Thursday, January 6, 2011

Making a New Year's Transition

One of the few things I remember from high school biology is that all living things change. In fact, change is a sign that an organism is alive; if it doesn’t change it’s dead.

The most consequential changes in the human spirit come in the form of transitions, those life-altering periods that catch us off-balance for a time, cause us to question what we thought we knew, then nudge us to look for more meaningful markers on the journey and begin a new phase of life’s adventure. Without a doubt, they keep us guessing, but they can also get us trusting God and others in a new way.

With the digital revolution, the book and music industries, from creation to completion, are morphing at a dizzying pace. More than ever before, this flux defies us to anchor the direction of our mission on any permanent ministry—or form of carrying out our mission—a fact that challenges us on every level. Actually, if you’ve been involved in ministry for any extended period of time, you’ve noticed that the entire Church is experiencing much the same thing, to one degree or another. We are all in transition.
As a result, we’re working with our Mission Strategy Team to determine the direction God is leading us in and the steps needed to take us there. Our Pauline Books & Media (PBM) Centers are a major player in this process. We’re currently studying ways to rejuvenate or reinvent our PBM Centers to make them even more pastoral, to meet the new needs of people, so that these centers can continue the tradition set by Fr. Alberione, to be “centers of light and warmth,” where the Gospel can be preached in new ways.

This has meant closing some of our locations in recent years, always a painful decision—for us as much as for the people we serve. We’ve received some touching letters from these men and women. I’d like to share excerpts of a few from Edison, NJ, which we closed a little over a year ago. They demonstrate how gracefully people can enter into the rocky process of transition, making way for something new:

“It is with joy that I every day I remember in prayer each of you sisters, your families and all with whom you minister. Mary and I were privileged to be the first Cooperators in Edison. Perhaps you remember that an abortion clinic was attempting to open in the Wick Plaza around the same time; the township didn't grant them a permit. I find it most interesting that people were planning to take life in the Wick Plaza and you sisters brought the Author of Life Himself to take up residence.

“The French have a saying, ‘When two people separate, each takes a part of the other and they are united forever.’ Dear sisters, you can be certain that Mary and I will take good care of the parts of each of you as gift and blessing that remain with us. God bless each of you and may your community be blessed with many new vocations.”
Mary & Jim Varick

A letter from one of our sisters reads:

“One woman told how years ago she was helped so much by our staff while she was being received into the Church. ‘Ever since then, my friends & I always get each others’ presents from here.’ One of the children who used to come for all our children’s events is now thinking about religious life. In the 1990s, Deacon Sam did much of his preparation for the diaconate using resources from our Center. Now he’s in charge of the diaconate program, and 29 new deacons will be ordained this year! The seeds of the Gospel planted through our service will indeed bear fruit for years to come!”
Sr. Karen Marie Anderson, FSP, former manager

The following person ritualized a farewell in the form of a prayer:
“Dear Lord,
Thank you for this Pauline Book & Media Store. Eleven years ago I came here with many questions and wandering in a desert – not knowing where to go. Through your guidance, early Church Fathers, and Sister Laura’s patience & encouragement – your grace led me to the Catholic Church. Bless the sisters in their new journey. Amen!
Thanksgiving – The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away – You, dear friends of St. Paul, will be so missed. God bless you.”

A new year is a natural moment to step back and reassess our life’s direction. Pray for the Daughters of St. Paul during these transitions--we'll pray for you in yours--and let us hear your ideas.


  1. I haven't changed my buying habits with religious and Catholic books and materials. In fact, they've increased. However, I just don't like going to stores any more. I love Amazon and all the rest. I'm lazy, I guess.


  2. I am crying as I read this post. I said "Farewell" many years before when the Daughters left Hudson Mall in Jersey City and relocated to Edison (because at the time the mall management was moving toward Sunday shopping and would not give the Sisters an exemption to be open on Sundays). In the years that followed I visited the E. 52nd PB&M in Manhattan, but when I moved to Mercer County, I availed myself of the Edison PB&M. When I learned that Edison would close, my perspective was slightly different. I felt sad, but I also realized that in retrospect as much as I wanted the Sisters to stay in Jersey City I could never have denied the people of Edison (and all who were part of that PB&M community/constituency) of the graces and blessings they received through the Sisters' presence among them nor would I have wanted to give up the blessing of encountering the Sisters stationed in Manhattan. God uses all kinds of life events to bring about blessings.

    Life is in constant motion, a constant series of microtransitions that often go unnoticed, but times of recognizable transition can be wrought with anxiety, fear, and grief. While these are legitimate feelings, it is also important, vital, to recognize the opportunities that exist in the transition and the blessings yet to be realized.

  3. K T Cat and Lisa,
    Thank you both for your sharing your thoughts and feelings.
    There is "buying" and there is "shopping." "Convenience" is a huge part of buying, hence, the preference for online access. (Why not try, the PBM Webstore? New book, CD, and DVD titles are added gradually, but regularly.) "The Experience" is the number one purpose behind shopping, hence, the instore visit. This is where the heart rules. You'll notice that next week when I post other comments about specific PBM Centers and what you all are looking for or usually find. We're keeping this in mind as move ahead. Thank you for adding to the wisdom pool.

  4. Having been introduced to the Pauline Family through the Edison book center and going through formation classes as a Pauline Cooperator, I was saddened by the closing of the store. It was a little oasis for me -- like going on a mini retreat. Early on we had Friday night adoration once a month that followed with fellowship and a cup of tea! I could go on and on about how much I miss the book center, but have come to the realization that everything changes and, hopefully, opens up new doors. Liked Lisa's comment about "the blessings yet to be realized." I, fortunately, have the privilege of being a Cooperator so have the benefit of working, etc. with many of the sisters. Would like to add that in Oct. I worked a Diocesan event for the sisters. Almost every other person who visited our booth commented about how they too missed the book center. I assured them that the sisters were in NY and how they could still visit there and purchase materials. Prayers still continue for another book center to open in NJ! Jesus Master, we trust in you.

  5. Thank you, Maryann, for your life as a Cooperator and for all you do. You were a Pauline presence for all those people who entered your life. I can imagine how thankful you were for the opportunity. Only in eternity will we fully understand and appreciate the blessing of such a vocation and mission.


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