Friday, December 28, 2007

First Christmas in the Convent!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JESUS!!! Blessed Christmas to all of you! Our last days of Advent were spent eagerly preparing our hearts for Baby Jesus' coming – and preparing our gifts for our "Advent Angels"! On the last Sunday of Advent we went to St. Raymond's, a Maronite Rite Catholic Church (one of the Eastern rites of the Church). It was a very beautiful liturgy.
Christmas Eve we spent helping in the bookcenter, decorating the chapel, and practicing our Christmas Mass music one last time! We also went to a Christmas Eve Vigil Mass. That's one of my favorite parts of Christmas: to walk into church on Christmas Eve, when the lights are dimmed and the church is decorated, and to know that Jesus, Emmanuel, is with us at last!
Christmas Day was very beautiful as well. While it was difficult for all of us not to be home for Christmas, it was clear that God always gives us more than we could ever ask or imagine. Our many weeks of choir practice made for a beautiful Christmas morning Mass. After Mass, the sisters prepared a great meal, and after our meal, we provided the entertainment: a choreographed dance routine to a song on one of our Christmas CD's. Then, we opened presents! Each one of us bought/made a gift for each member of the community, and it was very exciting to see how creative everyone was! It was truly a beautiful celebration of Jesus' birth that made us very grateful for all God has given us and is to us.
The day after Christmas, the bookcenter was closed, so we went to the "City Museum of St. Louis." This is a very interesting place that has just about everything: arts and crafts, a circus, a "skate-less" skate park, caves, architectural displays, and stairs and slides and tunnels everywhere, indoors and out – all made from recycled materials! Fascinating! We spent the morning there with the sisters.
Enjoy the pictures: Julia, Sr. Jerome, Alina, and Sr. Carmen singing at Christmas morning Mass; the community with Fr. Edwards, the pastor at St. Elizabeth's; and Alina, Sr. Agnes, Sr. Jerome, Emily, Sr. Caritas, and Sr. Carmen at the City Museum circus!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Prepare the Way!

This week went by really quickly! We last left you with our Faith and Film night, which was a success. We had our largest attendance yet! The movie was The Christmas Shoes, and it seemed the people who came really enjoyed it. We even split up into two groups because we had a number of young people. God is good to bring us so many people to share the Gospel with!

Last Saturday we had a lot of snow. Alina had her second taste of real snow, complete with snow angels and snow men. My parents were in town last weekend so I spent the majority of the weekend with them. My sister lives in St. Louis too, so we got to be together as a family before Christmas! Such a blessing! My sister is a professional ballerina for the St. Louis Ballet, so the whole community got tickets to see her perform in the Nutcracker! The Nutcracker has been such a part of mine and Emily's growing up (Emily's sister is also a ballet dancer) so it was beautiful to be able to share that tradition with my parents as well as the community. It was a great night out for all of us.

Alina's parents are coming next week, and Emily's sister is coming in Jan. to visit. It's so nice that our families get to come around Christmas time and share this joyous season in some way with the community. I know my parents really enjoyed time with the sisters.

We finally decorated our study and the living rooms for Christmas! We are preparing the way for the Lord around here through baking, gift wrapping, and decorating. Christmas trees, goodies, lights, and wreaths abound. We also are making time to get gifts for our "Advent Angels" this week. We each picked a community member's name to buy a special gift for. I can't wait to see who everyone got!!!

Jesus is coming very soon! Let us ready our hearts! God bless your last days of Advent. We will write again after Christmas, so until then- MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!


Saturday, December 15, 2007

From top to bottom: a sample picture with Baby Jesus (taken the night before the party); the coloring wall where the children could write a birthday message to Baby Jesus; Emily answering the phone; Alina taking pictures; and another sample picture with Baby Jesus.

A Birthday Party, "Mananitas," and More!

It's been another busy week here in the postulancy of the Daughters of St. Paul! The biggest thing that happened this week was the Baby Jesus Birthday Party that took place this past Saturday, December 8. The Baby Jesus Birthday Party is an opportunity for children of all ages to come and celebrate Jesus' birth. They can dress up as Joseph, Mary, shepherds, or angels and have their picture taken with Baby Jesus. There's face-painting, coloring, clowns, music, and birthday cake. This year we estimate that we had over two hundred kids who came to celebrate with us.
We all played a different part in the day: Alina took pictures of the children with Baby Jesus; Sr. Carmen and Julia, among other things, played guitar and sang Advent and Christmas songs with them; and I helped to dress them in their costumes. We also had many wonderful volunteers who came to help us. It was a beautiful way to share with the kids the real reason for Christmas, as well as to expose them to the life of Sisters. We are grateful to everyone who helped with the party, and especially to our dear Baby Jesus and His Blessed Mother who kept the day going for us! (And we hope you enjoy the pictures above!)

The feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe was this past Wednesday, and we celebrated in two ways. On Sunday we went to a Mass at one of the Hispanic parishes here. They had a beautiful bilingual Mass with dancers and a man dressed as Juan Diego. After the Mass there a "fiesta" including lunch (tamales!), dancing, and a pinata!
Then on Wednesday, some of us went to St. Cecilia's, another Hispanic parish, to participate in the "mananitas" to Our Lady. The mananitas are a tradition, especially prominent in Mexico and Latin America, where the people honor Our Lady by serenading her. At the mananitas we attended, there was an altar with a statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe beautifully decorated with roses that the people brought for her. They sang touching songs to her and prayed the rosary. It was a new experience for me, and a very beautiful one.

Also on Wednesday, we had a lecture night here at the bookcenter. Fr. Lockwood from nearby Assumption parish came to speak about Catholic apologetics. It was very interesting: he really delved into the history of apologetics in the Church, and what it means to be a Catholic apologist.
Tonight is our Faith and Film Night, and our last bookcenter event for 2007! Pretty soon you'll be hearing about our plans for 2008!

We continue to celebrate the Advent season in a spirit of waiting and anticipation of the coming of Jesus. I'm currently reading a book called Mary, Human and Holy by Antonio Bello, and I was struck by the chapter in which the author described Mary as a "woman in waiting." He says, "'To wait' is the flip side of the verb 'to love.' In Mary's vocabulary, to wait always meant to love.... Accepting is sometimes a sign of resignation, but waiting is always a sign of hope" (p. 25-27). Let us remain united with Mary and with one another as we wait during this holy season.

Mary, Queen of the Apostles, pray for us! See you next week -- may God bless you!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

¡Saludos! Espero que ustedes sientan la presencia de Jesús como nosotras sentimos aquí. Fuimos bendecidas en empezar esta semana con nuestro retiro mensual y el comienzo del período del Adviento. Para preparar los corazones para la venida de Jesús, nosotras tenemos un pesebre vacío donde cada una puede agregar un pedazo de paja cada vez que hacemos un acto de amor para Jesús. Por la noche oramos con imágenes recortados del periódico que muestran cómo el mundo espera la venida de Jesús. Tendremos momentos especiales de oración con las hermanas y participaremos en la novena de Navidad en el seminario. Ha sido un tiempo hermoso para preparar nuestros corazones cada día para la venida de Jesús. El miércoles tuvimos nuestra primera caída de nieve. Fue poca, pero cayó. Estaremos sacando los sombreros que Sr.Augusta nos tejió muy pronto. También San Nicolás nos visitó y dejó algo especial en el zapato de cada una. ¡Y Sr.Jerome volvió de vacaciones con libras y libras de nueces y naranjas del jardín de su familia! Todas estamos anticipando con alegria la fiesta del niño Jesús este Sábado y orando que no nieva para que todos los niños puedan venir. Ustedes tendrán muchas fotos que ver la semana entrante. ¡Hasta nuestro proximo encuentro permanecemos unidos preparando el camino del Señor!