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Juliana’s Pandemic and Sabbatical Year

When the pandemic year becomes a Sabbatical year.

More than a year ago, life began to change with the emergence of the Corona Virus.

During the first weeks, I experienced that my time was filled with more time to pray, to reflect, often and for longer periods. At this time, I was still thinking that within a month or two everything would be back to normal. So now, much later than anticipated, after 16 months of such slowing down, life is gradually becoming normal again here for us in Israel; whatever this new “normal” means!!

It was not only this “slowing down” that I experienced during these months but I also organized the computer and cleansed it of all the unnecessary junk; the house got a good cleaning too. A few months later it became clear, that this was a world-wide calamity and that it would continue for longer than just a few weeks or months. Meetings or gatherings became prohibited, retreats in personal presence were not offered, and so the norm became zoom or other online platforms to meet and encounter the other.

My first retreat was one suggested by Sr. Rita. She invited me to join a zoom meeting with Ron Rolheiser, from the Queen’s House Spiritual Centre in Saskatoon, Canada. From then onward, I began to receive their newsletter and I saw the many programs which were being offered via zoom. So, as part of a spiritual sabbatical year which was becoming my reality, I signed up for the 30-day retreat in daily live. There were 15 participants and each participant was required to have a personal spiritual director. From September to May this group of 15 met every two weeks via zoom to walk together and share the Ignatian way of following Jesus Christ.

During these months I also participated once with the Oblates of Toronto, and once with Queen’s House in a short spiritual direction course. This ministry is a call which has come back to me over some time; the call to have more knowledge and experience of how to accompany someone spiritually. I also went back to my notes from my novitiate formation course in 2006. I have realised that this way of listening and learning continues to deepen within me.

My second involvement was to focus on Hebrew language and so I began to watch television for one hour a day. I especially focused my attention on the news. At the beginning, what I heard were just sounds, but when time went on, these sounds became words, and then it became an encounter for me. This “encounter” does not mean that I understand every word, but that I can distinguish the everyday words spoken by Israelis. It’s really exciting, to realize that I am also getting better in this useful communication skill!

As well as these two main activities, I participated in the zoom teaching organized by our Sion Centre in Bayswater London, the Centre for Biblical Formation (CBF), and by the Australian sisters in AUS. I am also following the study of the Gospel of St. Mark in Hebrew with Fr. David. During the days from Easter to Pentecost another zoom meeting opened up for me which was the reading of the Acts of the Apostles with the Biblical Society in Linz, a German-speaking group.

The online platform Workplace, which was created by the Congregation, has become a source of sharing and awareness of the involvements of the sisters and the Family of Sion all over the world. So, there I have been able to experience the art show of the Moravia school in Costa Rica; learn about the sisters’ involvements in Brazil or the Philippines; create some group in which I am interested or participate in other groups. So, it was here that the Vocation and Come & See Group was created. Today Sr. Maria, living in the Philippines, Sr. Andrea living in Spain, and myself are the power behind this initiative. We have meetings with interested young people on the topic of our Congregation Notre Dame de Sion (NDS). At these gatherings those who are interested can get to know one another and ask questions. Every two months we offer a short teaching on the History of NDS and a Vocation Story of one of our sisters. So far, we have invited Anne Catherine, Kasia and Rita. They were called and generously accepted the invitation to share and give some insights into religious life in the Congregation. The young women are from Brazil, Costa Rica, Philippines, Israel and Poland.

As I conclude I can see that this year of the Corona Pandemic has given me a chance, both to get involved in fresh initiatives and to learn new skills and wisdom. So, the year has become for me a Sabbatical year in every sense. I have rested, been open to new ways of listening, hearing and engaging. I have followed my passion, to promote vocation awareness and to learn more about the reality and diverse manifestations of Anti-Semitism. In these last months of the Sabbatical Year that God offered me, I am also having some physical treatment. For this I receive a Chinese massage once a week. I find that it is a very great help for my neck and back.

In our Constitution # 84 it says that the aim of Continued Formation is to help each one grow in her experience of God, in her participation in community life, and in the service of others.

I thank my community for carrying me during this time. The above activities and orientations have been my way of engaging myself in a Sabbatical year during the Pandemic. I have experienced a deeper growing together, which has been a delight and deep experience of living life to the full.

With gratitude,

Juliana NDS
Ein Karem, Juni 2021

The cry of the heart


A reflection by Carolina
I would like to base my reflection on two points:

* The first: The cry of the Heart.

Many of us, at some point have experienced the cry of the heart, a feeling of meeting what gives us true happiness. And sometimes we look for it in a profession, with friends, with our partner, in the way of life we live. In the end, no matter how what we do, this crying does not stop, it does not calm down. Until through prayer and a good relationship with God we achieve comfort and calm.

In my personal case, I could say that from the process of Discernment that I lived in Sion, this cry was extinguished. Calm, peace, and joy arrived in a real and full way, and problems and adversities do not have the same strength in me. There is something stronger that sustains me and keeps me hopeful and that is God.

* The Second: The important thing is not what he saw, but what he became.

My experience with God in the last three years has grown significantly. Today precisely with this phrase I felt within me the confirmation of a call that God had sent to me in previous days.

Thanks to the discernment process I discovered that I really like psychology. On the other hand, I wanted to study English as a subject that is now required in all jobs. By an opportunity given by Divine Providence I managed to enter to study English and Portuguese. But the same love for psychology led me to investigate and I realized that in Korea one of the main causes of death is suicide. This is because people feel lonely, they have no one to talk to, or share their successes, their sadness. That led me to find a way to learn the three languages. Because I felt the need to help, I remembered the phrase of Pope Francis “No one is saved alone”. It was at that moment that my motivation was transformed. Now I can say that I am preparing to become a psychologist, but at the same time I want to learn to speak in multiple languages so that I can help people of different languages discover how great they are and how happy they can be if they allow God to work on them.

* My summary; Today I am confirmed that God calls me to mix my spiritual experience, with psychology and languages. I want to dedicate my life to help others to discover themselves, and to find a way to be happy being guided God. I want to be able to approach people and speak to them in their own language in order to help them, to be more compassionate, and to show them that they are not alone that there is someone who loves us and wants us to be happy.

Thinking about that, wanting to achieve it and make it come true makes the cry in my heart stop completely. I would like to think that something similar lived in the founders hearts of the congregation.


Christmas letter 2020

Advent, Christmas a time of new beginning, this year more than ever!

A year has passed, and Advent and Christmas a year ago were still a time with no worries, a time of old normality, a time like all the other years.

This year is different. Feelings, activities, even work are filled with insecurities, and many uncertainties are mixed in together with a little bit of adventure. Wearing a mask, yes or no, washing your hands and disinfecting as often and as thoroughly as possible and keeping your distance are part of the new reality. No big events are on the agenda. Christmas markets, and aimless shopping are out of our daily routine. This time of Covid-19 calls us to be recollected, to reflect a little, to think about whether I need all this or is it possible to exist with a little less?

Questions are increasing like: why am I alive, what is my task in this often big and often diminishing world; and also the question: what does it look like inside my four walls, inside our four walls? Can we still remain together, do we notice that my I must become a WE, for the earth will only carry and bear us together.

The readings before Advent are often from John‘s Book of Revelation and from the Book of Daniel, where a world is shown us in which the old order collapses and something new comes about. Many of us read these books as stories about past times or as something that will happen in the future. But is this correct? Aren‘t John‘s revelations rather the concrete story of the first Christians’ life in the Roman Empire? Aren‘t they the questions asked by Christians about how things will continue? What will the new every-day life look like, even if now there is the threat of being torn apart by chaos, hatred and oppression, pain and suffering? Doesn‘t this way of seeing things hold the great hope that there will be a future, that there will be a new beginning, that the old will pass away? And what this future will look like becomes our task! There is no expectation of salvation in which we do nothing but watch! In God‘s plan for creation, we are asked to take part in constructing it, to take part in shaping it. Our God is a God of creation who has created life and who gives life at every moment of our being!

Crib in the Novitiate in Ein Karem

What is our daily life today, how would we describe it, what do we learn from it? This life, this human life is limited, but spiritual life is eternal. The human person was formed from the earth, but this person became alive only after God‘s Spirit was breathed into him and her. We are constantly concerned that our looks, our thoughts be modern, that our I and our life should function in accord with the general rules of the mass. We find orientation in the conventions of society, and corresponding with the trends of our time is to be “in”, We dress according to what the fashion shows us, and this as cheaply and extensively as possible, even if people in other countries are exploited for this; and we think that derogatory comments about our neighbors and strangers living with us are maybe even cool. 

What is cool is that in Advent, on Christmas, God became a human person, that the timeless, eternal One accepts limitation by becoming a human being.

To all of you a blessed time of Advent and a Christmas of becoming human, for being human means living with limitation.

Sr. Juliana, nds

Letter from St. John in Montana, 08/2020

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Since the middle of March we, in the novitiate community, are mostly totally confined to the convent and only the necessary errands are made. Doctor’s visits, shopping of groceries or the pharmacy, and after the lockdown also the hairdresser. The rest of the time we occupied ourselves within the convent walls. At the beginning we thought we had lots of time available but that was not the reality. For me my computer has been organised, and cleaned from all the unnecessary objects and papers. Movies were watched and there I found the Episode “The Chosen”. There has been more time for prayer and reflection. Reading a novel or spiritual book became a daily routine.

Others in the community became engaged in preparing zoom community prayer to enable others to participate, Jerusalem community members and the sisters who live alone, like in Krakow or Ireland. The house is receiving a good clean and all the unnecessary things are distributed and given away. The Garden is full of a plentitude of fruits which God seems to have given us during this Pandemic. There where plums, peaches, strawberries, pears, apples and now grapes. Compote has been made, as well as jams for the different Sion communities in Jerusalem.

In the vegetable garden tomatos and cucumbers, pees and kohlrabi keeps our meal table fresh and healthy. Now during this second wave of Pandemic in Israel the workers benefit from all this as well.

The Kehila day-care centre and the Orphanage enjoy the weekly box of grapes which Father Roman brings them after our weekly Eucharistic Celebration with him.

Life has become busy again in spite of the Corona virus outside the convent wall, and sometimes I wonder how did we fit in all our activities like volunteer work and wandering around in Jerusalem etc before the Corona Virus. Zoom encounters, skype meetings and sharing with friends and family via (which is an opensource and Europe based alternative to zoom without time limits) has become the new social encounters – a way of asking how everyone is. Technology has become a way of relating and encountering others.

Retreats are offered via zoom as swell as courses in continued formation. Sion centres also make sure that Knowledge is updated and learning is happening. To some extent I, Juliana enjoy this new way of learning as well as being able to participate in a course on Spiritual direction, and deepening biblical knowledge. We all become little experts using our iPads and Computers in our Community prayer time and sharing’s.

Learning via internet has been a big surprise for me in this time of the Corona virus Pandemic and a way to be even more conscious about the environment. The fact of not needing to fly anywhere in order to meet and participate in a continued Formation course or meeting is a blessing! Not to forget all our Birthday Celebrations happened during the summer months and lockdowns and we were able to enjoy and laugh with one another.

“In Sion Firmata Sum”

News and greetings, June 23rd, 2019 was the day we sent out the letter of an initiative presented by the Congregational Novitiate Formation Team. and 23 sisters and friends of Sion joined the initiative to make a difference in our daily living.

The “pact” we invited to, called us at this point to commit ourselves to live deeply one day a week as a day of “praise and thanksgiving”. This could mean to turn off our gadgets, slow down, notice, listen to the word, enjoy one another, do something creative…

Some month’s later the world experienced a lock down in many countries because of the corona virus which interrupted all work, social and interactive daily life. We were forced, to keep physical distance and wear face masks and gloves to protect oneself and others. The Pandemic took hold of our life’s.

In looking back over the time I was keeping the pact of “Praise and Thanksgiving“ during this year, which interrupted my lifestyle to some degree, I would like to share what I learned.

I learned that routine can be very life-giving, routine can be something one can look forward too, as by Friday I long for my day of praise and thanksgiving. I learned to let go off the activity one day a week by giving myself time to sit with my God more consciously over a length of time. I could read a book or just waist time by enjoying nature and by seemingly doing nothing important but just being.

I learned that God’s commandment “to keep the day of rest” once a week has not as it´s goal, to restrict my freedom but calls me to engage me even more and to get to know and learn who God is. Resting with the one who created me to be helps to become more the human being which is in need to look back, to reflect on my actions, my doings and connect and keep in contact united with my creator for the week to come.

(Genesis 2:1 “Thus heaven and earth were completed with all their array. On the seventh day God had completed the work he had been doing. He rested on the seventh day after all the work he had been doing. God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on that day he rested after all his work of creating.)

The Word of Jesus “remain in me” tells me to stay connected, to be in communication and so I wish us all a happy first anniversary of the day of “Praise and Thanksgiving”.

John 15:1-11 (Remain in me, as I in you. As a branch cannot bear fruit all by itself, unless it remains part of the vine, neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me, with me in him, bears fruit in plenty; for cut off from me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a branch… If you keep my commandments you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my own joy may be in you and your joy be complete.


Lockdown and Easter 2020

In this time of lockdown, the Coronavirus has forced the cancellation of events and this situation calls us to change our life to a greater understanding of life’s reality, maybe to the understanding that we are not made of permanency.

And so how do we live this time of uncertainty, of interacting with restrictions? Inside our Convent in Ein Karem we are interacting very little, remembering to keep the two meters distance between us, which is not always easy to remember. Our daily routine of prayer, mass via media streaming, daily duties of cooking, we do little shopping, but when necessary we go for milk, fruit and vegetables. I am the lucky one because my Hebrew lessons continue via Zoom with lots of homework to do. Our daily prayer becomes a zoom opportunity as Ania in Poland and Therese in Ireland, also Rose Theresa and Maureena participate with us in this media way of connecting and praying together.

One Friday we celebrated the beginning of Shabbat together with Maureena who came to join us. The quietness and the beauty of the place with its spring flowers blossoming and the smells of the first blooming of the orange and lemon trees made the place a heaven for itself, if there wouldn’t be knowledge that we are living a moment of crisis, of uncertainty for so many of us inside the convent walls and outside.

Colette is staying in contact with all the workers and all of us with our families and friends via internet, telephone or using What’sApp.

Erika is bringing life to the Ecce Homo community with her creativity and beauty she creates around her.

Some of us are more fearful then others and some are more frustrated then others.

The question to be on service and at the same time to be cautious of the other’s fear and health continues to be a daily question?

I am more connected via What’s App with my family these days.

The Passion reading of Palm Sunday Mat: 26:28 gives account of the word “But Jesus was silent” “ or he did not answer anymore, one word”. When it comes to proclaim Truth Jesus speaks and is judged, or just answers, “you say so”. So I wish us all the Easter celebration were the proclamation of truth fills our life and gives us the courage to proclaim.

Sr. Juliana NDS