The year 2005 was tough for Rose Jensen. She had a lot to deal with that year, including the stroke and car accident of close family members as well as her own car accident and injuries.
"The year brought one thing after another happening in my life," Jensen recalled. "It was just one of those years when people kept saying, ‘How are you sane?’"
When she looks back on those days now, Jensen herself is surprised at how well she handled the blows she was dealt. She never felt sorry for herself, she said, or asked God why he was giving her more than her share of suffering.
"You know, I never really did get there (to a place of despair and questioning God)," she said. "Everything that came along, I felt like I could handle with Christ."
She credits her strong faith for motivating her to push forward and not despair, and she hopes her story will motivate other Catholic women who might be dealing with challenging situations. She’ll share her experiences at the next Magnificat breakfast for Catholic women, which will take place at 9 a.m. Sept. 11 at St. Pius Tenth Parish Center, 3000 Chili Ave. in Chili.
For more than 35 years Jensen has been an active member of St. Michael Parish in Penn Yan, which now is part of Our Lady of the Lakes Catholic Community. In previous years she served as the parish’s music director, and now belongs to the liturgy committee and volunteers as a cantor, guitarist and choir director.
In 2002 Jensen reached a turning point in her life and her faith when she took part in a Cursillo retreat weekend. Cursillo, a lay spiritual movement, started in Spain in the 1940s and came to the Rochester Diocese in the 1960s. The movement’s goal is to help lay Catholics learn more about their faith and become more aware of the Holy Spirit working in them and touching others’ lives through them. Participants at Cursillo weekend retreats listen to others share about their own faith experiences and join in discussions and reflections.
"I had an experience when I was on the weekend where I really and truly understood the fact that I was loved. I know I’m not the only one where you think, ‘I’ve done so many bad things in my life, how could God really love me, or anyone?’ I just had a profound experience in chapel where I just felt so loved," Jensen said.
That knowledge helped her persevere through the trying times she’d experience three years later. It also motivated her to help out at subsequent Cursillo weekends, where she’s been able to help other women understand that they, too, are loved.
"That’s always a wonderful experience, too, to just let the Holy Spirit work," she said.
In 2005, Jensen also participated in the 19th Annotation Retreat of Ignatian Spiritual Exercises, an intense 30-week program designed to help participants strengthen their faith by learning about their own sinfulness, studying Jesus and his experiences, and contemplating the Gospels. Jensen said the timing of this exercise proved beneficial and also helped her deal with 2005’s challenges.
"One other (thing) that has helped me cope is spiritual direction," she added.
Ten years ago, Jensen began to feel like something was missing from her spiritual life. She shared this with Deacon Claude Curtain, who suggested she start working with a spiritual director. Upon his recommendation, she began meeting with Sister of St. Joseph Anne Alderman, director of Cobblestone Springs spirituality and renewal center in Dundee, and the pair has met regularly ever since.
"Once I started going I couldn’t imagine not going. (Sister Alderman) is just there as support and to help me see where God is in my life and where he’s guiding me," Jensen said.
Another of Jensen’s coping strategies centers around the Psalms, which she said give her a great deal of strength and guidance.
"No matter what mood I’m in, there’s a Psalm that’s right," she said.
All of these strategies and experiences have helped Jensen understand that God loves her and has carried her, even when she’s felt alone or hasn’t actively acknowledged his presence, she said. Jensen hopes her talk Sept. 11 at the Magnificat breakfast will help other women to see "that they are loved, and no matter what they have done."
"In the times where you do feel like you’re alone, you’re not," she added. "I hope that what the Lord needs people or wants people to hear is what I can give."
EDITOR’S NOTE: For more information on the Magnificat breakfast, contact Kathy Murty at 585-436-1284 or send an e-mail to RochesterMagnificat@frontiernet.net.