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From the Formation Corner

Maco Cassetta, CND

Formation is a little different these days due to the pandemic. Discernment in the novitiate has looked very different though, gratefully, its goals can continue to be met even in times of pandemic. We haven’t had much choice but to participate in this new reality and limit some form of interaction with the outside world.

Christa’s program, for the most part, has been very rich and happening online. Not surprisingly, classes related to formation are being conducted on Zoom platforms. However limiting it has been to meet up with others in formation, there have been opportunities to connect, and the Zoom gatherings have provided focus and purpose without the added in-betweens.

Here is a summary of the formation programs that Christa is and has been involved to date.

Christa participates in the “Live out Loud Program” out of California, designed to engage men and women religious from all parts of the North America in a two-hour weekly session of classes and prayerful integration. The program gives an overview of the theological and spiritual aspects of the vows, how to support our lives while finding balance through holistic living, Christology, and the grace of intercultural community living.

Also, Christa has been involved with an “In Search Program” for novices out of Philadelphia that addresses human growth and spirituality by exploring topics such as the stages of human development, family systems, communications, self-care, mindfulness, Myers Biggs, loneliness and solitude and intergenerational living.

In addition, the New York Hudson Valley inter-formation program has offered and is offering a day or weekend on healthy communication with Don Bisson, exploring prayer styles and traditions offered by the formators, the vow of obedience with Janet Mock, SSJ, living the vow of poverty as a blessing for the whole community with Lin Neil, SCJ, sexuality with Quinn Conners, O.Carm and Kathy Galleher, culture, communication and power perspectives with Arturo Chavez, and discernment and religious life with Gabriel Coté, SJ.

University courses that Christa has taken in the fall and is currently taking out of CTU in Chicago are the New Testament, Old Testament, and introduction to Liturgy. In addition, we began exploring CND-related topics that cover the history of the congregation and of Marguerite. The Heritage Booklets and the books from Pat Simpson have been a great resource. We have looked at charism, and we are just starting our work with the vows and the constitutions.

As a house, during these pandemic times, we have prayed for and offered our volunteer services to help with those that are hungry in our community. We help out at the Ecumenical Emergency Food Pantry, here in White Plains that is located literally up the street one morning a week. This communal experience has been wonderful in that together we have been participating in a common project. As a community, we have been conscientious about the ways we can participate in the life of the parish and help out in the different ministries of the church. Since the pandemic, we have taken our role as daughters of the church very seriously and have assisted where needed. Working, too, with the Mill Hill Fathers has been gift in that it has allowed us to work side by side and collaboratively with staff and volunteers in the parish and risk to engage in new approaches and activities. In the fall, Christa helped organize a prayer service of peace that took place on three evenings around the elections. These services took place outdoors on the steps of the church and attracted a good number of people in the neighborhood and in the parish of different cultures and backgrounds to come together to pray and sing.

So, in effect, we have not been idle, rather engaged in life as a formation community. While we haven’t been able to “receive” visitors for special occasions, we have taken the time to celebrate in special ways the holidays or birthdays and have some recreation and fun.

Central and core to our lived experience as a community has been our morning prayer and weekly faith sharing that have nourished and continue to nourish our spiritual lives.

As an overview, this is pretty much what is happening in the house of formation. Please continue to pray for Christa as she continues in her discernment, trusting that God will continue to lead her to God’s heart as she grows more rooted in her call wherever she is led. Also pray for us with Marguerite and Mary as we continue to hold and walk with Christa during these times.


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