Dear ISLC Community,
This past Easter, we shared in the joy of our sanctuary family receiving a new home in a 2-bedroom apartment in San Francisco. This would not have been possible without the incredible support of concerned parishioners who made calls to friends and made connections to local NGOs, who searched for housing, who generously donated time, meals, household items, furniture, clothes, and lifted up prayers for the family – thank you.
As the family packed up to move during Holy Week, we reflected on the journey they have had and the mother recalled her trials of guiding her family through the shelter systems and “the misery” of living on the streets. Tears came to her eyes as she reflected on where she is now and how important it was to be a part of a community to move forward.
On the first day in their new apartment, as everyone settled in, I asked one of the children how she felt. She described to me that the new apartment was very nice, but she liked her home at St. Agnes a little better. When I asked, “Why?” she responded, “Because God was there.”
This was not the first time I have heard that response from the children. From the youngest kids to the oldest, they have told me how they felt the presence of God in their time with the church, being safe in a physical place, but also with the presence of the good people surrounding them.
As I was leaving a dinner with the family a week after they moved in, Reyna, the mother, popped her head out of the door and called after me, “See you soon! This is your home too!” In the warmth of her welcome and in the joyful way she offered me hospitality, I felt God there, bringing forth newness and life.
Perhaps in Easter, this is who we are called to be: people who walk with each other on the way, through all of life’s uncertainties, struggles and joys, remembering that God is here in our midst. We now enter into a deeper accompaniment of the family as they find their way in the United States more independently. We hope to have a reflection together with St. Ignatius parish on lessons learned as sanctuary communities thus far. We hope to discern how to accompany and support our sanctuary family in this new transition. Stay posted for this event and for other ways on how we can continue to be committed and engaged with our sanctuary family and, of course, how to grow as an Easter people, too.
This past week, we had the privilege of listening to Simone Campbell's dynamic presentation on her theology of abundance and her insights into the reality of 21st century poverty.
She left us with a beautiful poem about the power of community
and with four virtues to live as a faith community:
joy; holy curiosity;sacred gossip (sharing what you have heard and learned)
and doing your part.
If you missed the event, there is still an opportunity to buy her latest book:
A Nun on the Bus: How All of Us Can Create Hope, Change and Community.
Books are for sale at a discounted price of $13 in the parish office (1025 Masonic).
Dear Community of the Ignatian Spiritual Life Center:
This March, we have continued to pray with our Lenten theme of sanctuary. After our peace vigil, we were honored to listen to the mother of our sanctuary family share her testimony of migration alongside another woman who crossed the border many years before. We also shared dinner and discussion with Jesuit Volunteers and Mercy Corps Volunteers on the human reality of migration and the role it plays in our faith.
Importantly, for the last few weeks, we have also been intensely focused on finding safe and secure housing for our sanctuary family. The deadline to receive a stipend towards an apartment expires on March 29. Thankfully, there is a promising lead for a two-bedroom apartment in San Francisco, but still, the housing is not guaranteed until a few more important pieces come together.
Throughout this process, I have been struck by a few things. I have been amazed at the level of coordination happening across parishes, networks and NGOs as we all make a concerted effort to support the family in this crucial step towards independence. I’m also amazed at the considerable amount of uncertainty that exists amidst all of our collective resources. As I accompany our family, I am struck by the surprising joy, persistence and resilience that bubbles up through the stressful situation they are in. The children always invite me into what is happening here and now; they invite me into relationship and real engagement, and they remind me what sanctuary is about: cherishing the life that we have, which is so vulnerable and precious at the same time. The family’s ability to flex and adapt is also quite something. They challenge us to work hard, to take risks, but also to trust in a God who pays special attention to those most in need.
As we approach Holy Week, please join me in praying in a special way for our sanctuary family. We pray that the family can secure this wonderful housing opportunity. We pray in thanksgiving for who they are and who they have invited us to be: a community that is responsive, welcoming, steadfast and faithful.
This Lent, we are also aware of our great need of bread for the journey and pray wholeheartedly with the psalm proclaimed this Sunday: “A clean heart create for me, O God, and a steadfast spirit renew within me.” Join us in the many gatherings we have planned for the rest of March: Simone Campbell’s special talk on her theology of abundance, a Spirituality of Relationships Retreat, Taize prayer on sanctuary, and the many ongoing programs we have for spiritual growth and nourishment.
In peace and gratitude,
“Lent 2001” by Joyce Rupp
The cosmos dreams in me
while I wait in stillness,
ready to lean a little further
into the heart of the Holy.
I, a little blip of life,
a wisp of unassuming love,
a quickly passing breeze,
come once more into Lent.
No need to sign me
with the black bleeding ash
of palms, fried and baked.
I know my humus place.
This Lent I will sail
on the graced wings of desire,
yearning to go deeper
to the place where
I am one in the One.
Oh, may I go there soon,
in the same breath
that takes me to the stars
when the cosmos dreams in me.
This year, Lent comes at a time when we once again know our own limitation and longing. In the midst of the crises, the deplorable treatment of the most vulnerable people in our society, and the loud bickering over political agendas, there is a turning in the Church towards our mortality: “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.” It is almost with relief that we acknowledge that our lives are finite and we, thankfully, are not in control of the universe. In our limitation, we turn to our Creator to fill us, to teach us how to inhabit our days and to remind us of what it is that matters most in the end.
In her poem, “Lent 2001,” Joyce Rupp beautifully describes a mutual desire. She says that while “the cosmos dreams in me,” she too is “yearning to go deeper.” Lent, then, is a season of meeting. In our need, we are met with a God who yearns to embrace us and call us back to greater love and freedom. The prophet Joel sends out an invitation: “Return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, weeping, and mourning. Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the Lord, your God, for God is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love, and relenting in punishment.”
As we live into our second year as a sanctuary parish, we look to Lent as an opportunity to reflect more deeply on the questions: Who is our deepest sanctuary? How do we become a sanctuary for others? We need God in so many ways. Here at the Ignatian Spiritual Life Center, we need God to help us secure a safe, stable home for the family that we shelter. We need God to give us the courage and clarity to know how to act boldly in our love, and when we can finally surrender our emptiness in humility, we need God to enter in, slowly working through our humanity to make us vessels of Her mercy and compassion.
Join us this Lent at the ISLC to pray, fast and give of ourselves together. We have a special peace vigil with a guest speaker from SFICI’s Migrant Voices in the Pulpit series, a three-week exploration of the book, Finding God in All Things, led by Fr. Ray, and a day of retreat based on the theme of sanctuary. Through these activities and more, let us “lean a little further into the heart of the Holy.”
Dear Community of the Ignatian Spiritual Life Center,
Warm greetings! My name is Grace Salceanu and I am the new director of the Ignatian Spiritual Life Center and Children’s Faith Formation at Saint Agnes. I’m delighted to be a part of this dynamic faith community.
As I begin the new year at the ISLC, I feel I am surrounded by the many people who created a way for me to this role. Just last November, I moved back to the United States after co-directing Casa Bayanihan, the University of San Francisco’s alternative study abroad program in Manila, Philippines for over six years. It was a beautiful program, rooted in the four pillars of accompaniment of vulnerable communities, rigorous academics at Ateneo de Manila University, simple living in community and spirituality. We had vibrant neighbors and community partners who shared their tenacity and resilience in the face of grinding poverty and harsh injustice as well as a buoyancy and warmth that came from their goodness and a profound faith. In many ways, they became like the living Gospel for me. Before leaving Manila, our friends blessed me and sent me forth with their guidance and love. I lean on their memories and their strong witness, holding them close to my heart as I begin again.
Orienting myself to the reality here in San Francisco, I see I am surrounded by you, a community that is eager to engage in the life and struggle of this city and its people. This is consoling to me, and, as in the Philippines, I feel drawn to follow this example of commitment, to know the issues and relationships that animate this place and to love them fully, as they are.
The Gospel this Sunday reminds us that we bring each other to the Lord, that the Kingdom of God is not built alone. Companions guide us to that deep Source who asks us, “What are you looking for?” I look forward to walking with you, a community that thirsts to know the One who wants to know us, who is Peace and who challenges us to a radical kinship and justice.
Thank you for welcoming me. I look forward to sharing the way together.
“You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt; I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 19:34)
Every stranger who knocks at our door is an opportunity for an encounter with Jesus Christ, who identifies with the welcomed and rejected strangers of every age (Matthew 25:35-43). The Lord entrusts to the Church’s motherly love every person forced to leave their homeland in search of a better future. This solidarity must be concretely expressed at every stage of the migratory experience – from departure through journey to arrival and return. This is a great responsibility, which the Church intends to share with all believers and men and women of good will, who are called to respond to the many challenges of contemporary migration with generosity, promptness, wisdom and foresight, each according to their own abilities.
(Message of His Holiness Pope Francis, for the 104th World Day of Migrants and Refugees 2018, Issued 15 August 2017)
The Roman Catholic Jesuit Parishes of San Francisco - St. Agnes and St. Ignatius – recognize God’s call to respect and protect the human dignity of all people, regardless of where they are in life’s journey. We share with God the deep desire for a world rooted in peace, mercy, and compassion. With the City of St. Francis as our home, we are compelled to follow the example of our patron, as well as heed the Church’s call to a preferential option for the poor and the urgent exhortation of the Society of Jesus to be women and men for others and accompany migrants on their journeys. To that end, the Parishes together affirm that we are sanctuaries for migrants, refugees, and other peaceful people who may be subject to exclusion or removal from this land.
As sanctuary parishes, we are working together to treat all our brothers and sisters – including those who seek to be among us, but have not yet completed their journey, and those who are among us, yet undocumented, unwelcome, or unfairly targeted – with the same respect and dignity afforded any person in our community.
To this end, we commit to actively:
As Catholic Jesuit Parishes, we are specifically called to join in the larger Jesuit commitment to serve and walk with migrants throughout their journeys. We know that this process and the people we meet will change our hearts; this is truly what our faith is about. That is, we offer this pledge to serve our brothers and sisters, all for the greater glory of God.
With God’s love and the Spirit’s hope,
Ray Allender, S.J., Pastor, St. Agnes Parish
Greg Bonfiglio, S.J, Pastor, St. Ignatius Parish
Dear Community of the Ignatian Spiritual Life Center,
Today I write to you a letter of gratitude. This month marks two years since I began my journey with all of you, with the Children’s Faith Formation program and the Ignatian Spiritual Life Center. In that time, you have formed me as a minister, shown me what it means to be church and given me the courage to continue to say yes to God’s call in my life. In short, my heart is full. As I have said before, I am in awe of the Community of St. Agnes and the openness of our hearts as the Spirit, constantly and unfailingly, moves us to love God and our neighbors ever more deeply.
One of my spiritual companions, Thomas Merton, eloquently articulates the gratitude that I have for all of you:
To be grateful is to recognize the Love of God in everything God has given us -and God has given us everything…
Gratitude therefore takes nothing for granted, is never unresponsive,
is constantly awakening to new wonder and to praise the goodness of God.
For the grateful person knows that God is good,
not by hearsay but by experience.
And that is what makes all the difference. (Thomas Merton)
All in all, my brothers & sisters, you have given me new eyes to see the beauty, love and heart of God. For that, I am eternally grateful.
Today I also write to you to share some news that comes after a challenging discernment this Fall. After hearing clearly God’s call for me to embark on a road not yet travelled in God’s journey for me, I will be transitioning out of ministry at St. Agnes & the ISLC at the end of December. Throughout the next two months I look forward to spending time with you and to preparing the Children’s Faith Formation program and ISLC for all that God has in store next. Dearest St. Agnes Community, my heart is full. As Merton says, because of my experience in community with you, you have awoken me to wonder and to praise the goodness of God.
Dear Community of the Ignatian Spiritual Life Center,
Jesus’ message in this past Sunday's Gospel could not be clearer.
“The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments...You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind….You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
I have noticed that in these last months I have spent a lot of time asking, What should I do, what can we do, to respond to the injustice that plagues our country and world? These questions wake me up in the middle of the night and leave me with a good bit of anxiety. It’s nearly paralyzing. There’s so much to be done, where do we even start?
This week I realized I have been asking the wrong questions. Instead of focusing on the doing, the question is more about who do I need to become and who do we need to become at this time in the history of our world? As we, the Ignatian Family, continue our mission of being people for and with others, this question can be our guiding principle. As we journey together through life our greatest desire, as St. Ignatius says in the first principle and foundations of the Spiritual Exercises, is I want and I choose what better leads to God’s deepening God’s life in me (Translation: David Fleming, SJ). Embodying this desire in our daily lives will unfailingly and continually reveal to us our identity in God.
As we experience and witness God in our own identity, in the identities of all people and all of creation, then the “what should we do” piece will too be revealed. So, my sisters and brothers, reserve a moment today to contemplate, with God and your neighbors, and ask, who am I becoming? Who are we becoming? From here, the path, the what to dos and God’s dream will become clearer and clearer.
As we continue to discover and discern who we are becoming, I want to share with you a provocative question that was presented this week to a group of over 300 clergy, faith leaders and tribal elders gathered in Indianapolis, Indiana for a Prophetic Resistance Summit hosted by the PICO National Network. Rev. Michael-Ray Mathews and Ben McBride ask us this: Are you a chaplain to the Empire or a prophet of the Resistance, a midwife of a new Divine Creation?
Ignatian Family, who are we? Who is God calling us to be? I believe it is to be prophets and midwives. May the Holy Spirit ipmart on us the wisdom to know, live and breathe what “the whole law and prophets depend on.” And that, Beloved Community, is Love.
Dear Community of the Ignatian Spiritual Life Center,
It is with heavy hearts that we hear of fires in the North Bay that have resulted in the loss of life of at least 10 people, the destruction of over 1,500 homes and businesses and the forced evacuation of an estimated 20,000 residents.
To support our neighbors we would like to set up a spot where we can share ways to volunteer, donate and accompany all those impacted by the fires. Here are some ways to volunteer and donate funds or goods.
If you find out about other ways to help, post details in the comments section of this post and keep checking this page for updates.
Do you have friends or family members who have been impacted by the fires and need support? Let us know - Natalie@SaintAgnesSF.com
Donate to an evacuation center:
Donate or sign-up to volunteer with the Red Cross:
Places outside the North Bay accepting donations:
Places to Stay:
Dear Community of the Ignatian Spiritual Life Center,
Yesterday was International Day of Non-Violence, observed each year on Mahatma Gandhi's birthday. Today we mourn and lament the violence our country witnessed this weekend in Las Vegas when 59 people were killed and 527 people wounded in a mass shooting. Today, we are left with a lot of questions, a lot of sorrow, a lot of anger and with broken hearts full of God's love.
Today, I feel very numb and frankly, anxious about the state of the world and our country. Today, I feel grateful for the community at the Ignatian Spiritual Life Center. The bonds that we share, the gifts and talents we freely offer and the love created by our gathering together shows us the work of the Holy Spirit and in turn, instills us with Hope.
In his monologue last night, Stephen Colbert said this, "By all means offer thoughts and prayers, but then think about what you should do and pray for the courage to do it." Let's pray for this courage. There is something we can do today, right now. In the wake of the shooting, California Senator Diane Feinstein made a statement about her commitment to proceed with supporting legislation that will help prohibit people from being able to make automatic weapons. The shooter in Las Vegas converted at least one of his semi-automatic weapons into an automatic weapon that can shoot between 400-800 rounds per minute. Let's call Senator Feinstein and Senator Harris this week to share our concern, encourage them to support gun control reform and ask them about their plans moving forward on this issue. (Read Senator Feinstein's full statement HERE)
Here's what we can do today, let's call or write to our Senators:
1) Find contact info for our Senators HERE
2) Reflect on the events of this weekend, what our faith calls us to and what you want to communicate to our political leaders about gun violence. To begin your reflection, pray with this pray from James Martin, SJ - Sad, Tired & Angry: A Prayer in the face of gun violence and article, Gun Control is a Pro-Life Issue.
2) Call and introduce yourself, share that you are part of the faith community in the Bay Area or write a letter to mail.
3) Ask what Senator Feinstein and Harris are planning on doing to introduce and support new legislation on gun control.
4) After you write your letter or make your phone call, let us know that you did and share your reflections with us. We are thinking more about how the ISLC Community can be engaged in advocacy and work around this issue and we would love to hear from you. (Send me an e-mail at Natalie@SaintAgnesSF.com or give me a call 415-487-8560 x225)
Let us offer this prayer from James Martin, SJ:
I come before you,
after another shooting...
I am sad over the loss of life,
tired of excuses for the loss of life,
and angry that we are paralyzed by the loss of life.
Turn my sadness into compassion.
Turn my tiredness into advocacy.
Turn my paralysis into the freedom to act.
(For full text of Jim Martin, SJ's prayer, Click Here)
As we gather at the Ignatian Spiritual Life Center this month (see our full calendar HERE), we know and trust that the Holy Spirit will give us the wisdom, courage and ingenuity to love the world and work for justice.
With Peace & In Solidarity,