Sisters are example of Salesian spirituality
Even the saints had to start somewhere.
Is it possible to achieve holiness in any state of life? For those who follow the Salesian way of life, the answer is yes.
Drawing upon the spiritual traditions and teachings of St. Francis de Sales and St. Jane de Chantal, two 17th-century saints from France, Salesian spirituality is known as a way of life that challenges its believers to embrace the ordinary, small ways of their lives in an effort to achieve greater holiness.
It's that approach to life that appealed to Sister Jane Scaria, a member of the Salesian Missionaries of Mary Immaculate, who came to St. Louis three months ago to minister here. Sister Jane, who served as her institute's superior general and in general administration in Paris for two decades, now lives in community with four other sisters at St. Matthias Parish in Lemay. The sisters here are primarily involved service to the poor and homeless at Catholic Charities Housing Resource Center, and with the sick and homebound and in medical care.
St. Francis de Sales taught that "holiness is attainable, even for the busy person, in every kind of life situation and occupation," explained Sister Jane. "You can be inspired to reach God, to love God and our neighbor," in our own little and simple ways, she said. "Anyone who wants to can become closer to God."
"Salesian spirituality is accessible to all -- to any person living in any way of life, any age" Sister Jane stressed.
In November, a national convention focused on Salesian spirituality will be held in St. Louis. Sponsored by the New York-based DeSales Resources and Ministries Inc., the Nov. 2-4 convention will feature speakers, liturgical celebrations and resources on Salesian spirituality.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the convention. DeSales Resources and Ministries also has a resource center and library in western New York, just outside of Niagara Falls, and online at desalesresource.org. The ministry sells and publishes numerous resources related to Salesian spirituality.
"In our busy world, so many people, young and old, are searching for a way of life that will bring them closer to a God who loves them just as they are," said Joanne Kinney, administrator of DeSales Resources and Ministries. "The Salesian convention offers powerful speakers who will inspire and challenge us, creative prayer experiences and eucharistic liturgies to renew us, and joyful gatherings that will make us feel at home and at peace. Come learn, share and celebrate an everyday spirituality for everyday people."
The Salesian Missionaries of Mary Immaculate is just one example of the larger Salesian family spread worldwide. Here in St. Louis, the Salesian family also includes the Order of the Visitation of Holy Mary (known as the Visitation Sisters) and Association of St. Francis de Sales for laymen and women.
St. Francis de Sales, most commonly known as the patron saint of journalists, was effective in communicating -- especially to the laity. He said that anyone aspiring to a devout life can be led "from a simple desire to a firm decision to grow in holiness."
Since her arrival, Sister Jane's primary ministry as pastoral care minister has been a presence to parishioners and their families who are sick, elderly or homebound in and around St. Matthias. Relying on her trusty parish directory, she makes house calls, brings Communion and visits several area nursing homes. She seeks the help of parishioners and friends to give her rides -- she's gone for years without needing a drivers' license. Sometimes she'll simply walk to her destinations.
For some, it might seem a simplistic way of life, but for those who often don't receive visitors throughout the day, her presence is a blessing. It's missionary work, following Jesus the missionary, but it's also a small step toward achieving holiness that St. Francis de Sales envisioned centuries ago.
DeSales Resources and Ministries Inc., a New York-based outreach that promotes the study of Salesian spirituality, is hosting its national convention, "Everyday Spirituality 4U: Holy Living through a Salesian Lens," in St. Louis Nov. 2-4 at the Lakeside Chalet at the Sheraton Westport Plaza.This year marks the 30th anniversary of the convention. DeSales Resources and Ministries also has a resource center and library just outside of Niagara Falls, N.Y., and online at desalesresource.org. The ministry sells and publishes materials related to Salesian spirituality.
The conference will be based on the teachings of St. Francis de Sales and St. Jane de Chantal and will include nationally known speakers, liturgical celebrations and a marketplace with books and recordings.
Deadline for early registration is Saturday, Sept. 15. Final deadline is Wednesday, Oct. 3. Special commuter pricing is available. For more information, visit desalesresource.org or call (800) 782-2270.
Salesian Missionaries at a glance
• The Salesian Missionaries of Mary Immaculate is the first religious missionary institute to be founded as an outgrowth of a lay association. Father Henri Chaumont, with a Catholic lay woman, housewife and mother, named Caroline Carré de Malberg, founded the Society of the Daughters of St. Francis de Sales in 1872, in Paris. This was for laywomen of all states of life, to live the Gospel and spread its message in their milieu.• The Salesian Missionaries of Mary Immaculate grew from that. Today, this society comprises of two autonomous branches united by a common spirituality: the religious missionary branch (SMMI) and the lay branch called the Association of St. Francis de Sales for laywomen and men.
• Father Chaumont initially was inspired by the teachings of St. Francis de Sales as a seminarian.
• There currently are 1,400 sisters ministering in 18 countries across five continents.
• The sisters' ministries are varied and include health care, education, catechesis, family visits, pastoral work and social activities. These ministries provide importance to community living and prayer life.
• To learn more about becoming a lay member of the Association of St. Francis de Sales here in St. Louis, visit sfdsassociation.org.
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