Saturday, December 12, 2015

Living and Giving to Community

Living and Giving to Community Through the Appropriate Life Stage

In women’s religious communities, our evolving nature has brought us from Women of Integrity (the Good Sisters) to Women of Justice (Post Vatican II) to the Next (Postmodern/post-postmodern Global Society). With this evolving view comes transition and some need to look at what stages of life are best suited to what tasks of the community. The tasks include caring for aging sisters; divesting of property and ministries; investing in mission leadership for those who will lead continuing ministries; and whether to die or to continue on. For those communities continuing to the Next, there are also the tasks of creating appropriate governance structures for those that will remain in religious life with very few members. Those appropriately assigned with the Next have the tasks of retaining members through the diminishment phases; bringing forth the next iteration of religious life and creating a foundation for future generations (read new membership) to have religious life as an option.
In thinking about appropriate tasks and life stages I wondered, what would a view of community through an ecologically informed (clearly part of the Next) human development model look like? I found such a thing in Nature and the Human Soul: Cultivating Wholeness and Community in a Fragmented World by Bill Plotkin.
Dr. Plotkin, a psychologist was drawn to connect the psychological journey with the soul journey he experienced as a wilderness guide. He eventually developed the eight stages of eco-soul-centric human development centered on discernment rather than strictly chronological life stages.
While full chapters are available in the book describing each stage, here is a glimpse of the last four stages which have significance for adult communities.

Community Life through an Eco-Soul-Centric Lens

Dr. Plotkin, a psychologist learned to connect the psychological journey with the soul journey he experienced as a wilderness guide. He eventually developed the eight stages of eco-soul-centric human development centered on discernment of gifts rather than strictly chronological life stages. The last four stages have significance for adult communities.
  • Stage 5: Early Adulthood - The Wellspring (Soul Apprentice)
    Gift to Community: Visionary action, hope, and inspiration
  • Stage 6: Late Adulthood - The Wild Orchard (The Artisan)Gift to Community: Seeds of cultural renaissance
  • Stage 7: Early Elderhood - The Grove of Elders (The Master)Gift to Community: Wholeness
  • Stage 8: Late Elderhood - The Mountain Cave (The Sage)Gift to Community: Grace
See the link for more detail.

Questions for consideration:

  • Is there a stage that resonates for you? 
  • Am I engaging with community from my appropriate life stage?  
  • If I understand my life stage in relation to the others, can I give my gift to the community more fully and let others give their gifts?
--Contributed by Susan Wilcox CSJ

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Advent Response to Ilia Delio

I read Ilia Delio's article in GSR entitled Laudato Si' and Vatican III which I would recommend. She points to some fundamental shifts taking place in our world. In this advent time, I welcome the opportunity to enter deeply into the unfolding of time and welcome God's presence in new and more profound ways.
There is a shift in consciousness and this shift calls for a shift a new integration of all the wisdom of all the peoples of the planet. It calls for a council of Parties to address some of the most challenging issues of our day because none of us lives or dies alone.
We live together in our common home, and the actions of each of us effects all of us. This inter-relatedness has always been present, but it is more richly appreciated now than it ever was. Because of this new consciousness, a theology adequate to inspire and inform us in our common home must be a theology that evolves and is proclaimed in harmony with all the wisdom of our common home.
We call out "Come Emmanuel!" Emmanuel means God-With-Us. We invite God who is already here; we invite the presence of the always-already-present-God to invade our consciousness in fresh and more powerful ways. We invite Emmanuel into this world, fraught with violence, economic challenge and environmental degradation. We invite Emmanuel into our world of cold and darkness. We invite Emmanuel to be peace and wholeness and holiness in our midst. We invite Emmanuel to open our eyes to the sacred, to renew in us the call to be co-creators of the universe according to God's original dream for our common home.
Peace,
Amy

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Telling the Story

I have been traveling in Montreal for work. And have had the privilege of connecting with some religious communities here. We talk about many things, the life of the community, our own stories, hopes, dreams and challenges.
And often, the conversation rolls around to how many 'younger' sisters do you have in your community. Many communities and federations are gathering their sisters under the age of 60 in order to build their networks and share their insights into the life of their communities, past, present and future.
These conversations give me the opportunity to share the story of Sister 2.0 and of Giving Voice, and to share my hopes and dreams for religious life. We have an opportunity to re-invent the life, not in terms of hundreds of thousands of sisters that graced the 20th century, but in terms of the small communities of sisters set on fire to incarnate the life and mission of Jesus in our particular time and place. We do this not by rolling up our sleeves and building great institutions, but by joining with others to address the pressing needs of today and adding our unique contribution.
I thank God for this time of transition and shifting consciousness.
Peace,
Amy

Friday, November 13, 2015

Co-Creators of our Story

20-Something Nun is a short news clip that shows the radical choice of a 20-something Sister of Charity. Increasingly women are seeking out religious life. It is not a floodgate, but a trickle of women coming to communities that show all the signs of disappearing before these women reach their 25th Jubilee. What does it mean to vow to live forever in a community with a median age near 80-years-old?
I believe we are seeing is a shift in religious life as these smaller groups of women take the risk, follow the call and join women that are 2-3 times their age. As younger women, we can begin to reimagine religious life well into the 21st century, even while we have the giants of the 20th century still in our midst.
Religious life is different now than it was 20, 30 and 50 years ago. And it will be even more different in the coming 20, 30 and 50 years. The women who come today want to live in continuity with the 2000 year history of religious life. We want to live the gospel radically in this time and in this place. Coming today, at this time of seismic shift, we have the blessing and the challenge of co-creating our own future, and the future of this ever ancient, ever new movement that is religious life.
Peace,
Amy

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Opting for Community

A friend of mine shared an article on community by David Roberts. The author often writes about energy and climate change, but in this piece, he turned to the topic of community. For many of us, community is part of the answer to sustainability and lowering our energy use. When we come together in community, we can share resources and more efficiently.
In this article, David shared another aspect of community. Namely, the quality of human relationships that formed when disparate folks are thrown together in community, or make a deliberate choice for community. These communities are often the hot-bed for deep and meaningful, life-long relationships.
In community, we negotiate shared values and we navigate differences. The day to day, week to week, year after year efforts to work together can build lasting relationships that can endure long separations and still be sources of friendship and support.
Shared experiences of community can bind college friends together, as well as families and others who experience intense community relationships.
I am more interested in community in the context of religious life. I have experienced the deep and lasting friendships and the mutual support that we afford one another in our communities. We share a commitment to vowed religious life and to our particular charismatic expression of religious life. I am grateful for this aspect of religious life which brings us into circles of community.
I also have the privilege of living with other sisters, in an eco-village. We form community to help one another to build community and sustainability. On Halloween, we joined others in the eco-village for a pot-luck and for trick-or-treating with the kids in our neighborhood. How rich I am in these circles of relationship!
Peace,
Amy

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Trust Time

Seven 2.0 sisters gathered last evening for a potluck and conversation. It is always a delight to come together and share prayer, food and conversation. Life, hope, dreams and the joy of living religious life are inexhaustible topics of conversation.
At the same time, we also talked about the communication gap that we experience when trying to share these things with the wider religious life community. 
My own community is asking these days to hear our voices as we contemplate our current reality and the coming decades of religious life. We had the opportunity over the summer to gather and to speak decisively about this reality. Yet our elder sisters are having trouble hearing this voice, giving it credence and trusting us with our own future. 
So last night, I believe we took an important step. We cannot wait for this hearing and credence and trust. We come together and nourish the life, hope, dreams and joy of our lives in shared community. We put our lives on the line. We speak decisively. We act courageously. We trust the spirit. We trust time.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

My Friend's Community

Sister Rosalia Meza, middle, with the Verbum Dei Missionary Fraternity, talks to two novices, Tamara Gillies, left, and Laryn Kovalik in the chapel where she is leading a retreat in Tracy, Calif., on June 10, 2015. Sister Rosalia is one of three nuns living in the convent at St. Anthony’s Catholic Church in Long Beach.
Check out the great article about the community: click here.
I have the privilege of working with one of the sisters at a workshop I will be doing in mid-October on new and emerging religious life for the Canon Law Society of America.
This community is just one of the many new and emerging signs of life and hope in religious life today.
When I get home, I will be enjoying a potluck with young and middle-aged sisters in the St. Louis area. It is an opportunity to share this particular place of religious life today.
Sure, there is aging, and diminishment and dying. And we do need to take time to attend to this, and in my ministry, I have the privilege of accompanying these communities down the road.
At the same time, there are signs of life and hope, and it is important to realize that both are part of this wonderful adventure we call religious life.
Peace,
Amy

Friday, October 2, 2015

Economic questions...

"Zinn says Pope Francis is challenging women religious in a different way: to continue serving those who are on the margins because that's where he serves, as well." Read more....

In response to this article, my friend Sr. Susan Wilcox challenged us with some questions about how we value ministry these days.

Many religious congregations are facing mounting costs of care for growing numbers of elderly sisters. We can find ourselves turning to the sisters in active ministry to earn a salary to cover their cost of care. But this leads us to question the purpose of ministry: to earn a salary, or to carry on the mission of Jesus? In the best of situations it is both. But some sisters feel that they are not able to serve where they are most needed, because there is little or no compensation for it.

How can we meet the growing needs for care for elderly religious and still allow sisters to minister where they are most needed? And how will these sisters be cared for when they are elderly themselves? These are questions that challenge us to rediscover the balance between earning our daily bread and going to the margins to serve a world in need.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Women of Strength

In a special way I would like to express my esteem and my gratitude to the religious women of the United States. What would the Church be without you? Women of strength, fighters, with that spirit of courage which puts you in the front lines in the proclamation of the Gospel. To you, religious women, sisters and mothers of this people, I wish to say “thank you”, a big thank you… and to tell you that I love you very much. (Pope Francis Sept 24, 2015)
The Pope has expressed his support for women religious several times in the last few weeks. The message helps me to focus on the central call of our lives, to live and proclaim the Gospel. To be women of faith, who live a particular call within the community of faith and for the community of faith. We have the gift and the responsibility to live lives deeply committed to the Gospel, to spirituality and to the mission of Jesus.
What a joy to see crowds of people taken up with the enthusiasm of the Pope's visit and his simple but profound message of faith and joy. I hope to take time in the coming days and weeks, to read and reflect on the messages that he has brought in his various messages. If you want join me in reflecting on the messages, check the Vatican website here.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Wisdom, Insight, Hopes and Dreams


Giving Voice is a peer led organization that creates spaces for younger women religious to give voice to their hopes, dreams and challenges in religious life.
Many of us "2.0 Sisters" were in the founding generation of Giving Voice, and some continue to be part of that group.
So we want to give a shout out to them as they enter an important phase in the development of the organization. They are inviting their sisters into a strategic planning process:
Dear Sisters,
We are very excited to share with you an opportunity to participate in the planning process with Plante Moran who will accompany us as consultants as we look to and create the future of Giving Voice and the Communications’ methods and tools needed as Giving Voice moves into the future. The goal of conversations is to gather the wisdom, insights, hopes, dreams, ideas and suggestions from a representative group of GV membership.  This data will be summarized and shared with the GV membership in order to articulate a vision for GV as it moves into the future and to develop a communications’ plan that will ensure this vision and goals. Read more....
Please share this far and wide, and especially invite any Sisters you know, who are 50 years and under, to take part in the initial round of conversations.
Peace,
Amy

Friday, September 11, 2015

Navigating Change

Navigating Change
Navigating Change could be the name of the ministry of assisting Religious Communities as they face an uncertain and challenging future. It is also the name of my new book, which is an interdisciplinary exploration of walking together in our communities through the shifting sands of time.

We have the privilege and challenge of living through a time when religious life is facing serious numerical decline. This is a challenge to us to assist communities of sisters and of brothers who have given their lives in dedicated service to those most in need in our church and in our world. We can help them live this moment and help them celebrate all that has been.

As we engage in this hospice work with loving gratitude for all that has been, we continue to live in a vibrant present, inviting men and women into our communities to share in the grand adventure of religious life. Sharing spirituality, community and mission, we are a microcosm of Church and society, with the same joy, hopes and struggles. And we add the additional dimension of committing to be that difference we hope to see in the world around us.

Peace,
Amy






Saturday, September 5, 2015

Shifting

By focusing on the large cohort of sisters in their 70s and 80s, are we not forgetting the dynamic energy of those sisters in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s? As we look to the emerging future, are these not the sisters, especially those ages 20 through 55, who will develop this future over the next 20 years? If these sisters are relegated to the future, how can they create that future?  --Linda Buck in GSR
Thanks, Linda, for giving voice to an experience of many of us in religious life today. I do feel that another shift is also taking place.

For some years now, the conversation among women religious in their 40s and 50s has begun to shift from the future to the present. Together, we created Sisters 2.0 as a place to house this shift. We begin to see a movement from talk to building. How can we actually build the networks that we need to support those of us here now? And how can these networks also serve to build bridges to support those who are joining this important movement in our Church and our world.

This shift is inevitable. It cannot come too soon. And it gives me joy as I celebrate the gift that religious life is to me and is to my "2.0 sisters."

--Amy

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Canonica

order online
My new book is out. It comes from my doctoral dissertation in canon law and is an interdisciplinary study on the role of law in the life-cycle of a religious institute. Its basically about navigating change.
It begins with an historical case study, the history of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, of which the author is a member. The historical overview focuses on three key moments in the history of the institute, its initial foundation, its establishment in North America and the renewal of the congregation in response to the Second Vatican Council. This case study is used throughout the book as the primary example of the life-cycle of a religious institute. Information from other religious institutes and general statistical information on religious institutes in the United States is also incorporated to enhance a broader understanding and applicability. Though it may be broader in application, for practical reasons, the discussion is limited to the situation of women's institutes of religious life in the United States.
The project turns next to the notion of the life-cycle of an organization, applying studies of this concept to the historical case study presented in the first section, critically evaluating it in view of the central task of understanding the role of law in the life-cycle of a religious institute. Drawn from the field of biology, the application of the concept of life-cycle to an organization came in the mid 20th century from the fields of economics and management studies. Exploring an organization's social system from a longitudinal perspective is particularly helpful in analyzing the role of law in religious institutes, because most of the relevant legal activity of an organization occurs at key moments of institutional change in the life-cycle.
Because a religious institute is greater than the sum of its sociological parts, the third section moves to a theological analysis of the nature of a religious institute, focusing on the development of the nature of the institute through its life-cycle; an institute is not a static institution, but a dynamic entity in an unfolding life.
The final section turns to the central question of the project, critiquing the role that law plays in the course of the life-cycle of a religious institute. It reviews particular points of canon law and civil law that come in to play in the various stages in the life-cycle of the institute, and it seeks to provide guidance for those who find themselves in the states of foundation or ending in the United States in the early 21st century.
It next turns to the issue of the influence and contribution of law and jurisprudence in the life-cycle of a religious institute. Exploring the appropriate use of law in a Christian community as it seeks to follow its particular way of living the Gospel, it examined the methodology of law as a useful tool in helping to engage issues and challenges, and in formulating responses. The legislative process can bring disparate voices together to articulate a common vision and establish the structures and processes that will further that vision. Laws made by the community serve to memorialize that process, and provide guidance for the ongoing life of the community and a point of reference as the members move out in pursuit of their common vocation. External laws can serve as a measure or 'kanon' to help the institute evaluate its way of life and to guide relations ad extra.
As religious institutes grow and change, mature and decline, they find it necessary to change their legal norms to reflect their new reality. Law in religious institutes establishes governance, organizes activities, guides relations within and without the institute in justice and charity, and orients and sustains the entire life of the institute, so that all together, the institute and its members may “follow Christ with greater freedom... under the action of the Holy Spirit.” (Perfectae Caritatis, 1)
Order a copy.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Voices from the Margin

Around 70 young women in all stages of initial and ongoing formation gathered at Kansas City Mo this weekend for the 2015 Giving Voice Conference. Sisters travelled from all over the country for this special national event. Some travelled for hours, others experienced all types of cancellations and delays, but all have come to celebrate the sisterhood we share in the Lord. 

From their meeting:  

This is what we're clear about:    
Our future is unknown.

This is a little of what we're talking about:
Revelation happens.
The Stranger scares us.
The Divine is in the Other.
Borders are arbitrary.

Read more: http://giving-voice.weebly.com/blog/reflection-questions-from-sophia-park-and-teresa-maya

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Never Doubt!

A variously attributed phrase comes to mind:
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.
Last week, I gathered for three days with 33 Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet under the age of 60. We prayed, we shared experiences and dreams, and we celebrated! After two days, I thought: Great! This is another good experience but nothing will change. And the next morning, everything shifted. The Spirit was powerfully at work among us and we came up with several very concrete steps. Some were action plans to keep our conversations going and deepen our networks. Others were statements to our congregation and leadership that we are ready and willing to take responsibility in our congregation, particularly around vocation and futuring.
As we were finalizing our document, one among us asked: Do we really want to take this responsibility? Do we realize what we are committing to? After a moment of reflection, several sisters spoke to their conscious commitment and to the urgency of this moment. We resolutely affirmed our commitment.
This has yet to be shared with our sisters in the larger community and with leadership, but I believe it was an amazing step and I thank God for the grace of this moment and the courage, wisdom and creativity of my sisters.
Peace,
Amy

Friday, July 24, 2015

Leadership Collaborative 2.0

We held our regular quarterly call for Sisters2.0 and as usual, it was a great call and great experience.
We do these quarterly calls as ways to connect and collaborate as women religious under the age of 60. We are a minority in each of our home communities, and we find that this is an opportunity to share experiences and to offer mutual support and a forum to explore the current trends and challenges in religious life and to support future oriented initiatives. 
This call followed closely on the heals of a gathering of nearly 100 women religious from our cohort. That gathering happened in Chicago, and some of the participants on the call had been at the Chicago gathering. While the Chicago gathering was great, we found ourselves wanting to provide that same type of experience to those of our cohort who never had the opportunity to participate. And we then began to dream of providing an on-line, grass-roots, self-organized leadership collaborative. 
We are planning to have our next quarterly call on October 23, 2015 7pm Central, and we will explore this matter further. If you have ideas or would like to help, plan to be on the call, and/or message me for more details.
The Spirit Lives!!!
Amy

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Despite Me…Miracles

The wind could have blown the seed
in a million places more nurturing.
Yet, it knows not the difference.
It is a seed.
Life lives inside it.
The roots push forth.
Tiny leaves emerge
and find the sun.
Somehow—
in a crack—
a tree grows.

--Sarah Heger, csj

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Awkward in-between time

Susan Francois shares some reflections on religious life in the early 21st Century.
Thanks Susan for sharing your experience that resonates with my own in this 'awkward in-between time' that is also a time of grace and joy.

Friday, June 26, 2015

How Nuns Spend their Summer Vacation

to every thing there is a season, 
    and a time to every purpose under heaven.
Summertime is a time of relaxation, barbecues and pool parties. If you are in religious life, it is also a time for chapters, community meetings and retreats. These are times of spiritual renewal and of connecting with the sisters and brothers and a celebration of the community's spirituality, life and mission. It is a particularly grace filled time for me since my ministry affords me the privilege of joining communities during these kairos times.
I have had the occasion to examine the official chapter documents of several communities, for a period of time running over the last 50+ years. The exercise reveals some common trends. When I have shared this information with religious, they often say that it rings true with their experience of their own communities as well.
Examination of the official Chapter documents of several religious communities reveals this interesting trend. In the 40s and 50s, the years before the Second Vatican Council chapters were often focused on details of habit, schedule and finances.
In the tumultuous 60s and 70s, following the Council, communities were charged to renew their lives and revise their Constitutions, which set out their fundamental way of life. Thus for the space of a decade or so, the Chapters invited participants into a dialogue about the identity of religious life and every aspect of how it was lived. There was wide participation in these discussions both in chapters and in their preparation and follow-up.
In the 80s and 90s, the chapter discussions turned outward to issues of mission and social justice. During these decades and into the 2000s, there was comparatively little discussion of the internal matters of religious life and spirituality.
Now as we come to the 50th anniversary of VCII, we are beginning to see yet another shift. Some communities turn back to their own life. Many communities are coming to realize that they are in their final decades; they realize that these may be the last decades of their community's life cycle. This is a time to reflect, give thanks and make some important decisions. During this year of consecrated life, it is a great opportunity to reflect on the great gift that we have received and all that we share with the people of God.


Saturday, June 20, 2015

Laudato Si

The long-awaited encyclical on Creation is finally out. Pope Francis has certainly created a stir by inviting us all to reflect on care for our common home.
I am grateful to find an expression of the importance of reflecting on this theme in relation to other themes of justice and care for one another, especially those who are most fragile and marginalized.
I have two simple reflections on my first read of the document.
1. I was struck by the range of voices and points of view that are brought into the conversation. True, one will search in vain for a single woman's voice. However, in addition to citing scripture, early Christian writers, popes and councils, the pope also cites current statements from bishops conferences and leaders from the orthodox churches. There is even a reference from a Sufi mystic. This is our common home. All of us, women and children, rich and poor, north and south, east and west, all of us live together on this earth. It is a beautiful and resilient home, but it is at risk from our abuse of its abundance.
2. The second point that struck me was the acknowledgement that the endangered state of our common home puts pressure on many other social, economic and political issues. It reminds me of my own house or office. When they are in disarray, it is harder to address any of the other issues that need attention. Likewise environmental decline means less usable water, less abundant and less nutritious food, increased disease pressure, more desperate people with 'nothing to loose'. So environmental decline also increases poverty, hunger, sickness, racism, gender inequality and violence. All of these issues are interrelated.
This can seem overwhelming, and in one sense it is. But it also empowers each of us to take up the cause. Each choice I make has an environmental impact:
  • what I eat
  • what I wear
  • what I buy
  • what I throw away
  • how I set my thermostat
  • where, how and how often I travel
  • what I plant
Each of us can make choices today that will effect us all. I am grateful for a small space of earth to plant natives, perennials and edibles, so that I can begin to be part of the solution and begin to invite others into this movement.
Is this related to the theme of this blog: the future of religious life? I believe that it is. I believe that sisters and brothers join together to face the biggest challenges of society. Historically, we have nurtured and healed and educated in the most dire and overwhelming situations. Now we have a new challenge. As we come together in communities of praxis, let us listen attentively, live simply and love freely, in our common home, and for the sake of our common family.
Amen.
Amy

Read it here.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Balancing Act

It has been great to have my friend Sr. Deb Timmis with me for the past two weekends. She is starting a new role with the CSJ Federation and spent a few weeks here in St. Louis doing an orientation to her new job. On the weekends she came to my place and we did loads of catching up and shared life and community. What a treat!

We talked about many things, and among them was how to build life-giving communities, the communities that will support us now and in the coming years. I want to share where I ended up after our conversations, and after conversations on the same topic with other 2.0 Sisters. Many of us seek local living situations where we can build life-giving communities.

I feel like there is a certain balance that is needed. On the one hand, there is the total community where we are 'all in'. We live together, work together, pray together. We have a common ministry and I can fully count on you and you can fully count on me. I have been in that kind of a community, and there is certainly a sense of belonging and security in that world. On the other hand, there is the kind of a community that is more like a bed-and-breakfast. I come when I can, then I am off to my ministry, etc. There has to be some minimal commitment to one another, but we are basically on our own. I am responsible to meet my own needs and we form a community of convenience with minimal connection.
Whoever is free may pray together, but there is no real commitment to be there.


I feel more called to balancing the two models. I would like to have a real sharing of life, prayer and some aspects of ministry: a commitment to each other such that we can really rely on each other's mutual support in life and ministry. I picture a real sisterhood in community. Yet I believe it is also important that we find and cultivate other circles of support: family, our wider congregations, justice and sustainability groups, etc. My local community is an important focus of my life and ministry. Other circles are complementary places where I can share energy, interest and support.

They say it takes a village to raise a child. I think it also takes a village to nurture each human heart on its journey. This is one of the greatest gifts we give to one another in community: a place to flourish as persons, as Christians and as religious.
Peace,
Amy

Friday, June 5, 2015

Summer Sisters

Summer Sisters is an idea that we have been kicking around for a few years. The idea is to open our hearts and our homes to one another over the summer. We also thought of this as a possible vocation outreach, inviting women who might be interested in having an experience of religious life for a brief period of time - call it convent-immersion.
This year though, we decided to open it to Sisters in various religious communities. So, we would like to take this opportunity to invite Sisters to stay with us over the summer. We are specifically inviting GV and 2.0 Sisters who would like to spend a little time with us. Call it retreat, vacation, mini-sabbatical, inter-community sisterhood networking, eco-spirituality immersion, urban eco-village experience, etc. You may have heard of couch-surfing... this would be more like convent-surfing.
Summer/retreat/vacation time is a great time to open our doors to one another, to build the networks among us and to nourish the spirit that is moving among us.
We are not putting particular parameters on this. I.e. both Maco and I have plans over the summer. One or the other of us will be out of town at various times for retreat, vacation, community meetings and ministry. We have another sister who may be joining us from time to time as well. So, if this sounds like something that would fit into your summer plans, feel free to contact me or Maco and lets see what would we can work out. We are in St. Louis, fairly centrally located and we would love to have you.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Honoring Women who Serve

This memorial day weekend, I would like to honor those women who have given their lives in service to others. Those who have selflessly served in homes, churches, schools, hospitals and in countless other ways.
I recently hear that the first woman with a doctorate in some field was a Sister. And I thought to myself that probably the first woman with a doctorate in many fields was a Sister. Women left home and family to lead lives of service. They gave their entire lives, not simply a tour of duty. They went wherever they were needed and served where no one else could, or would.
I salute women who selflessly gave their lives as mothers, putting their own needs second as they fed, clothed, nursed and taught their children.
I salute teachers who day after day, week after week go into classrooms across the globe. They teach, mentor and cheer on generation after generation of students. Many will go on to do great things, some will not shine, but they will be a little better persons for the steadfast service of their teachers. And just a few come back to thank this selfless service, too often under appreciated by students and parents in the course of the school year
I salute nurses and other health-care workers whose care and skill meets us when we are weak and vulnerable. They come when we call and work to heal our mind, body and spirit.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Participating in the Transformation of New Life!


Just about a month ago, we established ourselves in our friendly Ecovillage neighborhood of Dogtown in St. Louis, MO. During our relocation stage, we moved not only the furnishings of our house but also relocated trees, native plants, vegetables and herbs. It didn’t take us too long to settle into our new place.  And, we are in absolute awe over what already is taking root.   In a space of a month, we celebrate in a God that continues to evolve through us and continues to bare fruit in spite of the challenges and struggles that sometimes come our way.  I’m aware that nothing is lost but transformed! While as prophets and mystics we engage life passionately to bear fruit of hope for future generations, so do the trees and gardens in our back and front yards.  Participating in its transformation is nurturing and tending the new life around us and growing aware of our call to trust in the unknown and have faith in a God who continues to evolve in, out, and through every experience and bare fruit in us.  Photos are of our budding fruit trees (pear, peach, and fig) and the garden (garlic, strawberries, herbs, and vegetables).  Maco Cassetta, cnd









Saturday, May 2, 2015

Settling In....


It has been three weeks since our final move date and we are settling in to our new space. We are out of boxes, and it feels like home, but there are still those moments. Where are would I find a hammer? ... Did we bring this or that? ... Have you seen my phone? ... Where do we put the compost? ... We've all done it, right? Transition is a part of life. Moving, changing jobs, getting into and out of relationships. For some of us, it also includes joining a religious community, moving through the stages of formation, vows, changing local community and ministry, etc. And even discerning that it is time to leave my community, or move into a different religious community. Transitions, big or small, are a part of life.
Once again, I have moved and am in that transition stage. The period before the move, all the arranging and packing and planning was certainly stressful. Now that we are here in the new space, we can begin the long slow process of settling in. And this too is part of the transition. I don't automatically feel right at home once the last box is unpacked (though that can certainly help).
In this move, we had two 'plant rescue' days and on 'house moving' day. In the prior rented space, we had a lot of native plants, and fruit and berry bushes, etc. A few weeks before the move, we called for friends to come and help us carefully dig up the various plants and move them to the new space and settle them in to new locations. This took a lot of planning and coordination as well as trusting in the gardening savvy of those who came to help.
The first plants have been here a few weeks longer than the people. And they to are experiencing their period of settling in. One particular flowering bush put out lots and lots of flowers as it was transplanted. This was its way of dealing with the stress. Other plants are very slow to leaf out; their way of dealing with the stress is to slow down and go a little dormant, while they adjust to the new space. Others are quite happy in their new space and are going on as if they never felt the move.
I have to say, I am taking a lesson from the plants. Some days, I scurry around making the place more a home - like my blooming bush. This makes me feel more at home and and softens the transition. Other days I slow down and have a hard time focusing and getting anything done. Finally, other days it feels quite normal to go ahead with life as usual.
There is an element of pilgrimage to life at times like this. I am looking for that city with foundations in the divine, whose designer and builder is the God of all. This move reminds me that however 'at home' I might get to feel here, even this is not my true home. The last place I lived for a few years was also not my home. Our true homeland is the home prepared for us from the foundation of the world. Each move we make, each step we take, each journey we make brings us closer to the center of our lives, to the home of our homes, to the heart of our heart.
So as I go through these days of transition, and as I watch the plants dig their roots into this new soil, I also recognize that I am digging my roots deeper into Holy Mystery and I am being fed and nourished by the God of all pilgrims.
Peace,
Amy

Saturday, April 25, 2015

April Quarterly Call

We held our quarterly call and had a great discussion of vocation and formation for Religious Life. We started the call by checking in with each other, giving our names, communities and locations. As always, I had the opportunity to connect with sisters that I have met before, and others that are new to me. It is a great way of expanding networks and building connections.

We talked about the women coming to religious life these days. They are a diverse lot, and many come with significant life experience, and with professional and ministry background. We talked a good deal about the older vocations, women in their 40s and 50s and beyond. They may be women who entered religious life in their 20s, then left and went another direction for some decades. They come back to religious life, often with years of experience in ministry and certainly with varied life experience. Other women may be new converts, or those with little experience in spirituality, ministry or theology. These inquirers present different challenges both for discerning the vocation and for formation / integration into our communities.

We had some discussion of the phenomenon of 'retiring to the convent', in which the inquirer's notion of vocation may be less evident than their notion of life-style change and finding a place to settle for one's golden years. A sense of spirituality and service may or may not be a part of what they are seeking. Also, the financial issues for these mature inquirers special consideration. (See last week's blog post.) This is an invitation to discernment and to discovering the core identity of religious life for ourselves and for inquirers

Once women enter, it is important to find the best way of helping them integrate into our community. This involves learning our life, spirituality, vows, etc. It also involves making space in our lives for them to be a part of our world, and the women making space in their lives for the community to become their 'center of gravity.'

These women generally come as adults, and we do best when we treat them as adults and enter into a process that honors their experience, while inviting them into our community. Formation is a process for all of us, not just women who are new to community. We all become a new community.

We also discussed the question of the length of formation, particularly for older women who have experience in ministry, spirituality and even in religious life. Can we tailor their formation to meet their needs, rather than using a one size fits all program?

Finally, we discussed the question of accepting vocations when most of the community will not live to celebrate their 25th anniversary, much less their 50th. Is it fair or ethical to welcome women into a lifelong commitment if we won't be there to accompany them? We generally agreed that this should be a subject of conversation. Many women coming today know that the community is in a period of transition and that much of 'what is' is passing away. This calls for honest dialogue; we and those who join us should explore what this means for vocation and formation. We are planting seeds, and these women will take them to places beyond where we can go. In a similar way, the younger and middle-aged religious today are being called to live into a new era in religious life. No longer are we large stable communities. Instead we are smaller, more agile communities, who will experience the fragility of our smaller size, a fragility often experienced by our lay brothers and sisters.

At the end of our conversation, we checked out - many of us expressed gratitude for the opportunity to share our thoughts and feelings on this important topic. It is good to hear one another's experience and share hopes and challenges. We also appreciated the sacred space we created by coming together.

LOOKING FORWARD: we will have a planning call on June 26, 2015 7pm Central. Folks would would like to help plan, facilitate or take notes on the next quarterly call are invited to join the planning call. Message me for details.

Peace,
Amy

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Older and Indebted Candidates for Religious Life

I wrote this for work:
 
I often work with communities when they are considering candidates for entrance into their formation programs. Today's inquirers are a diverse group, from the perspective of age, life experience, professional and academic background, physical and psychological health, personal assets and debt, language and culture. Exploring these factors brings to light the blessing and challenge of diversity which places new demands on vocation and formation personnel as well as on leadership.
What does canon law say about issues common with older candidates entering religious life? Canon law speaks of requirements for admission, and particularly admission into novitiate. Those doing vocation ministry are often called to work through these issues with inquirers. A familiarity with the issues, requirements and options brings clarity that can assist in the mutual discernment of vocation and in arranging for candidates leaving jobs that may have taken a long time to acquire, and their assets such as a house, car, household goods, pensions, valuables and how to handle relationships with adult children, etc. Another area that often raises canonical questions is the issue of a candidate with significant student debt. This issue has raised concern in the wider society, and can also cause concerns for those discerning a vocation.
In speaking of older candidates, I realize that one older candidate may be thirty and another older candidate may be sixty. The thirty-year-old will have issues of career and property, while the sixty-year-old may have additional issues of health, family ties and retirement. Each candidate and each community is unique. The law can articulate principles whose application will vary.
Canon 597 sets out the basic requirements for candidates for novitiate in all religious communities.
§1. Any Catholic endowed with a right intention who has the qualities required by universal and proper law and who is not prevented by any impediment can be admitted into an institute of consecrated life.
§2. No one can be admitted without suitable preparation.
This canon raises questions regarding accepting of new converts, and the various impediments that may arise, from prior marriage, prior membership in a religious community and debt. The required qualities are mentioned in other canons. For example, Canon 642 states:
With vigilant care, superiors are only to admit those who, besides the required age, have the health, suitable character, and sufficient qualities of maturity to embrace the proper life of the institute. This health, character, and maturity are to be verified even by using experts, if necessary, without prejudice to the prescript of can. 220.
For older candidates, health may become an increasing issue. Their health should be age appropriate, and a community should evaluate accepting candidates with a history of cancer, heart problems, etc. While these are not prohibitive, one would have to consider the prognosis and the length of the formation program. Maturity must also be age appropriate. One would expect older candidates to exhibit more maturity, and they should also have the openness and flexibility to enter into a formation program. A respected professional with advanced degrees will still be a novice in the life of the community. This will require an appropriate level of maturity on the part of the candidate as well as on the part of the vocation and formation director and leadership. Maturity is multi-faceted: physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual, academic, professional, linguistic, cultural.
Older candidates often have rich social, professional and familial networks. Entrance into religious life will not replace these networks, but it will call for a focus on developing the community relationships and then integrating these into their other support systems. This takes time and should be done with attention and deliberation on the part of the candidate and the vocation/formation directors and leadership. Discernment, discussion, planning and communication can help to smooth the transition.
Candidates may have academic and professional credentials and may have ongoing requirements to maintain them. A plan in this regard should 1) ensure the candidate's ongoing ability to earn a living should they leave the community, 2) consider the ministry potential of the credentials and 3) consider the time and cost of maintaining the credentials throughout the period of formation. The same concerned may be raised by an older candidate who leaves the workforce to enter a religious institute. Prior planning can help to ensure that the candidate's return to ministry and employment after initial formation is as smooth as possible.
Integration of family ties, particularly adult children can also be a challenge. Children should be independent, and should be made aware of the candidate's availability for visits, for family celebrations, for support, etc.
A major issue for many older candidates is how to deal with property and fiduciary obligations. Taken from the perspective of moving from independence into interdependence, a candidate must evaluate his or her assets, liabilities and fiduciary obligations and determine how to deal with each of these matters as they move into the formation period, which is a transitional period of discernment, and then how the matter will finally be resolved when they are finally incorporated into the community. It can be helpful to use an inventory of legal and financial matters (Hereford, 2012) to help identify all the issues that need to be discussed.
Despite the best preparation, unforeseen issues may arise during the formation process. Nevertheless, initial discussions with the vocation director can be invaluable in addressing these issues early in the candidate's discernment. They can be opportunities to deepen the discernment process and afford clarity to candidates as well as to formation personnel and communities.
For more on Older and Indebted Candidates for Religious Life, register for May's webcast. There is also time to register for the Covenant Project workshop in April 2015: www.ahereford.org/registration

Recorded Webcasts: Not available for a webcast? You can register to view it On-Demand or on CD-ROM, go to www.ahereford.org/registration.
Please let me know if I can be of assistance to you or your organization.
Sincerely,
Amy Hereford

Saturday, April 4, 2015

What Wonderous Love...




https://ingaphotography.files.wordpress.com/2012/04/096-easter-candle.jpg?w=590&h=819What wondrous love is this that called the heavens and the earth from the formless waste and set them spinning in matchless harmony.
What wondrous love is this that brought the earth to life and called each of us into life and into love.
What wondrous love is this that nurtured our lives to this day and calls us to renewal, to renewed fidelity to the gift and the love of our creation.
What wondrous love is this that set aside the power and privileges of divinity to walk with us, to share our paths and our sorrows.
What wondrous love is this that accepted the worst that the world had to offer, and still called us to love and forgiveness.
What wondrous love.... oh my soul.
To God and to the Lamb I will sing
To God and to the Lamb who is the great I AM.
While millions join the theme, I will sing...
What wondrous love.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Jubilees and Jubilees

This week, I celebrate my Mom's birthday and our community Jubilees. So it is a time to celebrate a look to the times past, gifts given, stories written. I stand as heir to a grand legacy and this is the moment to stop, reflect and be grateful for all this.
I am one of ten siblings and my Mom and Dad have given us a lifetime of love, support, help and encouragement. My siblings and I have gone on to do some amazing things - we are a diverse lot, but I think my parents can rightly be proud of what they have accomplished in and for us. Some of us continue to struggle, and Mom and Dad are still there for us, with that same unending "godly" love.
My sisters too can rightly look back on a job well done, kids taught, the sick healed, tears dried, doubtful comforted, dispirited lifted up. The world is a better place for these women having given their lives to God, to the community and to their ministries.
Jubilee means a time of rest, a time of respite, a time away to set things right again. This gives me an opportunity to rejoice, to congratulate and to renew my resolve to do honor to those who have gone before.
We also celebrate National Catholic Sisters Week, during the Year of Consecrated Life. Jubilee!
Blessings!
Amy

Saturday, March 7, 2015

On the Road Again...

In St. Louis, we have a fairly active Giving Voice / Sisters 2.0 group. We are the younger sisters in the area, from novices to silver jubilarians who gather every month or so for supper, prayer, conversation, and fun. Our conversations range widely: our shared experience being the youngest members of our congregations, even after several decades, for some of us; living as the only younger person in an elder community; the future of religious life; the awesome adventure that this life affords us; the profound challenges that we will face in the coming decades; and how to love and laugh and hope through all that life has to offer.
One fruit of our conversations is the recognition of our need to form inter-congregational communities to support and nourish our generations and the coming generations of religious women. How do we find spaces, or build spaces in which we can take the responsibility for this development?
I am currently living in a house founded to begin just such an inter-congregational community. I moved in two years ago, and several sisters have expressed interest in joining and there are two of us here now. We are located within an urban eco-village, and in the shadow of the parish church. We are also in St. Louis which has a reputation for having a lot of intentional communities. There is an Ecovillage network and an Intentional Christian Community network, as well as our GV/Srs2.0 network and the various gatherings of our own communities. Interlocking circles of community.
Recently our landlord decided to terminate our lease and sell the property, so we are on the road again. I have also been reading a book about Tiny-Houses for one of our ecovillage book-clubs. Folks take a trailer frame and build a house on it, like the picture above. There is a lot in the book about friendship, simplicity, living lightly on the earth and alternative living. But honestly as I think about our upcoming move, I can't help but notice that the house is on wheels. How easy would that be to move?!
This move is yet another in a string of moves - also a common experience among our younger sisters network. I counted up my moves in the last 20 years: this will be my 14th move! I average just under a year-and-a-half in each place. Thankfully, many of these moves were to different places in the local area. But still it means packing up my life and lugging it across town. It means calling in friends and family for a moving and pizza party. It means figuring out what to pack and what to give away or pitch. And where to put it when we get to the new place. 
Thankfully, there is a new place and I'm excited when I look past the upcoming move to the new space. There is also the possibility of a long-term lease, and of purchasing the property for the Religious Life Project which supports sustainability projects for and by younger religious.
So say a prayer as we continue our Lenten journey which is also a journey to a new home. Blessings on your own journey.
--Amy

Friday, February 27, 2015

Growing Awareness

I have been networking very intentionally with other young and middle-aged religious for some years now. Our conversations are always very rich and grace-filled. This blog is a result of those conversations, the result of my own prayer and reflection and the result of my lived experience of religious life at this time.
At this point, we know that religious life has changed radically in each of the last several decades, and that it will likely change even more radically in the coming decades. My ministry calls me to journey with communities that have come to accept the reality that their community's life journey is coming to an end. They come to embrace this reality with amazing courage and grace, and the realization brings them a great deal of peace and freedom. Accepting their current reality, they can fully live the final decades of their community's life journey with grace and integrity.
They are writing their community's last chapter. Like any good book, we don't want it to end, but end it must. And the sisters in this generation have the challenge and the grace to write that chapter. The chapter that will tie together all the strands of the community's life story.
It is a privilege for me in ministry to walk with the sisters and the brothers whose communities have made these decisions. With disarming simplicity and courage, they see the things they gave their lives to coming to an end, or better, given over into the hands of competent, committed lay people.
More and more communities come to this place of acceptance and peace with their own completion. In many of these communities, there is a small cadre of sisters in their 20s, 30s 40s and 50s, still in active ministry, still vibrant. We acknowledge the decline of the largest generation of religious ever to live and pray and serve in the USA.
In the midst of this reality, I am coming to find my hope, my strength, my joy in the inter-congregational networks of sisters: Giving Voice and Sisters 2.0. I am coming to value both my deep and lasting relations with my home-congregation, and the rich and vibrant relations across congregations.
I discover and celebrate a 'sisterhood' that is bigger than any one congregation. I have a deep joy when I think of these sisters, women of faith, women of courage and women of hope. Intelligent, well-educated and broadly experienced, these sisters are taking up the challenge of carrying religious life into the heart of the 21st century and beyond.
May we cherish the sacred trust of our communities, live it with joy and share it generously. Pray with us. Pray for us. Join us.
--Amy

Friday, February 20, 2015

Lenten Journey Home


Pascha MapOnce again we begin our Lenten journey, signed with ashes, with strains of Attende Domine wafting through our churches and in our ears and hearts.

Listen, O God and have mercy on us... We have wandered off, lost our way and once again we find hearts longing to set out anew on a journey that leads us back to God, to peace.

This Lent, I find myself thinking of 'home'. It is perhaps because once again I find myself needing to move my residence. So as I begin the Lenten journey, I ask myself where this year's journey will bring me.

I think that the Lenten journey isn't about giving-up, or doing-more, but about finding balance. Where in my God-life do I need to find balance. What one thing would make me more centered, more God-ly, more Christian?

Each Lent, the answer is different. This year, as I contemplate yet another move, I feel that my Lenten journey should be a journey home, a journey that brings me to a more rooted place in God. That will take two directions for me. Groundedness and intentionality.

I think the call to groundedness is a call to settle into prayer, into contemplation with a renewed sense of finding my home in the heart of God. This is where I often find myself in prayer, but I feel the call to a more conscious presence there.

I think the call to intentionality is to accept my journey to a new house, a new location. And to find in that journey a call to that place of groundness in God. So it's a sort of dual call to the same place. A Lenten journey home....

This is my prayer for my own journey, and I pray for you, as we all walk this journey together....

Peace,
Amy 

Friday, February 13, 2015

The Road Not Taken...


Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,  
and sorry I could not travel both
and be one traveler...
 

This is a simple poem that I memorized in school so many years ago. It came to mind as I was praying this morning. How many times in my life have two roads diverged, and "I looked down one as far as I could... then took the other, because it was grassy and wanted wear."
The particular choice of roads that came to mind this morning was one that I made in the waning months of my college days. I was a pre-med student, and I had been accepted at several medical schools. In just a few months I would be graduating, and then in the fall, off to medical school.
At that time, as I recall it now, my one dream was being fulfilled. It had taken all my time, energy and attention to study, get good grades and get into medical school. Now that I was "in" I could relax somewhat, and begin to think of medical school, and a career beyond.
It was when my thoughts began to wander to that career beyond medical school that the thought of religious life first entered into my thinking. At first it was just a vague possibility: maybe, some day. But it soon became a stronger sense of invitation and call. What if this is something real? What does a vocation really feel like? What does it mean? Could it be?
I don't remember the time line, but looking back, it must have been rather fast. From those first musings, a deep sense of call took root, and I began exploring religious communities. Haltingly at first, I did not know how to start the conversation. I didn't even know how to start the prayer.
In time, I was visiting religious communities, and by degrees, this 'call' took over my life. I began to question the goal of medical school that had been my pre-occupation since sometime in high school. While communities assured me that I could certainly go to medical school, then enter, I had a sense of the timeline. This call to religious life was something that I needed to pursue now.
I entered religious life that fall and the rest, as they say, is history.
The road not taken? Medical school? The question of going to medical school came up over the years, but in the end I never went. I have used my pre-med, scientific background in many ways over the years. The med school class that I would have been a part of, graduated the spring when I made first profession.
But I, I took the road less traveled by,
and that has made all the difference.
I sometimes wonder what that other path would have been like? Would I have entered religious life? What would ministry as a physician been like?
But I know that my life as it has played out has been a gift and a grace, to me, and hopefully to those among whom I have prayed, lived and worked. I have prayed deeply, and had opportunities and helps in developing a rich spiritual life. I have met interesting people and have many wonderful relationships. I have lived in many different places and had opportunities to travel. I ended up studying law and theology, and I serve the legal needs of religious communities, a ministry which I love.
On this Valentines Day weekend, I say:
To all that religious life has been: Amen, Amen, Amen!
To all that religious life will yet be: Yes, Yes, Yes!

--Amy

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Vacation of the Spirit


I am going on retreat for the coming week. I look forward to this once-a-year opportunity to set aside ministry, community, projects, deadlines, challenges, etc. and turn my full attention to God who is at the center of all these important parts of my life. Retreat is a time to 'choose the better part' and focus on the 'one thing necessary.' It is like a little vacation-of-the-Spirit.

Who has this kind of opportunity? Every year, for the last 30+ years, I have taken this time apart: good-years, bad-years, high-years, low-years and everything in between. I hear the call of my God: come apart with me and rest a while.

I've come to the realization that winters are the best times for retreat for me. The rhythm of my life and ministry have a naturally quieter time now, allowing me to slip away for this time of prayer without too much worry about what I'm leaving behind. In the weeks coming up to the retreat, my thoughts turn to this special time, gradually opening my heart to the gifts it will offer.

As I settle down to prayer in these weeks before retreat, I've let my heart and mind wander quietly through the last year, noting events, gifts, challenges, and more especially, the presence of God in big and small ways through the year. When I get to retreat, there will be time to be more deliberate and probing about this. But in the time before retreat, it happens naturally and gently, as I look forward to this special time.
I am ready for retreat, and grateful for this blessed opportunity. I pray with and for all those I leave behind in community, in ministry, etc. And I look forward to coming back renewed - recreated - refreshed, and ready for what lies ahead.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Ecumenical Way

I spent the last three days with an amazing group of men and women religious from the Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant traditions. Rather than a time of ecumenical dialogue, we spent our time together sharing our experience of prayer, community and mission as brothers and sisters in monasteries and religious communities.  I come away with a profound experience of the deep unity of the whole Christian community - a unity prayed for by Jesus, and one we celebrate during this week of Christian Unity. I also come away with a much more profound realization of the deep diversity among us, in language, culture and theology. At the same time I was deeply impressed by three ecumenical communities: Taize, Boze and Chemin Neuf, all of whom are committed to building community together as Christians of various traditions.
English report of the visit with the pope. 
In his brief message, the pope called for conversion of heart, for prayer and for gospel living, as the heart of all ecumenical movement. I am expecting to write a longer post in the next few days, reflecting on my whole experience here. It certainly opens my eyes to the many possibilities open and different ways of living religious life. The opportunity to share these days of prayer, presentation and dialogue has opened many horizons for me for going forward.

Peace,
Amy

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Ecumenical Meeting of Religious

The Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and for Societies of Apostolic Life has planned a number of initiatives to facilitate encounters between members of different expressions of consecrated and fraternal life in the various Churches. I warmly encourage such meetings as a means of increasing mutual understanding, respect and reciprocal cooperation, so that the ecumenism of the consecrated life can prove helpful for the greater journey towards the unity of all the Churches. (from Letter of Pope Francis for the Year of Consecrated Life)
This is the journey we begin on June 22, 2015 in Rome, with participants from Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant and Ecumenical Religious Communities. There will be three days of meetings, the first focused on Catholic religious life, the second focused on the Orthodox tradition and the third focused on Protestant and Ecumenical communities.
Each day begins with some reflections on religious life in that tradition, and testimonies from men and women religious from the tradition. Then after sharing lunch, we will gather in small groups to discuss what we have heard. We round out the day with evening prayer in the tradition that has been the focus of the day.
I am looking forward to rich sharing and experiences and I hope to be able to share some of that with you all as the days progress.
Peace,
Amy

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Two Great Posts

I would like to share two articles that came up this past week:

An open letter to the Great Generation

by Teresa Maya

Dear Sisters of the Great Generation of religious life,
I feel compelled to write this letter in memory of Sr. Dorothy Ettling, CCVI, one of the most amazing women of your generation. She now rests in the peace of our God, but her vision remains.... Read more....

Our Time

by Susan Rose Francois
I will admit to a smile whenever I see that one of my Horizons columns has been posted online, although the reason for my smile may not be the one you expect. I smile because of the tagline for the column on the Global Sisters Report website: “Young sisters speak.” Only in religious life would a 42-year-old woman be counted among the “young..... Read more...
Thanks Teresa and Susan for these honest and thoughtful words. I do sense a shift in the conversation about religious life. It is a good time to be a part of this amazing movement.

In the coming week, I will be attending an Ecumenical Meeting of Religious in Rome. I hope to be sharing some aspects of that experience and I will also be tweeting @amycsj.

Peace and blessings,
Amy

Friday, January 9, 2015

Necessity is the mother of ... the Spirit

Recently I was discussing various trends in society, church and religious life. In the course of the conversation, we repeatedly mentioned developments that seem to be the work of the spirit: greater environmental awareness, greater awareness of equality and human rights, broader participation in the life of the Church, etc. At each turn, we had to acknowledge that that the movements arose, not only because of some altruistic spiritual sensitivity, but also because of a real need. This got me to thinking...
I thought of the foundation of many religious communities, including my own. We were founded because of pressing social and ecclesial needs that were not being met by any other group. At the same time, there were women who desired to serve the 'dear neighbor' in need, but they felt the need of mutual support and official approbation. So was the foundation of the Sisters of St. Joseph the result of a movement of the Spirit? or was it the result of necessity?
We now see increased lay involvement in many aspects of Church life. In our own sponsored Academies, for example, lay men and women are carrying on the mission with great dedication and professionalism. Certainly this is in keeping with the Second Vatican Council's renewed understanding of Baptism and of the call of all people to continue the mission of Jesus. However, it is also the result of the lessening number of sisters available to teach and administer the schools. The same is true in so many aspects of the life and mission of the Church. Priests and sisters are not available for many roles that they previously fulfilled, and a competent, professional cadre of lay ecclesial ministers carry out many tasks in pastoral, health-care and educational roles. Is this the result of a movement of the Spirit? or was it the result of necessity?
And looking forward, I am building community in an intercongregaional house of women religious, situated in an urban ecovillage. Partly, I am here because of the increasing difficulty of finding communities of sisters in full-time active ministry within my own congregation. It is a necessity. Yet I also see it as a movement of the Spirit, bringing together various threads of our charisms and missions into a broader synthesis. Is this necessity? or is it the movement of the Spirit?
I am beginning to see a pattern here. They say that necessity is the mother of invention. Perhaps, necessity is also the mother of the Spirit.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Living on the Edge

Religious Life at the Crossroad is the 21st-century analysis of the present and future of religious life. Written by Amy Hereford, C.S.J., an attorney and canonist, the book traces religious life from its past “marked by courage and creativity in the face of adversity as well as by heroism and zeal.” Hereford attempts to chart a course into the future by understanding the historical and present characteristics of religious life through the context of the time. Her self-appointed task was to use the ideas, social media conversations and visions of her “minority cohort” (younger women religious) to imagine “the future of religious life in the next fifty years.” The author takes a linear approach to her topic as she moves from the earliest forms of religious life, beginning with the desert mothers and fathers and moving through the Second Vatican Council renewal period. Using theological communities, including Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s New Monasticism, Brother Roger and the TaizĂ© Community and Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker movement, she looks for “seeds of newness” and re-imagines the vows, community life and mission in the context of the 21st century.
Read complete book review in America Magazine....