Using technology to find your way home

Global Sisters Report has enjoyed a partnership with A Nun’s Life Ministry since our site went live in April 2014. Srs. Maxine Kollasch and Julie Vieira share audio clips every week from their popular podcasts and now take turns writing a monthly column. Drawing on their experiences of online presence and using a lens of Scripture, they each will explore how social media offers new ways of witnessing Gospel values.


"A highway will be there, a roadway, and it will be called the Highway of Holiness." (Isaiah 35:8)

At dinner the other night, I was chatting with friends about using GPS when you already know where you are going. I proudly said that I was part of that club, albeit the only one at the table in the club. "So why do you do it?" they asked. "What's the point?"

For me, my GPS does something more than point me down the highway. I know where I am going, most times, but it is something deeper than that. My GPS can make me more aware of the presence of God all around me.

No matter if I'm driving to the Motherhouse or to visit family or friends, I turn that GPS on and become one with the little orange triangle that represents me. I Bluetooth my phone into my car stereo system so that Karen, my GPS guide, can update me regularly — more or less correctly, my nuns never fail to point out.

Sure, GPS is helpful on a practical level. GPS gives me a visual orientation of where I am and, simultaneously, where I am going. I love charting my progress and following the yellow-pixeled road. I love heading for the checkered flag of my destination. It warns me of road construction and speed limits. And when I need a quick cup of coffee or it's time to refuel, my GPS is there to find the most expedient route.

GPS is also oddly reassuring. I've got 4.7 inches of retina HD display that firmly root me in time and space. And, when I stray from the path it has set for me, the GPS doesn't patronize me but rather lets me know that yes indeed we are lost, and that we are rerouting, rerouting, rerouting . . . . .

My GPS is especially helpful for long trips on the interstate highways between the convent and the homes of family and friends. With the help of my GPS, I feel at home even though I'm at neither my origin nor my destination. The GPS map shows me rivers and creeks that I am about to cross. It shows me parks and lakes just beyond the tree line of the highway that I would never have known were there. I have a birds-eye view of where I am in the world.

The GPS map also shows me the web of communities through which I am driving. I may not always be able to see much from the highway, but I know that all around me — in urban and in rural areas — I am surrounded by people who are living, loving, suffering, trying. I pray for them, conscious of Thomas Merton's great realization: "In Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all these people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers." (Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander)

I am reminded that this concrete pathway is part of a larger topography, an ecosystem of great lakes, waterways, hills and forests. Further, my GPS reminds me that this is the terrain of God and prompts me to look at it more closely, indeed, more intimately.

I am grateful that for the inspiration that my GPS brings whether I am on the highway of Route 80 or of life. It reminds me to be at home where I am truly at home — the people, the land, the whole of God's good creation. Traveling with my GPS is about more than getting from point A to point B. It's also about contemplatively surveying the expanse of this beautiful world within which we live.

[Julie Vieira is a member of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary of Monroe, Michigan, and co-founder of A Nun’s Life Ministry, which was founded on the Internet in 2006 and is present at and in many social media.]