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Maryknoll Sisters - Hearts On Fire

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Mar. 23, 2012

“To believe in Jesus,
to begin to understand
the depths of  God’s love,
is to be impelled to share our experiences
and our convictions with others.”     (Maryknoll Sisters in Mission)

In August of 1980, three months before she was martyred in El Salvador, Maryknoll Sister Ita Ford wrote to her niece, Jennifer, on her 16th birthday, and said, “I hope you come to find that which gives life a deep meaning for you.  Something worth living for – maybe even worth dying for - something that energizes you, enthuses you, enables you to keep moving ahead…” 

We become involved in college and university studies for many reasons, but most reasons have to do with seeking experiences, friendships, and careers that we hope will energize and enthuse us, those that will give meaning to our lives and set our hearts burning within us.

In the Gospel of St. Luke, (Lk 24: 13-35) we read about two disciples of Jesus who are going home to their little town of Emmaus, discouraged and broken after the crucifixion. They meet a stranger on the road who speaks of their Scriptures and explains them in such a way that their hope begins to return. They invite him to share their supper. It was the Risen Jesus, himself, but they did not recognize him until he broke and shared the bread. He vanished then, but they said to one another: “Were not our hearts burning within us as he explained the Scriptures to us on the road?”

Over the centuries many members of our Christian family have realized that it is the presence of the Lord walking with us that really makes our hearts burn within.  It is the Good News of God’s love that can move us to do things we had never imagined.

Those disciples in Emmaus returned to Jerusalem to find the rest of the disciples and tell them they had seen Jesus.  Little by little a community formed around that Good News that Jesus had indeed risen, and continued with them through the gift of the Holy Spirit.  Each one invited a friend each one encouraged another. They shared their memories of all that Jesus had taught them. The Spirit accompanied them to help them to understand, to live and to share all that they had learned. 

And that continues to this day. This is why we participate in the Christian community: so that by sharing and celebrating together the faith we have in Jesus, that faith will grow. Together we can support one another in living in such a way as to make the love of Jesus visible in our world. Each of us is, by our baptism, a missioner: one who is sent by the community to make the Love of Jesus real to others. Some feed the hungry and others visit prisoners or become peacemakers. Yet others heal wounds of body, mind and spirit, or teach children about love and life and the gift of creation.   But each of us, if we really find our hearts on fire, know that we cannot keep the Good News of God’s love, the Good News of how God enables us to be God’s loving hands and feet and voice in our world, to ourselves.

A hundred years ago, a small group of women wanted to share the Good News of   God’s love beyond the borders of their home country and so the Maryknoll Sisters were founded here in the United States. Eventually we spread out to countries of Asia, Latin America, Africa and the Pacific Islands, discovering wonderful people wherever we went – people who cared deeply for their families but suffered because of poverty and oppressive structures that prevented them from being able to care well for those families. We were able to work together with these same people to bring change, to foster peace, justice, and a spirit of community in places where conflict, fear and oppression were the norm.  We did all we could to bring the Good News of the power of Love to those on the fringes, those forgotten and ignored, oppressed and abandoned. And as we all know from our own lives, just as Jesus taught us, the power of Love can do infinitely more than we could ask or imagine!  We cannot help but feel, as did the disciples of Emmaus, that our hearts are burning within us! 

And so I encourage each of you to continue the studies that will prepare you to share your gifts with others in this world.  Take time often to listen to the words of Jesus who tells us to love, to feed the hungry and give drink to the thirsty.  Get to know him and his love and presence in your lives so that you will understand what he means when he says, “ this is my commandment: that you love one another as I have loved you”. As you come to realize the power of that Love, you will find your own hearts burning within you, on fire with the desire to share the Love you have experienced with others – first in your family and faith community, and then crossing all sorts of borders, so that you may live your own call to help make God’s love visible in ever widening circles.

Why not start by joining us April 20 -21st for Hearts on Fire, the   Centennial Symposium being sponsored by the Maryknoll Sisters at our Center near New York City? Presenters are Sister Joanne Doi, M.M.- Religious Life: the Fire and the Rose; Sister Elizabeth Johnson, CSJ – Mary Of the Magnificat:  A Heart on Fire; and Sister Melinda Roper, MM – Mission Spirituality: an Adventure in Faith. Maryknoll Missioners from throughout the world will respond to the presentations and guide break-out sessions which include Mission and Ecofeminism, Mission and/as Interculturality, Living Magnificat with Refugees /Migrants, Mission and Co-partnering, Religious Life and/as Prophetic Presence, Religious Life and/as Gifted Courage.  

More information can be found at which connects you to events on our facebook page and enables you watch us live if you cannot join us in New York.

May each of you find what sets your heart on fire!

In God’s Peace,

Sister Mary Ellen Kempken, M.M.

Maryknoll Sisters of St. Dominic, M.M.
PO Box 311
Maryknoll, NY 10545-0311