Saturday, April 30, 2016

Challenge and Gift of Community

I had the privilege of addressing the national gathering of vocation and formation directors in Canada this past week. It was an opportunity to gather with my new colleagues as I myself take my first steps in vocation and formation ministry. It was also an opportunity to share what I have learned about religious life and the challenge of inviting and welcoming new members to our communities.

Risk, community and transition were major themes that seemed to strike a cord in those who participated. In order to invite and welcome newcomers to our communities, we have to be willing to move out of our comfort zones, to change and open our hearts and our houses.

Sr. Pat Wittberg, a sociologist of religion, talks about the qualities of vibrant communities. We as communities have a tendency to settle down, to get comfortable. This in itself is a good thing. However, it has a dark side. When we have been together in a local community for 3-5 years, we loose the social capacity to welcome newcomers into our communities.

We may view this in terms of the terms for the stages of formation of a community.
  • Forming - when a community first comes together - the honeymoon period when all is fresh and new
  • Storming - when a community starts to run into the inevitable challenges of life together. Our different styles and personal foibles begin to weigh on each other.
  • Norming - when we begin to address our differences and find ways of navigating them with fairness and integrity.
  • Performing - when we settle into a more or less comfortable routine
  • Adjourning - when we bring the community to closure, or leave the community.
  • Long-terming - I would add this stage - it is when a community has been together for more than 3-5 years and gets too comfortable, loosing the sociological capacity for change and welcoming newcomers.
    Newcomers in community are generally in communities for just a year or two. They are in the forming, storming and norming stages. Often they move on to the next phase of formation, in another house, before they have the opportunity to get into performing. In addition, we sometimes place newcomers into communities that are in the long-terming stage, communities that have settled quite comfortably already.
Let's think about opening spaces of mutuality and support in our communities so that we can welcome newcomers. Let's take this opportunity to form, storm and norm anew. Let's see the challenge of change, and welcome it as an opportunity to renew ourselves as a community. Our newest brother or sister can give us an amazing gift - let's not miss the grace of this moment. 


Friday, April 22, 2016

MORE Weekend

The Sisters of St Joseph Vocation Team is inviting women interested in religious life to join us for a weekend event June 24-26, 2016 in St. Louis Missouri.
The weekend is to have an opportunity for sisters and interested women to share some time in community, prayer and volunteer ministry for a short period of time.

We will have a time for Ministry at two volunteer sites where sisters are active: Marian Middle School and an organic garden.

We will explore the core value of the Sisters of St. Joseph: being One with God and Neighbor. Our congregation is oriented to the unifying love of God and to bringing about our oneness with God and oneness with neighbor.

There will be time for reflection and prayer with the sisters. We will focus on discernment and the call to unifying love.

And finally, there will be time to Engage with the sisters in community, meals and celebration.

With all these components, we are calling it our MORE weekend:
One with God and Neighbor
Reflection and Prayer
If you, or someone you know is interested in religious life, contact me and get more specifics. We would love to have you with us.


Saturday, April 16, 2016

Activism - greatest threat to missionaries

I recently read an article regarding activism and missionaries. It equally applies to religious life.
It speaks of the importance of finding time in our lives for silence, stillness, prayer and Sabbath space.
How often we value our day or our week by what we accomplished. How often we focus more on doing than on being. We focus more on what we are doing for God than on what God is doing for and in us.
It was a good reminder for me that both doing and being are important parts of life and I need to make space for both.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Summer Sisters - An Invitation

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 and lets see what would we can work out. I am in St. Louis, fairly centrally located and I would love to have you.