The Spirituality of Coming

by Melannie Svoboda SND on September 21, 2020

As you know, I made a major move on September 3. I went from a convent with two other sisters to Notre Dame Education Center where about 171 sisters live. Although I kept the same zip code, just about everything else in my life changed.

In my August 10th post, I wrote about leaving our house on North Street. Today I will share a few thoughts on coming to my new home on Auburn Road. Some of these thoughts are from my journal. They’re a little disjointed, but taken as a whole, I think they give a glimpse into the spirituality of coming.

Here I am in my new office working on this blog. (All photos by Sister Antonee, SND)

Coming… When you move to a new place, you don’t come all at once. You come in parts, in pieces. Even when you and all your things are finally here in your new place, you yourself are not completely here. Coming is a process. It takes time.

Day #2: I feel as if I’m peeling off a bandage… a BIG one… and, in a few places, it’s affixed with superglue…

My new community… My new community (my “neighborhood”) consists of 62 sisters. They are by far the best part of my move. I already know most of them, some quite well. They couldn’t be more warm or welcoming. As I glance around the dining room, I think: Each of us has done the hard work of “letting go” of some place, or something—often a very active life, a fulfilling ministry, good health, total independence. Some here have served as teachers, principals, nurses, secretaries, dieticians, finance personnel, pastoral ministers, musicians, spiritual directors, formation ministers, hospice chaplains, writers, board members, congregational or diocesan leaders, and more. Some are still in part-time ministry. I feel privileged to be in this good company.

Cupboard, file cabinets, quote boxes!

Unpacking, sorting, deciding… The first few days, all I was doing was unpacking, rearranging the furniture in my bedroom and my office, and deciding where things should go. Making decisions is not only time consuming, it is energy consuming. No wonder I was exhausted. One day, I couldn’t find my purse. I knew I put it in a safe place—safe (evidently) even from myself! After looking in just about every cupboard and drawer in my bedroom, I finally found it!

Arranging life or living life…After a few days I wrote in my journal: “Should I spend more time sorting my life, or living my life… arranging my life, or living my life… cleaning my life, or living my life… reflecting on my life, or living my life?”

Other side of the room.

Signs… charts… forms… The more people living together, the more signs there are. I guess it has to be. There are signs in the shower room, the laundry, the elevator, and (of course) the bulletin board. There are charts too where you can sign up to use the laundry, to help serve the beverages at meals, or to join a Wii golf or bowling team. Forms abound too. Whether to request food for guests, a hair appointment, or help hanging your pictures, the procedure is the same: there’s a form for that.

My printer–and even a sink!

Challenges and delights… Some challenges are: Cellphone reception is not always good in some parts of this building, I don’t care for the coffee, there’s a lot of togetherness, and there are (most challenging of all) serious restrictions due to Covid-19. I will have to find creative ways to get the solitude I crave and need. The delights are many and include: nice hot water in the shower, a good variety of food, two serving times for lunch and supper, lots of activities to choose from, a helpful and pleasant staff, and the frequent sound of laughter.

Anxiety… I find myself anxious… about many things… some known and named… others still inexpressible… I take my anxiety to prayer.

View of the courtyard from my office. The courtyard has a waterfalls! How lucky can I get?!

Pronouns… I still find myself saying things like, “Where do YOU get tissue?… Where do YOU empty trash?… How do YOU mail something?” Those pronouns reveal I am still a visitor here. But every now and then I use the pronoun WE: “We certainly have a friendly staff here… WE have a lovely view from OUR dining room, don’t WE?… I love all the fresh fruit they serve US here.”

Miscellaneous thoughts: Throughout my move, friends kept checking up on me to see how I was doing. I felt cared for, remembered, tended to… Too much fear in life negates living… A friend called and said, “It must be nice not to have to go grocery shopping or cook your meals.” She assumed this was a plus for me. But for now, it’s more of a minus… Liking my new home in no way diminishes my love for my former home… Patience… patience… patience.

Did anything stand out for your in today’s reflection? If so, what and why?

Did anything here resonate with your experience–or contradict your experience?

Do you ever experience the longing to “go home” even when you are already at home? If so, what do you do with this longing?

Scripture tells us we are all on a journey, a journey that takes us home… Our video today is from Antonin Dvorak’s Symphony #9 also entitled “From the New World.” He wrote this after arriving in America in 1893. It is the second movement that took on a life of its own. Critics say its haunting melody reflects his own Czech background as well as the new music he encountered in the U.S. namely, Negro spirituals and Native American music. After his death, one of his students, William Arms Fisher, put words to this movement which he called “Goin’ Home.” It has been recorded by many singers. Here it is sung by Libera, a boys’ choir in England. (Postscript: As many of you know, I am of Czech heritage. One of my ancestors [I believe a great-grandmother] was a Dvorak. I like to think that Antonin may be my 4th cousin twice removed… or something like that.)

May this song bring you peace…

I welcome you to respond to this reflection, video, or one another.

{ 39 comments… read them below or add one }

Michelle September 21, 2020 at 5:00 am

To answer your question, do you ever experience a longing to go home even though you are home? My answer is YES, even though my home is FL where I live. My original home is in the midwest where my family is who I haven’t been able to see for over a year due to covid so yes I have an extreme longing to go home and see my family. Prayers to everyone experiencing homesickness right now.

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MaryAnn September 21, 2020 at 9:22 am

i also live in Fl. and My original home is Pa. and i also haven’t been home to see my family in over a year. With god’s help we will soon have a vaccine for this virus and be able to see our families. In the meantime we video chat and talk on the phone. So far we are healthy and for this i thank God for everyday and for his many blessings.

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Roshini, SND September 21, 2020 at 5:13 am

You have moved to a new place ,probably leaving a part of you in the old place. But the beauty is every pain of your going home and the pain you are doing with awareness. Being human, pain is inevitable. But with any transition, there is growth and life promoting.
Your going home also is coming home. Isn’t it funny?

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Rebekah September 21, 2020 at 6:15 am

Good morning! Thank you for this reflection. Even though I am a visitor for the time being I know this time is not a vacation, and I can relate to much of what you shared. I look forward to visiting you in your new office! Have a wonderful Monday!

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Thomas DeFreitas September 21, 2020 at 6:53 am

Oddly, the date of your move, Sr. Melannie, stood out for me: September 3rd. On that day, 40 years ago, I started at a new school. It was a vast school, comparatively, with six grades: 7 through 12. I was eleven, thrown into a sea of kids ages 12 to 18! It was a rigorous academic institution, and that was a challenge. I had to do new things: travel across the building to get to classes, say, from room 335 to room 102 then up to 214 for English. And so on. New 7th-graders were stamped with the nickname “sixie” (because they were in Class VI, sixth in line from graduation — seniors, of course, were Class I). This school demanded the study of Latin! (That was one of the new things I rather enjoyed.) I was a little young for starting the school. Many of my classmates were 13 (which seemed like advanced middle age to me!).

It’s important to feel at home, or at least adjusted, to a given place. I never felt at ease in college (having selected the exact wrong one for me). Around the mid-90s, I started to feel ill at ease with where I was living, and it took until 2010 for that situation to change!

I wish you well, Sister, as you adjust and adapt to a new community. It’s good to see that there are graces and delights as well as challenges. I know it’s always helpful to me when I can be alert to the good things, and grateful for them.

Peace and light.

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Susan September 21, 2020 at 6:58 am

Moving to a new space brings with it excitement and also grief. I too moved to a retirement community this summer and resonate with much of what you shared from your journals.

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Kathleen September 21, 2020 at 7:24 am

Moving around in a pandemic can be a challenge Sr. Melannie. It seems everything we do these days has extra layers to it because of the coronavirus.

In some ways, we are all trying to find our place in these changing times.

God bless.
Kathleen

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Roseann September 21, 2020 at 8:08 am

I, too have moved many, many, times in my life. When I become overwhelmed, I remind myself how grateful to be… especially when so many others do not have even a roof over their heads or are living in substandard housing. Home sweet Home.

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LJ September 21, 2020 at 8:31 am

Oh Sister, what a lovely musical piece to share with your reflection. Our church choir sang “Quietly, peacefully, let me rest in You” to this same melody. Thank you for sharing the ups and downs of your move. Your exhausting work paid off, because your office looks great — well organized, and comfortable. May your new place (and new vantage point!) provide peace and inspiration. Welcome Home!

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Therese September 21, 2020 at 8:50 am

Thank you for this. It is comforting for me to read your honest description of what this change is for you. I need to hear the concrete day to day challenges that go into such a major change. I often ask myself «  how do others do it? » . Please continue to share in this way. I need to know that I share this part of My life with others who do not spiritualize it to the point that my humanity is ignored.

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Sharron Kenney September 21, 2020 at 8:58 am

Dear Melannie,

My love and good wishes are with you, as is my immense gratitude that you’re willing to share, so honestly and beautifully, your experience of moving from your beloved home into a new one…which will become beloved in time. You describe the loss, the acceptance,, and the sheer work involved in adjusting and settling in to a new place. I think, too, of the happiness you will bring to all the other sisters, just by your very presence- how lucky they are! Sharron

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Deb September 21, 2020 at 10:01 am

Thank you for your timely reflections. My husband and I are in the process of packing up our home of 30 years to downsize and live in a home near to our daughter. While the move is exciting, there is still much anxiety and sadness to leave the home where our children grew up. It helps me to think of this as a process. Like most things, the anticipation of problems is usually worse than the reality! This is a blessing in many ways, so prayer will sustain us as we begin our new journey. Thanks you for sharing your experience (and the lovely song)!

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Cheryl Zelazo September 21, 2020 at 9:04 am

“Too much fear in life negates living”…so true in these strange times we find ourselves in…Covid, unemployment, politics, wildfires, etc!! I find myself affected by them all; I can’t imagine moving in the midst of it! I also take my anxiety to prayer. Thank you for the beautiful video and your always “on-time” reflections, Sister.

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John Hopkins September 21, 2020 at 9:09 am

Good morning, Sr. Melannie…
Good morning, all….

Thank you for being so vulnerable. Moving is always hard, but…..no, there is no “but.” It’s just hard. You talk about “living your life,” and so my prayer for you is taken from Psalm 116: May you walk in the presence of the Lord in the land of the living!

You are a blessing wherever you go!

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Pete September 21, 2020 at 9:46 am

Are we doing the right thing? Moving is always tough, but “morning star lights the way,” to quote the beautiful video today. Thanks Sister, your adjustment period will be short!

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Val September 21, 2020 at 9:47 am

Thank you for your reflection on the process of change, moving, and re-establishing where home is . Where I recently moved to Ohio from California, this is most helpful.

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Carol Buehner September 21, 2020 at 9:58 am

Dear Sister Melannie, I am one of the newest Associates. I read your posts each week. They are all so beautiful and meaningful. But this one, in particular, spoke to my heart. I loved your quotes about spending your time “doing” things…..or “living” your life. I struggle with this daily. I am having a difficult time letting go of my business and ‘busyness’ to spend more time with God and the more important things in life. I am also mourning the loss of visiting the sisters on the 2nd floor. I had finally found a ministry I loved, and feel like I was dropped on my head! I haven’t experienced depression for 20 years….but it reared its ugly head during these Covid times. Much sole-searching and prayer finally sent it packing!

I wish you much happiness and fulfillment in your new home. I know you are in such a grace-filled, God-Filled place! I pray I will be able to visit it again soon. xox

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Helen kemper September 21, 2020 at 9:58 am

Good morning sister Melanie. I’m sending your thoughts today about moving to my friend who is just relocated in order to be closer to her daughter. She is 94 years old and still living alone. Moving has been traumatic her first complaint to me was that she couldn’t find her knife sharpener LOL. I don’t think I have a knife sharpener. I often put things in a safe place as you mentioned with your purse. Some of mine never to be found again. I am a Florida transplant from New Jersey. I often long to go back but I have learned over the years that there really is no going back. So I deal with it by enjoying the memories and being grateful for them .My ultimate longing is to return to God where my husband is waiting for me. I hope you will soon be comfortable and happy in your new home. Be patient. Blessings to you and thanks for sharing.

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Irene Novak September 21, 2020 at 10:26 am

I have often reflected on this “Going Home” as my needing to move from this life into the next. I want to respond with gratitude.

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Linda September 21, 2020 at 10:42 am

Good morning Sister, every week I’ve been wondering how you were adapting to your new life. I think, at 71, about when will I be ready to leave my home and move to an independent community. Some day this decision could be made for me. Personally, I will need something to take care of like plants or a bird feeder out side a window. I have been to a day retreat at your community and it is a beautiful place. I’m also wondering how your former house mates are doing?

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Betty Patton September 21, 2020 at 10:59 am

Since I am in my 80s now, I have a different view of home. I am concerned about leaving behind those family and friends who I cherish, and I am wondering what my new home will be like. I know it will be more beautiful than the beauty I have here, I know I will eventually be in the presence of my God, but I do not have the imagination to visualize what that will be like. So I look backward and forward at the same time and am torn between what is and what will be.

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Jean Canatsey September 21, 2020 at 11:14 am

Dear Sr, Melannie,
Today is the last day of a long hot summer. Appropriately, the wind has shifted from a summer breeze to a stiffer autumn wind. The seasons are moving.
Twenty-seven years ago my husband and I were transplants from 10 acres of woods in Indiana to the suburbs of Central Florida. I didn’t want to leave my woods and like you-my “things“ were here but “I“ was slow in coming. Currently, we are discussing the inevitable possibility of giving up our FL home and moving to “where”? We would be giving up our house and our swimming pool but mostly we would be giving up our privacy and a degree of independence. It is difficult to even think about.
The musical selection this morning really says it all. Thank you so much, Sr. Melannie!

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Joni Dugan September 21, 2020 at 11:47 am

Melannie, I so appreciate your openness and honesty and sharing of your feelings of both a few blogs back and now this one: or as you put it your leaving and your coming. Hang in there! And you are just doing that so gracefully. Looks like you have touched so many with your openness. Gees, JoAnne and I are having troubles of just putting together things for a garage sale. I cannot even imagine selling our home and moving. Thanks again for your sharing. Tell S M Antonee I am going to hire her out to come to KC for some picture-taking!

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Herb September 21, 2020 at 11:48 am

s for cov-19 I believe Jesus Do not be afraid so I am not.Bless you for each week enjoy each one .

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Joyce Hauber September 21, 2020 at 11:49 am

First, thank you for your weekly thoughts. I always look forward to each Monday. I believe today’s has really seem to call for a response.
In the almost 79 years of living I have lived in 14 different homes. Each time the move has produced the very feelings you have expressed. One in particular, when I was around 11, was very hard. It took almost as many years for me to admit that Kansas City was home and not the little town where we had lived. Even now, after relocating to Utah and living in this beautiful State for over 30 years, I will say,”but I’m originally from Missouri.
The reality for me is this is not my home. As that beautiful song the children were singing. Someday I will truly be going home.

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Sr. Mary Therese DeMoor September 21, 2020 at 11:59 am

This song touched me deeply, as did the theme. The last days of 2018 I moved back to the US after about 30 years in Bolivia (20 in the same house). The last months as I returned home from work where I cared for infants I sang the first 2 lines of this song and often made up other words as I thought about leaving my home there and my work. The reflection began to include my life journey toward our eternal home. I could not believe that I was hearing these words and the same melody today. I had NEVER heard this song before. What a powerful message to me today…I AM GOING HOME each day and all I experience is taking me there. GRACIAS, Maria Teresa

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Sylvia September 21, 2020 at 12:04 pm

I also have a bit of a problem with patience. Recently discovered this prayer that has become part of my morning devotions. It has helped me so am passing it on to you.

I offer you my prayers, works, joys and sufferings this day.
Have patience with all things, but mostly have patience with yourself.

On a lighter note, my mother taught me this little saying. Patience is a virtue. Seldom found in woman and never in a man!

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Herb September 21, 2020 at 1:01 pm

Sister Melannie Will try again goofed last try. At 95 moved to senior living in Nov & many times wanted to go home. Was taught 1-8 by SND have fond memories of sisters.After 48 yrs in home seems strange to live in new home. Making new friends enjoyable & hard too.Will end as before Coc-19 I believe Jesus DO Not Be Afraid so I,m not. Enjoy each week Thanks God Bless

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mary ann flannery September 21, 2020 at 2:31 pm

Melanie: Such clever and wonderful thoughts on your new home. It won’t take you long to be settled and fully invested. I like the pics of your new office and the sites you can see outside and the choral music was captivating. I love this piece but have never read the lyrics. So meaningful.
Have your office blest; it will provide a holy connection between you and those who read you.
Mary Ann Flannery, SC

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Patt Germann September 21, 2020 at 4:05 pm

I remember one of our many moves clearly — we had been in the town and our house for a few weeks and I was riding my bike “home” from work. Along the way I looked around at our new town and thought about the changes we’d made — the next thought was “we’ve been here long enough, we can go home now” — home in that sentence being the town from which we had moved and where I had left some of my dearest friends. Of course, I had to learn to make the new place home and ultimately it was a wonderful place– from which I even acquired a fabulous daughter-in-law– and her family as friends — along with many other friends I still hold dear. We each find our own place in our own way. Prayers and thoughts to you Sister, as you continue your transition.

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Mo September 21, 2020 at 5:12 pm

Melannie your reflection on your move was beautiful and so real. I recall much of the same feeling when moving here. The song you chose which was so beautifully sung reminded me of going home to God. It brought tears to my eyes just thinking about it. After all that is the home we are bound for when all is said and done. Thank you again for your honest sharing of what this move had meant to you. We are so blessed to have you here with us and your love, your smile and your humor warms our hearts Melannie.
Blessings and love on you as your continuing this new journey.
Mo

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Jean Shott September 21, 2020 at 5:19 pm

Moving is always a challenge, even when it is your choice. It is more challenging when you feel you have no control or choice and you are downsizing. I am glad you have people you already know – that helps. I always enjoy reading your blogs – I send you love.

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Nancy Jumper September 21, 2020 at 6:48 pm

Bless you in your new home. That song was so lovely thanks for sharing!
Nancy ❤️

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Mary Zita September 21, 2020 at 6:56 pm

This topic brings back memories of my first ‘big’ move about 40 years ago. I was recently married and we decided to leave Buffalo NY for better job opportunities in Atlanta GA. I was the better candidate to get a job so I drove down there solo, stayed there with my aunt-in-law, found a job and husbnad and I drove there – and lived for a bit. I had this thing about no one knowing who I was and I wanted to make a difference so I became a girl scout leader – no expereince in this and no kids. 2 Years later on to Tampa FL, then 4 years later back to my roots – Buffalo. Over the years I realized how much I don’t like change but know that God is/has always been with me. Moving is a challenge but I know for me it broadened my insights on the world and have many happy memories.
Thank you for your website – I always look forward to it but have been hesitant to share.
Mary Zita

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Marge September 21, 2020 at 9:04 pm

Thank you, Melannie. I appreciate your openness and honesty in describing the difficulties involved in any kind of change. Been there, done that, but I admit, not with the gracious acceptance and serenity you seem to have reached. Can’t redo the past but there’s hope for the future!
Video was beautiful, calming. Can’t help thinking today about RBG’s going home.

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Carol September 21, 2020 at 10:00 pm

Wow! This week really sparked a lot of comments! I know I’m in good company!

As a teacher, I was taught by my mentor & dear friend, Sr. Regina SND, that it’s important to be flexible…..easier said than done when you spend so much time planning every aspect of your existence, even down to the last detail, only to have life throw you myriad curves!

I’ve also moved a few times & it always involves downsizing & making tough choices about what to toss & what to keep. Funny how what you consider keepsakes or sentimental is usually just in your mind. No one really wants my “stuff”! Everyone seems to have enough of their own white elephant clutter. I guess for me, it all comes down to not placing so much value on things, places, or even people… though all of the aforementioned does add interest to a life well-lived, but I believe God is reminding me that what I should be focused on, is as you put it Sr. Melanie, “living a life” that fulfills His mission for me. After all, I think what really matters is making my way back home to be with Jesus.

Thank you for sharing your experience….I can’t help but think you were led to your new home to be a blessing to even more people! God bless!

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Maryann September 21, 2020 at 10:03 pm

I am a NE Ohio native who has lived in Charlotte, NC for nearly 20 years. I’m grateful for wonderful friends and colleagues here, and for all of the fulfilling opportunities I’ve had in this vibrant place. Yet, some days (many days) I just want to go “home.”
There is solidarity in the posts here. Many of us are trying to figure out this sense of “home,” and to navigate life’s transitions that make the concept of home illusive. I appreciate this community and keep you all in my prayers.
Maryann

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Mary Therese September 22, 2020 at 12:39 am

Oh what a gorgeous melody. I actually own a record of “From the New World.” and on my most melancholy days living in Vermont back in the 1970s, far from my family in Michigan, I would put it on the record player and just get swallowed up by that beautiful piece of music. It both fed and eased my homesickness. Thank you for sharing that song today.

We have had a homecoming here at our house of 34 years. My husband has Lewy Body Dementia and this horrible disease continues to ravage both his body and mind. I have no desire send him from our home, especially during this pandemic, but things were becoming unmanageable for me to keep him here. Our youngest son called one night back in early August and due to a situation in his life, asked if he could come back here to live for awhile. What an answer to a prayer! He teaches music online so we now have an amazing sound studio complete with keyboards, computers, cameras and lights in our basement. However, finding room for all of his clothing, furniture, musical instruments (His old battered but soulful Steinway Model O stayed back in Chicago) many books, and his boxes of kitchen hardware and food has been challenging. Although my community of 2 does not compare to your community of 62 sisters, the companionship of my son, especially after a long day of caregiving, makes our house feel like home again.

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Helen Jackson September 26, 2020 at 9:31 am

I needed what you wrote.

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