“Only the Essentials”

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Sister Brenda Rose Szegedy, OSF

It was my very first experience of a major hurricane threat in the early fall of 2003.  I was ministering at a retreat house in southern Florida at the time, and we were preparing to evacuate further inland.   The Sisters in the area had many experiences of past mandatory evacuations, and cautioned me to take only the essentials; only what personal belongings I would be able to fit in a small suitcase.   Food items that we shared in common were packed separately. The reality was that everything left behind potentially might not be there when we returned.

Needless to say, fear gripped my heart as I began packing my suitcase trying to decide what to let go of and what to pack. I quickly grabbed my Bible and journal, family photo,  Franciscan Rule book, Liturgy of the Hours, passport, pills, purse, flashlight, clothes and shoes.  At that point, my suitcase was quite full and heavy. When I looked at all the precious family keepsakes I was leaving behind, a prayer began to form in my heart,  “Lord, please grant me the grace to let go!”

Once we settled in our temporary home, it wasn’t too long when we suddenly lost electrical power.  The Sisters were prepared with a couple battery operated lanterns trying to make the best of the situation.  We prayed, enjoyed simple meals together, laughed, shared stories, and sang songs.  Amid the howling winds outside our shelter, there was a sense of peace in knowing we had one another.  It was this simple truth that showed me what is truly essential in life.

After the storm, as we headed back home we were shocked at all the destruction in the area.  A voice from the back seat broke our silence as one of the Sisters said with deep conviction,  “ Now it’s time for us to pick up the pieces, rearrange our priorities, and begin rebuilding, renewing, and restoring.”  Yes, this was now our new mission which we were all ready to accomplish together.

Through this experience I have come to learn in a very real way that the essentials in life are not about the things we can fit in a suitcase but rather about the relationships we form… our dependence on God and our interdependence with one another.  Each day offers a new opportunity to reach out beyond ourselves as we pray for a restored sense of solidarity with our God and all Creation.  As Sylvania Franciscans we are each called like Francis of Assisi  to “go and repair My Church which is falling into ruin.”  We remind one another to focus on only the essentials as together we “pick up the pieces, rearrange our priorities, and begin rebuilding, renewing, restoring.”





Sister Brenda Rose Szegedy

Retreat Ministry

Sr. Brenda Rose Szegedy

Sister Brenda Rose Szegedy has ministered as teacher, formation minister, retreat director and spiritual guide.  For the past 14 years she has served as a member of the preaching team at Christ the King Retreat Center in Buffalo, MN.  Sister Brenda Rose relocated to the Motherhouse in Sylvania, OH in 2022 to continue sharing her gifts among her Sisters in community and others in the surrounding area as retreat minister and spiritual companion.  She believes with an ever-deepening conviction that every story is sacred.

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Janet Snyder
5 years ago

Thanks Brenda, for another thoughtful blog. I’m curious, were any of the things you had to leave behind there when you returned?

Sharon Havelak
5 years ago

Thanks, Brenda Rose, for a beautiful reflection. Sometimes it takes something drastic to get our attention!

Sister Mary Thill
5 years ago

Quite a life lesson learned from Mother Nature. Thanks for sharing it with us!

Sister Irenaeus
5 years ago

As I read your blog, I was doing some deep thinking myself….if such a situation would occur for me, what would I do in that instance? What would I pack into one suitcase? What would I consider essential for me? Our Vow of Poverty guides us as to how we are called to live, having our total dependence on God, yet we cling to the things that are dear to us. Still learning to “Let go, Let God” lead my life. I have read your blog several times. Much to reflect on. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts.

Paula Blevins
5 years ago

Great reflection. Thank you.

Eileen Kerner
5 years ago

how great to read your blog after the conclusion of 2018 Chapter of Mats….you captured what was present throughout each day! Blessings.

Shannon Schrein
5 years ago

Well done, Sister Brenda Rise. A reordering if priorities is frequently a gift from God.

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