Excerpts

EXCERPTS FROM LETTERS

To Sisters in Eastern Europe from Sisters in the United States after viewing documentary Interrupted Lives: Catholic Sisters Under European Communism

Dear Sisters

Letter 1

Thank you for your witness of faith and fidelity. Our times in the world and in the church are very different than your experience and yet they have very many threads of similarities. In a country which espouses many freedoms, we are enslaved in a hedonistic and consumer culture. We are called to be counter-cultural witnesses. You survived by making daily choices to be counter-cultural.Your lives have taught me many things so I am indebted to you. You have taught me, and others of my era, that we can weather through the difficulties before us by “living through our times with perseverance and fidelity” that can only be sustained by great unity with God. Your rootedness in faith shows me that even in the worse conditions your identity and interior freedom was not taken from you. I am stirred to be more faithful to the essential elements of my own vocation.

In humble gratitude,

Letter 2

Your strength to awake each morning to greet the new day and say “yes, Lord, I am yours” is beyond my minds reach. Yet your response to the lived situation of cruelty and unjust treatment did not interrupt the strong conviction of which you are, “a loving daughter of Christ.” Your obedience to commands, your leaving family and community, your disruption of teaching and nursing professions which you loved, your heavily burden chores without adequate nourishment and rest, was not seen as a hardship but a service to God and His people. This universal injustice did not cause you to stray but instead to call other women to community of great love of God and the dear neighbor. Because of your faith-filled lives, I am grateful to all of you, and ask your prayers that I too, can continue my faith story.

My love and prayers in union with you,

Letter 3

The witness of your constant faithfulness to your vows, and your commitment to your community, even when forced to live apart from your Sisters, have confirmed for me that value of consecrated religious life in our world today. Through your stories, I have learned the value of:

  • a constant faith in the provident care of God
  • a willingness to love, pray for, and forgive those who oppress me
  • a generosity in accepting Christ’s cross of suffering in order to bring the Good News to people
  • the need to hold on to HOPE through whatever we are asked to endure

I regret that I was not more attentive to the circumstances you lived through during the years of your subjugation under communist rule. I am determined to do everything I can to foster a bondedness with women religious around the world, and a sense that we share a special call which unites us as ONE in our lives of service and love.

Thank you for your witness, and for sharing your stories with your Sisters, and with the broader Church in the United States.

My love and prayers in union with you,

Letter 4

Thank you for sharing your experience with us. Your faith and perseverance are almost more than I can take in.

One of the lessons I learned from you is about the resilience of the human spirit. Your utter forgiveness and large-heartedness toward those who did this to you, are such a lesson tome. They took your youth, your ministries, your community away from you and yet I heard no rancor as you reflected on that experience. You are such an example tome; I feel challenged by it. Hopefully, I will recall this as I am tempted to carry a grudge toward someone who hurts me.

. . .I don’t know where I was during all those years that I didn’t know any of this. I knew communism was evil, but your lives have made it so much more concrete. Never again may others know the experiences that have been yours. Your lives have touched mine-and I am grateful.

Your sister,

Letter 5

Today I was challenged to walk in your footsteps and to enter your hearts as they were as you experienced 40 years of communist oppression. What I experienced cannot equal yours, of that I am sure, but I give you my love, my admiration and my gratitude for your witness, your fidelity, your perseverance and courage.

. . .You embraced your pain of incarcerations, separations, feelings of abandonment and continual facing of the unknowns and in embracing them allowed God to embrace you and heal you. My fears and my pains right now would be minimal on a scale compared with yours but they are mine and ours now, so I wish to embrace them with the same love and courage as you did.

I learned from your stories how you took adverse situation – imprisonment, deportation- and more- and turned it to an opportunity to give your gift of service to your fellow prisoners, your captors, and the sick and challenged. You made a difference in their lives. And your forgiveness! Oh, so God-like!

Thank you for walking before us, before me, in great faith and undying hope.

Letter 6

. . .especially to Sister Clara who spent 14 years in prison.

Thank you for your steadfast fidelity to God and community, for your beauty and for your overreaching love for your own and your persecutors. I am deeply touched.

I pray that I, too, may radiate steadfast fidelity, inner beauty, and an all inclusive love, especially of those to whom I view as “the enemy.”

May your final days be ones that you can see your life was not in vain. Out of your “dying” is coming new life for many.

My deepest gratitude and love,

Letter 7

. . .another excerpt from a letter to Sister Clara

Your life story has challenged my own living of religious life, especially in a desire to live Eucharist. I want to do this in the following ways: . . .deepening a sense of Buddhist mindfulness. I hope to live “Eucharist” in the context of the Universe Story, recognizing my kinship with all creatures, all people.

Your life (lives) call me to deepen my roots in Eucharistic living. I hold you in my heart.

Letter 8

Once you said when crossing the border into a still communist country: “You can take away my belongings, you can take away my reputation, but you cannot take away my integrity.”

You seemed to fit the ideal of a prophet’s voice as you sought to invite your sisters back to community after 40 years; unafraid and openly saying the truth that you saw with your eyes on the goal, Jesus Christ.

How would you urge today’s American sisters, who live in a materialistic society, to be a prophetic voice?

Sincerely,

Letter 9

As I viewed the documentary of Interrupted Lives, I became aware of the many emotions that I would have experienced, primarily the fear, anger, doubts and even hopelessness. The challenges and struggles of survival would have been overwhelming to me. The only way I could have managed to continue living would be to know that God was always with me.

Your stories give me hope and no matter what the challenging circumstances, there is the need to support and encourage one another.

Let us pray and support one another on our journey.

Letter 10

What a powerful experience to learn of your experience! Thank you.

The thing is, it would have an impact to learn about what you endured even if I thought it was a story that is over. But I’m convinced that your lives, suffering, survival and learning illustrates not just what human beings were capable of doing to one another, but what we continue to do today.

. . .I long for us as contemporary modern women religious to move with your strength and faith in our world and take leadership in the movement (or to support the growing movement) that awakens the human race to the one-ness that we are. Some say we are on the cusp of the next evolutionary step – the discovery of compassion….the realization that what we do to others we do to ourselves.

Keep reminding us to shout, as contemporary writers from many disciplines, that it is the inner life, the inner core, that got you through, and will get the human race through this next stage.

Again – Thank you

Letter 11

Truly I can call you “sisters” because you are valiant survivors of an effort to banish from one part of our world the call of (religious) “chosen” women to speak to our world what it truly means to be “chosen.” As the “Christ” set in motion a pattern for the “chosen,” you have followed in noble ways that again speak to a world caught in strife meant to determine who will live and who will die – philosophically and religiously. You bore a terrible cross and crucifixion and have risen to new life.

I ask your prayers for your Sisters of the western world that our eyes be opened, our spirits strengthened and our hearts centered in a God for whom we go forward or stay back.

Your sister in the Christ,

Letter 12

In deep gratitude I say thank you for allowing me to share your story. You have challenged me in ways you do not know.

You have taught me the “power of the promise”, both of God’s faithful love to all of us, and our promise in return to love. Even though many of you lived without the physical presence of your sisters, you knew that you shared the struggles and simple joys in a difference expression of community.

. . .I am reminded of Abraham Heschal’s definition of a prophet, “a person who knows what time it is.” You adapted, you let go, and you “had to change”. . . What time I ask is it for us, today?

Since we are connected by our relationship as Sister, I want to share your story with those I journey with now. Your story will inspire us, and hopefully keep in perspective our challenges, our prison cells (some self made) – and nudge us to “bring flowers” to the cells of those who live in them.

. . .Your strength, your many resistances, your “choosing your hill to die on”, can give witness to us, as we struggle to do the same.

Thank you. . . for being “just a sister away.”

Your sister,

Letter 13

. . .what matters is that you kept your integrity; you kept your faith. That is a powerful lesson that I am taking with me. While events and outcomes may be relative our own integrity and belief system is not. Integrity is what we have left when everything else is in chaos. You are a powerful witness to that.

I think the easier way at times might have been to succumb to the values you were asked to embrace. Yet, you did not. What a challenge that is for me living in today’s culture. I knew what drew me to religious life and what I espouse. Others may have differing ideals that may or may not agree with. The challenge is not to be swayed – just as you were not.

Part of your strength comes from your solidarity with others, your sense of belonging. You were held together by a common bond which included common work, common schedule and a determination to not give in to communism.

……..What is our solidarity or bonding? We need to learn from you and explore that question and its significance for us.

Thank you for your lives. May God bless