This April, three members of the Sisters of Sion Canada/US Vocations Team took part in a five-day initiative organized in collaboration with Notre Dame de Sion School in Kansas City. The purpose was to reflect on the charism of Sion and the theme of vocation: the many ways in which God calls us.
Sister Celia Deutsch and two Sion Associates, Alisha Pomazon and Stephanie Pino-Dressmann, worked with students, faculty, administrators and trustees of the school in an integrated programme of reflection, conversation and service projects.
In Project Uplift, the Vocations Team joined high school students in sorting clothes to be distributed, along with food, among the people who live under the city’s bridges. All workers on Project Uplift are volunteers and the materials are donations. Some volunteers serve as drivers who deliver cooked meals, clothing and other three nights a week, forming relationships with the people they serve.
On another day, the Sion people helped the Kansas City Interfaith Youth Alliance – of which Notre Dame de Sion School is a member – package several thousand laundry soap pods for Giving the Basics, an organisation founded by Sion parent Teresa Hamilton. Conscious of the dignity of each person, Giving the Basics serves the poor by supplying necessities such as shampoo, laundry soap and toilet paper to organizations working with the homeless.
At Notre Dame de Sion School, Sister Celia and Alisha held sessions with all the theology classes to share the stories of how they were drawn to the Sion way of life.
Alisha grew up in the poorest neighborhood in Regina, Saskatchewan, in western Canada. She first learned the values of social justice through participating in her elementary school’s nutrition program. This awareness developed in high school, through fulfillment of the requirement for volunteer work. Alisha discovered her passion for teaching while she was a doctoral student.
Then, while she was a beginning professor at St. Thomas More College/University of Saskatchewan, a campus minister pointed out that her life was in teaching, and that the students needed her. The minister challenged Alisha to recognize that. Alisha told the Sion students, “I knew that God was speaking through her.”
Celia grew up in Springfield, Illinois, USA. She was first attracted to religious life in elementary school by the example of one of the sisters who taught her. Gradually, she began to understand religious life as giving oneself to God in a way that is absolute. Celia comes from an interfaith family, with a Catholic mother and a Jewish father and so, when she learned of Sion’s vocation tounderstanding and reconciliation between Christians and Jews, and its focus on the Word of God, it seemed like a natural step to ask to enter the Congregation.
Celia lives Sion’s charism in Brooklyn, NY, in a neighborhood that includes large numbers of Jews, as well as immigrant Muslim and Catholic families. She combines grassroots and organizational interfaith work with research and writing, as research scholar at Barnard College/Columbia University.
Curiousity and reflection
After the presentations, the students and faculty asked thought-provoking questions: How do you respond to controversial issues, especially if you disagree with official Church teaching? Both of you wear symbols (Celia’s NDS cross and Alisha’s moon necklace); what do these mean? What is the content of Alisha’s course on Monsters and how does this relate to her vocation? Why does Celia like studying and writing about Philo of Alexandria? How does that reflect her vocation?
One of the teachers pointed out that, even though he had been at most of the eight sessions, the talks had been different each time. Alisha explained the reason for this: “Every presentation,” she said, “helped us see ourselves from new angles, every question helped us go a little deeper. ”
An inspiring experience
The Vocations Team came away inspired by the passion for Sion’s mission evident during their five-day stay, and buoyed by the ways in which the Kansas City Sion family had taught them more about the gift of vocation and Sion’s charism.