Journey to Bethlehem!

The three Athlonians!
There is an ongoing joke among my family and friends regarding my continuous travels since my entrance into religious life 14 years ago. My mum often quotes the phrase: "Join the convent, see the world!". I write this during a three week stay with our sisters in Staten Island, USA so maybe they are not too far wrong! My travels so far have brought me to live and minister in Ireland, Poland, Italy, Vatican City and now further studies have brought me further abroad to Northern America to Canada. So far I have lived and stayed in about 26 of our communities worldwide...the adventure continues!

I arrived here in the States just over 10 days ago and am enjoying the experience immensely. There have been so many little things which I have greatly appreciated: the visit to our sisters in Boston and seeing their places of ministry in Regina Cleri Diocesan House and the Diocesan Pastoral Centre as well as our Liturgical Centre and house ministries. It never ceases to amaze me when I see the wonderful dedication and commitment of our sisters throughout the world. I stand back in wonder and contemplate how the Holy Spirit can draw us from different countries, generations, life experiences and bring us together as sisters and as Sister Disciples of the Divine Master. Currently I am in a community with two other Athlonians (for the non-Irish readers...Athlone is a small town right in the heart of Ireland)...the Lord really has a sense of humour! There are only 6 of us Irish sisters worldwide and three of us end up in the same community! It's great though!

I am so happy to see how people come to pray in our chapel and share our prayer life and ministry in whatever way they can. Here in New York, the other Institutes of the Pauline Family are also present: the Society of St. Paul, the Daughters of St. Paul, Pauline Cooperators as well as the Friends of the Divine Master who collaborate closely with us. It is a challenge to read the signs of the times and discern where the Lord desires us to be, as authentic witnesses of his love and incarnating this love through a particular charism.

A few of my friends have asked me if I am doing 'touristy' things here in New York. Whilst I like to see new things and experience new places, I continue to see myself as a pilgrim. I am on a journey home to the Father. After all, this is the name of this blog: Pilgrim progress. How much progress am I making? That I don't know but what I do know is that there is still so much I have to learn and I love learning from life itself and from other people. As I come to the close of this Christmas Day, I stop and reflect a little. This pause on the student journey allows me the time to do so. I think how the Christmas story has four journeys. First, there is the rough, week long, eighty-mile journey of Joseph and the expectant Mary from Galilee to Bethlehem. There is the journey of the infant from Mary's womb, a place of warmth and comfort, to a world offering 'no room at the inn', something our Holy Father also referred to in his message this day. The third journey belongs to the angels, from God's throne to a field where shepherds shiver in the night air, guarding their sheep. After the angel's announcement that a Saviour has been born, there is the fourth journey, the shepherds trekking across dark fields to a place where they find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger. Each journey deserves meditation. Just as each of our own journeys deserve appreciation and thanksgiving. How would you describe your journey to Christ? As we continue the journey to Bethlehem...let us open our hearts to truly encounter Him during this Christmas season. Our lives can and will never be the same again!

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