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  • Writer's pictureUrsulines of Brown County

A Day to Remember

September 8th is the Feast of the Birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is also the date that, for many of the Ursulines, was the date of entrance into the Community. Since my entrance on September 8, 1966, that date has been significant, celebrated with friends and family with gratitude for my participation in a community that has nurtured and formed me, challenged and supported me and which continues to do so. The other day I found the attached reflection by Sr. Joan Brosnan, written on the 44th anniversary of her entrance, also September 8th.

September 8, 1985

Forty-four years ago today I walked up the front steps at Brown County, cleared away my nail polish, discarded my nylons, put on the postulant dress, and was led to "our cell."

Is there any relationship between that very uncertain, but hopeful young girl and the woman religious I am today, living in a third floor apartment in Chicago?

To begin with, I am still uncertain and I am still hopeful. I am just not young. Beyond that, the mysterious connectedness of forty-four years is an alive reality. Every pain, every joy, and all the felt life in between continue to be present in the limit-breaking cycle of time/ space.

The interconnectedness of people led me to Brown County as a child; called me to choose the Brown County Ursulines as a young girl; and calls me now to choose that community anew in the birth-days of the present.

This is how it happens. Joan Leonard sparks a creative memory in an elderly man—and I am more Ursuline because of that spark. Miriam walks with a retreatant; Jean Marie listens to a waiting family in the hospital; Imelda creates a garden; Dorothy shares her warm love and laughter. Each time these and every one of the Brown County Ursulines move, I am changed, strengthened, humbled, and made more myself.

And what is my ministry as an Ursuline of Brown County? In the apartment I share with Carol Hauser and Mops, I have on the wall the Russian ikon of the Trinity, sharing a meal, a symbol of hospitality. This ikon with its three contemplative walls and its fourth wall wide open speaks my ministry.

I want to be hospitable to the gifts of all our community from 1845 until far into the future. And I want to be hospitable with these gifts to all others I meet and touch, at home, at work, with family or friends, with neighbors or strangers. Contemplation-hospitality: one act, one ministry, one life. Those steps, that home, and that cell which received me in 1941 are marked for destruction in 1985. The contemplative hospitality which received me then has only just begun.

Joan (Brosnan)

Sister Joan died 26 years after writing this reflection. I appreciate her insights and also believe that the bond we share as Ursulines is gift and grace for each of us and for those whose lives we touch.

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