A Message from Sister Charlene
Theme for the 2022-2023 School Year
SERVICE TO THE DEAR NEIGHBOR
Welcome to the 2022-2023 academic school year at Mount Saint Joseph Academy! As this new year commences, I am drawn to the possibility, promise, and potential that awaits each of us individually and all of us as a community as we focus on the mission through the theme of Service to the Dear Neighbor. Who is the dear neighbor? What are the dear neighbor’s needs? How do we determine those needs? How do we inspire one another to desire to respond actively to the needs of the dear neighbor? What skills and behaviors do I need to nurture and practice this year?
Perhaps the Zulu greeting SAWABONA might point us in a direction to answer these questions. I learned about this Zulu greeting at a conference of Sisters of St. Joseph from all over the country and beyond. It’s a personal greeting and yet so much more. It is a way of being with and we’re invited to understand SAWABONA as WE SEE YOU because our eyes are connected to our ancestors – our seeing includes all of them – our families, our founding sisters, all who came before us since 1858, the beginning days of the Mount, and even our faith ancestors, Jesus and his disciples. When two people meet in the gesture of SAWABONA, we acknowledge that we see each other. The response YABO SAWABONA means WE SEE YOU, TOO.
The mission of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, the reason why we exist, is union. It’s the union that Jesus prays for in John 17:21 – that all may be one, as you Father, are in me and I in you. How can we participate in this mission of unity if we do not see one another? If we do not recognize and acknowledge the dear neighbor? Here at the Mount, we are invited to share in the mission when we love and serve God IN the loving service of the dear neighbor without distinction. We do not separate ourselves from the dear neighbor while working to achieve unity.
Literally, we can imagine the dear neighbor as the French would say, le prochain, or the next. In any given moment of time, who is next to me? What might they need? How am I called to serve them? So that all may be one, we respond with active inclusive love. The mission calls us to care for the dear neighbor with the same care and loving concern that Joseph showed for Jesus and Mary. The Zulu greeting of SAWABONA reminds me of my connection to the dear neighbor. When we engage in this greeting and its response, we communicate that we are in the presence of one another – here at the same time – and this moment is given to us to be able to participate in each other’s lives. It not only affirms another’s being, it obligates us to give each other what is needed for that moment of life to be enhanced.
In the wise pithy sayings of our founder, John Pierre Medaille, Maxim 5 calls for the following:
Learn to let go of your ego and how it operates and then choose love.
We cannot live and exist independently of others; we are interdependent beings. We need to treat each other as sisters and brothers and care for the “dear neighbor” without distinction. Only working as ONE can we build communities that empower everyone to attain full potential.
In the end, to serve the dear neighbor, we must actively choose love over and over again. In every encounter, there is a potential opportunity to meet and serve the dear neighbor. Our interaction with the one next to us is a chance to be a healing presence and to serve God in the dear neighbor without distinction. When we serve the dear neighbor in this capacity, we create right relationships.
SAWABONA – We see you. YABO SAWABONA –Yes, we see you, too. Be assured that you are remembered in my prayer and may this new academic year bless us with the grace to authentically serve the dear neighbor, near and far, so that all may be one.
Yours in Saint Joseph,
Sister Charlene Diorka, SSJ
Distinguished Service to the Dear Neighbor Award
Throughout the 2022-2023 school year, we will be acknowledging community members who embody Service to the Dear Neighbor with the Distinguished Service to the Dear Neighbor Award. Many among us contribute tirelessly to the Mount, to our local community and to the world as a whole and this is one small way to say thank you, to say SAWABONA—we see you. The recipients of this award can be students, teachers, staff or administrators. The essential requirement is that this individual exhibits a strong commitment to the mission of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, to treating others as sisters and brothers and to caring for the “dear neighbor” without distinction.
Read more about the first award recipient, Mrs. Ana-Gabriela Bornancini.