Dear Kathleen

February 17th, 2018

Dear Kathleen,

You have been gone for ten years. February 19 was a Tuesday in 2008. That afternoon your breathing stopped quietly, simply, almost unnoticed. You had gone home, as you had joyfully anticipated from the time of your stroke four months earlier. You had joined your Spouse, your parents, your beloved Madre Angela.

Together below the statue of St. Angela in St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome

I still miss you. When we were starting this new Company in the USA, we conferred constantly by phone and in visits between Cincinnati and San Francisco. Your astute insight and your humor were invaluable. Your prayer was deep and scriptural. Your faith was solid. No wonder your gifts in counseling and spiritual direction left such a deep impression in retreat centers in Montana and Juvenile Services in San Francisco! Do you hear me calling on you now, when I face a challenge or prepare for a formation conversation with one of our new members?

Yes, new members! You did not live to see our expansion, but maybe you hear me complaining to you about how gradual it is. In your last weeks, we used to joke that you would be in charge of our heavenly “recruitment desk.”

Consecration, January 27, 2008

We were still new members of the Company of Canada when you made your consecration during Mass in your living room on the feast of St. Angela. It was the last time you were up and dressed. Each evening thereafter, we drew on our shared Irish heritage with a Celtic night prayer. It ended with a pause to recall the day‘s reasons for gratitude. “What are you grateful for today?” I would ask.

“Everything,” you said, literally on your deathbed. “Everything!”

In your many-layered legacy to our Group of the USA, the richest treasure may be your spirit of gratitude.

Thank you, Kathleen, for “everything”!

Love from your sister in Christ,

Times and Circumstances

March 30th, 2017

“If, according to times and circumstances, the need arises to make new rules or do something differently, do it prudently and with good advice…,” St. Angela told the Company’s leaders in her last Legacy. Her words ring in my
21st-century ears.

Angela modified her plans in response to a need that had arisen. On March 19, 1537, she gathered 59 daughters in her kitchen (really, really crowded!). Her friend Girolamo Patengola had recently died and left them a bequest. But the new Company’s Rule did not provide for anyone who could legally represent them to receive it. Angela must have realized that further needs for a designated representative would also arise.

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Not for St. Angela Merici in 1535, when she founded the Company of St. Ursula. She spoke (in Italian) of the “secolo”: the ordinary circumstances of lay life.

Not for Pope Pius XII on February 2, 1947, when he issued the document that gave “secular institutes” this title and recognized their place in the Church as a form of consecrated life.

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Incarnation – Word and Mystery

December 28th, 2016

Through the Christmas cards and the baking and the wrapping paper, “Incarnation” wove a great question mark. What does it really mean? Scripture offers some avenues:

“The Word was made flesh…”
“He emptied himself, taking the form of a slave…”
“An infant, wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger…”

But what does Incarnation mean now? For me?

My Advent began in Nairobi with our first Kenyan members, a new little sprout on the Company of St. Ursula. Read more »

Angela – Woman of Peace

November 5th, 2016

angela-kingsgrove-australiaIndigestion – nightmares – quarrels – bitterness. Stress and division afflict me and most of our country.

“What happens on November 9?” No matter who wins the presidency or which way the Senate tilts, we need reconciliation!

We Christians look to Jesus, the One who prayed for his killers: “Father, forgive them.”

We Americans take inspiration from Abraham Lincoln’s commitment to “bind up the nation’s wounds” with dignity and justice, not vengeance.

As an Ursuline I see Angela Merici as a model for peace-making. Read more »


September 18th, 2016

Being together – “insieme” – is what St. Angela Merici recommended so strongly to her daughters that one directive to the Company’s leaders uses the word four times:


“Take care to have your daughters come together from time to time in the place you think best and most convenientso that, together like this, they might also meet each other as loving sisters, and thus, talking over spiritual matters, rejoice to­gether, and together encourage one another, which will be no small help to them” (8th Legacy).

In Maine last weekend we experienced the wisdom of these words. The annual gathering of our small Group (five USA members from five states) is not our only way of being together. In between these events, we stay connected by Skype, phone, email, visits, Facebook, and national and international Ursuline gatherings that we attend in pairs or threesomes. Read more »

My Heart Is Wrenched

July 16th, 2016

“My heart is wrenched,” St. Angela said. My heart – our hearts – are wrenched.

Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord!
Lord, hear my voice! (Psalm 130)

heart crossHow many cities, how many lives before these…?
Minneapolis – Lord, have mercy!
Baton Rouge – Christ, have mercy!
Dallas – Lord, have mercy!
Nice – Christ, have mercy!
Ankara – Lord, have mercy!
By the time this blog gets posted, what further hatreds will have erupted into murderous violence?

If you, O Lord, should mark our guilt,
Lord, who would survive?

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The Lamp Is Burning

May 4th, 2016

Someone was missing from the Sanctuary of St. Angela last week in Brescia. And there was something new.

This was my first visit since the death of Maria Teresa Pezzotti. The long-time leader of St. Angela’s Daughters in Brescia had died last December. As we often rediscover a death through an empty space, my expectation of Maria Teresa in the pew behind me fluttered momentarily, then plunged into reality.

Maria Teresa Pezzotti explains the lamp's symbolism to a young Sicilian member of the Company before its installation.

Maria Teresa Pezzotti explains the lamp’s symbolism to a young Sicilian member of the Company before its installation.

The something new was her last project, a highly symbolic lamp. The idea had originated with two elders in the Brescian Company: to represent before St. Angela’s casket her myriad daughters from 1535 till today.

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Small, Smaller, Smallest!

March 31st, 2016

Congo & USA: 7405 miles distant and a mere heartbeat apart.

2007: Kathleen, Marie-Bernadette, Pascaline, Regine in St. Peter's Square, Rome

2007: Kathleen, Marie-Bernadette, Pascaline, Regine in St. Peter’s Square, Rome

“Small world” seems almost trite in this cyber-era. Still, some connections shake us into seeing how closely bound we all are, riding through space together on our small globe.

Our thread is love.

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Our Own Mercy Street

February 25th, 2016

Did PBS have a tip-off from the Vatican about the Jubilee Year of Mercy when its TV series “Mercy Street” went into production for this year?
Mercy StreetMerciful, merciless… they’re all here, in these “inspired-by-history” episodes set in a Civil War hospital in Alexandria, Virginia.

My ears pricked up whenever the characters claimed mercy as their motive: for anesthesia during an amputation or for arms-smuggling to supposedly end the war faster. There’s plenty of opportunity for merciful forgiveness but not much practice of it.

We can all ask ourselves how we take those opportunities: To whom am I merciless? Maybe to myself?

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