Friday, September 6, 2019

Community and Ministry
The balance between community and ministry is shifting. In the early- and mid-twentieth century, the balance was strongly on the side of ministry. People grew up in larger families, and religious communities lived in large houses. Community was assumed, or rather communal living was assumed. Some communities, just as some families, fostered deep and lasting relationships. There were also cases of merely functional communities that met one’s physical needs but left spirits empty, if not wounded by abuse and dysfunction. People, particularly women, entered community to live a life of service and of ministry in education, in health-care, in pastoral service, and in social service. In that era, for many women, community was assumed, ministry was not.
Fast forward to the current century and the default living situation is increasingly solo and options for ministry are wide open to those who wish to pursue them. For many, the option to choose a particular field of ministry is broader outside of religious life. Obtaining the appropriate preparation for ministry is possible, if expensive, outside religious life. We are moving away from a world in which community is the norm and ministry is not. And we are moving toward a world where ministry and service are available, if not the norm, and community is increasingly a rare commodity. Many entering religious life today come from a life of ministry and service. They desire to enhance their life of ministry and service by banding together with others who hold similar values and with whom they can live in mutual support. They often live singly, having grown up in smaller family units than those found in households of earlier decades.
Vocation is still a mystery of the Spirit, a mystery of call and response, and that mystery is lived out in the very human context of our hearts and our lives and our society. This vocation is lived in a distinctly different context that calls for different instincts in inviting young people into our communities. It requires a shift in how we welcome and incorporate these women and men. It is important that we welcome them in a way that nurtures their vocation and prepares them for the distinctive challenges and opportunities of the current century.
--from Beyond the Crossroads, Religious Life in the 21st Century by Amy Hereford

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