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Positivity and Homemade Granola

 Fuel the Body, Fuel the Soul

During the first Fuel the Body, Fuel the Soul meeting on November 9, Sister Marion Renkens demonstrated how she makes her homemade granola. Following the recipe, Sister Donna Gunn gave a presentation entitled, “Remaining Positive in Our Present Times.” Find the granola recipe and transcript of Sister Donna’s presentation below!

Fuel the Body, Fuel the Soul is a monthly series held on the second Thursday of the month. Each Zoom session features an introduction to a healthy recipe presented by a sister, a presentation focusing on a spiritual topic and discussion and prayer with a community of young women from around the country. Register once for any/all sessions. There is no cost to attend.

Sister Marion Renkens in her kitchen cooking homemade granola

Homemade Granola Recipe

by Sister Marion Renkens, CSJ
Homemade granola recipe card

Time: 40 minutes

Yield: about 6 cups


  • 3 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup oat bran
  • 1/4 cup ground flax seed
  • 1 cup blanched almonds
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup dried fruit

Directions: Preheat oven to 300°F. Combine oats, bran, flax and almonds in a large bowl. In a pot over medium-low heat, combine the honey, oil, sugar, water, vanilla, cinnamon and salt, stirring often. When bubbly (about 5 mins), pour over the oat mix. Mix well. Spread on two rimmed baking sheets. Bake for 30 mins, stirring every 10 mins. For the last 10 minutes of baking, stir in the dried fruit. Enjoy!

Sister Donna Gunn speaking into a microphone

Remaining Positive in Our Present Times

by Sister Donna Gunn, CSJ

I am an 86-year-old Sister of St. Joseph who spent 18 years doing advocacy in the Mississippi state legislature where—trust me—I had to struggle to be positive for my own survival. 

While I was in Mississippi, my secretary and I became great friends. We worked more as a team, and we knew we had each other’s back. Even though she was black and I was white, we referred to one another as “Sista.” After having worked together almost ten years, Gwen was diagnosed with cancer.  She underwent debilitating treatments and died almost a year to the day later. I was filled with grief and anger and kept asking God, “Why would you take this 43-year-old wife and mother and leave this old nun behind?”

In prayer, I distinctly heard God say, “Why do you keep asking me why I took her from you, but you have yet to ask me why I sent her to you in the first place?”

That more than anything changed my grief to gratitude. That more than anything reminded me that to be positive—even in the midst of pain—is always a choice. I don’t need to look much further about how to be positive in today’s world than to simply choose to be positive.

Having said that, I realize that it’s more easily said than done. I live here on a senior citizen campus that offers services from independent living to skilled nursing care. I can so easily get depressed by being surrounded by death and dying; spouses needing to be cared for; sisters I’ve known all my religious life growing frail and dying.   

At my last family gathering, I looked around and saw my seven siblings—all of us—growing so old and frail. I mentioned that to a friend, and she said, “Well Donna, you may see yourselves in that negative light, but while I was listening to you, I thought, ‘Isn’t that wonderful that they are still alive and can gather and enjoy one another?'” So, I admit I probably need to hear more of what I have to say than you do.   

Being positive is always a choice.   

And it’s not just in our personal lives. As we watch the nightly news filled with war, division and violence—even then—I need to remind myself that this very darkness can be the best incentive for me to want to be a light for others. The world needs us to be light in all this darkness. I wonder if for a lot of us—making that choice, deliberately working to be a positive presence in our world—gets to the heart of who we want to be.   

I can/you can choose to be Good News. We can choose to be a smiling, affirmative presence in a world desperately in need of that positivity, lest we all fall down the rabbit hole of depression.

I don’t know how much you know about the Sisters of St. Joseph, but we were founded precisely on the premise that women should do all they are capable of doing. We were, if not the first, one of the first apostolic religious communities in the church—meaning we did not go live in a monastery away from the world but were sent out into the world to use our gifts however we were meant to use them. Our very mission is to encourage one another to question not just what I am capable of doing, but who I am capable of being.

I believe that everyone has a call to become her best self. And might my becoming “my best self” be the very definition of holiness—in whatever religion we profess?

For too long, we have described holiness as some kind of illusive aura—unattainable by most of us ordinary folks. But someone once defined holiness as simply “looking for and finding God—in the other’s voice, the other’s face, the other’s wounds—because when we do that, we prove we believe God is everywhere.”

We can choose to watch the news and not only see human violence and destruction, but also the divine in people caring for one another, advocating for one another, working for peaceful solutions. When we can name and claim the divine, we know God has not abandoned us. God is very much in our midst—in one another.   

Holiness is not needing to go to a place to find God; holiness is finding God in the place where we are. 

And it’s always a choice. I can watch the news and feel overwhelmed by the darkness, or I can let the darkness be the opportunity encouraging me to deliberately find ways to dispel that darkness by becoming a more positive, affirming presence in my here and now—becoming God’s listening, compassionate heart for those who have every reason not to be positive and meeting people where they are and not where I want or expect them to be. We can stretch beyond ourselves to serve those who need to know God’s presence today in the here and now. 

We all sometimes feel so overwhelmed with the many tasks needing to be done that we forget that we can choose how we do those tasks. Perhaps I won’t feel so overwhelmed if I can remind myself that the best way to overcome my paralysis is to choose to be positive, affirming, accepting. Maybe I won’t feel so overwhelmed if I learn to mind my own business. Where did I get the idea that I need to be the morality police? I can simply try to do what the Sisters of St. Joseph have been challenged to do since their founding: accept every dear neighbor without distinction and find the God within them. It’s really amazing how much peace I find when I accept others as my brothers and sisters, regardless of their color, nationality, who they love, etc., etc., and so forth.

To overcome the depression in the world, we need positive people reminding one another of our goodness and our gifts. We all know our faults. We can name those readily, but we need help in reminding one another that we are more than okay and more than enough. Choosing to not focus on what’s bad in our lives, but to deliberately go in search of what’s right—to go in search of God who is hiding in ever so many places—may be the very route by which each of us becomes our best self. When we do that, we become keenly aware that God has not abandoned us. God is right here—in you, in me.  

Last Saturday, I went shopping and stood in two very long lines. At both, the clerks were young women who looked so tired, so depressed, almost angry. When I got up to them, I thanked them and said how exhausted they must be after working so hard all day. Each of them in her own way suddenly came to life and gave me the most beautiful smile. It was as if someone had suddenly seen her—her—for the first time.

None of us can possibly be our best self if all we do is look around and see what’s wrong. Each of us is called to be the light in the darkness—in whatever small ways we can be that light. It’s not enough to become a paralyzed remote bystander who doesn’t make any difference anywhere. To make a difference, I’ve got to get up and go out and be God’s face in a world needing every sign of Good News. Even if that’s just in our homes because the people closest to us also need to find in us that spark of peace and joy.

When we each become that positive force our world most needs, I believe we have placed ourselves well on the road to becoming all we are capable of being: a joy-filled, peaceful and—dare I say it?—holy person God relishes and finds utterly delightful.

Blessings on each of you!

Category: Reflections

1 thought on “Positivity and Homemade Granola”

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    Love this talk Donna. Wish I could have heard you give it in person. Wasn’t Sister Anastasia your aunt? She was one of my favorite sisters, always positive, and very well loved by our province.

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The Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet are a congregation of Catholic sisters. We, and those who share our charism and mission, are motivated in all things by our profound love of God and our dear neighbors. We seek to build communities and bridge divides between people. Since our first sisters gathered in 1650, our members have been called to “do all things of which women are capable.” The first sisters of our congregation arrived in St. Louis, Missouri in 1836, and we now have additional locations in St. Paul, Albany, Los Angeles, Hawaii, Japan and Peru. Today, we commit to respond boldly to injustice and dare to be prophetic.


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