Community is at the Heart of Theresians
Letter from NLT Chair, Anita Roberts-Long, Roses on the Teche, Lafayette, Louisiana
For two years, members of the USA National Leadership Team met only virtually doing the work of their committees through emails, texts, and Zoom meetings. In preparing for this year’s in-person Annual Meeting, no member--even those finishing a three-year term--had ever experienced a traditional Annual Meeting, a celebratory gathering and intense, finalizing workshop all rolled into one.
When we came together physically for the first time, we had already prepared each other for long-awaited hugs. Normally these would be hugs reserved for the end of a meeting--hugs that say goodbye, farewell, until we meet again. Instead, these hugs were like genuine long-lost reunion hugs because of the community we shared this past year, and for some two or three years without the feel of getting together.
Unsurprisingly, we discovered the Theresian sense of community is one that transcends the physical. The work we did and the relationships we formed long-distance were just as present had we been regularly meeting in our own Theresian community’s homes, though the distance of NLT representation necessitates creative logistics. It sure was nice to celebrate the work we did this past year while those Covid years drew us apart.
As we worked this past year, we thought about using platforms like Zoom to keep communities connected during emergencies like Covid or natural disasters or when a member can’t leave home but can still participate virtually. We also put effort into researching whether displaced Theresians would join a virtual Theresian community and what that might look like. And we continue to open our minds to the idea of forming new communities in more remote areas by having mentors use platforms like Zoom for collaboration.
What we learned on the USA-NLT during this time is that our sacred spaces are malleable and evolve but community is at the heart of Theresians. The space we create reflects our openness to welcome new sisters and share Theresian values together. It is something inside of us. So that no matter where we are physically, our sacred space of sisterhood remains steadfast.
Sacred Spaces in the Everyday
by Melanie Hartshorn, Spiritual Springs Community, Fort Bend, Texas
I am a new member of the NLT and I serve on the Spirituality Committee. One of our tasks is to gather the reflections to be used in our twice-yearly publication – Dimension Connections. Our theme for fall 2022 is "Sacred Spaces.” Just what is a sacred space? One source defines it as a place set aside as holy and used for worship, prayer, meditation, and rituals. The first sacred space that came to my mind was the Garden of Eden. If ever a space was sacred, this would be it! Interesting how God gives us an example of a sacred space from the very beginning of creation.
As I meditated on this concept further, I began to think about the sacred spaces in my own life. Some are obvious, such as the chapel and sanctuary of my local parish. However, there are also many other places that can become sacred on any ordinary day. I have a space on the side of my house that receives no direct sunlight at all. But far from being a gloomy spot, it has become for me a sacred space. I have placed a fountain there and planted the area with different types of plants that thrive in shade. I received a beautiful statue of St. Francis as a gift, and it has found its home there along with a statue of a praying angel. Each morning, first thing, I turn on the fountain. The peaceful sound of running water and the cool shade elevate my prayer of thanksgiving to God for the gift of another day.
My Spiritual Springs Community met for quite a while via Zoom during the height of Covid. Even though we were not in the same space physically during those Zoom meetings, our connection itself became a sacred space. We are very grateful to be meeting again in person. These gathering places are always made sacred as we break bread together, share each other’s victories and joys, and sometimes sorrows and tears. In our shared thoughts and prayers, we encounter God! As we depart, we know with certainty that we have been in a sacred space.
Just recently, my husband and I were blessed to share an evening with some old friends from high school whom we had not seen in over 30 years. It was a joyous evening! As we bowed our heads in prayer, I was overcome with the realization that this little table in a restaurant in Houston on an ordinary Thursday evening had become for the four of us, a sacred space!
These are some of the places that are sacred to me. Some exist for just a brief period while others are much more permanent. They all are places set aside which enable me to feel God’s love and presence. What are your sacred spaces?
A Sacred Space
by Gretchen Penny, Seekers, Houston, Texas
When the Spirituality Committee first decided on the theme for this issue, Sacred Spaces, I was flooded with ideas, or so I thought. As I tried to put something on paper, I realized that I was really flooded with single words. Several descriptions came to mind, but it was still hard to put the individual descriptors into sentences. Then I remembered a form of poetry that my dyslexic son’s tutor used when she was teaching him to read--the Diamante (or diamond) poem. It is a seven-line poem that forms a diamond shape and is used to introduce children to poetry. It also seemed to be the perfect medium to capture all the words that came to mind when I thought about my sacred spaces.
A Sacred Space
~ a Diamante Poem by Gretchen Penny
Calming. Soothing. Inviting.
Darkness. Stillness. Peace. Light.
Reflecting. Searching. Praying.
Heartfelt Sacred Spaces
by Janice LeMond, Companions on the Journey, Austin, Texas
A very early memory I have is of homes with the statue of the Infant Jesus of Prague. This little girl in the 1950’s did not wander into rooms without permission. From a doorway, I gazed in awe of the child Jesus dressed in a beautiful gown. These were my first memories of what my heart felt as a sacred space.
I was raised in a family of five children. When we prayed before meals or at bedtime around the bed, I don’t recall any thoughts of a sacred space. Fast forwarding to my own adulthood, I am a wife and mother of three. Looking back at the reverence given to the Nativity set at Christmas was probably the closest we came to a sacred space. With the busyness of life and raising a family, the awe of the sacred space was lost. In the early 1990’s I was invited to a Theresian meeting. At this first exposure there was an instant awe of sacred space and sacred presence. Soon I had been exposed to St. Thérèse:
“I understand that every flower created by Him is beautiful, that the brilliance of the rose and the whiteness of the lily do not lesson the perfume of the violet or the sweet simplicity of the daisy. I understand that if all the lovely flowers wished to be roses, nature would no longer be enameled with lovely hues. And so it is in the world of souls, we are in Our Lord’s living garden.” (St. Thérèse of Lisieux, Story of a Soul)
I had never met such a group of women so in love with their faith. Together at the beach, in the garden, or around a table we created a space to worship. These women created sacred spaces through prayer, music, stories, poems, guided imagery, fragrance, flowers, laughter, and tears. These Ebbtide sisters are forever in my heart; they gave me the gift to look for Jesus’ presence and love in the beauty of daily life. Theresians provided me with the space to mature in my faith life.
Years passed and I retired with a relocation from Houston to Austin. I have found the Schoenstatt Shrine; it is a spectacular sacred space! Yet another blessing was to find many Theresian sisters here in Austin. As I continue to look for Jesus in my daily senior life, I would like to share a few lines from a poem by Joyce Rupp:
I walk with Caterpillar Feet . . . time and again. . .
Bless our lives with the integrity we long to embrace. . .
Bless those who work with us and live with patience. . .
Bless each day with challenges and hope-filled occasions
to dare to stay faithful in hope and love.
Show us. . . each in our own way, the messages we need to carry on.
May we continue to meet in prayer, in silences of the dawn and the dusk. . .
the beginning of star-light and the moon-filled nights that lie ahead.
In Jesus’ name we pray.
Amen, so be it!
by Mary Schreiber, Women at the Well, Dubuque, Iowa
I have many special Sacred Places: meeting in community with my Theresian sisters locally and on the NLT; spending time with family which now includes grandchildren; participating in monthly sharing sessions with my aunt, cousins, and sisters-in-law; traveling with friends; working outside on our acreage; walking on nature trails; reading; transplanting houseplants; sitting and playing with our two Yorkies; and, even preparing meals and doing dishes. We moved to our home six years ago after both my mom and younger brother passed away within three months. I felt that I needed a change. Turns out it was a wonderful place to be sequestered during a pandemic.
What I sometimes lack is Sacred Focus. To me, Sacred Focus is prioritizing my time and effort and attention completely for 5, 10, 15 minutes or even more. It means that I devote my full and complete attention to the task or meeting at hand. I perform my task or interaction with others fully present to the moment. I listen, meditate, and reflect with my whole being. Except of course when something distracts me! I have a tendency to be an “Oh, look, a squirrel!” kind of person. My ADD takes over, and I have wandering thoughts about my next task, the welfare of my family, the news, or even the grocery list. So distraction—and sometimes even fear—get in the way. What is the answer? Focus again, and again, and again, with devotion and a full heart committed to the Sacred Place I am in.