A Break from the Busy

A Break from the Busy

A Break from the Busy

The signs that the season is changing are all around us. I had to scrape my car windows for the first time this morning. People are talking about the first snowfall of the season. The TV ads have changed from politics to Christmas. But what season are we entering? In the secular world, we have already entered the Christmas season with an emphasis on gift giving, parties, and connections with family and friends. We all know that this makes the month between Thanksgiving and December 25th a busy and hectic time. This secular Christmas time ends on December 25.

In the Catholic world, we are entering the season of Advent. This coming Sunday, we celebrate the feast of Christ the King – the last Sunday of the Liturgical year with the First Sunday of Advent bringing in the next year. Descriptions of the Advent season often include words like “expectant waiting,” “reflective preparation,” and “solemn.” In ancient times, the Advent season lasted 40-days, much like Lent. In the Catholic Christian world, the Christmas season begins on December 24 and ends on January 6th with the feast of the Epiphany (the 12 days of Christmas that we will sing about between now and December 24!).

Our Lady of Hope, Cheverus High School, and the Ignatian Partnership of Maine are offering a way to make space for the reflective, preparatory aspects of Advent without completely forgoing the fun and connections found in the secular Christmas season. We don’t want to give you more to do in this time – to make a busy season even busier. Instead, we want to give you a 15-minute break from the busy each day – a time to stop and reflect on the Gospel readings of the day as the Church prepares for the coming of Christ. We will introduce two styles of prayer important in Ignatian Spirituality – Ignatian Contemplation and Lectio Divina.

In addition, we are inviting you to share the journey with others through two sessions of small group faith sharing. We invite you to integrate the prayer experience into your life by meeting with a spiritual director twice. These times will serve as a small introduction to these practices for those who have not done them before and an opportunity to deepen the experience for those familiar with these practices.

We hope you will register and join us for an orientation session on Monday November 28th, at 7 PM on Zoom. To get started, you’ll find the registration here at this link.

Brian Conley, SJ

Talking about our Faith with Others…Hmmm

Talking about our Faith with Others…Hmmm

Talking about our Faith with Others…Hmmm

As Christians, we are called upon to witness to our faith; to share with others our encounters with the risen Christ and the experiences of grace that follow.  This invitation to share our faith with others seems to contradict the advice: “Don’t talk about religion and politics.” 

We’ve all witnessed (or participated in) contentious conversations that follow when we don’t follow it. 

Yet, without the ability to talk about these issues, we have little or no chance of understanding one another.  When we talk only with those who agree with us, misunderstanding and polarization are likely to grow. 

The first Easter Sunday found the disciples locked away in fear of the violence that they had witnessed imposed on Jesus.  Following their encounters with the Risen Christ between that first Easter and Pentecost, they found the courage to proclaim their faith – in a way that all who listened understood. 

On September 17th, Fr. Brian will present a morning of reflection, “Talking About Our Faith With Others.”  This morning of reflection will focus on creating a context where effective communication can occur across differences with a focus on intentional speaking and active listening skills introduced during our Synodal listening sessions.  This workshop will build on the content introduced in the “Our Easter Journey” morning of reflection presented at the end of April.  

Please contact the Parish Office to reserve your seat for this event on September 17th from 9-noon in the Parish Hall on Ocean Avenue.

Welcome Back Jesuit Volunteer Corps

Welcome Back Jesuit Volunteer Corps

Welcome Back Jesuit Volunteer Corps

We are happy to welcome back to Portland and to the Ignatian Spirituality Partnership of Maine, the Jesuit Volunteer Corps (JVC). The JVC had community volunteers here for many years and after a brief absence, has now returned.
We welcomed the arriving JVC folks at the 5 PM Mass on Sunday, August 14th. Thanks to Kathy Crosson and others representing the Ignatian Volunteer Corps for amplifying our welcome!

JVC members make a one-year commitment and usually serve in agencies that provide direct service (and advocate) for people who are often excluded or living on the margins of society. This year’s Jesuit Volunteer placements are with Agencies well known to many of us: PSL/Strive, Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project, Cheverus High School, Preble Street – Emergency Food Program Staff, Preble Street – Wellness Shelter Staff. We look forward to supporting this year’s Jesuit Volunteer community and to learning from them.

If the JVC is new to you, here’s a brief introduction:

HISTORY – For over 60 years, the Jesuit Volunteer Corps (JVC) has been a pioneer in the service landscape. With over 200 volunteers each year and 11,000 alumni, we are one of the largest lay, Catholic, full-time volunteer programs in the world.

MISSION & VALUES – Aspiring to create a more just and hopeful world, the Jesuit Volunteer Corps engages passionate young people in vital service within poor communities, fostering the growth of leaders committed to faith in action.

SPIRITUALITY – We believe in open and honest engagement with spirituality and faith. We strive to perceive God in others, practice personal reflection in daily life, discern and discuss the challenges of living faithful and just lives, and pursue deep attention to the common good.

SIMPLE LIVING – We value opportunities to live a simple and practical life. We seek to maintain balance and perspective in the presence of consumerism, busyness, ambition, and materialism in our everyday lives and careers. We hope to understand the lives and resource constraints of the communities we accompany and serve, and we evaluate the human and ecological consequences of our choices.

COMMUNITY – We build intentional communities that broaden our perspectives and confront our boundaries. We practice methods of active listening, consensus building, and conflict resolution, and we value humility, self-reflection, and self-awareness. We are committed to developing mutual relationships across lines of difference, and we assume good will on behalf of those around us.

SOCIAL JUSTICE – We advocate for compassion, fair treatment, and structural change that addresses the root causes of injustice. We recognize and move to transcend personal prejudices, stereotypes, and presumptions. And we apply the Jesuit practice of discernment, analysis, reflection, and action as we address current social problems and their impact on human communities.

THE “JESUIT” IN JESUIT VOLUNTEER CORPS – The Jesuit Volunteer Corps draws inspiration and direction from the Society of Jesus, a Roman Catholic order of priests and brothers. Better known as the “Jesuits,” the order was founded almost 500 years ago by St. Ignatius of Loyola, who challenged others to live as “contemplatives in action,” balancing between reflective prayer and work for justice.

WHO CAN Become a Jesuit Volunteer?
As an organization committed to advancing racial equity and inclusion, the Jesuit Volunteer Corps encourages applications from candidates of all races, classes, gender identities, sexual orientations, religions, languages, and physical abilities. Applicants must be between ages the ages of 21-25 by August 2023 in order to be eligible for the 2023-24 program year. True to our Jesuit, Catholic heritage, JVC firmly believes that all spiritual perspectives contribute to the richness of our community. Applicants from all religious traditions and spiritual backgrounds are strongly encouraged to apply.

And, if you represent a nonprofit organization that works to alleviate poverty or other barriers to inclusion, you can learn more about sponsoring a JVC member in the upcoming year.  Let us know and we’ll put you in touch.

19th Annotation Ignatian Retreat

19th Annotation Ignatian Retreat

19th Annotation Ignatian Retreat

The Ignatian Spirituality Partnership of Maine is offering a retreat that aims to offer a “blueprint” for prayer to help people discern God’s presence in their lives. This 19th Annotation Ignatian Retreat will be offered virtually via Zoom starting this October and running through June 2023. Established in 2018, The Ignatian Spirituality Partnership of Maine is designed to assist anyone interested in sharing and promoting the Ignatian spiritual vision. Members of the partnership include the Jesuit Community of Maine (Cheverus High School, Our Lady of Hope Parish), the Sisters of St. Joseph in Winslow, the Sisters of the Presentation in Biddeford (Marie Joseph Spiritual Center), the Sisters of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, and the Maine Ignatian Volunteer Corps, clergy and lay people of serveral Christian traditions who have been trained in Ignatian Spirituality.

Also known as the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises in Everyday Life, the heart of this retreat is daily prayer. Participants need to make a commitment to praying daily with the retreat materials for about 30 minutes each day, attending a virtual Zoom meeting with the whole group on the first Wednesday evening of each month, and attending a monthly meeting with a spiritual director/prayer guide either in person or via Zoom.

“This retreat is designed for people who have had some experience praying with Scripture, and who have had experience talking with someone about their prayer,” notes Fr. Paul Sullivan, SJ, one of the retreat prayer guides and pastor of Our Lady of Hope. “The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola can be transformational.”

In four stages, referred to as “weeks,” participants contemplate various aspects of their lives, as well as the Life, Passion, and Resurrection of Jesus. Leading and encouraging women and men to make the journey of the Exercises is a key priority of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) globally and for its partners in mission today. “God continues to invite each of us into a deepening relationship, to ongoing conversion. We belive that by embracing this invitation, we embrace our God who calls us to act in new, bold ways that reconcile our world – bringing about justice, peace, and compassion,” states Fr. Arturo Sosa, SJ, superior general of the Society of Jesus.

Jane Hartwell, Partnership member and co-coordinator of the retreat, notes that 2022-2023 will be the fourth time time we have offered this opportunity for retreat. “We have over 50 women and men, from Frenchville to the New Hampshire border who have now shared this experience. We hope that you might join us this year.”

Space is limited, for a most fruitful experience for participants. So if you’d like more information or to register for this retreat, visit ignatianme.org. Once registered, organizers will arrange for an in-person or online meeting to talk more about the retreat and pair you with a spiritual director/guide.

The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius

The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius

The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius

We have an opportunity for you to learn more about the Spiritual Exercises, and deepen your own spiritual journey.  The Spiritual Exercises are a compilation of meditations, prayers, and contemplative practices developed by St. Ignatius Loyola to help people deepen their relationship with God. For centuries, the Exercises were most commonly given as a “long retreat” of about 30 days in solitude and silence.

In recent years, there has been a renewed emphasis on the Spiritual Exercises as a program for laypeople. The most common way of going through the Exercises now is a “retreat in daily life,” which involves a monthslong program of daily prayer and meetings with a spiritual director. The Exercises have also been adapted in many other ways to meet the needs of modern people. Over the past three years, the Ignatian Spirituality Partnership of Maine has accompanied more than 50 people here in Maine in this spiritual journey.

Consider joining other men and women from Maine in “making the Exercises” this year. The priests here at Our Lady of Hope welcome the chance to speak with you about it. You can also find helpful information at the Ignatian Spirituality Partnership of Maine’s website. Our parish and the Jesuit Community are members of the Partnership). Applications for this year’s retreat, which runs from October 2022 – June 2023, are now available here.

The Jesuit Way of Making Decisions – The Discernment of Spirits

The Jesuit Way of Making Decisions – The Discernment of Spirits

The Jesuit Way of Making Decisions – The Discernment of Spirits

It is impossible to have a perfect knowledge of God’s will. We know that.

The discernment process will not give us absolute, intrinsic insight into God’s will. It is not a crystal ball that allows us to see into the future, or into the soul of another. We do not get to know the mind of God with certainty.

When we think about our parish, we know that we do not have the resources to do everything we might imagine we want to do at Our Lady of Hope – all of the programs we want to run; all of the renovations and upgrades to buildings we want to do; and the help we want to provide to those in need in our midst. In fact, we know that we need to make careful decisions even among the things that we need to do because we do not have the resources even to do everything that needs to be done.

The discernment of spirits is a process for deciding among good options. The discernment of spirits is different from other decision making processes because it seeks the will of God.

In an essay entitled, “Discernment and Board Formation,” John Whitney, S.J. describes discernment as “the prayerful, reflective, reasoned search for the movement of God’s spirit within one’s own heart and within the heart of the community.” The discernment process leads us to examine our own attractions and desires to what draws us closer to God; draws us away from God. We pay attention to our experiences of consolation and desolation. We also pay careful attention to the experiences of consolation and desolation of others because the process of discernment we are engaged in at Our Lady of Hope is a communal discernment.

The discernment of spirits is a process of choosing between competing goods. Since the answer of which option serves the greatest good – or is the will of God – is not self-evident, we can expect that there will be disagreements about what is the greatest good in a particular situation. Disagreement or conflict is not a sign of poor discernment but a call for us to discern well.

This call to discern well carries with it some assumptions – including:
– A presumption of good will in those with different opinions. This presumption requires spiritual maturity and humility and is not easy to achieve.
– Members of the community will contribute the fruits of their own prayer and the movement of spirits they experience with candor and trust when invited into the process.
– Some members of our community, specifically the Pastoral and Finance Councils have committed to a more in-depth engagement with the details of budgets, needed maintenance, and other considerations. Consequently, they have committed to the discernment process in a new way.

Ultimately, this process is consultative – in other words – we are gathering data for the decision, but the decision itself will be made by either Fr. Paul Sullivan, S.J. in his role as pastor or by the bishop of the diocese.

We hope that the discernment process we have been engaged in for several years now will continue to be open and collaborative – that you will feel free to share the movement of spirits in your own life. Ultimately, recognizing that the discernment process has been about choosing between competing goods – that we accept the decisions made as a community.

Fr. Brian Conley, S.J.

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