I haven't really identified too often where I live and I usually don't talk about particular situations but I feel like I'm ready to say what I've been thinking and praying about these past two weeks.
When I was in high school I converted to the Catholic Church. My parents thought I was brainwashed by a priest. I really didn't care. I had finally found someone who really cared about my soul and I was grateful to God for that. I was in college, before I was a sister, when the first sex abuse scandal broke in Philadelphia. I remember being in Spanish class and having my teacher bring it up. He was so insulting to the Church, in a Catholic college. I walked out and reported him. He told me he would fail me. I really didn't care. I knew it was an unfortunate and sinful thing that had happened but was being fixed.
However, I have to be honest when I say that I thought this was all behind us. If you don't know... there is another grand jury report on the sexual abuse of minors in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. That's what I'm talking about.
Now as this next round begins; I'm a middle school teacher in the city. Sisters and friends keep asking me, "Did you read what the Cardinal said?" "Did you see the news story on...?" "Has anyone at your house said...?". My students eloquently ask, "What happened with those perverts?" Now, I am normally the one who has read/seen/heard all the news on everything. Most of my nun friends count on me to have the answers because I like to read and ponder and explore issues. However, my answer these days has been "no" or "I don't know."
My "no" isn't because I want to pretend it isn't happening. (Please, I work with 12-15 year olds... I don't get the luxury of pretending anything-they are like lie detector tests.) My "no" is because I can't see that in my life right now my keeping up with this news is going to be the most fruitful or grace filled way for me to be present to the Church here. My response has to be solution-oriented. That is why it makes me so angry to see people protesting outside the Cathedral, spreading gossip and hearsay, and giving radio interviews about the whole situation. None of those are solutions to the problem that is at hand. They are simply talk and distraction from what God is really asking of us.
I'm sure that there are many people who would disagree that my approach is geared to a solution but I feel it truly is. I am offering my sacrifices and my prayers for the Church in Philadelphia and I am trying to educate the future leaders of the Church here. That is all that I can do. I can see in the eyes of my students God's grace calling them forth to radical sacrifice and trust in His promise through these events which will shape their understanding of Church and holiness forever. I can only rely on my own experience, that God brings forth great grace in times of great sin. I have to believe that he will use even this terrible experience for the building up of the Kingdom.
Then I look again at my kids... how do they make sense of this stuff? We did talk about it in really general terms but the saddest thing is that they aren't even shocked. They hear about this stuff all the time anyway. Maybe it is better they don't get upset by it. I don't really know. I just know I'm trying to encourage them to live knowing that they are preparing for a future where they will be responsible for the unfortunate situation we are in now. That's why I'm so proud of them. They are living up to it though. They are my hope.
I know it affects everyone in a different and daily way. For me, I go to chapel in the early morning hours in the convent and I pray for our Church. In my convent, the sister in charge of chapel put sign and candle in front of the altar saying that we are praying for our priests. In my apostolate, I am trying to foster the spirit of loving sacrifice, perseverance, and selfless giving. These seem to be exactly what we need... at least in my mind and heart.... during this time of sadness and pain.
I hope that God will accept my gift of self and the gifts that I know my students are offering for the Church in Philadelphia. We have been blessed with saintly leaders like St. John Neumann and St. Katharine Drexel and I really believe God will give the grace to raise up more holy men and women to work hard - to give their lives - for the Church here. I think my students find that exciting (except the whole body in a glass box thing - that kinda creeps them out :) ).
Jesus, please help us. We have nothing if we don't have You. Please enter the hearts of Your children and inspire in them radical faith, love, and hope to follow You unreservedly, knowing that You alone will fulfill their every desire. Change our hearts Lord!