As many of you know, I live with two other sisters: Sisters Sandy and John Paul. The three of us are moving to our provincial center property in Munson Township in a few weeks. First, a little background.
The three of us have lived in this house together for about 15 years. This is the longest I have ever lived in one place since I entered the convent in 1962. Though the provincial center is only 7 miles away, it is a different world from this one. Here I live with only 2 sisters, in a house, in a neighborhood, in a parish. In my new home, I will return to “institutional style living” in sprawling buildings that house 171 sisters (now including me).
My head tells me it’s time to move–for several reasons including the condition of this house. But my heart has yet to fully embrace the idea. It says things like, “But you love this old house… and look at your beautiful neighborhood with all those huge maple trees and Victorian houses… And what about your wonderful neighbors: Matt and Drew, Kate, Karyn and Jeff, Dave, Bill and Louise?..
“And what about this parish where you’ve received so much spiritual nourishment over the years… and where you buried your parents and your brother? … And where you’ve come to know so many good, prayerful, and caring parishioners?… And won’t you miss the square in Chardon, with its stately old courthouse that can be seen miles away?… And won’t you miss all those trips to the grocery store, postoffice, library, and nearby parks? And the yard graced with lilacs, lilies-of-the-valley, and peonies?… And what about the Maple Festival–especially that parade that sometimes brought tears to your eyes—especially when the veterans led the way with their flags, and the first responders inched along in their bright red fire trucks?
This house has a long history. According to courthouse records, the original land was purchased in 1843 by Pardon Wilbur. (Don’t you just love his first name?) In 1848, he sold a 19 acre parcel to a woman named Prudence White. (Another quaint name!) It was she who built the original house. I wonder: how did a woman—in that era—manage to buy land and build a house? Though we could find nothing about her, we proudly display her name on the plaque on our front porch.
Over the years, the house was expanded and updated and was home to many families. But in 1952, the diocese of Cleveland (under Bishop Hoban) bought the house and the land for St. Mary’s Parish, established in Chardon in 1909. In 1961, the parish opened an elementary school, grades 1-4, with 171 students. The staff consisted of 3 Sisters of Notre Dame and 2 lay teachers. On August 14, 1962, four Sisters moved into this house that the parishioners had renovated for them.
Over the years, I have written a lot about letting go. But it’s one thing to write about it and another thing to live it. I find myself going through all kinds of emotions, from: “Moving is no big deal, Melannie. People move all the time. Get over it! Besides, consider yourself extremely lucky. You have another home to move into—with many wonderful people too! What about all those people today facing eviction or experiencing homelessness? And didn’t Jesus himself say, ‘Make your home in me’?”
But another part of me says, “This house is more than a house. It’s a holy place. It has housed not only physical bodies; it has housed hopes… dreams… prayers… fears… joys… sorrow… laughter… and love.” And so I take all my jumbled emotions to prayer and say something like this:
My Sweet Beloved God, thank you for this house I have called home for 15 years. Thank you for the shelter it has provided for me. Thank you for its beauty, its homeyness, its history, its quirks, its mystery. I thank you too for Sandy and JP who have shared so much life with me in this holy place: good times, hard times, sad times, fun times… and all those blessed ordinary times that comprised so much of our time together. Give me the strength to let go of what was, so I may reach for what is yet to be. May I move into my new home with trust, hope, and gratitude. For I firmly believe, wherever I will go, you are already there with arms open wide to welcome me. Amen.
Did any words in this reflection touch your heart today? If so, which? Do you know why?
What has been your experience of moving? Hard or easy? Rare or frequent?
What helps you to let go of places, situations, loved ones, and even your own will?
PS: I will be giving a Zoom retreat “Hanging onto Hope” Oct. 2 and 3 sponsored by Mount St. Joseph Retreat Center in Maple Mount, KY. The retreat begins Friday evening and ends Saturday afternoon. It includes conferences, sharing sessions, prayer, handouts, music, videos. The cost is $60. See Mount St. Joseph’s website for further details. It would be fun meeting some of you via zoom!
Lea Salonga is a Filipina singer/actress best known for her Tony Award winning role in Miss Saigon. She was also the singing voices for two Disney princesses, Jasmine and Mulan. May this song, “The Journey,” remind us that our journey of life begins and ends in God’s love.
Would you like to respond to anything in this reflection or video? If so, please do so below. We would love to hear from you!