The first Sinai Year in the New Congregational Novitiate NDS

Canonical Year 2014/2015

Orientation time: End of January – March 25 2014
Canonical Year: March 2014 – March 2015

Victoria arrived on January 29th, and Alejandra and Clara on the 30th; Rozeni came in February and, soon after, Arlyne and Joey arrived. Sr. Michele also arrived at the end of January to spend several weeks with us, and with her we began regular Hebrew lessons, learning the alphabet.

At that time we occupied 4 bedrooms in the guesthouse, plus room No 13 which we used as a Community room, with a little kitchen, for our meetings and for supper preparations. All the Novices shared rooms: Rozeni and Arlyne, Alejandra and Victoria, Joey and Clara. We soon set up our prayer space, for which the brothers where so kind as to allow us to use the tribune of the large Chapel, in which they had established their prayer space. After the arrival of Arlyne and Joey, we made a 5-day Pilgrimage to the Old City of Jerusalem and Betlehem, visiting the most important Holy Sites.

Our schedule includes daily Bible readings. We read the NT following the historical order, and so began with Galatians, then Thessalonians I and II and so on; by December 2014 we finished our reading of the New Testament, with the book of Revelation. In January 2015 we will begin to read the First (Old) Testament, spending 20 minutes each day reading two chapters, beginning with Genesis.

Each novice also accepted the task of reading, and re-writing as a word document, the books of the Origins of Sion. Our word edition of all of these books (1 to 5 as well as the event of the 20 of January) was finally finished and sent to Sister Elisabeth Losinsky, for whatever corrections may need to be done even in the original texts, in line with the new understanding of our origins in Sion.

Very soon after her arrival, Rozeni began an English course at Berlitz for 2 months, since she needed further help to improve her English. In our first weeks together we also focused attention on developing our understanding of religious life, as well as having lectures with Sr. Anne Catherine on Teshuva and Pessach. We had a study-tour to Yad VaShem, the Shoah memorial center, after a preparation with Sr. Michele, who introduced us in 2 sessions into the events leading up to the Shoah.

At the beginning of April we moved into our house, and for the first week we were very busy, cleaning and settling in. We celebrated the Holy Week at Ecce Homo, joining in some of the Biblical Program’s activities marking the most important moments of the week. Father Putman, a Jesuit, who has served all his life in the Middle East, began giving us two-day retreats every two months.

During the Congregational Finance Meeting at Ein Karem in May, we had many visitors. By then we were still buying some furniture for our house as well as some equipment that seems essential to our contemporary way of living: television, computers, etc. We shared in the celebration of Br. Tiago’s final vows on May 6th and, with the Finance Meeting group, we visited the site of Jesus’ Baptism near Jericho. Sr. Michele returned to Belgium and, unfortunately, with her departure we began to forget some of the Hebrew we had learned, as other activities took our attention. Beginning of May Sr. Darlene spent a week in the Novitiate community during the absence of Sr. Juliana and she lead the Novices in singing practise and guided English reading. Sr. Ivete gave us input on prayer and Sr. Jilvaneide on the song of Miryam. Sr. Mary Babic spent an evening with us, and visitors filled our house with life.

By the mid of May we began working with Sr. Elisabeth Losinski on the origins of Sion, and participated as much as possible in the celebrations during Pope Francis’s visit to the Holy Land. Sr. Anne Catherine shared with us again, this time with an input on Shavuoth and Pentecost. In the spirit of Shavuoth, we visited a Kibbutz, where we joined the community in thanking the Lord for the first harvest. At the end of the session with Elisabeth each one wrote a personal reflection on that session, which was shared via the newsletter. Newsletters where sent out, at first on a monthly basis, and then every two months, and now we are aware that the web site has become the means to share our life with others on a weekly basis. We began on a monthly schedule to present our home countries, Guatemala, Philippines, Egypt and Brazil were special prepared food and folklore dominated our cultural evening.

By mid-June we began weekly sessions with Sr. Maureen on community living and human development. We also began visiting projects like the Tent of the Nations in Beit Jala, and the centre for the handicapped in Ein Karem which is run by the Sisters of Charity. Sr. Kasia gave us three sessions, one on the history of the Ein Karem village, and the others on the different movements within Judaism and their distinctive ways of living. In the Constitution we looked at religious life in Sion. Sr. Aracely shared with us her life, of which so many years have been spent in a Muslim country (Tunisia). We had a session with Fr. Michael Fritzgerald, a White Father, who gave us input on basic Islamic history and Mohammed the Prophet. Sr. Anne Catherine continued her introduction to Judaism, and to the Jewish feasts as they came along. Sr. Marge shared with us some thoughts about Community life. By the end of July Sr. Ivone had arrived and she soon began to take English classes at Berlitz School.

Due to the Gaza war, we were not able to go for our planed holiday in Tel Aviv, where we had booked rooms in the Jaffa Hostel. So, we had a free week in Ein Karem; during the week everyone could sleep in if she wished, and we had no work and no classes!

In the month of August we reflected on prayer as it is presented in the Constitution and in the Origins of Sion, and we gave special attention to how Sion prays. Alejandra, Arlyn and Juliana joined the Elijah Institute’s Summer School on prayer, which was held at Ecce Homo. Right after their return we began to prepare for our Galilee walk. Sister Anne Catherine ended her weekly sessions on basic Judaism with a study on the Shema Israel. We participated in some volunteer work with the UN after the Gaza war, and continued our classes with Sr. Maureen on human development, which led us to many questions. We enjoyed a visit to the Bible exhibition. We bought winter “blankets” (vests) and sandals, on sale, for our Galilee walk. We also worked in the garden as a way of reducing some of the tension due to the political situation and to all our questions in relation to the sessions with Sr. Maureen. We realised that garden work has a positive effect on community dynamics, and helps us to grow together as a community by working on the soil with our body. Sr. Ivone began to lead us in community dynamic. Which from now one we scheduled in a rhythm of every second weekly input.

September brought the Jewish “High Holy Days”. Sr. Anne Catherine taught us how to make a “necklace” of texts, using the Jewish High Holy Days for our study during the following weeks. Sr. Maureen continued working with us on human development. We have been very faithful to our retreat times with Fr. Putman. We also began daily walking practise for our Galilee pilgrimage, and so became acquainted with the little streets around Ein Karem and up Mount Herzl as well.

For Yom Kippur we stayed at Ecce Homo so as to get a feeling of this feast in Jerusalem, and had the opportunity to welcome Yom Kippur at a synagogue and then to walk through Mea Shearim and West Jerusalem. Sukkoth was the last feast in the series of the High Holy Days, and our visit to a “sukka” with Sr. Anne Catherine was surely a moment of inspiration for all of us.

Then the time had come for our Galilee walk and so Sr. Darlene arrived from Egypt to join us in this Pilgrimage in which we hoped to meet Jesus as we walked around Nazareth, and down to Cana and through the areas of his first ministry in Capernaum around the Sea of Galilee.

After our return we had the privilege of a session on computer skills in Excel with Liz, a friend of Darlene, before we began our volunteer work in the Kehila with migrant children and in the guest house at Ein Karem, which will continue until the end of January. Also Sr. Ivone began some volunteer work in the French hospital for terminal ill patient and Sr. Juliana began her Hebrew lessions.

During the month of November we worked on the Charism of Sion; each one prepared a power point presentation and then, out of those six, we prepared one presentation as a community project. Now we are approaching Christmas and Hanukkah, with Sr. Anne Catherine again introducing us to the feasts, and Fr. Putman leading us in a retreat to prepare ourselves prayerfully. Sr. Lucy Thorson reflected with us on Nostra Aetate and the development of Jewish-Christian relations particularly since the Second Vatican Council. During these weeks of Advent, Sr. Jilvaneide is leading us in the Lectio Divina.

The Ein Karem community is offering a weekly study of the gospel of St. Mark and the Parashat, in which some of us participate with the Ein Karem community of contemplative sisters, apostolic sisters, brothers, and associates, as a way to deepen our understanding of the mission of the guest house through studying scripture together. We are finishing the year 2014 with the input about the circumcision of Jesus by Sr. Ann Kathrin and welcoming the New year with midnight prayer.

The sessions that we have planned for the coming months are: Non-violent communication, the History of Jewish-Christian relations from the perspective of the Catholic Church, and the Jewish people and their sacred scriptures. Sr. Maureen will continue her sessions, in which we will focus on membership, belonging, etc., and Sr. Trudy and Sr. Phil will introduce us to the “world of finances”. We will also continue working with the constitution, now in a study on the vows; that will be our focus for the remaining weeks of our Canonical Year which will close with a 5-6-day retreat at the end of March.