Saint John Eudes is a topic of interest to Sisters of the Good Shepherd. The history of our order begins with him, so we were excited to be a part of a workshop in June that was titled Saint John Eudes: Love with His Great Heart.
The Saint John Eudes workshop with Sr. Marie-Françoise Le Brizaut marked the third year in a row that the Province of Mid-North America has had a formation session for Sisters and Laity. We come together at these annual sessions to spend time together for a few days and to go deeper into a specific aspect of our spirituality.
I love you Lord … You are the Heart of my heart.
This year we invited Sister Marie-Françoise to share her knowledge of St John Eudes with us. Sister lives in Caen, France. She has been a member of the Congregation since 1961 and has held many leadership roles during her lifetime, including being the first Congregational Leader of Our Lady of Charity. She is especially gifted in understanding the spirituality of St John Eudes.
Sister Marie-Françoise was with us in St. Louis from June 25 -29. She addressed Eudist spirituality under three headings: The Formation of Jesus in Us; The Heart of Jesus and Mary; and Christ as Center of Our Lives. Under these headings we heard about his teaching on baptism and the Christian baptismal vows.
My own heart is not enough by which to love; I must love with the Great Heart of Jesus within me.
Parallel expressions of Saint John Eudes
We learned that John Eudes believed profoundly that Jesus and Mary together had one heart — His Great Heart — which expressed the passion of God’s love for his people. Sister showed us how Eudist teachings on the Heart of Christ are comparable to those of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ. Sr. Marie-Françoise also offered parallel expressions of St John Eudes that are present in Pope Francis’ Laudato Si text.
A highlight of this year’s workshop was the third anniversary celebration of our reunification as Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd. Sisters from the three provinces of North America attended the workshop.
Another highlight was the presence of Sister Frances Johnson, from the Congregational Leadership Team in Rome. Sr. Frances reported that within the next three years we will have 67 Sisters from different countries making perpetual vows.
Good Shepherd Mission Partners had various responses to the workshop. Sister Agnes McCormick, from Central South Province, said she was motivated to attend the workshop so she could meet Sisters in the Province of Mid-North America and get to know them.
Heart of Jesus and Mary, your love is a light in my heart. And the only thing I can give is my heart faithful and true. This is all I can do.
The force that drove Sr. Carol Pregno, Central South, to attend was her existing friendship with Sister Marie Francoise. Sr. Carol said, “I always feel renewed by the depth of Sr. Marie-Françoise’s words.”
PMNA Mission Partner Melinda Stricklen said the workshop section on baptism was most meaningful to her. She said, “I was particularly inspired by the description of the three virtues of baptism: faith, hope and charity, which were described as energies of baptism.”
New understanding and meaning
Sr. Liz Schille said, “We have been saying the Hail Heart prayer for years; however, Sr. Marie Francoise’s words broke open for me new understanding and meaning in that prayer. I especially appreciated her description of patient love when she told us that things are never perfect, and that patient love keeps us from getting discouraged.”
For Sr. Mary Catherine Massei, “There was enough content in these three days to spend the rest of my life meditating on the love of God in and through the Heart of Jesus.”
In her own journey into understanding Christ in relationship to the universe, Sr. Janice Rushman said, “I have at times found myself struggling. In the conference on St. John Eudes and Teilhard de Chardin, Sister Marie Francoise compares the two priests’ understanding of the Heart of Christ. This gave me a way of connecting our John Eudes legacy with what has meant so much to me in my life.”
Sister Rose Mary Ha said she was grateful to have the opportunity to learn about the spirituality of St. John Eudes. She said, “I know very little about it and find that it enriches my contemplative religious life. I found the teaching on the Heart of Christ and how we can love with ‘His Great Heart’ helpful to me. I liked the expression, “Make mercy your lifestyle … allow mercy to be imprinted on your heart.”
Oh Jesus, make my heart your sanctuary lamp always burning for love of you.
Flame in my heart
Sr. Frances Altavilla said, “The workshop was more like a retreat for me. It was deep and expansive. My understanding of the sacred heart of Saint John Eudes became broader in this workshop. I was particularly enlivened by the statement, “It is not enough to love. We have to love with the heart of Jesus,” Sr. Frances said.
Sr. Anita Kristofco beamed when she exclaimed, “I thought the workshop was awesome! It was very full and it rekindled the flame in my heart. I had learned about the sacred heart as a child, but hadn’t really given it much thought throughout my years in religious life. After this workshop I truly feel more drawn to the heart of Jesus, and that is very exciting!”
Sr. Patricia Connelly said, “I found the workshop to be powerful and strengthening of our vocations. It has inspired me to go deeper into my relationship with God.”
Workshop participants wrote personal mantras to help them reflect on and better appreciate the spirituality of St. John Eudes. Sr. Nora Pat O’Flannigan said, “It was remarkable how, when we shared our mantras aloud in the large group, all of them seemed to focus on the element of love.
Sr. Frances Robinson played a song by Jan Novotka at Mass that struck the heart chords of everyone and summed up the workshop:
The Presence you are
It’s not what you do, but how you do it;
It’s not what you see, but how you see;
It’s not what you say, what you know or achieve;
But it’s the presence, the presence you are.
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