In the years of my Midwestern, agriculture-based childhood, you would have never found me on the Field Hockey field, ballet studio or shooting baskets (the outfits worn were alone a participation deterrent). But, the world was at my fingertips in the miracle of the written word. Books of all genre – from the magic of Tolkien to Laura Ingalls Wilder and captivated by the stories of the world from National Geographic and Walt Disney’s animation. No search engine to find it quickly, just an imagination and a library card.
I am sitting here in the kitchen of my new community in Washington, DC with the sounds of the city all around me and the sites that magnetically entrance me with as much strength as my youthful attraction to the life of Eleanor Roosevelt. Last night, I caught a glimpse of the PBS special, “Anne of Green Gables” that took me back to a first reading of that book in my favorite reading spot of our house in Kansas City –piled with pillows in the corner of the walk-in closet, discovering words that sparked new wanderings and wonderings. Last night, I re-encountered this phrase from that first reading of L.M. Montgomery’s book that seems to capture this moment in time – and my return to sharing life with you — “Mantle of Mystery” — this journey into the new that gives honor to what has passed and embraces the calls in the present.
The Mantle of Mystery — and so I begin the new. After 30 years of discovering my life as a Religious of the Sacred Heart, an educator, and a fierce defender and promoter of all things Detroit– I boarded the plane for DC and oddly felt like I was connected to my namesake who crossed the prairie from East to West in pursuit of a South Dakota dream — not to reject the Ireland of her past, but to take it forward with her. Here I am — lover of what is possible when right action follows right judgment, and a member of a family grounded in the fertile soil tilled by hands of farm and implement. Here I am, where veterans are honored and politics churns like the plants once did in Detroit. It is a Mantle of Mystery.
And so, I invite you to travel with me through these months — some of you have been faithful followers of “Faith Not Fear” for some time, some of you helped to craft my soul, others of you shaped my life as an educator, and many of you have given me the courage to leave the familiar because I made a vow — a commitment — as a Religious of the Sacred Heart to answer a call to love and to serve — to live the words of theologian Frederick Beuchner in Alphabet of Grace
“When you wake up in the morning, called by God to be a self again,
if you want to know who you are, watch your feet. Because where your feet take you, that is who you are.”
These days of Mantle of Mystery — as I am a newcomer — a “start-up-at-60” — I renew my understanding of what it means to be lost and need directions, to stand in ‘beginners mind’ all over again and remember what it means to be teach-able…this is my journey of “Faith Not Fear” into this Mantle of Mystery.
It will be my own way of home-making — some stories of the past and some of the present — some of the amazement I have of seeing the Washington Monument as “ordinary time” and being down the street from the USCCB in this time of cataclysmic challenge in our church. There will be days of tender, of strength, of home-sick,of heart-open, of heart-broken, of laughter, of lost and always the measure of the number of steps where my feet take me as I watch to discover who I really am.
Thank you — for this chance to awaken with you as together we create a world as philosopher Blaise Pascal suggested, “worthy of our children”