God’s Active Presence
Throughout the Pandemic
The transcendentals, goodness, beauty, truth, unity point us to God.
Throughout the pandemic, YOU have made visible His love and His presence has been tangible. We’ve experienced your goodness, we’ve become more united, we’ve grown in a deeper understanding of the basic truths of life and we’ve seen beauty all around us through your many acts of love. God reward you!
*Tap or click on the photos below to read the story behind them
Walking in Truth
There is something about trials that strip away what is false. We can put on a good face and play the part for a while, but inevitably when the pressure increases, the truth will come out…
“Never have I known such good and generous people”
~Venerable Mother Luisita
With Deep Gratitude...
Our Friends at the Order of Malta
The Goodness of Giving
“What a beautiful mission God has entrusted to you.”
~Venerable Mother Luisita
The Beauty of the Ordinary
The Beauty of Community Life
The Beauty and Gift of Friendship
“Isn’t it true…we have to do the will of God and onward!”
~Venerable Mother Luisita
Walking in Truth
I do believe in God
Resting in the Arms of St. Joseph
“We must look for the strength that pours forth from union…”
~Venerable Mother Luisita
Rejoice in Hope
United with our Educators
With Deep Gratitude…
When our healthcare campuses and convents were struggling with covid positive cases, innumerable friends reached out, provided meals, groceries, other household needed goods. Your outpouring of love will be remembered every time we look back to this time period to remember the tremendous graces that God showered upon us.
Our Friends at the Order of Malta
Members of the Order of Malta have been great friends of ours through the years. Their support of our work with our elders and their support of our congregation at large has made the Order of Malta a household name in our Carmelite family. During the pandemic, many members reached out to express their support and to offer our help. When the fires broke out close to the San Gabriel mountains where we live, members of the Order were ready to jump at a moments notice to assist us. When we were running low on PPE’s, they again pitched in and did what they could. In their great generosity, the made hundreds of care packages for our staff and sisters as an expression of their support. God bless the Order of Malta!
2020 brought with it unique challenges that significantly impacted every organization and every family in the world. Our religious family was no different. Whether serving at one of our healthcare campuses, in our schools, or at our retreat house, our sisters faced different obstacles that shook us out of our comfort zone in a big way.
Our sisters serving in health care worked overtime to keep our residents safe and provide the best possible care, even while we were forced to restrict visitors. In our schools across the country, we navigated the challenges facing the children, families and teachers. By finding creative ways to keep students engaged, our sisters sought to cut through the fear and isolation many families experienced at home. Our retreat house, where, in a normal year more than 13,000 people come to our campus to find peace and to encounter God, was forced to close its doors and say goodbye to our dear co-workers and volunteers. At the beginning of the lockdowns, it was unclear how our apostolates would be impacted by the multi-faceted impacts of COVID.
Our faith tells us that God works all things out for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28). So, with confidence, we tried to stay proactive and continue to seek God in the midst of it, and to serve those entrusted to our care.
Something as small as our “Battery Appeal”! When our live-stream efforts first started off, the “gizmo” we needed to use ate up batteries like nobodies business! We turned to our Facebook family and invited those felt inspired to send batteries our way. Little did we know! We had batteries coming out of our ears and out of lots of amazon packages. The amazing generosity of you, our friends, so uplifted us! God reward you!
It has been a tremendous year, watching as God proves His providential goodness over and over again. He works powerfully through the small widow’s mite, honoring the sacrifice of the gift when it is put in His service. Many of our friends sent small donations, homemade masks, whatever they could to help. This year, our path has been strewn with many tangible expressions of God’s goodness. We are not blind to the sacrifices that many make, even though their own situation may be precarious. To each of you who have supported us this year, even while facing your own struggles, we are truly and sincerely grateful.
Only God can repay you for your goodness. You are a beautiful reflection of He who is Goodness itself.
Santa Teresita Celebrating Victories
This video is a testimony to our sisters and co-workers who serve our elders and their families. The strain, especially at the height of covid, was intense and extremely heavy. Their commitment, sacrifice and love continues to be a source of inspiration for us all.
Thanking God for our Priests!
Celebrating our Priests
How blessed we have been to have our priests to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for us all throughout the pandemic. Their faithfulness to their priestly vocation and their support of our community has been a rich blessing!
In a special way, we’d like to thank…
Father John Henry Hanson, O.Praem
Father Chan Lee
Father Kevin Meehan, L.C.
Father Michael Mesa
Father Justin Oh
Father Richard Sunwoo
Father Matt Wheeler
We had a friendly visit from the Culver City Fire Department, who drove by on their big-rig to spread some cheer to our residents. Thanks to all our heroic fire-fighters for all their good work and for taking the time to come see us at the top of the hill!
Beauty of the Ordinary
Perhaps we could agree that life “before COVID” had reached a frenetic pace. We had things to do, and we were going to get them done. Maybe we knew the pace was unsustainable, but it was still a shock to the whole world as everything came to a screeching halt in March of 2020. It was almost as if some unseen hand had hit a giant pause button on the entire world. The hectic pace of our lives was suddenly interrupted by an uncertain, indefinite stillness. As this “pause” wore on, we were inundated with messages of fear, danger and the complete interruption of normalcy.
At the time of the initial lockdown, I was living in Culver City, in a convent that has a beautiful view overlooking the west side of Los Angeles. In the weeks following the lockdown, I was astounded at how clear and beautiful LA looked, as if all creation was rejoicing in the stillness. Even in LA, of all places, nature continued to grow, and beauty quietly flourished.
Sometimes we don’t know how much we appreciate something until it’s no longer available to us. As life slowed down, we suddenly saw with fresh eyes the beauty of the ordinary: a deep love for the people we could no longer be with, the simple joys of our daily routines, the meaning we find in our work. There even seemed, in a sense, a new camaraderie with neighbors we had never met.
Perhaps, this year, we have been given the grace to appreciate the beauty that was already present in our lives, but which we so often rush past without noticing. Even now, as things continue to change, beauty continues to reveal itself, reminding us that God is in control, and that He can draw beauty out of everything.
The Beauty of Community Life!
Religious life is beautiful. It’s just like any other life in that it has its ups and downs, struggles and blessings. The difference is that we we’ve responded to His call to be poor, chaste and obedient, and that we’ve given our lives to be faithful to Him in this particular religious family.
The beauty comes from the beautiful tapestry that you see in bringing us all together. We’re from diverse backgrounds, we’re different age ranges, personalities, etc. yet we are called to live Gospel community together. What an experience and gift it is!! The photo you see is what we called our “In and In” a spoof on “In and Out”! It was our way of sharing joy and fun with each other during the pandemic where some of us made a hamburger meal from scratch and then served it to the rest of the sisters exactly like it would have been had they gone to “In and Out”. Needless to say, it was a hit!
Think back on your life. In one month, we have the potential of crossing paths with hundreds of people in our day-to-day living (pre-covid). If we multiply that to years, it is safe to say that the number of people we’ve crossed paths with in life would number in the thousands. Who stands out? Whose names come to mind when you think of those who made a lasting impression on you?
Enter friendship. It’s a word that has multiplicity of meaning because it is colored by our own life perspective. Like “friendship,” “perspective” is another fascinating word. We are each so different one to the other: our upbringing, personal tendencies, personalities, educational background, life experiences, formation, family dynamics, etc. All of this and much more give shape to our life perspective. This newsletter, these reflections are going to you, our dear friends.
Some of you have known us for years. Some, maybe just a couple of months. The gamut is wide and deep in the way of how you know us, the connection you have with us, the resonance you feel. The ties that bring people together, these are not to be taken lightly. It is a gift. We see your friendship as a gift.
From all eternity, the good Lord had your path cross with ours. Regardless of the route, it took you and us to make that happen. You ARE our friends. True, the level of friendship may be dependent on all the factors noted above…yet, I do believe there is a deeper bond that unites us, that transcends it all. It’s a God-thing. It’s as simple as that. We are better people because of you. Hopefully, it’s reciprocal. And
in the end, we hope that together, as we walk with grace into 2021, we walk with grace into eternity – the end goal of all our endeavors here on earth. True friendship leads us to this great end. Thank you, dear FRIENDS.
The Beauty of MUSIC
Music has a way of touching the soul in ways that words cannot. Especially in times of suffering, the poignancy of the written word coupled with a melody that has the ability to move us deeply. Our music flows out from our hearts and has the ability to touch other hearts. As St. Augustine says, singing IS praying twice.
Life is beautiful. At all stages, at all ages, most especially our elders.
Our sisters and staff at our Skilled Nursing Campus, Marycrest Manor celebrating the beauty of LIFE!
Counting Our Blessings
Beauty takes on all forms. Often when we heard the word beauty, we think of the concrete. Beautiful landscapes, the beauty of the sunset, of a flower, a painting, Michaelangelo’s Pieta.
Think of the times you are moved to tears because something someone said or did touched you at your core. It’s beauty. Counting our blessings is one way of being attentive to all the little things in our lives, all the passing moments that touch us, that move us to thank God, that draws us to something infinite. How truly beautiful!
Walking in Truth
There is something about trials that strip away what is false. We can put on a good face and play the part for a while, but inevitably when the pressure increases, the truth will come out. We are very good at hiding the truth – even from ourselves. Perhaps that is why God sometimes allows painful circumstances. It forces us into the light, and we have a chance to choose the truth. During this past year, the entire world has experienced a certain shaking, and the curtain has been pulled back. A light has been thrown on all that was in the dark.
We have seen, perhaps, what our true priorities are. We have been able to recognize where our lives have been truly centered, and where we have been living off balance. In our families, our communities, our nation and the world, we have a chance to reorient ourselves to a life of true integrity.
God is Truth. Jesus Himself said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” John 14:6). Truth always shines a light into the darkness and reveals what is hidden. It can be painful to see the truth at times, but it is truly God’s grace. He loves us too much to let us live in darkness.
There is much confusion in our world about what is “true”. Many even doubt that there is a solid ground of truth on which we can stand. There are conflicting messages from the world, and it seems that God’s words stand further and further off from the mainstream narrative and the beliefs of the day. Light and darkness have never had anything in common, but it seems that God has drawn a line in the sand.
He is calling to His people: choose life, and walk in it, that you may life (see Deut 30:19). To live our lives in integrity and wholeness, to walk in the Truth that has been revealed to us by our faith, and to stand against the darkness, no matter the cost. This is the way – the only way – to find peace and joy.
I Do Believe in God
A number of years ago, I had the privilege of teaching 4th grade. I quickly discovered that 4th graders are absolutely beautiful because they are so open to all we try to teach them and it is quite easy to get them excited just about any topic. I also quickly realized that developmentally they think their parents are right about everything because, well they are their parents! However, during the journey through the school year, the children begin to realize that their parents have certain areas where perhaps they aren’t quite so perfect. I watched this happen one year during our religion class, which we had every day.
In this particular case, we were talking about the sacrament of Baptism and in the class was a little girl who had not been baptized. She was a beautiful girl, from a lovely Catholic family, but sadly, Baptism had not been a priority. I suspect that her family’s faith might have died completely. And although they had all been brought up Catholic, there were real questions as to whether God even existed.
During religion class, I would take special note of this girl when we talked about Baptism and original sin and the life of God in our souls; about the Trinity and being a child of God – a daughter of the Church….. her eyes would just light up with such passionate joy.
One day, later in the school year, she approached me and said, “I want to be baptized.”
“Well, why aren’t you?” I asked her in reply.
With slightly downcast eyes she softly replied, “My mom and dad don’t believe in God anymore.”
It was a very sad statement, but she had gained a certain amount of maturity and had come to understand that maybe this was something about which her parents were not right. So, I believe at that point, she began to ask her parents for Baptism.
Soon it was time for the parent-teacher conferences and part of my job as a teacher is to ask about the spiritual growth and the opportunities the children have to practice their faith at home. So the question about how they are receiving their Sacraments and the ways their family prays together are relatively routine questions during these parent conferences, in addition to discussing the students’ grades and behavior and such.
It was in preparation for these conferences that an inspiration came to me. I thought that some parents might be reluctant to really listen to a teacher, even though as a Sister, they do nod affirmatively when asked if they attend Mass. However, parents do listen to their children. But because these children are so young, they might not have the courage to say “I want to go to church” because they don’t want to upset the apple cart with their parents. This is how my idea of having the children write a letter to their parents came to be. I thought that such a letter, included in their report card, might help smoothly pave the way for the children to communicate to their parents their desires in practicing their faith at home more fully.
The next day in class, I made my suggestion to the children, adding that those who came to the parent conference would have a chance to share their letter with their parents. The children were excited and very eager to begin writing down their desires to practice their faith more perfectly at home. They all enthusiastically wrote down everything that was in their heart about actively living out their faith.
Some of them wrote courageous things that I knew would be hard for them to say out loud to their parents. The young lady who desired Baptism ardently wrote several pages, which for a 4th grader is quite a lot. While I did skim the letters prior to including them in the report cards, I can’t say I scrutinized them very closely.
The day for the parent-teacher conferences arrived and the little 4th grade girl was sitting there with her mom and me as we discussed her report card. Her mom was proud of her hard work and we talked about some areas of growth and improvement. Then we pulled out the letter she had written in class and read it aloud.
I was taken aback by what she had written and the courage and conviction with which she wrote about her desires to grow in the faith. She started by addressing her parents saying that during family dinnertime, when talk revolved around how they didn’t believe in God, she boldly stated that she was lying. She wrote, “I do believe in God and I want so much to be baptized because I want to be a child of God and be able to receive Jesus in the Holy Eucharist.”
At the time, I didn’t realize she had been telling her parents that she, too, didn’t believe in God, but here was this 4th grade girl mustering all the courage she possessed to tell her parents that she was taking back those words about not believing in God.
Her mother was silent for several minutes. She clearly saw that her child was very sincere and that what she was asking was coming from her and not from me. The mother took the letter home promising to share it with her dad and the rest of the family. I just prayed for her that her mother would indeed help her get closer to Our Lord.
At the end of that school year, this student and her family had to move, but the little girl and I were so happy because the situation that she was moving into was going to definitely allow her to be baptized and also attend daily Mass. From what I understand, the following year this did in fact happen – she was baptized, she was able to go to a Catholic school and attend daily Mass. As a result, this little girl was so full of joy and so full of peace finally being able to live her faith.
Today, she should be a senior in high school but I haven’t been in contact with her since. One day I hope to find out how her faith blossomed.
To learn more about the schools the sisters teach in as well as to read more stories of inspiration from our schools, visit our website at https://carmelitesistersocd.com/catholic-schools-week/
Resting in the Arms of St. Joseph
Have you ever longed to rest in the protective, comforting embrace of a loving father? Even God longed for this and found just such a place on the heart of St. Joseph. If God Himself found in Joseph a safe haven, we should be jumping into Joseph’s arms in prayer without a moment’s hesitation!!! Joseph, we love you and we need you in our lives so badly.
One morning as I as walking through the convent, I saw a sketch that one of our sisters had drawn of St. Joseph holding the sleeping Baby Jesus. God was resting in Joseph’s arms. This is the climax of the mystical life, to become a tabernacle, a safe haven for God Himself to rest within us. God found rest in Joseph’s arms because Joseph had given his heart completely over to God’s love.
Yet there is a mutual rest that is found in holding a sleeping child. Has a baby ever fallen asleep in your arms? Being the eldest of a family of six children, this has happened to me many times, but not as many times as it has happened to my dad. I have watched my beautiful father hold many babies to his heart to comfort them and walk them to sleep. Very often my father would end up sitting down in a sofa chair and resting himself, totally soothed by the tiny person snuggled up to his breast. What trust! What love! When we let God come and rest in our hearts, by remaining in His love (1 John 4:16-18), we are also held and comforted by Him. It’s mutual!
Joseph’s whole heart belonged to God and because of this, God not only entrusted Himself to Joseph’s care, He was also able to entrust Joseph with Mary, the one so dear to His Sacred Heart. In a very tangible way, God loved and cared for Mary through Joseph as they lived together, and vice versa, both of them letting the Holy Spirit within love the other through His total reign within the heart.
The Carmelite Saints speak of Christ’s thirst for our love. He is thirsting for our hearts to belong completely to Him. Joseph can show us the way of total love for God, which orders everything else in our lives towards His glory. God trusted Joseph so much, He gave Himself into his arms, and mystically asked Joseph to care for Mary on His behalf.
This mystery can be seen replayed in our own lives over and over again. God entrusts Himself to our care, to our love in the person of our neighbor. Jesus reminds us that whatever we do to the least of our brethren, we do to Him. He is the child given to us to care for, the friend in need of forgiveness, the stranger longing for welcome, the family member who is sick and discouraged. Will we come to His aid like Joseph did? Will we let Him rest on our hearts by giving our love to our neighbor… all for the love of God? What a mystery…we find God in need of our love in our neighbor…and yet, God is the one in our hearts providing the pure love with which to love and forgive…God is All in All!!!
The Top 10 Things We’re Learning
Our sisters and staff at Marycrest Manor are showing us that we never stop learning! Enjoy the video!
The Gift of the Priesthood
This video was put together prior to the pandemic as a way of expressing our gratitude to our priests for their YES to their vocation as well as their loving service to God’s people through the joys and sufferings of life.
As Carmelites, supporting and praying for our priests has a special place in our lives. Yes, there are priests who have been unfaithful to the tremendous gift and call they have received. And their disregard for this has caused tremendous damage. However, let us not forget the thousands and thousands of priests who have been faithful through the centuries, many who gave up their lives for their neighbor as well as those today who strive to live each day faithfully.
Let us together pray for our priests. They are the ones who bring Jesus to us in a special way. Many of our sisters during this pandemic were not able to receive the sacraments. Many of you throughout this past year experienced the same. In gratitude for the gift of the Eucharist and with heartfelt commitment, let us pray for our priests, for their holiness and joyful perseverance.
“It is not good that man should be alone.” Even at the dawn of creation, God did not will that anyone should live in isolation. To Adam, he gave Eve, and to each of us he gave a family. None of us can exist – much less thrive – without the love and support of community. God is, in His very essence, Communion. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit exist in eternal communion with one another. And we are created in His image. We are made for communion, and to live and share our lives with others. None of us can make it on our own.
When “social distancing” became the norm, perhaps we realized more clearly than before how deeply we need one another. How many people found themselves cut off from their loved ones, unable to embrace their grandchildren or gather with friends to share life together.
Seeking connection, all of us have found ways to communicate and connect as much as we could, whether virtually or from a distance. In each of our apostolates, staying connected to those we serve was our priority. Yes, despite all our efforts to connect on virtual platforms, we find in ourselves a need to connect, to see each other’s faces in “real life,” to feel the familiar touch of friends and family. It is not good that man should be alone.
During 2020, we learned that, even though we are “socially distanced,” we are definitely not made to be alone. If we are in Christ, each of us remains connected to one another in such a profound way that scripture describes us as being members of one body. Nothing can separate us from Christ our head, and that also means that nothing can separate us from one another. Even being apart physically cannot erase a deeper bond of unity that exists between us.
We miss the volunteers, families and coworkers with whom we normally spend our days. Yet our prayers for one another –and the many, many tangible expressions of love we have encountered throughout this past year – prove that we are, perhaps, more united than ever.
We are one body in Christ, united in prayer. We are one family.
Rejoice in Hope
This morning I found myself turning to St. Paul for consolation during these very challenging times. In his letter to the Romans, Paul encourages us saying: “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” He even goes so far as to say: “We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope…” (Rom 5:3-8). Then Paul tells us that the hope that never disappoints is the love of God that has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.
This is the same love that was the driving force in the life of Jesus of Nazareth, the most joyful man who ever walked this earth. As He faced the darkest times of His life, feeling abandoned by the Father, He never stopped loving. Because of this, the Father was able to use all for His good and even for the salvation of the entire human race. When we love, we always win because our hearts expand and we reach a level of greatness we never thought imaginable.
Maybe that is what will transform these dark days into light: the love that we keep in our hearts. Love can change the darkest prison into a cathedral when your heart is full of praise. It can change one man’s peril into the story of another man’s heroism in the rescue. As we spend these days waiting out the coronavirus, let us never let love leave our hearts. Rather, may we take every opportunity to reach out through a phone call, a kind gesture, a long overdue email to a loved one. Let’s make the most of these days, realizing that because He loves us, our Father is giving us a chance to come back to Him with our whole hearts.
Hope and love draw our eyes upward to heaven, where our Lord resides. And in trying and difficult times, there is no better place than to fix our gaze than toward Jesus, where our soul will find peace in learning to trust in the Father’s loving providence. Our foundress, Mother Luisita, had unwavering confidence in God’s providence with every fiber of her being, even in the darkest of times. In her letter on trusting in God’s providence, her wisdom and encouragement shine through, and are just as relevant to our times today, as they were nearly a century ago. Read Mother’s Letter here.
Want to read the rest of Mother’s Letters? Mother Luisita’s letters can be food for the soul during this time of trial. Let her maternal words comfort and strengthen you.
United with our Educators
Back to school. Usually that phrase brings to mind a set of familiar routines and predictable procedures. For much of America and even the world, that is not the case this year. Whether you are heading back to in-person or distance learning, things look quite different. The school where I teach is able to start with in-person learning, but we already know that in the first two weeks we will not even begin to touch on academic content. Lesson plans for those weeks are how to walk six feet apart in the hall ways, how to wear your mask, how to wash your hands and use hand sanitizer, how to adjust to no group work, and how to use online platforms so we are ready in the event we need to move to distance learning. The process for beginning school via the internet is even more challenging and intimidating!
Why are we doing this? I speak here not only as a Carmelite Sister but as an educator. We head back to school, whatever that may look like, because we have been called by God to do so. Teaching is not primarily a job; it is a vocation. We are not our own – we are instruments in the hand of God, and He wants to use us.
Over the summer, I had given my students a list of suggested reading. Recently, I received a message from one of the children. She was thanking me for the books she read over the last two months, “I enjoyed them so much! Without you, I would never have read them. Thank you!” It was not me. The list could have come from any teacher. But the fact is the child was given what she needed to flourish this summer. God provided for her through her teacher. And He wants to continue doing that throughout this upcoming school year.
If educators focus on all the challenges, we will either be so paralyzed by fear we will not be able to move, or we will be swamped by anxiety and drown. However, we also have the choice to listen attentively to the voice that called us into this field of mission. The difficulties are real. The workload is heavy. The obstacles are enormous. We are not alone nor are we even the primary operators in this education endeavor. God is acting through us to meet the needs of His children.
How do we hear this voice? I would suggest two ways. The first way is by listening in prayer. I understand that for many teachers receiving the sacraments is limited these days. Personal prayer is not. And the fact of the matter is that for a teacher who is a disciple of Jesus Christ, prayer is not optional. Make prayerful reading of Sacred Scripture part of your daily routine. Shakespeare put these words on the lips of Henry IV, “All things are ready if our minds be so.” He was close. All things are ready if our hearts be so, and that happens only by prayer. No one should listen to you in the classroom if you have not first listened to God in prayer!
The second suggestion for hearing God’s call to serve in education is to listen to the children. Listen both to their needs, spoken and silent, and to their appreciation, again, spoken and silent. Do not focus on the masks, train your eyes to see the smiles beneath them. Let the eyes of your little ones (or not so little ones) remind you why you are doing what you are doing in school. Remember there are easier ways to make a living, but in teaching you are making a difference. The children and their families need us!
If you have read this and you are not a teacher, may I ask for a great favor? Would you please keep us in your prayers? You see, God wants to use you too! None of us are in this alone. We rely on each other to be faithful. Keep schools, teachers, students, and families in your prayers. And know that we will do everything to remain faithful to the calling He has given us.
St. John Bosco, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Gregory the Great, St. Joseph of Cupertino, St. Joseph Calasanz, Bl. Pier Giorgio, and all the patron saints of Catholic schools, teachers, and students, pray for us! Our Lady, Queen of Peace, pray for us!
During the pandemic, Archbishop Jose Gomez asked all of us in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles to light a candle in our homes to show solidarity with all those who were suffering from the pandemic. As our Chapel is the very heart of our home, we lit our candles in solidarity with all our suffering brothers and sisters, uniting with them in asking God to shine His light through the darkness.