News & Resources

News & Resources

Word, Heart, and Presence: Reflections on 60 years as a CSFN

September 24, 2020

By Sr. Frances Smalkowski, CSFN

My mother disliked my fifth grade teacher who was also my school principal and eventually became my novice director. She even wrote her a letter and told her so. My mother said she felt that this teacher and principal was responsible for my attraction to religious life. What my mom didn't remember at the time was that I had been dressing my dolls in homemade religious habits since kindergarten. In 1997, Dr. James Hillman spoke of "this sort of thing" and phenomenon in his moving book The Soul's Code: In Search of Character and Calling.

So much has been written about the mystery of a religious vocation. It would seem that the more that has been said, the less there is understood.

As I ponder my sixty years as a sister, I continue to be in awe of this magnificent mystery. If anything, I've wondered how God has stood by me so steadfastly through my years. This fidelity on God's part is the only thing that I am certain about, even though there were times it didn't feel that way.

The puzzle, even for me, was dealing with and discerning my conflicting feelings of emotional attractions and love of family. How do I integrate all of this as I walk through each new day, meet new people, work and live in community, and have so many strong feelings? Here's where I especially knew God's steadfast presence not only in prayer, but also through the many people whom I encountered on my path of discernment. Without those many listening ears and generous hearts, I would not be celebrating this anniversary. And it's impossible to thank them all because numerous times it was only in retrospect that I realized they were helping me find my way.

Thank you, God, that my mom was joyfully present at my golden jubilee celebration! Thank you, Blessed Frances Siedliska and the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth, for these sixty formative and life-giving years! Thank you all family and friends for all the years of your love, caring, and support!

With Horatio Spafford, I resonate with his heartfelt hymn "It is Well with my Soul," as well as with my own "Golden Reminiscing" reflection ten years ago on my anniversary holy card:    

The scene in my mind:
   a fireplace and two
   comfortable chairs.

The memory--
   fifty years earlier
   a new postulant

Kneeling full of fervor
   in adoration
   of You, Jesus,
   in the Blessed Sacrament.

Similarly now--
   as though
   in an everpresent time warp

I find myself
   as a new golden jubilarian

Recalling those wondrous years
Of sharing, listening, telling
Knowing Your fidelity
   in word, heart, and presence...

Until death do us unite.

        Frances Smalkowski, CSFN


To read about our sisters who are celebrating 75, 50, and 25 years as a Sister of the Holy Family of Nazareth, please visit Congratulations to our 2020 jubilarians!

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