Tag: back to school

A year of living monastically

Sarah Moesker, a year of living monastically

I spent this past year living with The Sisterhood of St. John the Divine [SSJD] is an Anglican, Benedictine-style monastic community located in Toronto, Ontario.

The Sisters are an open community, welcoming people to join them for their chapel services, occurring four times daily, typically followed by a silent meal. They run a Guest House ministry, providing a quiet place for a variety of individual and group retreats. Some Sisters also provide spiritual care to the patients at St. John’s Rehabilitation Hospital next door to the convent.

The Sisterhood of St. John the Divine [SSJD]

“Why,” you ask? Now that is a great question!

Truth be told, I think I was beckoned to the convent by a God who called a timeout on my somewhat floundering efforts to do life.

God was like, “Yo, Sarah…” and there was a bunch more, but I had some trouble hearing it. I did manage to catch the gesture toward SSJD when I found myself pensively gazing, back and forth, between two things: a feeling of “You are not returning to CMU next fall” in one hand, and the emptiness of the other hand. 

Seated in the ambient sanctuary of St. Benedict’s Table’s evening service, the list of songs and announcements found its way into that empty hand, and I came across an advertisement from SSJD, calling young women to join them for a year. I sat holding those two things in my hands for the next two weeks, though the setting changed sometimes. Cue the cataclysmic word: Yes.

As for what I learned, in Mere Christianity C. S. Lewis offers a perspective on what it is like to let God into one’s life, where the life is the house and God the renovator:

At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of.”

So I guess I learned pretty quickly that there was a lot more on God’s agenda than on mine.

I learned a lot about how prayer is not just a thing one does but a way one lives. I thought, “oh la dee da, I will just go there and learn how to pray more regularly”. God responded, “Your whole life is a prayer. Come; let me show you how to be attentive to that reality.” Stepping into contemplative prayer has been like coming home to myself—the way God intended me to be, on my own, in prayer, and in relation to others.

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Through simply living the lifestyle of the Sisters, I also learned things about self-compassion, time-management, self-discipline, and the healing mystery of having structure. I developed a better sense of what a balanced life of prayer, work, leisure, and rest feels like—now I just have to remember to apply it.

There was also the healing experience of living in community, which normalized a lot of the elements of socializing and relationships that used to provoke tremendous anxiety.

Another area of growth and learning was my work as a Spiritual Care Provider at the rehabilitation hospital next door, visiting patients and helping out with the services in the hospital chapel. This experience provided some insights into not only the sort of work I would like to do but might also be good at.

These inchoate learnings are some of the things I will be taking back into my life as a student at CMU and into the community I will be living in this next year. 

Sarah Moesker returned to CMU this fall for her fourth year of a Biblical & Theological Studies major, with a minor in Psychology.

Corrymeela begins when we leave: Peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland

Emilie Roussis sits on the beach with a circle of friends, near Corrymeela, Northern Ireland.

For almost three months now I have been living at Corrymeela, a peace and reconciliation center in Northern Ireland.

I have felt overwhelmed and privileged to spend my time here encountering countless courageous individuals and groups working around the globe. In the face of violence and despair, many have taken risks to chase their visions of Shalom.

Some of these peacebuilding initiatives have manifested into cross-community storytelling with Protestants and Catholics in hopes of creating mutual understanding and empathy; as well as building environments where refugees can feel safe in a foreign land, and empowering youth for their futures.

When I arrived for the first time in Northern Ireland, I am ashamed to say that I was completely unaware of the history I was walking into. The violence, death, hatred, and sorrow that I soon became very acquainted with, were completely off my radar.

As far as I knew, I was in one country: Ireland.

I was ignorant of the horrors that had taken place, and eventually devolved into the separation of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

All my preconceived thoughts and assumptions continue to unravel as I meet and converse with people from around the world.

As I think about returning to Canada at the end of the summer, it is my hope that the wisdom I have gained from my new friends, will not only be applied to my studies, but also lived out into my everyday.

Sunset at Corrymeela, Northern Ireland.

At Corrymeela, they say that our experience begins after we leave. This assures me that I have no clue what will happen next.

If I had to try and sum up my time here, this poem would express it best. It is read every morning at worship as we think back to the people who established this place, the volunteers and staff who sustain it, and how we as individuals can embody it.

Courage comes from the heart.
And we are always welcomed by God,
The Croi of all being

We bear witness to our faith,
Knowing that we are called
To live lives of courage, love and reconciliation
In the ordinary and extraordinary moments of each day

We bear witness, too, to our failures
And our complicity in the fractures of our world.

May we be courageous today.
May we learn today.
May we love today. Amen

– Pádraig Ó Tuama

Emilie Roussis is entering her fourth year of a Peace and Conflict Transformation Studies major this fall at CMU.

Three weeks: a graduation poem

three weeks: a graduation poem by #CMUwpg student Emily Hamm

Three Weeks

I came to CMU four years ago
I said, “mom I’m moving to Winnipeg on Monday, we’ll have to pack the car.”
I said “I’ll stay for three weeks, and if I hate it I’ll come home.”
Three days after I got here I sobbed for two hours and I told her how I couldn’t do any of it.
          School hadn’t even started and I couldn’t do any of it.
I told her even my dorm room didn’t feel safe and that everything was terrifying
          while all the functional people ate smokies on the lawn and listened to Pocket Change.
She told me I could come home if I wanted.
I didn’t want to want to.

I went to class the next day. I was at least intrigued.
I realized there were people who wanted to think as much as I thought all the time.
I realized I could focus my thoughts on something other than fear.
So I studied what I wanted.
I didn’t study for a degree,
When Adelia sent me the forms to declare my major I put them in my trash folder and picked courses
based on what I wanted to take.
When Connor sent me the forms to declare my major I put them in my trash folder and picked courses
that I wanted to take.
When Vern sent me the forms to declare my major I put them in my trash folder and picked courses
that I wanted to take.
I filled out degree audit forms at the kitchen table with my friend and I cobbled together a degree out of
the things that I wanted to take.
(and a couple of unfortunate hail-mary communications fulfillments, thrown together to create a degree out of first year biologys and chemistrys, some comm. courses I took mostly because I like stories and an intense fascination with the old testament that sometimes accidentally involves the new testament
too)
And eventually I handed in my forms to declare my major and to graduate on the same day. (sorry)

Emily Hamm, (centre), with her family on graduation day at Canadian Mennonite University in June, 2017.

I took a degree that made me a person. I put myself together after time and again after breaking myself
apart. I picked up my dismembered arm and taped my kidneys back in
After
Relationships I got wrong
Privilege I had and couldn’t give away
Mental illness – you know PTSD-GAD-PDD-OCD all the letters I got that never went on my
transcript.

I loved some people and some people loved me and when it overlapped it was beautiful –
Like a venn diagram that’s just a circle – it was so clear.
And I learned things I didn’t want to, like when I fly overseas, someone’s home gets closer to flooding.
Like when I use a logical fallacy, I’m not really winning an argument.
Like how to write a marketing plan.

I learned a lot of things I did want to learn. Things that made me a person.
That communication theory explains how I talk to people, and how I should talk to people.
That honestly the best part of the Pentateuch is Shiphrah and Puah.

After academics shattered my faith I learned how to believe in Jesus again – also from academics.
I learned about the world wider than my degree.
I learned about bio and English,
chemistry and business,
geography and psychology,
environmental studies and sociology.
I saw the people around me become a countryside of roads, without separate end, beginning, only
connection,
rather than seeing them as islands, like the north half of Canada that no one wants to colour.

I learned the paths in the Assiniboine Forest and which ones are wide enough to walk with someone
side by side.
I learned what pedagogy means, and parsimonious. I learned what on earth a metaphysical dualism is
and that Illich’s work is uncomfortably prescriptive.
I learned reformational isn’t a word but it definitely should be,
And that “I’m going to bed” is sometimes a better choice than “Yes, let’s play another game of
foosball.”

But also that the answer to a 1am “Want to go for a forest walk?” is always yes.
And the answer to a 7am knock at the door is “come in.”

I didn’t come to CMU for a career path, which is good because I definitely didn’t find one.
I came to CMU for three weeks,
and I think I might have become a person here.
Sewn together, pieces in the hands of others, loose ends and all, God’s paint still dripping where it
hasn’t dried yet,
I might be a person here.

Emily Hamm graduated from CMU in April 2017.

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A students guide: how to transition into university life at CMU

With the last few weeks of summer drawing to a close, you may be starting to transition back into school mode; trading in those beach towels for textbooks, finalizing those timetables, and doing your last minute packing for your dorm room (just kidding, we know you’ve been packed for months now). You are about to begin your first year of university at CMU.

This transition might be exciting for you. It also might be scary. But guess what? The first week is designed to ease you into university and help you get established.

Here is a basic guide for what you should know as you start your first year at CMU:

The first week when you arrive is orientation week. Be prepared to meet A LOT of new people. It is a busy but energizing week where you have the chance to make new friends and get to know your professors. Carry your GO! guide with you wherever you go to know when and where all the fun and important events are happening. If you are at all stressed out about knowing where to go, how to find your classes, or confirm your registration, never fear—the campus will be flooded with student leaders and staff members who are eager to help and point you in the right direction.

It is also important for you to be familiar with your student portal and email—they will be your best friend when you are a student—use them. You will use them throughout your entire degree. Make sure that both your portal and email are working during the first few days when you arrive on campus. Your student portal has all the important information for your registration, classroom announcements, posted marks, etc. Each day you will receive the CMU Daily News in your student email, keeping you up to date with all the happenings on campus throughout the year. Stay on top of your portal and email and the faculty and staff will throw you a parade (maybe not, but they might give you a hug).

The first week is also your chance to buy your textbooks (new or used), which you can get at CommonWordBookstore and Resource Centre in Marpeck Commons. CommonWord  is a great resource for you during your first few weeks as you start—aside from textbooks you can get your bus passes and school supplies here! CommonWord will have your textbook lists for your classes. You can also purchase Ten Thousand Villages fair trade coffee at CommonWord OR Dogwood coffee at folio cafe for all those late night study sessions.

The most important thing to remember during your first week is to RELAX. This can be hard to remember, but it is important. You are not alone in this crazy transition—there are resources set up to help you succeed in your first year of university. Your first year is designed to help you get a sense for what you want to study and what your passions might be. The professors want to help nurture these passions to help you succeed in whatever you are doing. They will be more than willing to meet with you one-on-one to talk about an assignment, a class topic, bounce around career options, or just chat about life. You also will have the option to get peer (PAL) or professional tutoring to help you edit and develop your essays and writing skills.

Be excited to start your first year at CMU. Prepare yourself to enter into a compassionate, forgiving, and challenging community of individuals who are working to develop their understandings of the world, themselves, and God.

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