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  My Witness

Vol. 1, No. 1, January, 1996

The Beginning of Wisdom...To Know He is Lord
by Sr. Brigid Meierotto, S.N.C.

Sister Brigid When I was in the novitiate, our novice mistress gave us many words of wisdom - I remember one. Always be grateful. "Always thank God for your vocation. Every day pray in thanksgiving. Cultivate a grateful heart, it will carry you through those days when you feel like not being grateful; when all you feel is the hardship of the call, the cross."

She was right. I already knew a lot about cultivating, having grown up in rural northern Wisconsin. I knew that it was hard, constant, and vigilant work; a necessary part of growing a good crop and getting a good harvest.

Growing up on the farm was a great grace. I didn't think of that at the time, of course. My Mom and Dad had words of wisdom that cast rays of light on all their actions. When the winds blew and the rains came and washed away the back-breaking labor of several years, they said, "Man proposes, God disposes." God didn't remove the pain, but I learned that faith, trust and hope in Him gave my folks the strength to bear it. My four older brothers also shared their words of wisdom. As I reflect over our interaction, I think I can say that their most valuable contribution was in helping me come to a true estimate of myself. In response to my proud request to write in my autograph book, one brother wrote, "To my little sister, young in spirit and younger yet in mentality." I had to ask my mother what "mentality" meant.

From the activity of our family I learned the wisdom of perseverance, potential, and prayer. To persevere at a job, no matter what the drudgery, was the only sensible way to go. In spite of all my doubts, fears, and fatigue, I saw that the bean rows did come to an end, the last windrow of hay was stacked, and the 60th jar of tomatoes was put on the cellar shelf. I realize now that the great virtue of my parents in this was perseverance without complaint. Over the long haul, through hardships, accidents, and my own being in bed for a year with rheumatic fever, I saw endurance in action and learned that there is hope.

I received invaluable wisdom from my family in learning the potential of all created things. To have the potato crop fail one year was not a tragedy because other foods had the potential of taking the potatoes' place. As I often heard, "there's more than one way to skin a rabbit."This attitude made the lack of one thing the occasion of challenge and thanksgiving for another thing

Finally, I experienced the wisdom of prayer. Seeing my mother pray from the missal by the kitchen stove, waiting for the wood to catch so the oatmeal could be put on, I sensed that she was strengthened and able to bear daily life with a peace that other people did not have. I know that she and Dad spoke to God often during the day. I learned to say, "All for Thee, O Lord!", very early. How often my heart was in it was another question.

The family rosary put a peaceful close to each day. With the lights out, the candle lit before the picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the northern lights playing through the living room windows, and the seven of us kneeling against the unarranged chairs, it was a good time to reflect on the words and mysteries, to wonder, to feel, and, yes, even to sleep! Once, when it was my turn to lead, I suddenly became aware that only the brother nearest my age was answering the Hail Marys. I said to him, "You know we're the only two praying?!" He answered, "You mean there's only one praying! You're on the 20th Hail Mary in this decade!"

I am unable to say when it was that I first thought of becoming a Sister. I do know that once when Mom and I were working in the kitchen I asked her, "What is the best thing I could be when I grow up?" She thought a bit and said, "The best thing you could be is a Sister."I wondered a little, but I don't remember thinking much about it.

I knew what Sisters were. The Franciscan Sisters from Joliet taught in the Catholic school in our 900 population town. My parents greatly respected them and we brought fresh fruits, vegetables, and canned goods to them at the convent on Christmas and Easter and other times.

The spring I finished eighth grade, I became overwhelmed with the conviction that I had to be a Sister, and that I had to do it now. The only thing I knew was that I did not want to teach school. The Franciscan pastor at Holy Family Church knew a Franciscan Community of Hospital Sisters in Illinois. That September I left to enter their Aspirant School, a high school for girls interested in religious life.

School opened with a retreat, my first. I can still see the words of wisdom the retreat master wrote on the blackboard, "Love God madly for there is so little time."

When I entered the postulancy in 1956, I set myself to that hard task of cultivating a deep spiritual life. Reaching sainthood early in life, at least by age 21, didn't seem at that time to be too impossible a task After all, my family had trained me well. I knew I could accomplish it through perseverance and prayer.

In reading the lives of the saints that filled the novitiate library, I discovered that I would need the help of someone else in order to be a saint. All of the saints had a profound devotion to Mary, the Mother of God, the Spouse of the Holy Spirit. I had an acquaintance with Mary and the Holy Spirit from the family rosary and the prayer of seven Hail Marys in honor of the Holy Spirit that we prayed at the end of each rosary, but I knew my love didn't measure up to the devotion of the saints. I asked Mary for that same devotion. She obtained it for me, and the Pentecost before I became a novice I made the act of Consecration to her. My experience was of profound peace and happiness.

The year I pronounced my vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience before the Bishop, the Community, and the whole Church, was the year I turned 21. I had not reached sainthood. The priest who preached the homily at the Profession Mass proclaimed with power what I had been slowly learning, "You think you are entering upon a calm and peaceful life; you are not! You are entering into a war, and your weapons are the cross and the rosary! " I knew that my spiritual life was a warfare, and in spite of all my efforts, I did not experience any major victories.

Community life was important to me. It was essential to being a Sister, and so it puzzled me that it was so hard to live in oneness of spirit and heart. I experienced great spiritual warfare in living this life. Some wisdom came when a priest from the Better World Movement preached a retreat at the Motherhouse. He said, "Don't participate in community life-be identified!" I recognized the challenge and accepted it.

Throughout college, medical technology school, blood banking school, and into my service as supervisor of a hospital laboratory, I carrried on the spiritual warfare. Fatigue set in then, and being battle weary, I stopped seeking.

Good Pope John XXIII appeared just in time, and Vatican II happened. Our religious community began a self-study. I experienced new life, new hope. Our Community leadership asked me to go back to school and study theology in order to help update the Sisters in the new understanding of the faith brought by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the Church through Vatican II. I said yes and began three years of study in dogmatic/ systematic theology at St. Louis University School of Divinity.

I had a few Jesuit professors who were outstanding in their wisdom. Much of what I heard from them was beyond my ability to express, but it resonated deep inside. Thanks to the wisdom of Sr. Angeline, who was sent to study at the same time and for the same purpose as myself, I began to understand the profound truths of our Catholic faith that I had seen acted out in the lives of those spoken of here.

The San Damiano crucifix which spoke to St. Frances telling him to: "Go and repair My house, which, as you see, is falling to ruin."

At this time the new Pentecost prayed for by Pope John XXIII began to happen. A new thing called a prayer meeting came into being. We went to see. What we walked into at this gathering of 150 some people, was an awakening to an experience of the Lord Jesus that was new to us. Jesus was REAL in a way I had not known Him to be real and so was the power of the Holy Spirit. We both experienced the Person, Presence, and Power of the Lord in a new way. We saw Him in the faces, and heard Him in the voices of the praising people there.

My years of waging the spiritual battle alone, however, were hard to blot out. It wasn't until three years later that I submitted myself to grow again in wisdom. I finally sought the Lord where He could be found. I had to admit in humility that I did not have the power in myself to win the victory. The wisdom the Lord taught me and continues to teach me, is that sanctity is all gift. It is gift because it is personal relationship. I do not earn friendship with Jesus. He is Lord. It is He who chooses me. He asks me each moment of each day to enter into His victory over sin and death, by personally dying to my selfishness, and rising to new life through the power of His Holy Spirit, to the glory and praise of the Father.

The Lord worked astounding change in my life eight years after I learned that He was Lord. He led Sr. Angeline and me to branch off from our Hospital Community to become the Co-foundresses of the Sisters of the New Covenant, and He gave us His mission of evangelization.

I go on now experiencing what it means to be a little child seeking the Kingdom of God. When my trust was in me, the Scriptures were not believable. It made no sense to "wait on the Lord," "to put my trust in the Lord," when I believed that I could win the battle, with God's help.

As I conclude this, I go back to the words of wisdom that began it, "always be grateful." Nothing in all these years has been lost. All has been a blessing. Praise God!

Sisters of the New Covenant: Left to Right: Sr. Bridid Meierotto, Sr. Angeline Bukowiecki, Sr. Jan Nattermann

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