Tag: change

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.

Finding the light: An international student’s experience

Finding the light: An international student's experience

My name is Valeriia Alipova, and I’m from Zaporozhe, in east Ukraine.  
I came to Canada with the Mennonite Voluntary Service (MVS), a year and four months ago.  

I would like to share a story of where I have seen the light of God in my life.  

When I first came to Winnipeg, I had many challenges: new country, new language, new people. For the first time in my life, I was away from family, church, and friends. I so was worried about my future life, I forgot to enjoy the present. 

But I knew God was there. Through all my worries I could see a light—the light of God, in people around me. 

Valeriia joins in the singing at Bethel Mennonite Church.

Since coming here, I’ve met so many interesting, generous, and lovely people!  I could hardly believe how friendly people are in Winnipeg—especially the people at Bethel Mennonite church.

They welcomed me with open hearts.  

People invited me over for supper to their homes, taking me grocery shopping, to concerts, Jets games, and sailing.

When I struggled with homesickness, they spent time with me, showing me God’s love and support. They gave me opportunities to learn and to grow, in both relationships with people, and with God.  

It’s the same for me here at CMU. So remember: you can be the light of God in someone’s life this year! 

Valeriia Alipova is entering her second year at CMU. She originally shared this in chapel during the 2016-17 school year. 

Change and the art of going with flow

Change and the art of going with the flow for #myCMUlife

I’m terrible at dealing with major life changes. I’m constantly trying to figure out where I am, and who I am, within the rhythms and patterns of school, work, and social life. And as life changes, I’ve had to learn to go change with it.

During my first semester of grade 9, instead of doing our usual summer road trip to Somewhere, Canada, my family took a sabbatical to Europe for three months. This was a fabulous opportunity. Everyone around me, from my friends to the elderly ladies at church potlucks, asked me how excited I was. In response, I’d plaster a giant smile on face, and sound just enthusiastic enough to placate them. But inside I was afraid of leaving my routine, my school, and friends, for a whole semester. I was anxious that all of my friends would forget who I was, and somehow I’d come back to school as the new kid.

On landing in Dublin, and looking up at the grand Celtic cathedrals surrounding me, though, all my apprehension disappeared. I was finally excited to travel and explore all these countries I had read about for years. And when I returned to school three months later, my friends had not forgotten me.

Change and the art of going with the flow for #myCMUlife

I was first drawn to CMU by family connections, and the Outtatown program, with no clue what I wanted to do with my life. I stay because of the interesting classes and the allure of a close-knit community. And while university is certainly stressful at times, and has led to a lot of questioning, the unexpected beauty of this place is it’s teaching me to adapt.

The answer to the question of “what am I doing here” is, I don’t know. I’m currently trying to understand people, and the world around me through classes in sociology, psychology, and international development. I’m building community through formal leadership opportunities, and casual chats at the Blaurock. I’m living in this beautiful time of being a second year when I can simply enjoy being in this space without actively worrying about the dark vortex of graduation. I’m learning to rest in the constant motion of university life.

Change and the art of going with the flow for #myCMUlife

As I think about where I’m going, I can’t but think of where I am coming from. I see it in my sister, who just finished soaking up the last few rays of sun in South Africa with Outtatown, an incredible learning experience that I can only hope was as meaningful for her as it was for me.

I’m inspired by my parents, who just finished travelling through China, using their medical and organizational skills to help with conferences for Mennonite Church Canada. I don’t yet know where I’m going, but I hope I can one day be as cool as they are, and use my love for people, and education in a similarly meaningful way.

And as I think about my family, stretched between three different continents, I find myself centred in this place, facing the uncertainties and questions that come with university life. And I think I’ll enjoy being here for a little while longer. 

Mackenzie Nicolle is preparing to enter her 3rd year at CMU, majoring in Intercultural Studies.

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