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Jill
Jill is the Chicago Cenacle Social Media Consultant.
The Son Remains
AUTHOR
Jill  »
It’s the constant rotation around the sun that offers us a delightful optimism each year. This steady orbit grants us the seasonal evolution to shape and form our most fundamental occasions. Whether it is sharing a laugh with a friend or holding the hand of someone we love-each obtained second flows into the next. The minute into the hour, into the day, and so on we find ourselves growing and maturing spinning around the sun. As the golden rays turn the leaves into various hues of chestnut and auburn; our lives also lead their very own seasons. Some seasons are transformative and some are just formative, but in due time we will be propelled into another portion of life.

 

 There is an unwavering grace in each season the Son reveals. In every unwelcome circumstance mercy and hope resides there. During the transition between seasons we must have faith and sow seeds of thanksgiving. When the nights grow longer or there is a pain from a loss or disappointment, the Son will remain. And when the days are yielding the sunlight across all spaces overwhelming us with immense joy, the Son will remain. The sun is steady but never changes, as our world transitions season to season our God the creator of all things great and small will remain.

 

Are you looking toward the Son to help transition you through your greatest and most challenging seasons in your life?

 

  

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Power of Yes
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Jill  »

On the first Saturday of September sisters, family and friends gathered at Chicago Cenacle to celebrate the ministry and presence of Sr. Jean Reardon’s Golden Jubilee. While preparing for her celebration, Sr. Jean opened up about the many paths she took that led her to this extraordinary moment. 

Her journey began in 1935 in Albuquerque, New Mexico where she was born. Her father who served in the National Guard in New Mexico was activated in spring of 1941 just months before Pearl Harbor.  That August, he was deployed to the Philippines and was later captured during WWII where he was held as a prisoner of war for two years. After his release and later military retirement he went on to become an educator and school principal in Albuquerque.

Jean followed in her father’s footsteps completing her studies in elementary education at the University of New Mexico. During a long layover in Chicago in her senior year of college, she thought it would be a wonderful idea to visit her priest cousin who lived in Oak Park, IL. While visiting they discussed her trip and her on campus volunteer work with UNM Newman Center. He asked if she had ever considered entering a convent, and her response was a resounding “you have got to be kidding me, NO!” After she returned to campus, she put the question out her mind but not far from her heart. While she was completing her teaching training, a friend who was a Naval Officer and member of her social sorority met her for coffee. Like most young adults their conversation was flooded with all their hopes, dreams and next big steps in life. While sharing her Naval Officer friend asked “would you consider joining the Navy?” In one breath Sr. Jean replied “No! I always swore I would never join the military or marry anyone in the military”. After being the child of a service man and having knowledge of what it entails, she decided early on it was not something she wanted for herself.

Now preparing to head into her career, young Jean soon met an officer who began teaching at the school where she was completing her teaching training.  She found herself impressed by the way the officer integrated her service experience into her teaching and brought the class lessons to life. As she taught the children how to read, the books became more than just a simplified lesson of “see dick run”, but small adventures in front of their eyes. Sr. Jean says “I knew if I wanted to be a good teacher I needed some experience, some adventure.” So, on July 1st, 1957 Sr. Jean reported to Officer Candidate School for Women.

During her 12 years of military service she remained devoted in her faith.  Jean made attending Trinity Sunday a priority, even if she was not able to make other services throughout the month. One Sunday two weeks before Trinity Sunday Jean made her way to chapel. She remembers dipping fingers into the pond of holy water, and she heard a voice say “go to confession and communion today”. “I only do confession and communion on Trinity Sunday” she said to herself. In that moment of reluctance, she knew she didn’t want to be disobedient to God’s clear direction and went on to confession and communion. That moment of hesitation gave way to spiritual conviction and she grew from it. Months later after visiting a local parish in Virginia she heard the voice again say “I want you Jean”. Overwhelmed with fear and much hesitation she started bargaining with God. “Anything but that, I will teach CCD (Confraternity of Christian Doctrine) but not that” she responded. So, she did just that! She began teaching CCD on her base, and as she rose through the ranks so did her faith.

 Jean followed her heart and in 1969 she entered the Cenacle. Sr. Jean has since worked and served in many capacities through the years from the kitchen, to treasure, to ministry coordinator. Her volunteer work allowed her to share her creativity from teaching wood shop at the YMCA summer camp, to being the sister’s in house photographer. Nowadays Sr. Jean spends her afternoons serving in the Cenacles Prayer Enrollment Office. On occasion she gifts bookmarks to the sisters and staff with images she has captured displaying the full beauty of God in this world. “When asked what has been the best part about being a part of the Cenacle for the past 50 years?” Sr. Jean replied “I enjoy the work I do, from walking alongside a retreatant to prayer enrollment, people trust us with their prayers. I believe when we hear others we hear God”. All those years ago in that Virginia parish she turned away from her call and said “no”. With an obedient “yes” later, we now celebrate her 50 years of faith. Sr. Jean continues to remain in awe of God’s grace and has learned to let go into the mystery and say yes to God’s call!

 What would "Yes" lead you to in your life?

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The Horizon
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Jill  »

Sometimes in life the wall feels immeasurable. When the day is so bad the minutes pass by like years. In the valleys of our daily realities we often trek further down into hopelessness. The peak just doesn’t seem attainable from this far down. “This is life”, we tell ourselves, and the pressure and pain is the process and price of living. In these winter seasons we can so easily lose sight of spring on the horizon. We have endured and conquered many valleys before. And as our faith matures with each winter season we recognize there is growth in the valley. Our healing does not begin at the summit. God is with us even when we feel He is the furthest away. There is victory in every tear we shed and heartbreak we have endured; Christ was there. With Easter Sunday drawing near let us remind ourselves, some winters may be long, but the glory of spring is on the horizon. (Hebrews 12:2-3)

 How do we endure when things seem impossibly hard?

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The Wall
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Jill  »

I am sitting here, searching for an inspirational way to share a story about courage. As time pass I sift through shredded puddles of collected thoughts and phrases. My pen wades in the haze of my own hesitancy. Oh yes, finally a spark of something smart. Or maybe not, just clouds where my composed reflections should be. “Writers block may have got the best of me”, I say under my breath. Should I give up? The frustration and unease of feeling” I'm no writer” lurk in. I must push past this murky wall of angst, and just try. The completion of writing something is a success, I think. And, even though it shines an enormous spotlight on my imperfections, it is not a fail I do believe. Somewhere in between the do and don’t, I land on the cliff of courage, and transcribe this climb.

When was the last time you allowed yourself to lean into courage to get you through a difficult task?

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Be Kind, and Unwind
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Jill  »

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, the golden rule, for most of us it was the first rule we were taught as children. Such a simple phrase to remember but it is quite a hard one to practice. While we were young our circumference of interactions was small. It is not so difficult learning to consider those who already consider you. And I know, sometimes being kind can be even harder with those we love. Unfortunately, we even more so must practice being kind to ourselves. We must work our way inside out. Self-care, mentally and spiritually, is overlooked on a daily bases. Learning to break the bad habits of self-criticism and self-doubt will allow us to connect more genuinely in our relationships with others. So I suggest we make an updated version of our glitzy rule. Be kind to others and be kind to ourselves.

 

 

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Same God, New Me
AUTHOR
Jill  »

It seems to creep in the night, seeping in every waking thought with such precision. Lingering, taunting me in the grocery, at the movies and worst of all in my prayers (so I thought).  I hid from the sheer idea of it, saying to myself “no, I’m just hurt”. I swaddled myself in deceptive invisible layers that seemed to guard me but really kept me tightly wrapped in my own misery. I was in a negative emotional free fall of brokenness.

Spring 2003, my baby brother went to be with the Lord. I lived my entire childhood with the growing understanding all life’s first were just a faded dream for my brother.  So, you would think I would be ready. I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t ready for the heartbreak, pain and brokenness. I wasn’t ready for the anger. I was so very angry. It was a stench, that greeted my loved ones and every person I encountered. Anger showed up in every aspect of my life.  One day, I gathered up the courage to finally truly pray about it. I was done trying to slay this anger beast on my own.  Through prayer God has renewed my spirit, and where there use to be a gaping hole of brokenness; He has planted love and peace.

In what area in your life do you need God to renew you?

Psalm 51:10  Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

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The Gift
AUTHOR
Jill  »

It’s the most wonderful time to get gifts. At least that’s what my inner child would say. I used to believe all the other Holidays were just fillers for the main event, Christmas! Once the leaves turned into their autumn hues, my brother and I were on high alert for the “big brand toy store” catalogs. We regularly checked the mail after school, and sometimes checked it twice. “It’s here!” one of us would shout, shoulder to shoulder with markers in hand we would assemble our Christmas list. Now of course we understood only a small percentage of the toys and games we desired would make it under the tree Christmas morning. And that was just fine by us, because our Christmas list was just a nonverbal proclamation to our parents of our hope for the grand gifts to come.

 

I wonder if Mary composed a list, in the months approaching the arrival of her son Jesus. As she prepared for motherhood was she contemplating all the things her baby might need or what kind of man he might be. Maybe it was beforehand when the angel Gabriel was sent to reveal that even though she was a virgin, she would conceive and give birth to the Son of the Most High (Luke 1:31-32).  Or maybe later, after visiting with Elizabeth when she declared “blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear” (Luke 1:42). Did she recite her list to her Heavenly Father in prayer? Or maybe she had no list at all. I believe Mary was stilled by the peace of the Holy Spirit; she knew she would give birth to the Messiah (the anointed one). Oh, I could only imagine her heart was full of HOPE, for the Grandest Gift of ALL to come, King Jesus.

 

What are you hoping for this Christmas Season?

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A Servant’s Heart
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Jill  »

As we embark on this season of giving thanks, let us remind ourselves thank you is not just a fragrant expression for the moment. But should also be the gratitude of our hearts through the works of our hands. While we gather together, break bread and give thanks; may we also serve one another with love. Giving thanks for the blessings bestowed on us should catapult us into moments of thankful service. If thankfulness is the beginning of gratitude then gratitude is the fruit of a servant’s heart.

 

How often do we use words when our actions could make a greater impact?

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Give Harder
AUTHOR
Jill  »

Work hard, Play harder. We have all heard this survival term of life. The teeth gritting, white knuckled, heart pumping work ethic we pass down through generations. Listen up kids! This is life, give it all you got! And in exchange for your time and energy, you will be granted a wage. We exchange our days and nights for monetary gain. Society has taught us to define ourselves by our financial success and praise those who receive more.

 

But what if we changed this phrase, that has been so deeply rooted in the structure of our society. How different we would live, love and even work if the lesson was ‘Work Hard and Give Harder’? Instead of working to reward ourselves, we would strive to live a life to bless others.

 

In what area in your life could you give more?

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Listen Out Loud
AUTHOR
Jill  »

Being silent was a hard lesson for a middle child like me to learn; silence was the last thing on my mind. I was more like “hey, over here” and “listen to me”; it was a overwhelming outspoken itch I had to scratch. That fear of not being heard can breed hasty attention seeking behavior.  As I matured that deep desire for a voice quickly seem to snowball from precocious into self-centered.

Like most adults, I learned if I did not harness this awful impulsion life would do it for me. Smack! Just like that life comes along and you are at a loss. A loss of time, energy, or words; all you have is silence. In those undesirable moments of quiet God creates a space for us to hear Him. We find ourselves asking questions, like “why” and “how come?” Through prayer I found peace and courage in my silence.  God unveils our truest selves when we seek Him, not a voice of self-doubt and angst, but self-discipline and endurance.

Have you ever felt like you had more questions than answers? When was the last time you quieted yourself to listen to God?

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