Deep Spiritual Roots - Prairie Style!

Blog Published: August 26, 2021
By S. Réjane Cytacki, SCL
Midwest Prairie

Hello, I am S. Réjane Cytacki, the new director of A Nun’s Life Ministry and I want to share a little bit about me in this post. I also look forward to learning more about all of you in the Nun’s Life community in the coming weeks and months. 

I have been a Sister of Charity of Leavenworth for 16 years. Growing up in Kansas, we had a suncatcher in our kitchen window that read “Bloom Where You Are Planted.” I like to think I have taken that saying to heart. 

I have lived in many states from Colorado to New York, but Kansas is the place I continually return to and call home. I am sure many of you have moved around a lot but there is only one place that you call home. Let’s be honest, Dorothy got it right when she said, “There’s no place like home!”
What makes Kansas home for me? 

To make a prairie it takes a clover
and one bee, One clover, and a bee
And revery.
The revery alone will do,
If bees are few. 

(1896, Emily Dickinson) 

(This poem was quoted at the end of the 2021 LCWR Virtual Assembly Keynote Address – August 12, 2021 “Creating Space for the Future” by Mercedes L. Casas Sánchez, FSpS )

First is the tallgrass prairie that Emily Dickinson’s poem spoke of so eloquently. One of my favorite places to go for a day trip is the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve near Emporia. Whether it is just time to get away with friends to rejuvenate or to participate in the annual butterfly count day, I come back more alive and refreshed out in the open air and blue skies. People assume that Kansas is flatter than a pancake. Not so! The tallgrass prairie is located in the Flint Hills and when the wind blows over the large and gentle hills it looks like rolling waves on A Sea of Grass (sung by Ann Zimmerman)

Second is my community, the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth (SCL). My community is deeply rooted in the fabric of this state, arriving in Leavenworth in 1858, right in the middle of the fighting between pro-and anti-slavery forces. The SCL community has always been guided by our founders, St. Vincent de Paul and Mother Xavier Ross. They call us to offer every loving service to our neighbors especially those who live in poverty. This SCL community has a sense of place, having lived on the same land in Leavenworth for over 160 years. This land is an edge ecosystem, where the glacial forest meets the prairie. 

There is always more than meets the eye on the prairie. The plants and grasses are the hardiest plants on earth because of the seasonal changes on the prairie range from extreme heat in summer to bitter cold in winter. How do they survive these extreme conditions? The secret of a prairie grass’ hardiness is the deep roots that lie below the surface which make up seventy-five percent of the plant material. The part of the prairie grass that we see with our eyes is only twenty-five percent of the physical reality of the plant. This is what holds me in amazement- just look at that photo!

Prairie Root - Tallgrass Prairie Center

Photo Credit: Tallgrass Prairie Center

This is where my personal experience of a Kansas prairie connects with my personal experience of religious life. Prior to being a religious sister, I came to realize I was searching for a deeply spiritual interior life to feed my external one. I imagine that many of you can relate to this experience. 

In our day-to-day lives, we are often missing a vocabulary that describes our experience of a deep inner life. We have lots of psychological terms, for our emotional well-being and mental health, but these terms do not capture the mystery of an inner life. Somehow this deeply rooted interior life interconnects us with each other, God, and the environment. We discover we are not alone. I think of how those individual prairie plants look on the surface, but now look at how deeply entangled their roots are below the surface. The root systems are interacting interdependently through the soil. In the prairie, the soil serves as a protective medium so that neither the bitter frost of winter nor the flames of a prairie fire can touch the deep roots.

Our fertile soil is the daily prayer strengthening our deep interior life to weather the external storms of life. I am aware that I play a small part in a much bigger community including both ecological and spiritual aspects and yet I am an integral part of it. This is what continues to keep me grounded and rooted in religious life. Knowing that my spiritual journey is not in the least complete, I am keeping all of you, in A Nun’s Life community, in my prayers. I look forward to getting to know you better as I embark on this new adventure with A Nun’s Life Ministry!


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