Saturday, November 30, 2013

Living Community

Community living has been an "issue" for my entire religious life. Entering an active apostolic congregation in 1982 at age 25, I had no idea that it would be such a hot topic. I was naive to think that almost anyone could live together. I also was not aware of the painful experiences many Sisters had, living in large institutions or experimental small houses as the renewal of religious life went forward after Vatican II. I also had an expectation that living together in community, whatever it entailed, was as much a priority as ministry. During my own initial formation I came to understand the challenges and the joys of building community. It was not always easy, but in my experiences I realized how essential life in community was for my own transformation and conversion. I came to believe, more than ever, that the witness of a life in common, with all its struggles and demands, was just as important as any ministry in which I engaged.
  For the past twenty years in our congregation, the majority of Sisters in active ministry have chosen to live alone or with one other person. We have very few community living situations with more than three members, except for the Mother-house and other retirement facilities. Over the years, especially through my involvement with vocation promotion and formation, I have participated in and planned various congregational processes and programs to try to spark interest in developing new local communities. There has not been a significant positive response, even when Sisters were presented with data that women who feel called to religious life today indicate that community living- under one roof- is a priority. Conversations around this issue raise defenses that continue to be obstacles for us even today. And so we have simply stopped talking about it.
   The way forward, I believe, is to accept the reality that for many religious women, community living is not where they choose to put their energies. Sandra Schneiders, IHM has suggested that for ministerial religious, the life-form may have evolved to a point where living under one roof is not necessary and should not be the norm. The expectation that it should be hearkens back to a monastic tradition that does not and should not apply to this new expression of religious life. While I appreciate Schneiders' effort to articulate the evolution of the life-form I have lived as an active religious for the past thirty years, I am uncomfortable with her conclusion. In my opinion she is trying to justify a situation with which many Sisters of her generation have grown comfortable.
   So I have accepted the fact that there are few Sisters older than myself who will choose to create small local communities that are a new way of being together. At this point many have lived alone or with an established partner for so long that it would be very difficult, for them and for those with whom they would try to build community. They are not up for it and they should not be coerced. Still, I believe that a renewed version of life in common is essential for the future of religious life. A new wine-skin is needed. Where will it be found? I believe that the women called to our congregations today have the capacity to create it. And the few of us who have continued to strive to build healthy local communities over the past thirty years might have enough of a foundation for the next generation to build on. We need to advocate for them with congregational leaders, formators and the community at large. We need to ask them what they see as they look into the future. We need to let them experiment and give them the resources they need. They may need to seek companions to create community in federations of a common charism, across congregational lines, or with lay folk who desire intentional community living.  I hope we will give them our support in every way we can.  And I hope to be invited to help create the new along with them.
--Janet Gildea sc

Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Awkward Catholic: Nunnabe Diaries: Drinking a Beer with God

The Awkward Catholic: Nunnabe Diaries: Drinking a Beer with God: I am/was in a rough spot. Not only was I grieving over the lost of my grandma but trying to discern where God was calling m...

--Thanks for some great insights into life, vocation and discernment. I've certainly had those moments and it's a blessing to find those breakthrough moments when we can let go and relax with God.


Saturday, November 16, 2013

Occupy Religion

In Occupy Religion: Theology of the Multitude, authors Kwok Pui-lan and Joerg Rieger seek to convey the "subversive and transforming power of the God incarnate" at work in the midst of 21st-century income inequality. Think of it as liberation theology 2.0.

True to the theology it proposes, this book does not take a top-down view, but rather observes how the divine is emerging from the ground up. The authors provide an offering for our own reflection, resonance and participation. Because much of the content is experiential, readers without a formal theological background will find the language and ideas accessible. Having participated in the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York City with other people of faith, I found the reading a helpful articulation of my experience, both historically and theologically. Read more...

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Musings of a Discerning Woman: FiveYears Ago ... My First Big Yes

Musings of a Discerning Woman: FiveYears Ago ... My First Big Yes: My novitiate classmate reminded me that it was on this day five years ago that we professed our first vows, our "Yes!", as Sisters...
Since that day of course I've professed perpetual vows and sought to live out this call each day to seek justice, to love tenderly, and to walk in the way of peace.  I feel very very blessed and grateful to my loving God for managing to break through all the noise and help me find the way I am best able to be the me God created me to be.
Thanks Susan for this reminder of your reminder of the journey we're on.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Video: Sisters

Sisters from Robert Gardner on Vimeo.
It is a film about faith and hope, love and death, seen through the eyes of five women who have committed their lives to the service of others in the deepest way. Without narration, their stories are told in the honest words and actions of the women themselves.
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This is a delightful window into the religious life today. A shout out to all these women and to some many hundreds of others who have joined this amazing movement that is religious life.