David, and is one of the very few women mentioned by name in Matthew's genealogy of Christ.

Ruth's faithfulness becomes a participation in the divine plan. She lets go—and as it happened with my kite— another hand takes hold and something beautiful is brought about.

Even so in our own lives, when we act out of love, commending ourselves to God for the future which we cannot see, and trusting that our future is Christ, another hand, a divine hand, is there to grasp us. As for Ruth, so for us, the power of God is there, and in a surprising way, what happens is far more beautiful than when we keep hold of the string ourselves.
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Year of Consecrated Life
The Year of Consecrated Life opens the First Sunday of Advent.

All Christians are called to union with God in love.  However, each Christian call has its own unique value for the Church and the world, and the living-out of that call has its own emphases, highlighting different facets of the same divine love and the same call to transforming union.

Since one Christian vocation is not interchangeable with another, this means that without Catholic sisters (or brothers or religious priests) there would be something sorely missing — but this missing element would not necessarily be the works we are now doing, no matter how important these works are. (After all, many of these are now being performed just as well by dedicated lay people.)  Just as the witness of married love is not based on the occupations of the spouses, but rather on living deeply the sacramental relationship of marriage — so the witness of religious life and the reason it is still indispensable to the Church is not based primarily on the jobs we do, but on the life itself, lived in depth.

By its very existence through the centuries, religious life proclaims:

  that what matters is God; and as Teresa of Avila wrote, “sólo Dios basta,” God alone suffices;

  that prayer is more powerful than bombs;

  that it is possible to live together in peace, even with people whom we did not choose — or might never have chosen — as companions;

  that communion with God includes communion with each other, expressed through presence, ritual, and the sharing of material goods;

  that possessions do not make us happy;

  that giving ourselves totally, as Jesus did, does not lead to annihilation, but brings us most surely into who we truly are;

  that grace and mercy abound in the struggle to be faithful to God’s call — and that when we inevitably fall short, grace and mercy abound, still and always.

More on the Year of Consecrated Life
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Here are a few resources you might enjoy checking out:

“That, surely, is what we mean by consecrated life:
the daily intention and effort to live for God alone
and not at all for ourselves.”
(Ruth Burrows, Essence of Prayer)

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The photo is of the chapel at the Chicago Cenacle.
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Are You Being Called?

I have been a Sister of the Cenacle since 1978. My vocation was a surprise to me, and has been an inexpressible gift. It has also presented me with challenges which I would never have believed I could handle, but the challenges have very often revealed the grace of God. Because of the mysterious ways of the Holy Spirit working in each person, our community life and our ministry never cease to be a wonder. I am currently part of the Cenacle community in Chicago.

Some of my Interests: 

Music 
I play several musical instruments.  
Music is for me an essential element in the spiritual life. I find that it facilitates an openness to the presence of God and the beauty of God's creatures.

Liturgy 
I experience the importance of ritual in human life, revel in the beauty of the liturgical year, and am nourished by the mystery of the Eucharist.

Literature and other...

  • The role of women in the Church
  • The internet as a tool for proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ
  • Discovering contemporary ways of living a contemplative lifestyle
  • Poetry

Degrees

  • Emory University, Ph.D., M.A., French, 1972
    Dissertation: "L'Elément orphique dans la poésie de Baudelaire et la musique pianistique de Chopin"
  • Notre Dame Seminary, New Orleans, M.A., Theological Studies, 1984
    Thesis: "The Sacrament of Penance: A Reformulation of the Principle of Integrity"
  • Agnes Scott College, B.A., English, 1965

Publications

  • "Caught Up in God: Cenacle Journal" (a meditation/spirituality web page, updated regularly)
  • "Why Do We Gather: Religious Community and the Transforming Journey" (another version was published in 2007 in Review for Religious).
  • At Prayer with St. Therese Couderc: A Novena to the Good God. Chicago: Religious of the Cenacle, 1999.
  • "Consider Tradition," Commonweal (January 29, 1999).
  • "Unity and Uniqueness: the Perils of Consistency," Chicago Studies 31:2 (August 1992).
  • "Cultivating Uselessness." Review for Religious 51:2 (March-April 1992).
  • "The Communion of Saints: Lest the Journey Be Too Long." The Way 30:3 (July 1990). Reprinted in Memoriæ Vis: Essays in Celebration of Arthur R. Evans. Edited by Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis and Erkmann Waniek. Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1993.
  • "The Prince of Darkness as an Angel of Light." Review for Religious 47:6 (November-December 1988).
  • "Openness of Heart and the Sacrament of Penance: A New Look at Integrity." Chicago Studies 25:2 (August 1986).

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In my role as Vocation Director for the North American Province of the Cenacle Sisters, I have the privilege of meeting many wonderful women, and sharing a part of their spiritual journey. I find more and more people wondering if religious life, or affiliation with a religious congregation, is where God might be calling them -- inviting them "into their future." For all, no matter where the journey eventually leads them, investigating this possibility turns out to be a very important part of their discernment. Much of my dialogue with people is centered on their relationship with God, past and present; what makes them happy and gives them that deeper sense of wholeness; and the call to be part of a spiritual community.

Vocation directors of all congregations are first and foremost "companions on the journey" rather than "recruiters." While we obviously feel that our way of living out of the gospel call is wonderful and we want to invite others to join us -- our first commitment is to helping women and men deepen their own relationship with God -- however and wherever that leads them.

Since the primary expression of our Cenacle ministry is retreats and spiritual direction, I feel doubly blessed in bringing this background to my particular ministry as vocations director.

I welcome your calls, comments and questions. I can be reached at 773-528-6300 or e-mail vocations@cenaclesisters.org.

Originally from Stevens Point, Wisconsin, Sr. Janice Bemowski received an undergraduate degree in interior design and went on to work in Chicago both in designing and banking. Living in a condo and being part of urban life, Sr. Janice found herself searching even though her work and life were good. She had begun a process of discernment by enrolling in the pastoral studies program at Loyola, and by looking at religious life when she happened upon a retreat weekend at the Chicago Cenacle in 1988. She felt God was indeed calling her to something else and needed to trust Him enough to quit her job which she did at the end of the summer. In 1989 she entered a pre-novitiate program and later a formal novitiate on Long Island after completing her MPS from Loyola. She has served at Cenacles in Houston, Chicago and Minneapolis. As vocations director, she is currently working on many projects that share information about the Cenacle Sisters, Auxiliaries, and Affiliates/Companions. 
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