Saturday, December 27, 2014

Expanding Circles of Encounter



Community happens at so many levels and in so many networks:
Imagine community with sisters from various communities,
--living, working and praying together.
Imagine living sustainably in an urban setting.
Imagine living in dynamic relationship with Earth and the ecosystem.
Imagine networking with others in a neighborhood ecovillage.
Imagine incarnating the Gospel here and now, in our lives today.
Imagine hope.
Imagine peace.


Since spring 2013, I have lived in Dogtown, an historic district in central St. Louis, that is traditionally Irish and home to the annual St. Patrick's Day Parade. I came here for two reasons: first, to work with other younger women religious to establish an inter-congregational community house, and second, to join a group of families in the neighborhood who are establishing the Dogtown Ecovillage. These are two grassroots efforts building sustainability through mutual support in ever widening circles of relationship and encounter.
1. A group of younger women religious in the St. Louis area have been meeting regularly for several years under the names of Giving Voice and Sisters 2.0.* Many of us are finding it increasingly difficult to find community living situations where all the members are engaged in active, full-time ministry. We hope to build supportive local communities where sisters can share in community, in spirituality and in mission. This inter-congregational community is one concrete result of our regular gatherings and conversations.
This is one way of 'seeding our future' by forming networks of relationship with sisters in various congregation. Our experiences of religious life have been inter-congregational from our earliest days in community. Sisters 2.0 is a movement of the new generations of women religious. In this peer-led, self-organized space, we network for visioning and fostering future oriented initiatives for religious life. We naturally turn to our 2.0 sisters to build these new community spaces.
My vision and my view of the future are influenced by where I stand. I stand with my sisters in my CSJ community in many respects, and I stand with my 2.0 sisters in other respects. I value opportunities to move in and out of congregational circles, and to move in and out of peer-sister circles in mutually supportive ways.
The inter-congregational house is sponsored by the Religious Life Project, nonprofit organization founded to support religious life, particularly, younger Sisters in living the communal and spiritual dimensions of vowed life, and work with them toward their sustainability.
2. The Dogtown Ecovillage is a group of families in the neighborhood who have gathered to build community and support environmental sustainability through shared experiences such as pot-luck dinners, community service projects, parties, and educational events. Our goal is to engage in sustainability projects in collaboration with other local and regional initiatives such as Gateway Greening, Operation Brightside and the Mayor's Sustainability Action Agenda. By our active presence in the neighborhood, we are able to raise the consciousness of our neighbors and help them to embrace the same values. Together, we create projects such as: gardening in private and shared settings, permaculture, home energy audits, improved housing efficiency, environmental or social justice activism, tool lending library, shared car, shared wifi, shared child care and shared space for environmental activist organizations.
At our inter-congregational house, we have installed organic gardens and fruit trees, focusing on native plants, edible plans and perennials. Sweet potatos have become one of our signature crops as we discover creative new ways to prepare a sweet potato dish for our various pot-luck suppers. At our holiday gift exchange, we brought packages of seeds we had collected from native wild flowers in our gardens.
As the cold winter days force us indoors the Dogtown Ecovillage has taken on an energy audit project. Initially we planned to negotiate with a local provider to audit the homes of ten ecovillagers, including our intercongregational house. With the approval of the provider, we also offered the program to others in the neighborhood and now have forty homes signed up for energy audits. As the project proceeds, we plan to post stories of the audits in local publications and social media so that we can continue to expand the circles of influence.
I am privileged to have this opportunity to live into our chapter calls for sustainability, for nurturing the future of vowed religious life and for partnering with new eyes.
--
* Why Sisters 2.0? The use of “2.0” after a term indicates the next generation, building on earlier versions and adapting it to new challenges.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Apostolic Visitation Report

Much has been said, written and speculated on the Apostolic Visitation Report. I suppose it ranges from the sublime to the ridiculous. I would add my reflections:
  1.  We sisters came to a wider awareness of our common sisterhood. Many in the younger generations have experienced this from the beginning of our religious lives. This consciousness was expanded through the experience of the Visitation.
  2. The Roman center of the Church discovered the richness of the American experience of religious life, in contrast to some of the narrow myths that seemed to underlie the Visitation.
  3. The report presents a balanced and pastoral assessment of the current state of religious life and a invitations to move forward in some key areas. They may form the basis for ongoing reflection and growth as religious life evolves over the coming decades:
    1. Charism
    2. Vocation and Formation
    3. Prayer and Theology
    4. Community
    5. Leadership 
    6. Financial Stewardship
    7. Ecclesial Ministry and Communion
  4. After all that has gone into the Visitation and its response and report, now let's get on with living the Gospel.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Hope

As we move through advent, the growing light renews our hope in Immanuel - God-with-us.
Over and over in the scriptures, we hear the words "do not be afraid," and usually those words are followed by the reassurance: "I am with you." If God is for us, who can be against.
I find the presence of God in the flickering candles on the advent wreath that dare to pierce the darkness. I find the presence of God in the flickering of hope in the dark places in my own life. I find the presence of God in the stirring of embers long grown cold, in the random acts of kindness by friend and strangers. I find the presence of God in the whispers of goodness that abound in this particular season.
I find the presence of God in the growing solidarity of people to work for the coming of Immanuel, for the coming of peace to every corner of our weary world, for the coming of hope and justice, for the coming of joy to longing hearts.
Pope Francis calls us to a Year of Consecrated life, marked by a renewed commitment to Joy, Communion, Prophecy, Mission and Contemplation. May these commitments renew our hope in this Advent season.
Peace,
Amy

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Habits of Love

Susan Francois, in a thoughtful essay about religious life writes:
Our attitudes of respect and inclusion affirm the both/and nature of the question today. Left to our own devices, over time, I believe we can heal this polarized division and in turn help heal a rift in religious life and the church. We find our common ground in the habits of love we develop, which form us as religious and shape the witness of our very lives as ones who follow Jesus in a particular way. Read more....
Susan describes her multivalent experience of religious-life 'habit', and that resonates with my own experience.
In my 30+ years of religious life, I have been in-habit for about half, and out-of-habit for the other half. I have embraced the challenges of authentic gospel living while wearing a veil, and while wearing a hoodie. I acknowledge some value in each experience, and some challenges in each. In neither case did what I wore touch the core experience of religious life or my commitment to Gospel living.
I think that wearing regular clothes allows me to be myself and to identify with others and with people I serve. Wearing a sign of my commitment in religious life allows me to identify with something larger, to witness the presence of God and of the people of faith into the present situation where I am living and working.
We can wear a pin or cross, but there is something profound about putting on clothing that represents who I am and what I stand for. I wonder about adopting the roman-collar as that symbol that can be worn as a widely-recognizable public witness.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

What if?

What if the Year of Consecrated Life ushers in a new graced time for religious, a kairos time, a time of vitality, hope and vision, a time that addresses the cries of a twenty first century world? This is one of the many possibilities that Australian Sister Sue McGuiness rsj recently hoped for the Josephites, and we at CRA echo these hopes for the benefit of all religious.

In his call for a year dedicated to Consecrated Life Pope Francis said it was his hope that religious sisters, brothers and priests would “wake up the world” with their testimony of faith, holiness and hope.

Quite a challenge! As religious, as Sisters of St Joseph, we can choose the nature of our response to the Pope’s challenge both personally and as a Congregation.

What if… during this special year we made a gesture of radical gratitude for the gift of religious life to the Church and to the world in a spirit of humility and openness? Cardinal Joao de Aviz, prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life, outlined his own hope, “In this year we want to recognize and confess our weaknesses, but we also want to show the world with strength and joy the holiness and vitality that are present in consecrated life.”

What if… during this year Josephites around the world, more than ever before, ignited hope, deepened our own sometimes fragile faith and gave prophetic witness to others of lives lived in solidarity with those on the margins of our communities?

What if… we modelled a life of simplicity which spoke loudly to a consumerist world that we have a responsibility to pass on to future generations an earth that can sustain its population in peace so that everyone has access to fresh water, sufficient food, adequate shelter and the liberating power of education?

What if… our stance as women religious offered solidarity and support to our trafficked sisters, and all those women and children whose rights and dignity have been negated by oppressive, brutal treatment?

What if... we took seriously the words of Pope Francis: “…religious follow the Lord in a special way, in a prophetic way. It is this witness I expect of you. Religious should be men and women able to wake the world up, and (show that they are) a special breed who have something to say to the world today.”

What if… our lives in community were tangible signs of unity, of oneness and of connection, with each other, with all created things?

What if… the Sisters of St Joseph were able to indulge ourselves a little and glance over our shoulders at the conclusion of this special year to identify some real ways in which we had answered Pope Francis’s challenge? Pope Francis described his own yardstick by which we can measure the quality of our response: “I’m reminded”, he said, “of those religious who have a heart as sour as vinegar: they are not made for the people. We must not create administrators and managers but fathers, brothers and sisters, travel companions.” Pope Francis exhorted us to develop a “tender heart.” He writes, “I want to say one word to you and this word is joy. Wherever consecrated people are, there is always joy!”

We are being invited to revitalize ourselves from the ‘inside out’. We are being challenged to demonstrate such a passion for life that we become, as Joan Chittister puts it, “living displays of the vibrancy of the Spirit for which we are all baptized,” and for which we religious are consecrated.

The conclusion of this special year in Advent 2015 coincides with the promulgation of the 50th anniversary of Vatican II document on the renewal of religious life, Perfectae Caritatis.

What if… the Year of Consecrated Life ushers in a new graced time for religious, a kairos time, a time of vitality, hope and vision, a twenty first century time, a time that addresses the cries of a twenty first century world?

And what if that time was lived out by Sisters of St Joseph joyfully, hopefully and effectively?

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Tapping into Goodness

Even in the midst of the insanity of war, human beings are made of finer stuff than we show. This is a story that says we can do better and we are doing better, even if it's only in fleeting moments. Let's tap into the best of ourselves and live from that.
I believe that Religious Life is an experiment in this commitment to tapping into all that is finest in the human spirit, into the Godliness of the human spirit. It is an experiment in forming communities where we can support one another in this. It is an invitation to nurture spirituality and community among ourselves, and to share that richness with the poorest and weakest around us.
Peace,
Amy

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Open My Eyes...

This morning's prayer called me to open my eyes to what was around me. Looking out the window, I saw the frosty remains of the garden and trees. The overnight frost had taken the last of the green growth and everything was frozen and wilted.
Then in the next phase, the prayer called me to see God in whatever I saw - after all God made it and cares for all of creation. Even the leaves nipped by icy winds are made by God and loved by God. The yearly cycle of seasons brings an end to growth as the winter sends us indoors to huddle together around the hearth till the spring.
It is not hard to see the image of God's love for us in religious life as the twilight of life calls yet another sister home to God. Yes, God is in the coming and in the going of each of us. And in this circle of life is also a hope just as there is a hope in the seasons of the years.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Sisters 2.0

Sisters 2.0 is a movement of the new generations of women religious. In this peer-led, self-organized space, we network for visioning and fostering future oriented initiatives for religious life. In the spirit of Giving Voice, we embrace our diversity, listening attentively, speaking with intention, and tending to the good of the whole.
New Generations - We feel the need for creating spaces for conversation where we can share the experience of the new generations of women religious in today's communities, today's church and today's world. Some decades back, women religious in their thirties and forties gathered to create a space for 'giving voice' to their experience, and today, Giving Voice is respected national organization that supports hundreds of younger women religious through national conferences, retreats and networking online and on-ground. 
The generations who founded giving voice have 'aged out' of that organization which invites women under the age of fifty into its conversations. At the same time, many in this founding generation feel the need for continuing conversation. We have been gathering for a few years in self-organized circles to describe this experience and to imagine and create the forum that will help to support us at this stage. Sisters 2.0 emerged from this process.
We generally describe ourselves as the generations of sisters born after 1955. Boundaries are hard to draw, and some born in the early fifties may believe this is their conversation, and they are welcome. Older sisters can be allies for this movement. Giving Voice remains the place of choice for the youngest generation of sisters as the seek to give voice to their experience and support one another. At the same time, those sisters are welcome to join Sisters 2.0, and join in this new conversation as it suits their needs.
Visioning and Futuring - Sisters 2.0 is a place for engaging in conversations about where we are today in religious life, and where we are headed. Many of us are having similar conversations in our home communities, and this are immensely important conversations. We also feel the need to engage our peers on these topics. Our vision and our view of the future are influenced by where we stand. We stand with our sisters in our home communities in many respects, and we stand with our 2.0 sisters in other respects. We value opportunities to move in and out of congregational circles, and to move in and out of peer-sister circles in mutually supportive ways.
Future Oriented Initiatives - Sisters 2.0 is a support network and it seeks to move beyond conversation into actions that will actively engage the evolution of religious life and its vitality into coming generations. Many of our congregations have an average age in the upper seventies, or above. We are sadly, yet gratefully, bidding our last farewell to many of our sisters as they go to God. At the same time, our hearts are burning within us as we feel the call to live our lives to the full and to re-imagine religious life and begin to re-build it. It is this second task that is the focus of Sisters 2.0.
Listening, Speaking, Tending - We create sacred spaces to listen to God, to one another and to those around us. We speak our truth honestly and respectfully. We attentively care for the good of the whole, trusting in the Spirit who has called us together.
Join us - If you are part of the new generations of sisters, there are a number of ways you can join us. 
  1. Online - we have a facebook group where sisters are invited to gather and organize.
  2. Quarterly Calls - we have quarterly calls where we rotate the host and engage issues and foster initiatives.
  3. Intercommunity Living - we foster community living and support intercommunity houses.
  4. Conference - Symposium - we develop online and on-ground conferences, retreats and symposia to support Sisters 2.0 and member initiatives.
So often in this description, I found myself writing "at the same time".  We are in our communities - at the same time - we engage intercommunity circles. We face the current decline in numbers - at the same time - we respond to our call within this reality. We hold many things in balance and in tension as the Spirit of creation hovers over us, creating and recreating and renewing the face of the earth.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Why Bother?


Most of what I do I could do without necessarily being a religious woman. I work for a Catholic diocese however the vast majority of my colleagues are lay people. They are as committed as I, as prayerful as I and as qualified as I. My job description requires me to have particular skills but none of them centre on being a ‘nun’. So why bother?
I live in an ordinary house with another member of my congregation. We pray, eat and share faith together. When I finished university I lived in a community where we prayed, ate and shared faith together. Although one member of the community was a priest this was BC (before convent) and the majority of us were not members of religious institutes. Over the years I lived in a variety of situations were although not related by blood or congregational ties we formed community of prayer, care and concern. So why bother?

As a vowed member of a religious institute I take vows but unlike Marriage and Holy Orders there is no unique sacrament. So why bother?

For me its because by proclaiming the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience within the Congregation of the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart. I can live out my baptismal promises in a way that is most life-giving to me and as a consequence others. By making the choice to throw in my lot with this group of women I am challenged and supported to share in the mission of Jesus in ways that are shaped by our charism and tradition. This gives me the freedom to be mobile, to respond to need…to be the best person I can be.

So why bother? Because this is the way I am most happy, most close close to God, most able to be the person I can be.

Read Sian's blog...
Thanks Sian for this reflection on religious life today.
Amy

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Sisters 2.0.1

The Sisters 2.0 group has been open for several months, and we have a good group gathering there and an open forum for our conversation. Soon, there should be an article coming out in the GV newsletter to let people know about the group and its goal of providing a conversation space for newer generations of women religious. It seeks to create networks for visioning and fostering future oriented initiatives for religious life.
Recently, a special report from CARA offered some analysis of the overall decline in numbers among sisters in the US. One of my recent blog posts on vulnerability got a lot of traffic, posts and side conversations.
Sisters 2.0 and the report stir in me the desire to continue the conversations that we've begun, and to deepen our hopes and desires, even as we support one another in the ups and downs of living religious life in the early twentieth century.
My own ministry brings me into privileged conversation spaces with religious communities as they face the challenge of the coming decades in their institutes. Often for smaller institutes, this means finding ways for their ministries to continue without their sponsorship, finding ways to ensure that their members will receive adequate care, even as the leaders themselves are aging, and finding ways of providing for the leadership and governance of the community when there aren't enough members who are able to carry out these tasks.
I stand on holy ground as I accompany them into these spaces, and work with them to meet the needs of their congregations with grace and courage.
I believe this is the place of Sisters 2.0, the sisters who have lived 10-20-30 years as the youngest members of their congregations. We accompany our elders, even as we forge new paths into an unknown future ourselves. In St. Louis, we are planning for some Advent conversations among younger women religious regarding how we face the challenges of this moment. It is a blest time when the "spirit hovers over the waters" of a "dark and deep chaos". It is a time to trust more in the creative Spirit and to face the chaos with courage.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Sisters 2.0 Quarterly Phone Call

INTRODUCTIONS: We introduced ourselves and sisters shared various experiences of finding deeper meanings and connections as we move through various phases of our lives. Many of us spoke of the importance of community, and finding those communities of growth and support that helped along the way.

SISTERS 2.0: We discussed the background of Sisters 2.0 - a conversation of 'older-younger' women religious as we navigate the present historical moment in our communities, in the church and in our world.

QUARTERLY CALLS: We talked about what we find helpful about the quarterly phone calls, and networks of women religious: resonance, common experience, support in living and deepening our life of faith, our lives in community and our lives as women religious.

CALL TOPIC: We thought that it might be good to focus the next call on a topic, or a presenter, as a discussion starter. Input followed by Q&A, then conversation. Next call we want to talk about the challenges of finding communities to live in, with so many sisters living alone.

YEAR OF CONSECRATED LIFE: We also shared about the Year of Consecrated Life, some creative ideas for celebration: Vatican Celebrations, USCCB recommendations, Local celebrations. We would like to make a contribution as Srs2.0. Maybe we can prepare an article on our next phone conversation and offer it to America, NCR, etc.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Vulnerability

The chill in the air reminds me that summer is over and we're moving into fall. Leaves will paint the landscape in brilliant reds and yellows and then fall into carpets that crunch underfoot. The cycle of the seasons is fixed, yet dynamic in its daily unfolding. It can be in turn delicate and tender, then bold and harsh. Its rhythm encompasses my life story, though I know that other rhythms and other seasons tell the unfolding of lives on other parts of the planet.
Yesterday, I had a conversation with a sister-friend. It was one of those deep and meaningful conversations that grace our lives. We talked about changing seasons of our lives, and changing seasons of religious life. One word came up and has stayed with me as I moved though the day, and into prayer at the close of day: vulnerability.
What is the particular vulnerability of being a young, or middle-aged religious in today's reality? I see my sisters growing in wisdom, age and grace, into their 80s and 90s, and I reach out to invite and welcome others to join us in this grand adventure. Those in the Sisters 2.0 generations, those born after '55 are amazing women, and it's a good thing, because we face some daunting challenges. Don't get me wrong here: I love this life, I cannot imagine myself as anything else, it's in my DNA, and I think there's a future to this precious gift we call religious life.
I also know that I, and many of my peers are in a vulnerable place. I will bury 20, 40, 60 of my own dearly loved sisters to every new sister I welcome. And this not just in my own congregation, but in most of the congregations I know. I ask myself how much my heart can take as my circle gets smaller and closes ranks and another sister's story comes to its blessed closure. A joyful time to be certain, a gift fully given, a life fully lived. May the choir of Angels greet you! ... may you have eternal rest.
I ask myself if I have steeled my heart to the grief. As we move forward, who will hold our aching hearts? As we gather in ever more intimate circles, we are called to celebrate a year dedicated to consecrated life. So in this season of change, I am sitting with vulnerability. I am asking myself what I use to escape the stark realities of life. And in this place, how do I dare to hope?
--Amy

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Sisters 2.0 - St. Louis

Twelve sisters from six congregations in the Saint Louis area gathered yesterday for an evening of prayer, potluck and conversation. The average age of our group was 40 years of age. We laughed, told stories, share common experiences. We even took a trip to a nearby convent to sing a carol to two novices from another congregation who weren't able to join us. The youngest were in their twenties, the oldest were in their fifties. Some had been in religious life just a few years, some had been in for a few decades. And we all shared a common enthusiasm for religious life, and a conviction that God had called us to our communities, and continues to call us to live the Gospel with joy, and with the restlessness of love which urges us to continue to commit ourselves day after day to lives of prayer, community and service.
Juliet led us in prayer and we reflected on words of Pope Francis about religious life, as we move toward the year celebrating consecrated life. We were reminded of the joy of the Gospel, of the call to renew our commitment regularly, and of the need to rekindle our zeal.
I have been in religious life for decades myself, and I can say that the enthusiasm of those who have been in for just a few years continues to give me life, energy and hope. Religious life is a work of God. It is a work of the God of love who can imagine a world of peace, of harmony and of vibrancy. Our world is broken in many ways, and many of the sisters who gathered talked about their ministries, as teacher, nurse, counselor, social worker, attorney, pastoral worker, etc. Each of the sisters brings God's love to a part of the world that needs that love and she shares it freely. We each feel blessed in the giving and receiving, and the blessing was multiplied as we gathered for this time together.
This gathering focused on welcoming sisters and novices to St. Louis. Many have joined us here in this local area, for study, ministry or for novitiate. We welcomed the novices to St. Louis, and also welcomed them to the adventure of religious life. They shared their stories of vocation, stories that remind us that the Spirit is very much alive and is continuing to call individuals to join us in religious communities.
Looking forward to more gatherings....

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Local and Global


My attentions this week are turned to environmental matters with two sustainability events on my calendar for the weekend.
FIRST: Ever so local, our ecovillage's Dogtown Sustainability Expo is a celebration of sustainability in our neighborhood. As a group, we will gather to meet our neighbors, offer exhibits on bees, chickens, native plants and gardens, etc. It is a great opportunity do do what we can locally to change our lives and make them more sustainable and more humane.
SECOND: There is the People's Climate March happening at the UN in New York, with solidarity marches around the globe. You can find a local event in your area at 350.org, or at Avaaz.org. Planned to be the biggest global march on the issue, it is a chance for people to stand up and say that this is an issue that is important to us, to our kids and to everyone we care about.
So welcome to my weekend: Local and Global.
The local event says that my daily choices matter. My choices around food, water and energy make a real world difference in the future. We have made serious efforts to increase native plants which are better for air, soil and water, and which increase the diversity of beneficial insects. Yesterday, I spotted about six Monarch butterflies. This is a species that is on the decline, and whose decline is an indicator of environmental degradation. After a summer of very few monarchs, I was happy to see so many of these little critters floating around.
The global event says that our problems with climate and environment are not simply a matter of my little world. In addition to doing all I can to improve my sustainability choices, I also have to network with others around the globe who are working for sustainability. Together, we can change the course of the major institutions that affect climate, such as governments and corporations.
Local and Global - let's do what we can for sustainability.
--Amy
PS: I'm aware that our work for the sustainability of religious life is also working on the Local and Global levels as well....

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Year of Consecrated Life

Here is information on the Year of Consecrated Life being Celebrated in 2015, starting in advent 2014 and ending with the Feast of the Presentation in 2016. There is also a listing of some of the events in Rome that are being organized for the year:


OPENING
- Prayer Vigil, November 29, 2014
- First Sunday of Advent, November 30, 2014
CLOSING
- Prayer Vigil, February 1, 2016
- World Day of Consecrated Life, February 2, 2016

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
WORLDWIDE
TIME FOR REFLECTION AND SHARING
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
ECUMENICAL MEETING OF CONSECRATED MEN AND WOMEN
ROME, 22-24 January 2015
24 January, Prayer Vigil
WORKSHOP FOR FORMATORS
ROME, April 8- 11, 2015
April 11 Prayer Vigil
WORKSHOP FOR YOUNG CONSECRATED PERSONS
Rome, September 23 - 26, 2015
September 25 Prayer Vigil

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
WEEK OF WORLD UNITY FOR CONSECRATED LIFE
IN THE CHURCH
FOLLOWING THE GOSPEL INTO THE FUTURE
Rome, January 24 - February 2, 2016
PARTICIPANTS : Monastic life –Apostolic Institutes, Societies of Apostolic Life, Secular Institutes - Ordo Virginum - New Institutions
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

------------------------------
SPECIAL EVENTS
-------------------------------

INTERNATIONAL SYMPOSIUM
 Rome , 27 - January 31, 2016

FOLLOWING THE GOSPEL:
A PERMANENT FORM OF LIFE IN THE CHURCH,
MOVING TOWARD THE FUTURE,
PROCESSES  ALREADY IN PLACE.

1. FOR INSTITUTES OF CONSECRATED LIFE
AND SOCIETIES OF  APOSTOLIC LIFE WITHIN THE CHURCH
Rome, 27 - January 31, 2016
2 . FOR MONASTIC LIFE
Rome, 28 - January 31, 2016
3 . FOR SECULAR INSTITUTES
Rome, 29 - January 31, 2016
4 . FOR THE ORDO VIRGINUM
Rome, 29 - January 31, 2016

 EVENTS TO BE CELEBRATED IN COMMON
• JANUARY 30, 2016
AT 8:00 PM
PRAYER VIGIL IN ST. PETER’S BASILICA
" PROPHECY, HOLINESS AND MARTYRDOM IN THE HUMAN CITY "
• FEBRUARY 1, 2016
AUDIENCE WITH  THE HOLY FATHER
• FEBRUARY 2 , 2016
CLOSING EUCHARIST OF THE YEAR OF CONSECRATED LIFE


-----------------------------
SEVEN PATHWAYS
------------------------------

1. Research and sharing laboratories organized by the  Pontifical Universities  staffed  by religious orders on issues and quaestiones regarding Consecrated Life .
2 . Memoria Sanctorum of consecrated life. Stationes in places of particular significance in the apostolic world.
3 . Memoria Martyrum of consecrated men and women of the XX and XXI centuries. Stationes in  places of particular witness in the world .
4 . Worldwide Prayer Chain among the monasteries  Stationes and  monasteries of particular significance in the monastic world.
5 . Online Monastic session of the STUDIUM for the nuns .
6 . Paths of evangelical significance determined by  and implemented in interaction between Apostolic Institutes, Societies of Apostolic Life, Monastic Life,  Secular Institutes, Ordo virginum, new institutions.
7 . Via pulchritudinis . " One thing I ask of the Lord , that will I seek: to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life , to behold the beauty of the Lord and behold his temple " (Psalm 27 : 4). The artistic languages in consecrated life for contemplation and the  proclamation of the truth and beauty of faith.

More info...

Friday, September 5, 2014

Sisters 2.0


by Kristin Matthes
I turned 49 last month, which means I am in my fiftieth year. When four of us started Giving Voice in a Cincinnati basement in 1998, I was not yet 33. Our original tag line (seen on an old sweatshirt of mine) was ‘A Newsletter by Women Religious Under 50.’ Fifty seemed like a lifetime away back in that basement, but here I am less than one trip around the sun away from hitting that milestone. The years have been filled with amazing people, sharing their dreams and hopes for religious life and helping to create together what is emerging in our way of life. Who could have guessed that after 16 years of newsletters, conferences, and websites operating on donations and staffed completely by volunteers, Giving Voice would receive $1,000,000 ‘to prepare young Roman Catholic women religious to assume leadership positions in their religious communities, ministries, and the Catholic Church’? I feel so grateful to have been part of this effort in religious life. I can’t help but think of Paul’s words to the Corinthians: [We] planted, [many have] watered, but God caused the growth.

The means of conversation have evolved over the years. Giving Voice published a print newsletter for 10 years, with over one hundred articles by sisters under 50. Giving Voice continues to host countless gatherings, connecting hundreds of younger sisters in venues across the United States. Giving Voice maintains a website and a Facebook page and group. The Giving Voice Facebook group has been a vibrant place to engage in meaningful conversation about religious life with other ‘younger’ members of congregations, but as my sweatshirt reminds me, Giving Voice was created to be a space for women religious under 50.

As I approach my fiftieth birthday, I still feel the need for conversation spaces with those passionate about religious life. As I talk to others from the ‘founding generation’ of Giving Voice, many are feeling the same way. So we have created a new Facebook group: Sisters 2.0. This is another conversation space for the younger generations of women religious, open to both those over 50 and under 50. By opening this space where the voices of all generations of women religious who have come to religious life after the renewal of Vatican II, the Giving Voice group can maintain its focus on conversations among women religious under 50.

Check us out as we begin to open this new conversation space. Just as 2.0 technologies depend on interaction and collaboration, Sisters 2.0 will thrive as a meaningful space when you add your voice to the conversation!

Go to: https://www.facebook.com/groups/Sisters2.0/ , or message me or Amy, or comment below.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Privileged Witness

I was praying in the garden when a butterfly came playfully into view. Fluttering back and forth, alighting here and there, then taking off again.
I have been awakened to the value of native plants and have worked steadily over the past few years to increase the bio-diversity of plants, especially natives, and to delight in the varieties of insects and birds that have come to enjoy the space.
Both the city of St. Louis and my own community have been supporting these efforts, and the picture at the right is a photo of a monarch on one of the milkweeds that I planted to this year. The other, less-showy insect is the milkweed beetle, I have had lots of them too, as well as milkweed aphids earlier in the summer.
I got my camera and took up a position near the milkweed plant and waited for the Monarch to settle on a plant within camera shot. She went from one milkweed to the next, but only the Asclepias curissavica is in bloom, so she settled there to have a meal.
Many monarchs have come over the summer to get some nectar. I have seen them around from time to time. This morning I felt particularly blessed to witness this visitor. Her presence witnesses to the fact that the ecosystem is coming back to life.
How many other miracles are blossoming in my life, in my community, in my neighborhood? It is a privilege to stop and notice the blessings as they unfold in this place. I am also in dialogue with sisters who are interested in joining this community. Together we create the ecosystem that will foster our life and the nourishment of Gospel living among us and around us.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Community Discernment

In personal discernment, I ask:
How to I know where to go? Where God is calling? Where to walk? Where to put my hands in service? What words will bring healing, hope, life?

In the big and little moments of life, I ask these questions, in the context of prayer and a gentle contemplative presence. In my own prayer-space, in my heart, in my relationship with God, I come to an understanding of my call and vocation.

In community, we also come to places of knowing where God is calling us as a group. It is a matter of listening to the still small voice within my own heart, and sitting with my sisters and brothers as together we wait on the movements of the spirit. When the time is right, I find words to speak the truth that I know, and I wait for others to find words to express their own experience of discernment, of listening to the voice of God.

Together we seek light and clarity. Pray-Listen-Speak. Repeat. When we come together in discernment, we stand on holy ground. Wherever we are, two or three gathered, God is with us, in our midst: loving, giving life, moving us to service. Spirit of Love, open our hearts and our minds and our lives ....

Saturday, August 16, 2014

LCWR


I just returned from spending a few days at the LCWR assembly in Nashville TN. It was a great opportunity to connect with women religious from around the country and to engage with them as we reflect together on religious life as the gift we receive and the gift we share with those among whom we live and work. I rejoice in the great tradition even as we face difficult challenges in these days.


2014 LCWR AssemblyCarol Zinn reflected on the melody, rhythm and silences of our lives. Her address resonated with me in the desire for vibrant community that also relates to other circles of community and gifts of mutuality.

The video in the last blog post has continued to resonate with me. In the garden, the soil, plants, insects and birds are all in dynamic relationship with one another, in circles and networks of community.

Then we live in community with the plants nourishing and being nourished by the plants, by the fruits and veggies, and also by the beauty of flowers and plants. Our ecosystem is located in the eco-village where we work together for sustainability and work to build the neighborhood.

Community is happening at so many levels. Just as music has melody, rhythm and silences that enhance one another, so each of our lives come together in a lovely song that comes forth from Holy Mystery Revealed in our Midst.

Peace,
Amy



Friday, August 1, 2014

Imagine Community


Community happens at so many levels and in so many networks. 
Imagine community with sisters from various communities, living, working and praying together.
Imagine living sustainably in an urban setting.
Imagine living in dynamic relationship with Earth and the ecosystem.
Imagine networking with others in neighborhood ecovillage.
Imagine incarnating the Gospel here and now, in our lives today. 
Imagine hope. 
Imagine peace.
(Video made for community assembly on intercommunity house of sisters living in ecovillage.)

Saturday, July 26, 2014

New Generations of Catholic Sisters: The Challenge of Diversity

Book Review
by Baya Clare CSJ

New Generations of Catholic Sisters: The Challenge of Diversity
by Mary Johnson SNDdeN
Patricia Wittberg SC
Mary L. Gautier
Oxford University Press, 2014
ISBN 978-0-19-931684-7

Cover for 
New Generations of Catholic Sisters
A lot of conflicting and confusing information swirls around about religious life, including purported statistics about where the vocations are and are not going these days. What’s missing from these assertions are actual numbers and reliable research. Happily, solid sociological investigation and analysis about younger generations of women considering and entering religious life in the United States can now be found in a new book, New Generations of Catholic Sisters: The Challenge of Diversity.  Written by three academics, two of whom are Catholic sisters, almost half of the book consists of statistical analysis of two surveys of women religious, but don’t let that put you off. The results are explained in well-written, accessible language that raises many issues and questions. This book is intended to jumpstart some urgently-needed conversations.  “The ecology of religious life in the United States…deserves a scholarly and sustained analysis devoid of both ideology and fatalism,” say the authors in their opening chapter.
In that spirit, the reader then learns that there are a good many assumptions that do not hold up under scrutiny, such as the oft-repeated but inaccurate “fact” that traditional communities are getting more vocations than those that tend to be less traditional. It turns out that the majority of communities of all types are experiencing the same serious drought – except for a significant few communities that are getting a lot of vocations.  That’s good information, because it allows an analysis of what those groups are doing differently than the ones that aren’t attracting anyone.  So what are some of those things?  Well, for starters, they are proceeding with vocation work that is refreshingly “devoid of both ideology and fatalism.”  The communities, both LCWR and CMSWR-affliated, that are attracting new members, have found ways to accommodate the desires and preferences of younger generations without falling into the trap of labeling them “conservative” or “liberal”. As the authors point out things like a desire to live communally or pray in a certain way might be interpreted differently by an older cohort than they are by a younger. Such interpretations left unexamined can lead to misunderstandings that become barriers to vocations. “It is necessary for the members of each generation – and of religious institutes disproportionately dominated by one generational mindset – to make a conscious effort to see religious life through the eyes of the other. Without this willingness to search for mutual understanding and to hear each other’s truth, the prophetic witness of religious life, so necessary to the Church, will be weakened.”
Generations have their own social locations, characteristics, interests and priorities that derive from their historical location, and these differences are explained and examined at length in this book. The mistakes and excesses of one generation are balanced and corrected by the next, and then those of that generation are shifted back by the one after. This is also true in religious life.  This need not be a serious problem, according to the authors, if an institute has a clear enough identity and an effective way to communicate it to those whom it wishes to attract.
The importance of a clear identity in sustaining the life of a religious community cannot be overstated, because if different generations are interested in emphasizing different aspects of that identity, it needs to be robust enough to encompass the shifts. Again, the researchers touch on questions of communication when they write, “ If religious institutes do not do the hard work of defining themselves, they will be defined by others, and the definitions of others may not adequately capture their distinctive identities. Further, the institutes’ own expressions of their identities may have become overly diffuse and vague, making definitions on websites and in periodicals difficult to articulate and harder to understand.” That the question of misunderstood identity and purpose is a central and enduring theme of both the LCWR investigation and the Apostolic Visitation also lends credence to this assertion.
The concluding chapter of the book makes specific recommendations and suggests actions for institutes that desire to attract younger members to vowed membership, because otherwise, they write, “ the future of religious life in the United States would appear to be in peril – unless concerted efforts are made to reach out to those who, surveys tell us, have considered religious life but did not choose to enter it.” Reading this well-written and informative book is an important step in answering that summons to act.

Highly recommended for anyone in a religious community, and especially those working in leadership and vocations.

Friday, July 18, 2014

7 Things that Might Surprise You about Nuns

WHAT DO YOU PICTURE WHEN I SAY NUNS?
 A black and white habit. .... Whoopi Goldberg in Sister Act. I used to picture these things too, until I met the Visitation Sisters of Minneapolis.... read more....

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Spirit Freely Flowing...

Just an update on the ecovillage, house, community.

Ecovillage: I'm enjoying the ecovillage community and our shared interest and enthusiasm in building community, growing natives and edibles and in practical sustainability. Regular gatherings, both formal and informal, planned and spontaneous, shared meals and shared fruits of the harvest.

House: Our rental house is for sale by the landlord, I'm meeting with the landlord next week to find out more about the status of the space and whether or not I can stay. The soil and biodiversity here is so much better than when I came. I identified 30 species when I arrived, mainly of the weed variety. I've added almost 50 perennials, mainly natives and edibles, and another 30 annuals, veggies, herbs and flowers. I would love to stay, but not sure if that will be possible.

Community: I have had several sisters express interest in joining in an intentional inter-congregational community of sisters. Some great women and great energy. I look forward to further conversations with them and others who may be interested. I also hope that some of them will be ready and able to join me in this project, wherever we may eventually land.

So though there is a lot that is up-in-the-air, I believe that the Spirit is flowing and hope and pray that I can flow with that energy as we live into the future of religious life.

I also have to thank and share the article of Sr. Susan Francois on the shifting conversations.

Peace,
--Amy

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Love Is Always the Answer

Jesus’ story can never be captured by reading it alone. Others come to know it in the breaking of the bread and in the sharing of our lives together when we gather in Jesus’ name. Jesus is the foundation, the gospel is the task, and community is the process.
In small, local communities we can share life that is undifferentiated, immediate, and egalitarian. These communities can network to share services while affording each community the freedom and versatility to adapt to its local reality. Resisting the drive toward centralization, they can become circles of gospel living, peace, and justice. They can be mystics and prophets in a world desperately in need of them.
All human life is created for mysticism and prophecy.
All of Christian life aspires to it.
Religious life is deliberately and purposefully oriented to mysticism and prophecy.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

1st Place CPA Award

Religious Life at the Crossroads place first in its category in the annual Catholic Publishing Association Awards. The citation is as follows:
One could come up with a long list of negatives about religious life in the 21st century, but Sr.  Amy has taken the higher road and convincingly portrays the possibilities inherent in communities founded and empowered by the Spirit. Her views of religious life in an emerging church are based on the no-longer viable structures of pre-Vatican II Church. Her candor in exposing the masculine influence that has led to the disintegration and disruption of women’s religious communities is relevant for the restructuring of postmodern religious life. Her future-oriented chapter on ‘New Forms of Religious Life’ should be required reading for everyone in consecrated life or contemplating it and very every bishop—and that includes Pope Francis.
I am so grateful to be part of the conversations about the future of religious life. We are indeed at a crossroads, and we have before us an abundance of opportunities for creativity in responding to God's call to Gospel living.

Peace,
Amy

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Sisters 2.0 Quarterly Phone Call

We gathered for our regular quarterly call to share the Spirit that is stirring among us, and to talk about future oriented initiatives for religious life.
  • Summer Sisters - plans are underway for a few sisters and a few young lay women to share the values of religious life in intentional community this summer. 
  • Vision Space will be a gathering of young and middle aged sisters to share the experience of religious life today. 
  • Sisters 2.0 is being launched as a Facebook page for post-Vatican II sisters to network, envision and live into the religious life of the 21st century. If this is your conversation - contact me for details.
  • Mapping We have a proposal to reach out and identify the sisters in the post-Vatican II cohorts of religious life so that we can network for mutual support and build relationships.
  • We will check out Sisters of Earth to see where their vision and goals may intersect with ours.
  • We are still thinking of how to celebrate the Year of Consecrated Life in 2015.
The call was energetic and hopeful as we shared where we come from, and where we are going in this great adventure we call religious life.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Neo-Tribalism



Neo-Tribalism means many things to many people, but essentially it refers to the human tendency to form communities in human-size groups, even when our social structures group us on a mega-level. It is seen as a symptom of post-modernism. Moderns attempted to solve all the world's problems with bigger and better organization, post-moderns commit to local communities and needs.
Neo-tribalism also acknowledges that the best communities are not insular and isolated. Instead, they have a center of gravity within and a sense of identity, and at the same time, they engage others in meaningful ways.
I think that religious life calls me to think in new ways about community. Large groups of elder Sisters embrace the reality that their congregations are in their last years, their amazing stories are coming to an end. Small groups of younger Sisters come together in small local communities where we belong, grow and share as the image says. We find places that nourish relationship and our capacity to encounter God, to encounter one another in community and to encounter others in mission.
In this I find life, energy and hope. It is a blessing to be at this point of dying and rising in the history of religious life.
Peace,
Amy

Saturday, May 31, 2014

On Leadership in the Church


Only when the Church becomes what Jesus had envisaged it to be, namely, a servant Church, a Church of the poor, the leaders becoming truly servants and ceasing to be Lords, etc., then the Church regains its authority to speak for God and in God’s name. It is true that Vatican II spoke of the Church as a people of God, but we all know how it has been effectively negated in the Church since Vatican II. That concept has been buried and the presumed hierarchical nature gained predominance.... 

This is a great piece by Joseph Mattam S. J. on the historical sources of some of the styles of leadership in the church and the call to follow Jesus' style of leadership, published on the website of the International Union of Superiors General.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

All this life and heaven too: Flowing from the Heart of God

All this life and heaven too: Flowing from the Heart of God: A vocation is a fruit that ripens in a well cultivated field of mutual love that becomes mutual service, in the context of an authentic eccl...

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Following Christ

The vow of obedience takes religious into the heart of the mystery of Christ that we celebrate in this Paschal season. In faith and love, we enter in a special way into the following of Christ, obedient to the end. Undertaken in this spirit, each institute comes to an understanding and practice of the vow that develops over time. Read more....

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Last Word: Living Witness

In the fall of 2009, less than six months after graduating from college, I found myself meeting with a vocation director about the possibility of a call to religious life. As I would soon learn, our conversation followed a fairly standard pattern. After small talk about my job and daily life, the director asked a series of questions: What was my relationship with God like? Why did I think I was called? What were my fears or hesitations about religious life?.... Check out this powerful piece by Colleen Gibson

Saturday, May 3, 2014

BBQ & Contemplation


As we move through the Easter Season and toward Pentecost, the younger sisters in the St. Louis Area (Giving Voice - St. Louis) will be gathering for an evening of BBQ and contemplation.
1. iIn the light of Pentecost, what is religious life today and where are we going as younger religious?
2. How can our local GV group support us in this?
3. What would we like to do for the Year of Consecrated Life?
This present moment in religious life is both challenging and energizing. Much that we have known and loved is passing away: the brothers and sisters, the ministries, the service. But much is also being re-imagined with fresh energy. What better way to celebrate Pentecost and this groundswell of the Spirit than through BBQ and Contemplation with others who are eager to be a part of this adventure?
Peace,
Amy

Saturday, April 26, 2014

I Spent Good Friday at a Trial

For many years Good Friday has been a special part of the Holy Days for me. I live in the privilege of the Western world which is deeply resistant to discomfort. And Good Friday seems like the only day in the liturgical calendar where we acknowledge suffering and do prayerful actions in solidarity. I’m often with some of my favorite people on this day. 

This year, however was very different.
On this Good Friday, I had several choices of observances. In particular, there was the Pax Christi Metro New York Good Friday Way of the Cross. Always a moving experience as a crowd proceeds prayerfully along 42nd St. beginning at the United Nations and ending at Port Authority, stopping at relevant sites of corporate and militaristic injustice. Many of the sisters in my community make this an annual event. Many of my faith based activist friends were at The New Sanctuary Coalition’s event, Stations of Deportation- An Immigrant Crucifixion. Considering the stalling on immigration reform legislation that has frustrated so many of us in the Catholic community this would have been a very intentional way of commemorating Good Friday. But instead I chose to go to a trial along with two other clergy friends, both women priests in the Episcopal tradition. It seemed like a really original way to observe Good Friday. But I wasn’t prepared for how dissimilar it would be. 

It was the trial of Cecily McMillan who is being accused of felony assault of a police officer. Cecily does not deny injuring the police officer when he grabbed her breast from behind and she flung her elbow back as a reaction. The prosecution argues it was intentional, so this is the point of dispute. Doing an online search of Cecily McMillan will garner you pages of sources of details of the trial including many pictures of her injuries from that night. I had attended previous days of the trial and even brought students from our Criminal Justice major. It had always been quite interesting, but this day was different. It was the end of the questioning of the officer. It was hours long, remaining seated on wooden benches; no electronics allowed; listening and listening to deconstruction of the events of March 17, 2012 in excruciating detail. Each piece of evidence having a memory and emotion tied to it. Some in the court room had documented evidence of being beaten by NYPD on that same night although the ADA clearly stated in pre-trail motions that, “what other officers were doing on that night has no bearing in this case”.

So here’s the part that was different. All those other wonderful events have always left me with a sense of self-satisfaction. They have a cleansing effect, in a strange way absolving me of my complicity as US citizen. This did not. It was actually traumatizing in itself. This was going over and over the violence of the night with those who experienced it first hand in the room. And here’s where I think choosing the trial was really different. Most of our Good Friday events rarely include those who are actually suffering from state sponsored injustice even remotely akin to Jesus. This did and it felt terrible, all day. It has me asking myself, should I really feel good on Good Friday?
--Susan Wilcox

Friday, April 18, 2014

Let Us Rejoice

Once again we walk the sacred path,
Once again we contemplate sacred mystery,
Once again we are blessed in our remembering,
Once again we die and rise.

Yet this time the stories are deeper because our lives are richer for having lived another year, prayed another year, shared another year. What a blessing it is to be here and now, in the unfolding of life, and of religious life, with its hopes and its challenges.

I am blessed to have the opportunity to plant veggies and flowers, trees and shrubs. As I tend the good things of the earth, I sense Earth's Creator tending me, nurturing my spirit, watering my soul, building and nurturing the dream. Amen. Amen. Amen.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Claiming Sisterhood

National Catholic Sisters Week was celebrated a month ago, for the very first time. I wasn't able to attend the main celebration in St. Paul, MN, but there were celebrations, liturgies, rallies and other events across the nation and lots of attention from media and on social media channels.
There is one phrase that stuck with me from all the events and images, posts and tweets, that the event was about Claiming Sisterhood.
That one brief phrase has echoed with me in the weeks since the celebrations. For me, claiming sisterhood says that we are coming to an understanding of religious life as a reality broader than any one congregation. There is a growing sense of who we are as a movement, that is an umbrella over who we are as individual congregations. The reality between congregations is increasing, even while the reality within is decreasing.
The wordle that I included here is one borrowed from the FCJs. Could it not be so much the same for so many of us in our newly-claimed sisterhood.
As I sit with it, I ask myself: what do I resonate with? What would I add?
The thing about a wordle is that it is not a statement, it is not an assertion. The power of a wordle is in the relationship between the words. Intersubjectivity. So I think the power of sisterhood is being found in the relationships among us, as we realize that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
May we be blessed in our emerging sense of sisterhood.
Peace,
Amy

Friday, March 28, 2014

Living Voice - Quarterly Call - VisionSpace Gathering

We gathered again for our Quarterly Conference Call between St. Patrick's Day and St. Joseph Day.

Though we feel like we've had the conversation before, we talked about moving from conversation to moving into action? As we talked however, we realized that we are moving to action. Kristen M and Amy H both have houses to invite people to as models, though not without challenges, it is a sign of hope. The Franciscans of Washington, DC, Windridge Solitude and Green Mountain Monastery are other examples. Maybe we have more to celebrate than we realize.

We discussed two programs for this summer, VisionSpace and Summer Sisters. We are inviting sisters and women interested in religious life in to the Summer Sisters program. We plan to form community with interested women for 3-5 weeks over the summer. Living, Working and Praying together. More background from the last call.... 


VisionSpace 

Our first National Event will be in Summer of 2014. Online and on-ground in St. Louis, MO. July 5-7, 2014. Several sisters have expressed interest. Please re-contact if you are interested in online or on-ground.

Theme: Moving into action, Seeds of hope

Resources:
  • www.relforcon.org - has webinars that have some good content. open to the public. see: https://www.relforcon.org/programs/webinars 
  • Johnson, Mary, Patricia Wittberg, and Mary L. Gautier. New Generations of Catholic Sisters: The Challenge of Diversity. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014. 
  • Hereford, Amy. Religious Life at the Crossroads: A School for Mystics and Prophets. New York: Orbis, 2013. 
Invitation: Contact Amy Hereford to participate. Please recontact even if you've emailed before, so we have a good count. Pass this invitation on to other sisters, especially those in their 40s and 50s who may be interested.

Program: Participants volunteer alone or in groups to prepare/facilitate a day. We recommend you draw from the resources, but you're not limited to that. All participants are encouraged to use one or more of the resources before you come.

Streaming: Each evening, we will stream a conversation to share the event beyond those who are gathered on-ground.

Sign up: Register for the program, or just to get more information.

Cost: $60. Scholarships available.


Open items still to discuss:
--Online forum
--2015 - Year for Consecrated Life

Great energy, great conversations! We invite younger women religious to be a part of this conversation. Contact if you would like to join us.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Seeds of Hope

I've got two events coming up.

First, I'm give a little presentation on seed saving at a seed swap that is being organized by the Franciscans for Earth. I tried to find the online link, but couldn't. Anyway, saving seeds is a sign of hope. In the waning days of autumn, I save veggies, and flower heads and store them away. The when the days get longer and warmer and spring is in the air, I go into my trays and jars of saved seeds. I can plant them, share them with friends, or exchange them for other types of seeds that I didn't save.

Taking apart flower heads, saving the seeds from tomatoes and beans and melons, sorting and labelling them is a long and slow process. I find it to be a contemplative practice. When I do it, I express my confidence that spring will come after a long cold winter. I express my confidence in the resilience of life that trusts its future to these tiny specks of life.

* * *
Second, I am giving a workshop next week to a group of leaders of religious communities. I will be talking about the challenges of the coming decades when the numbers will likely continue to decline and averages continue to rise. I'll be talking about the practical choices that they can make to secure their coming years. I will speak to them of the challenge of this time, and also of the privilege to be living this moment in religious life. I will invite them to embrace the truth of this moment in their community's story. A era when funerals outnumber entrances at least twenty to one. I will invite them to face this moment with courage, and with trust in the resilience of religious life, and the goodness of God's plan.

Many religious institutes will come to an end in the next decades. Many of us will mourn their passing, even as we rejoice in the gift they have been in our lives and in our communities. I will invite these leaders to rejoice in the seeds of hope that they have planted: countless children they have taught, sick they have comforted, poor they have offered hope. And their is a small remnant of younger members. We are ready to accept the challenge of living religious life into the future. A future that will be radically different from the present moment of religious life, but one that will do honor to the hundreds of generations of religious that have gone before us, right back to apostolic times.

I rejoice in seeds of hope!

Peace,
Amy

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Miracle on a Lonely Road

I heard a little phrase quoted by Pope Francis, quoting Manzoni:
I never saw God start a miracle without finishing it. 
He was talking about Christian unity, but I heard it as referring to the miracle of religious vocation, and the rebirthing of the religious life in our own times. A great and welcome miracle, and I want to put my trust in God's miracle, and God's gift of leading this remnant through the challenging desert into a new era of religious life.

This can be a lonely road, trying to articulate a new hope and a new future for religious life. It is in continuity with the history of religious life, yet as in every era, it is also in discontinuity. Religious life faces new challenges today as much that we knew of religious life in recent decades declines and passes away. Yet there is also a fierce hope as the newer generations set out on the journey of religious life. In dynamic fidelity to generations of men and women radically committed to the gospel, we accept the call into relationship with the many communities of justice, of peace and of sustainability.

I want to trust in the God of Miracles as I walk this road.
--Amy

See video of pope's presentation here.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Survey on Vocation Promotion


Children with Disabilities SurveyToday I received IRB approval to begin my data collection for my final paper to complete the Master of Divinity degree! The research I am gathering focuses on Vocation Ministry among Women Religious in the Twenty-first Century. I have created a short survey designed for finally professed women religious of all ages who are not currently serving as vocation directors or on a vocation team.

I am asking for your help to post the link to the survey to a diverse group of sisters serving in the United States. Would you be able to take the survey (if eligible) and to ask at least ten sisters to take this on-line survey? Please consider those who support vocation ministry AND those who are hesitant and reluctant. Please know that this survey is not connected to my ministry with NRVC.


The survey takes approximately 25 minutes to complete. The purpose of this online survey is to ask for insights about personal experiences in promoting vocations and to identify common obstacles in promoting religious life.

The results of this survey will remain anonymous. This survey does not ask for names and does not ask to identify religious institutes. No one will contact participants based upon their answers. Quotes from the comments may be used to illustrate points but no identifying information will be used. Participants may decline to answer any question.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me. I am counting on your prayers and support. Please feel free to forward this email to ask for sisters to participate. The survey will close on March 17, 2014.

Again, thank you!! The link for the survey is:

https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/vocationdata

Many thanks!!
Sr. Debbie Borneman

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Future: Next Exit


I love this sign.
With all the talk about the future and where we are headed, I can begin to wonder when and where that future will begin. One sister offered the notion that we really need to talk about the present. Where are we now and what do we want and need to be building to support the members of our community now and to support those men and women who are joining us.
So I ask myself: what is my exit? Who will I find there ready to build vibrant community? When Jesus sent the disciples out two by two, I'm sure they were challenged to find the way to bring the gospel to new and different towns. Today, we bring the good news of religious life to new and different generations, to new and different social places.
Without map or GPS, I have to tap into the God of past, present and future who will guide my footsteps and choices as I move forward. The path is made by walking it. And it is a gift to be present in this time of chaos, ambiguity and grace.
Peace,
Amy

Saturday, February 15, 2014

All this life and heaven too: Quiet savouring

All this life and heaven too: Quiet savouring: Today I'm celebrating the seventeenth anniversary of the day I made my first vows. As anniversaries which don't end in a 0 or 5 rare...

Silvana, thanks for this reminder of the amazing journey we are all on.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Community Living


Some of the challenges younger religious are feeling regarding religious life in the coming decades:
* It's heartbreaking to have to choose either to go where we feel a need or to go where there is healthy, life-giving community. Why should we have to choose?
* Questions abound about where to put our energy. Do we give our all to maintaining the things that are (institutions, aging sisters, etc.)? Is that why we entered? Where is the deeper need of our lives going to be met?
* Some questions to ask each other and the younger members of our communities: Do we want to live together? Is there a ministry that we would like to start together? What are our common interests? Do we have dreams for the use of any of our buildings?
* Do we need some sort of nun Craig's List to facilitate knowledge of where open community spaces and ministries might be?
* How can we connect in person maybe for short periods of time (spring breaks, vacations, retreats) to deepen relationships, support one another, and build community for the future?
Some questions, ponderings that we shared in a recent conversation.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Bridge-Builders

In the next twenty years or so, the size of religious congregations will shrink significantly. I trust that there will eventually be a revival in religious life, but I do not know when it will happen. In the meantime, my sense is that the new generation of young religious are called to be a bridge that will span this gap. What we have before us now is an opportunity to learn from the past and to prepare well for the future. When people look back on our time, I hope that they will say this is what we did.... read whole post...
This is a great post aboutThis is a great post that speaks to the in place we find ourselves in religious life today. I find inspiration in my own community's founding generation. A group of six women who said "let’s do something for God together." I think that story has been repeated time after time in that beginning moment of most of our religious institutes that exist today. I have a deep conviction and commitment to work together to building community, do mission and to work for sustainability and for justice. This has many names: the beloved community, communities of praxis, places where it is easier to be good, communitas...

It is is a blessing to live life together with others who are personally committed to God, and deeply committed to living Gospel values. This is the type of community that we seek to build in religious life. Vowed life in community and in mission is a privileged place to build this type of community. At the same time, the efforts we make to live community support the spirituality and mission of each of its members.

Most religious institutes are half the size they were 20 years ago. In another twenty years, they will be only a fraction of their current size. At the same time, I believe that there will be a small contingent who will continue to respond to the call to do something for God - together.

Peace,
Amy

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Giving Voice to the Importance of Peers

Musings of a Discerning Woman: Giving Voice to the Importance of Peers: Me with some of my GV Sisters at our 2013 National Conference Regular readers of the blog know that I am involved with (and presently o...
I can see more and more how my life as a Sister of St. Joseph of Peace will be strengthened and supported by my Giving Voice peers across congregational lines well into our shared, if unknown, future. When I dream and pray about the future of religious life, I know what I knew at that first retreat as a novice. My Giving Voice sisters and their passion for God, life, religious life, and their own communities will help create that future even as we live it now. God is in the mix, and all shall be well.
Thanks Susan for sharing your experience of life and your wisdom with us.

Peace,
Amy