More Spiritual Reflections

Spiritual Reflections


Founders Day Reflection

Jill Troiano
November 10, 2010

The prophet Isaiah wrote, "You have been a refuge for the poor, a refuge for the needy in his distress, a shelter from the storm." These words speak true to the spirit of the IHM Founders we celebrate today.

My name is Jillian Troiano and I am a senior at Marywood University. I will be completing my degree in Nutrition & Dietetics in May. I have been actively involved in Campus Ministry & Student Government over the past 3 years. I have developed a relationship with the Sisters of the IHM, through Marywood and the IHM service trips, Jesus and Java meeting groups, and attending your Assembly meeting this past July.

On this, the anniversary of the founding of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I would like to focus on the Alphonsian spirit that is the foundation of your congregation. Your charism proclaims, "In the passionate spirit of St. Alphonsus Ligouri, we joyfully participate in the redeeming love of Jesus which impels us to proclaim the Good News of God's unconditional love for all." This charism is tangible thing on paper yet I see this in your eyes and hearts. Tonight, I would also like to offer a few of my service experiences in which I have tried to live out this Alphonsian mission.

Even though he is not a direct founder of the Congregation, St. Alphonsus may be the most important founder, in spirit, of the Sisters of IHM. When one looks into the history of Theresa Maxis or Fr. Gillet, one cannot help but be directed back to St. Alphonsus. I recently wrote an article on this IHM Founders Day for Marywood's newspaper and I was researching Theresa Maxis and Louis Gillet but most of what I read continually referred to St. Alphonsus. His character is overpowering! Perhaps I identify and feel a spiritual connection with him because he was a man who wore many hats as I often do. He was a Lawyer, Spiritual Director, Writer, Musician, Moral Theologian. St. Alphonsus had a lifelong focus to bring the Good News of the Gospels to the spiritually abandoned poor. He ministered where the church in the 18th century did not go and worked to change structures of oppression and injustice that maintained poverty. You Sisters today do the same by providing access to what is needed by the poor through Friends of the Poor, St. Joseph's Center, and other agencies. St. Alphonsus is described by Pope John Paul II as, "a close friend of the people...a missionary who went in search of the most abandoned souls."

Theresa Maxis believed that the Redemptorist tradition was essential to the spirituality of her sisters. So much so that she left Monroe, Michigan for Pennsylvania to establish an IHM mission. She was persecuted greatly even exiled, yet held passionately to the belief that through apostolic works, religious women can engage in self emptying service that brings the light of God's Love to all.

There are several distinct qualities I see in the IHM Sisters I know. You have a warm openness to all you who you welcome. The sisters I know well have an inner calm, an inner peace that permeates your being in the day to day. This admirable characteristic is unique in today's stressed society.

St. Alphonsus' beliefs are integrated into the mission and core values of your congregation and Marywood University. In particular, the values of service, empowerment and justice which impel us to stand with and defend those who are denied full human dignity. We Students at Marywood can carry out these core values through volunteering and in their future careers. Campus Ministry has a group of 20 Maxis-Gillet Service Scholars who take leadership roles in community service projects on campus and in the Scranton area. This is my third year as a Maxis-Gillet leader. We participate in training to discover our strengths and talents, and to utilize and build them in our leadership positions. We are following you sisters, who have been cultivating your gifts through your dedication to your lifelong vocations.

Over the past 3 years, I have learned a great deal about poverty in our local community as well as the nation. Most of this learning did not take place in a classroom. Learning about the hardships of the poor comes from being with them and seeing their perspective firsthand.

One of my first experiences of poverty was serving a meal at Bethel Shelter here in Scranton when I was a freshman. I and 7 other students cooked and served a meal to those spending the night. I did not know what to expect, but I can safely say the experience changed me. After we served everyone, our group ate and talked with the people there, much like Jesus did with his disciples. They shared their life stories with us and we were just there to listen, and be a light for them. I wept after leaving because I was overwhelmed at hearing their struggles and trials. Luckily, I wrote in a journal afterward, saying [pause] "the homeless are not all alike and cannot be grouped together. They're not people who have given up but often people who are trying their hardest. I would describe them as well traveled, life experienced, and good storytellers. Wow! I was wrong." [Pause] These were my insights after one powerful, direct experience. These strangers who society turns a blind eye to are quite like those who St. Alphonsus ministered to and opened his heart to.

I have continued to volunteer with local and national agencies that aid the suffering of the hungry and homeless, including St. Francis Soup Kitchen in Scranton and Philadelphia, Community Intervention Center in Scranton and a shelter called La Puenta Home in Colorado. As an upperclassman, I try to help other students engage and process their service experiences. This helps them to question and analyze the concerns beneath the surface of a social problem. Service isn't complete if you don't know the people you're serving. As students, we cannot change the structures of injustice that exist in our society yet we can shine a light on those issues and do what is just. Social issues cannot be changed overnight but I know for one night, I was a "close friend of the people." I will never know the outcome of my time but I have not forgotten their faces and their stories.

When I and other Maxis-Gillets move into the wider world, we carry a piece of the mission of St. Alphonsus with us. To remember St. Alphonsus is to gather people from all walks of life together in God's kingdom. Marywood students have had different levels of familiarity with the mission and core values but I am confident that these "seeds" have been planted and will continue to grow.

So what would Theresa Maxis say to young people today? BE with the people. Be a presence of God's love to others in all the little things in life. Let the light of God's love within you shine. For me, God's love within me radiates through my smile. I would like to leave you with words from the Gospel of Matthew I carry with me every day, "if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, Move from here and it will move. Nothing will be impossible unto you." The spirits of St. Alphonsus, Theresa Maxis and Louis Gillet are alive today. J

Jill Troiano
Campus Ministry Leader
Resident Committee Prefect