A Sister recently asked me, how would you sum up 2018 with one word. My brain clogs chugged forward like an old paddleboat in thick water. I pondered and found the word “growth”project from my mouth like a spring releasing. Thinking back to January, 2018 started with my First Profession, followed by a very quick trip to New Zealand, back to Sydney, moving, new community, NSW regional days, starting a new role full time in high school and the rest rolled from there.
On my first day at school a staff member asked me “So, tell me - What is your role? Where are you working? How many days per week are you here?” I could not answer any of her questions. My shoulders shrugged, I smiled while letting go of expectations and said “I have absolutely no idea but in time I’m sure things will work out.”
In my post profession haze I felt overwhelmed and overjoyed while having a strong belief that if I trust deeply in the spirit that all will be well. Releasing expectations opened the door for me to walk the hallway we call life with freedom. It seems to me that the key for each door on my journey this year has been released by listening with no expectations. Relationship and growth has followed. Many times I have rushed attempting to force open doors while forgetting to listen and to pray first; in-turn doors have often flung back and smacked me in the face! When I choose to expect, to rush then relationships suffer; with God, others, self, the environment – you name it - If I don’t openly listen I loose relationship (aka God).
The gift of having no initial role description enabled me to listen to the needs of the community. What do they need from a Sister in 2018? What are my skills? How can I serve God, what are my motivations?
It turns out that our community was seeking relationship through communication. With my background in design and digital communication paired with a need for pastoral support I quickly found myself overwhelmed. While these are two polar opposite tasks, it has been a year full of new development. Digital media can also be a springboard to initiate real person-to-person connection. We have seen relationships increase in 2018, and we have some exciting ideas in the works for 2019. School is a wild merry-go-round ride; my challenge is to remember to listen, to trust and ride with it while not fooling myself into thinking I am the merry-go-round operator!
Many people also said to me “O it’s your first full time year in school – that’s the hardest”. And yes it has not been all smooth sailing, pretty much every day I find myself thinking “What am I doing God?... really?”
Attempting to find a balance between ministry, study, community, personal commitments, sport, art, and pastoral surprises while doing my best to retain some shred of sanity on the merry-go-round has lead to some steep learning curves. Regular Spiritual direction and supervision has been crucial. Reaching out, being vulnerable and having open and supportive mentors at school and in congregation has been empowering - I’m beyond grateful for your trust and love. Conversation by conversation, prayer by prayer, we do not journey alone.
This makes me think of an old joke…
You are on a horse galloping at a constant speed.
On your right side is a sharp drop-off.
On your left side is an elephant travelling at the same speed as you.
Directly in front of you is a galloping kangaroo and your horse is unable to overtake.
Behind you is a lion running at the same speed as you and the kangaroo.
What must you do to get out of this highly dangerous situation?...
Get off the merry-go-round and go home.
You've had enough for one day!
Sometimes listening in prayer means that I have felt pulled to do things that scare me. As an example I was asked to give a speech on St Joseph’s day to the entire school community (about 1000 people). When I was asked I turned to prayer; through the many forehead wrinkling ‘O God, I don’t know’ moments I discerned my motivations - how would this serve God? Although terrified I felt pulled to say yes. A quote that I used in my speech was “True listening means that we are changed in the listening.” And I was certainly changed: Growth in self, growth in relationship with our community, the reactions from people, the messages, the tears, the hugs – all were true gift. I spoke from the heart, and really I guess that is all that God wants from us.
I followed this same approach when recently speaking to 150 principals, and also launching large banner artwork (see speech here). The process to create the artwork and the speech came through a kangaroo like approach - taking one hop at a time, one prayer at a time, one conversation at a time and as I said in my speech “brick by brick, prayer by prayer.”
A door that I did not expect also opened this year. For my profession booklet I created several sketches, one in particular has been very popular and the feedback received really took me by surprise. I imagined a modern day Jesus dancing on the feet of Joseph, emphasising the joy they shared. This positive response and desire I heard from people inspired me to create more modern interpretations.
Later in the year I was also asked to run two sessions at our staff spirituality day focused around my artwork; how it relates to us and to scripture today. Initially my reaction must have looked somewhat like a frozen meerkat. But, I turned to prayer, thawed, said yes (even though terrified) and walked down that hallway we call life. Those who believe in me and saw my potential empowered me to say yes. I was certainly further changed, further grateful, further able to see the work of the spirit alive in us when we are able like Mary (even though terrified) to say ‘yes’ - AMDG
As my artwork has developed people have started asking, “How can I buy some of your artwork, and buy some saint cards?”
Through this listening I felt pulled to create a little experiment on my website in the form of a Shop. The funds on the Shop go to the charitable works of the Sisters of Saint Joseph and help people to see our all-inclusive God in our lives today. Within 3 days my first print run of nativity cards sold out. Wow. I am now continuing to listen, to discern and to discuss this and all ministry with our congregation / leadership. Being part of a congregation means that I must discern and discuss, trusting congregational wisdom and guidance as we walk the hallway of life together (for which I am very grateful).
I have continued to explore my new local area, spending time in nature, finding local running and walking tracks, and maintaining my Yoga practice. Also finding a parish has been hugely nourishing. I’m grateful to those who have embraced this wondering Kiwi, you are my brothers and sisters, locals, fellow foreigners, weird Australian bugs one and all!
Ultimately my growth and growth in community have come through vulnerable listening, releasing expectations while trusting in the spirit that guides. Moving into 2019 I feel in many ways that I have no idea what is to come and there is freedom in that. I am certain that no matter what comes God is with us, and if I listen the spirit will guide me on the path to life.
I am incredibly grateful to be able to continue to listen, to ride the merry-go-round, to pray “brick by brick, prayer by prayer.” I have no idea where it will take me today, tomorrow or into the future, but moving with the spirit in vulnerability will help me // us to take flight. I would like to send much aroha, gratitude and joy for your Christmas and into 2019. Hold on, there might be some bumps on the way, but I do wish us all a spirit filled ride...
“The soul that is attached to anything however much good there may be in it, will not arrive at the liberty of divine union. For whether it be a strong wire rope or a slender and delicate thread that holds the bird, it matters not, if it really holds it fast; for, until the cord be broken the bird cannot fly.”
~ John of the Cross
On the 7th of December 2018 a project that I have been working on for about 8 months was unveiled.
This was a mix of emotions; on the one hand complete joy and gratitude for the opportunity, the process, what I have learned and experienced along the journey. And of course relief that the unveiling process went so well!
You can see the full post with more images >> HERE <<. Or just watch the unveiling and my speech on the video below.
With much gratitude I thank Ms Archer and the entire MSJ community for trusting and empowering me. I'm deeply grateful also for the support and encouragement from the Sisters of Saint Joseph. Brick by brick, prayer by prayer, we are community...
Watch the video
People say, "What is the sense of our small effort?"
I have some very exciting news - I now have a Shop on this website. It is alive and kicking!
People have been asking to buy cards or prints of my artwork. I am really humbled by the response. Creating new modern interpretations of scripture passages is giving me and it seems other people much life. The Saint Cards are also popular and I often get asked for little orders. So, because I am part of a congregation we have set up my website for this and linked payments to the Sisters of Saint Joseph - #seekandfind as Jesus said.
I’m running a special on my brand new Nativity Cards for Christmas. Get in quick as the amount is limited on this first print order.
I’m also testing out some other Card Options and would really love to hear what you think and what artwork you might like to see in the A4 Artwork prints section too.
Much love and gratitude for all your support
As part of a congregation (sosj.org.au) I was recently asked to write a short reflection on how I see “Our Josephite Mission Today” and within that context to share my thoughts on 'how your particular ministry gives expression of the mission of God.'
I hope you enjoy my two cents worth,,,,
Desmond Tutu once said, “We are made to tell the world that there are no outsiders.” This simple yet powerful notion illuminates the mission of God, and how I experience it in my current ministry (Pastoral Care and Digital Communication in a High School).
How do we tell the world there are no outsiders?
Listening is first, enabling relationship, dignity and dialogue - what I believe is at the core of Jesus’ message of radical inclusion. Relevant questions help this process. How would you like to be connected digitally? What would it mean for you? Actions follow, they are based upon how our community has requested to be connected. For example, forms of social media, types of images, videos, messages and their frequency.
“By means of all created things, without exception, the divine assails us, penetrates us, and molds us.
We imagined it as distant and inaccessible, when in fact we live steeped in its burning layers.”
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin certainly understood there are no outsiders. Digital communication is a powerful force with burning layers. It is easy to be afraid of change, scared of something new and progressive. But holding sacred the mission of God I feel called to let go of fear (John 14:27).
In a changing world my ministry gifts me an opportunity to continually listen, using digital media to help relinquishing separation. A parent recently said to me, “Seeing photos of the girls on Instagram makes me feel so connected. I don’t feel separate, I feel part of the community.” Surely we are as our hearts truly know not separate but one.
Late last year I created a modern interpretation of Joseph and Jesus dancing. I have been really surprised how popular it has become. Now that it is school holidays I have been really fortunate to have a bit of hibernation time to create some new artwork. More and more i'm feeling drawn to re-imagine Gospel stories in a contemporary context.
After chatting with two women who were both pregnant about two weeks ago the story of the visitation seems to have stuck with me like a child to an ice-cream truck. This curiosity inspired me to create an interpretation of the visitation (LK 1:39-45). In the artwork I have shown Elizabeth and Mary embracing each other. Elizabeth very pregnant with John the Baptist and young Mary coming to terms with her pregnancy. The thing that strikes me the most about this story is the relationship and kinship between these two very real women. I wanted to show how they supported each other through their unimaginable circumstances. I believe that God is found in community and kinship; this leads us to joy, life and opens us to new experiences. And as we know with community and family there is most certainly always laughter and calamity involved!
The second sketch I created was an interpretation of the Magnificat.
After thinking about the visitation I was really inspired to create a visual interpretation and a more inclusive text version. I will say that I do love Bach's Magnificat; the original is sacred. But, for many the original fails to create connection and relationship, I know I certainly struggle to identify with some of the language. I really believe that Mary experienced joy (among other emotions in her relationship with our creator). And that her trust in God let her 'soul to burst with joy'. As St Irenaeus said: "The glory of God is a human being fully alive."
The Good Samaritan is one of my favourite parables and one that challenges me often. I was inspired to create this after a couple of people mentioned that it is one that speaks to them too. It is challenging to reach out and be with others, but I hope you can also see this parable in your life today with my interpretation.
I have used colours and symbols in both pieces to accentuate meanings behind the relationship. For example Mary has blue Jeans + yellow/gold top to symbolise glory revealed, joy, light & divinity. Purple is also a royalty & nobility colour for John the Baptist. If you look closely you'll spot 'Luke 1:39-45' on a clothing tag and you may find a Marian symbol too?
I hope these bring you life, perhaps inspiring you to re-imagine the Gospel and your relationship with our God today.
I also have a few other ideas in the works and hope to post more online soon....
My spirit bursts with joyful gratitude in our God who loves us all.
With my simplicity God shows us there is no hierarchy.
From now on, all generations will know God’s infinite love.
With awe we experience God’s almighty presence.
God’s eternal mercy wraps around all those who love.
God’s strength and tenderness shine through me, shattering all our fears.
God fills the hungry, the rich are shown a new path.
Our prayers throughout history are heard.
We now see all creation forever blessed with life.
My soul bursts, as we now dance with divine mystery...
Jane Maisey rsj