Pope Francis proclaimed a Year of Consecrated Life that began the first Sunday in Advent and will conclude Feb. 2, 2016. Based on aims and expectations the pope identified for this designated year, The Catholic Messenger asked members of religious communities in the Davenport Diocese to reflect on the aims and expectations.
Sister Margaretha Fitzgerald, vice president of the Congregation of the Humility of Mary in Davenport, shares her reflections:
• In what ways do you look to the past with gratitude? In the past I had many great teachers who brought the message of God and the Scriptures to life and formed a basis for my continued growth in spirituality. My family has always been close, including my fraternal grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. The central relationship with the members of my home parish had a major influence on me. Church was first.
I look at the relationship of the members of my religious life when we were just beginning to grow. Many of my fondest memories include classmates from this time, although most of them are not now in the community. We still correspond and share stories and prayers.
I look at the opportunities I had to receive higher education. I have two masters’ degrees and I loved going to school. I would not have been able to do this had I not had the summers “free” to go to school. I look back on all the traveling and all the people I have had the opportunity to meet and to share my life. I have had many great friends outside and inside the community who have helped me grow. I have had the opportunity to hear and read many great spiritual writers. All of this has had a great influence on my life and I am grateful for this.
• How are you being called to live the present with passion? I believe I am being called to live the present with passion for others. There are many people whom I pray for and who ask me to pray for them. I have experienced the need for others to receive my genuine caring for them as individuals. I try to spend time with all the individuals I meet each day and try to treat each person with respect and God’s love.
A word or a smile isn’t much to give, but I’ve found it makes a difference in other’s lives and in my life, too. I think there are many people today who are looking for caring leaders who will take the time to interact with them and show that someone really does care about them.
• In what ways are you embracing the future with hope? At this time we are doing “Future Planning.” It is a difficult time as we try to work out what is ahead. It can be hope filled or it can be discouraging. I choose to be hope filled and trust that God is in charge and will guide us in our decision making.
The Holy Father also identified expectations:
• How does your community demonstrate joyfulness? We often laugh together and share stories of the past or the funny things that are going on right now. We try to celebrate happy occasions and individual successes. We have parties or go to interesting or fun things, like concerts, in order to both enjoy and to see beyond our everyday work.
• How do you respond to the call of this year to wake up the world? We have many activities planned and in the planning stage. We have many calls for interaction in the need for peace, social justice, immigration reform and respect for others. We gather together to explore new ways and new ideas.
• How is your community an expert in communion? Communion means a sharing with others and we encourage one another to share life and living with those in need and with those in leadership.
• In what ways does your community go to the existential peripheries? We have shared the writings and the videos relating to this and have had discussion groups and done our own research.
• What is it that God and people today are asking of religious? I believe that God and the people today are asking religious to show the way in prayer and respect for others. I believe that the people are looking for spiritual leadership and an openness to what God is calling us to be and do. I believe that God and people are calling us to respond to the Gospel message of love and care of the earth and care of all God’s people. All of that implies a great commitment to our individual call and to give the answer of “YES” to this call.
Sister Margaretha Fitzgerald, CHM
What year did you enter the CHM community? 1962
What inspired you to join the community? The prayer of the sisters, the religious club I belonged to, the friendship and friendliness of the sisters who taught me at Ottumwa Heights, growing up in a religious home that made church a central part of our lives and prayer part of our daily living.
What ministries were/ are you engaged in? I was in teaching for 42 years and most of those were in the upper elementary level. For three years I worked with an elderly woman who was basically blind and was hard of hearing. I am now the vice president of the Congregation of the Humility of Mary and have been for almost three years.
What is your favorite form of prayer? My favorite form of prayer is spontaneous prayer and continuous prayer of recognition of God being present at all times in all places.
What is your favorite Scripture? When I am feeling down, I enjoy Job, for he certainly remained faithful despite all his losses and agony. In the end he was rewarded for his faithfulness. I love the call of the apostles and their immediate response, which encourages me in my response. I love the times when Jesus shows great compassion toward those who are ill and toward children. His statement, “Love one another as I have loved you,” is what I try to live by.
Who is your spiritual mentor? I do not have a formal one at this time.