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Are you hearing
God's call?

Looking Back to Look Forward

January 2006

OPENING SONG: We Three Kings of Orient Are by John Henry Hopkins, Jr.

LEADER: We come together to celebrate the beginning of a new year. January is a good time to look where we have been and prepare our souls for a trek into the unknown future.

First, in this month we remember three searchers who made a journey into the unknown to find a new born king. They came bringing gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Then, on this day we take time to remember four courageous Sisters of Providence who in 1902 made their way to Nome, the land of Gold. They came with gifts of healing, comfort, and medical aid to Nomeís sick and poor.

Finally, we remember that in 2000 Sisters Barbara Schamber, Kitsy Rutan, Margaret Botch, Donna Burkhart, Lynn Chappell, Roberta Rorke, and Jacqueline Fernandes became the first Leadership Team of the newly formed Mother Joseph Province, another journey into the unknown. Their gold was the gift of vision, faith, and the ability to unify the many dimensions of two provinces becoming one.

Let us take a moment to reflect on what gifts we bring as we begin our journey into the New Year. >i>(short pause)

(Following the pause, invite each person present to read one of the verses, with a short pause between, until all have been read.)

LET US PRAY:
Another year is coming to an end.
I can feel her tug at my calendar;
I can sense her insistent movement.
I can hear her call to cross over.
(Reflect: What do I hear?)

Outside my window the trees are empty
And the air has the ripeness of snowfall.
I cast an inward glance to the past
And feel a deep desire to catch its glow.
(Reflect: What, in the past year, glows most brightly in my soul?)

Something in me wants to hold on,
To gather all the good things close to me.
A part of me that yearns for security
Keeps encouraging me to grasp it all.
(Reflect: What am I hanging on to?)

Then a tiny thimble-full of light
Moves its way through my insecurity;
It weaves a thread of courage,
Sending sparks into the dark.
Up and up it rises through my spirit
Until it meets my controlling grip.
(Reflect: What allows me to "let go"?)

The firefly flickers of Godís grace
Are enough to embrace the unknown.
A surge of powerful surrender
Takes over all my looking back
And ever so gently and hopefully
I risk the road of another new year.
(by Joyce Rupp)

(Breathe in HOPE, Breathe out SURRENDER)


READER 1: We recall a past, 1902, when Sisters Mary Napoleon, Rodrigue, and Lambert traveled from Montreal, Canada to Vancouver, Washington where they joined Sister Mary Conrad to continue their trek to Nome.
After an eight-day trip they arrived. Because of a smallpox case on ship, the passengers were kept from disembarking for more than a week. When permission was finally given to leave the ship, because of the shallow waters, they had to descend on a rope ladder and leap into a bouncing craft. In deference to their religious state, the shipís captain directed the sisters to leave the ship first while all gathered to watch their descent and to cheer their efforts. It was nerve wracking and frightening to say the least, but somehow the four sisters made the leap and stood to watch the rest of the passengers follow them.
[Adapted from "The Dear Sourdoughs" by Sister Merilu Vachon, SP]

READER 2:
After the windy trip to the shore, there was no one to step forward and welcome them. Curious faces of the gold miners were among those who stood by with indifferent and hardened faces. But no one smiled, no one spoke to them. "Come," said Sister Mary Conrad with her usual vigor and directness; "we shall go to the church first, and offer our travelerís prayers, and then weíll find the pastor." They made their way to the church where Father Van der Pol welcomed them and introduced them to Dr. Reminger, from whom they accepted the offer of his small hospital, which he had already named Providence. Thus began a huge and challenging ministry to Godís people in the far north. "The Sisters of Providence were thinking of anything but gold," wrote Judge Harry E. Pratt. "They came up here with the sole thought of serving humanity, to bring comfort and relief to the afflicted and to give them a spiritual outlook on life which should help them overcome the obstacles of life. This they have done."
[Adapted from The Dear Sourdoughs by Sister Merilu Vachon, SP and The Pioneering Spirit by John C Shideler and Hal D. Rothman]

REFLECT/SHARE: What is the false gold that I need to avoid or address in order to mine the true gold of the Gospel?

LEADER: The three searchers made a literal gift of gold to the Christ child in need. The women who went to Nome gave their gift of "gold" to the same Child alive in the people of Nome. The first Leadership Team of Mother Joseph Province gave their gift of "gold" to the Child, born anew as Mother Joseph Province, through uniting and combining the force of Providence into a single Province.

REFLECT/SHARE: Are there gifts of gold that I recognize as a result of coming together as Mother Joseph Province? If so, what are they? What do I recognize as the "gold" Iím called to give?

RITUAL Drawing the Gifts of the Magi

LEADER: Let us ponder some of the meanings of the Magiís gifts.

GOLD is frequently mentioned in Scripture. A gift of GOLD represents the sacred and precious character of life, a lustrous vitality or spiritual energy. It represents the radiance of grace and virtue.

FRANKINCENSE is used in a ceremony of prayer and supplication as well as in cleansing in death and disease. A gift of FRANKINCENSE represents praise, prayer, and worship. It is an act of the sacred and symbolizes the highest honor given to God.

MYRRH is the most celebrative of the glory of God. A gift of MYRRH is the call to enter into the life and passion of Jesus, in union with Mary, the Mother of God. MYRRH is known to be the balm of Gilead, which represents suffering.

CHARITY is the greatest of all gifts, the gift of love and that which underlies true gift giving. A Providence tradition is that one of the symbols to be drawn will have on it the word "Charity" and all present will pray for the person who draws "Charity." May the person be blessed with Godís gift of CHARITY to share with all whom they meet.

Now I invite each person to draw a symbol with a word on it of gold or frankincense or myrrh that represents one of the Magiís gifts. May we use the gift that we draw to be strengthened in Gospel service.

(pause for drawing)

Would the person who has drawn "Charity" please let us know so that all of us may pray for you.

CLOSING SONG: Here I Am, Lord by Dan Schutte



PREPARATION PAGE FOR LEADER

1) Have copies available for participants:
  • Prayer service
  • Music

2) Prepare small pieces of paper, possibly shaped like crowns and enough for everyone present to draw one. Each piece of paper will have one word on it. Put the word "charity" on one piece of paper only. On the other pieces of paper put the word "gold" or "frankincense" or "myrrh." Fold the pieces of paper and place them in a container. At the time of the ritual, invite the participants to pass the container around the group so that each person present may choose a piece of paper.
3) Ask individuals to be Reader 1 and Reader 2.
4) At the time of sharing, the leader may want to have the group use the mutual invitation process. If this is being done in a group where the people do not know each other well, it is important to have name tags for everyone present. To begin the leader explains the process in words similar to this:
During our group sharing we will be using a mutual invitation process. As the leader I will begin the sharing. When I finish sharing, I will invite another person by name to be next. That person shares or passes, then invites another person by name to share. Each person has a right to share or to pass AND each person invites the next person to share until all in the group have been invited. Now I will begin.