Saturday, December 28, 2013

Changed not Ended....

The young sister near me—dressed in a colorful tank top, shorts and sandals—speaks from her heart. Young Catholic sisters, about 70 of us, sit in small circles and engage in deep conversations throughout the sun-lit room. As I listen, I scribble her thoughts into my journal: Why are women drawn to religious life? In the past the visibility drew many; now the inner call and voice and dream move and call us forward. We get to let go. We are free. We are eager.....  --Julia Walsh

Thanks Julia for sharing your enthusiasm for religious life and for its promise. It is a vibrant but challenging time to engage in this life. That's probably true of every other age of religious life, and true of almost any commitment worth giving your  life to. 

Monday, December 16, 2013

LivingVoice - SistersRising

A group of us have been exploring relationships and pro-actively engaging the next 20-30 years of religious life. Many things will happen, many things will change. We will grieve the loss of most of the women religious alive today.
We Are...
  • A peer-led, self-organized space for visioning and fostering future oriented initiatives for religious life 
  • Inspired by Giving Voice and its circle process 
  • Established and committed finally-professed women religious 
  • Born after 1955 and generally born before 1975 
  • Trusting the spirit to gather the women who are meant to join this movement.
We will welcome new paradigms, new models and new energies that are emerging.
We are also continuing to search for a name, for now, we're using a lot of tentative names, and we can see what sticks: LivingVoice, SistersRising, VisionSpace... any other ideas?

Among the projects we are envisioning are:
  • VisionSpace July 5-7, 2014 @ Marcella House/New Beguines, St. Louis, Mo.
  • Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed. Jn. 20:29 - Guided Retreat
    • This Guided Retreat is an opportunity for women religious who entered after Vatican II to reflect on their call to consecrated life in a time of tremendous change, experimentation, uncertainty, and diminishment.  
    • Presenter: Janet Gildea SC
    • Sunday, June 29th – Saturday, July 5th, 2014
    • Maris Stella Retreat Center
  • Summer Sisters
    • Inviting women religious to form intentional community with women interested in religious life for 3-5 weeks over the summer. Living, Working and Praying together. 
    • Community practices include: shared meals, shared prayer, large active organic garden, sustainability practices, justice actions. 
    • Summer 2014 @ Marcella House/New Beguines, St. Louis, Mo.
    • Email for more information or to register.
  • On-line forum 
    • To be determined
  • Quarterly Conference Call
    • Next call is March 18, 2014 - (between St. Patty and St. Joe), 6pm Central
    • Email for more information or to register.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

When Your Truth and My Truth are Different

Let’s say that life involves crossing a forest–a huge, positively bewildering forest, with trees and rocks and grass and flowers and streams running every which-way and caves and blind canyons and some mountains tossed in.  We’re trying to cross this forest, most of us without a map, essentially on our own and also knowing beyond a doubt that we will die mid-journey.

This would all be really, really depressing if it weren’t for the fact that crossing the forest is so dang much fun.  I mean, think about it; we never have any idea what might be around the next rock or tree.  And we’re constantly meeting other journeyers and sometimes stopping to chat or play.  What an adventure!  What an amazing thing!...  Read more....

This is a really helpful image of people, pathways, respect and grace.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Developing Future Leaders

I've heard a lot about leadership development in religious life. There are various configurations of sisters who are putting on programs  on leadership for their members under the age of 60. Here's a great article on the topic, written by one of the world's leading management experts:
ADIZES: We have three words in our topic: “developing”, “future”, and “leaders.” Let me first talk about the future and then about what it means to be a leader in the future. Finally, I will address the issue of leadership development. - See more at:
We can't predict the future, but we know it will be different from today. Systems of power are collapsing under their own weight. New players emerge and relationships change and we will need a leader in every chair. New leaders can't know all that is needed, but they can listen, they forge relationships, they can be flexible, they can build networks of influence and mutual support.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Living Community

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

Saturday, November 23, 2013

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

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

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


Saturday, November 16, 2013

Occupy Religion

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

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

Saturday, November 9, 2013

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

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

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Video: Sisters

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

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Vocation Story: Juliet Mousseau

Thanks Juliet for sharing your story. Your articulation of vocation and religious life resonates with my own experience, and what I hear from others.
It's also a rich experience to connect with religious women from various communities here in St. Louis as we engage the challenges of living and sharing the Gospel in the 21st century.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

NEW RELEASE: Religious Life at the Crossroads

This book explores the movements in religious life today and the currents that are emerging among the smaller cohorts of younger religious in mainstream communities of religious women. Hereford traces the history of religious life, including the impact of Vatican II and examines some of the theological sources for the reinvention of religious life today. She explores the current situation of religious, re-imagines the meaning of vows, community, and mission, and examines how the emerging forms of religious life will fit into an emerging church.
* * * 
I'm looking forward to expanding the conversation about religious life and the hopeful movements that are emerging among us.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Prophets Make Waves

It's been over a month since Pope Francis' wide ranging interview appeared in American magazine and in other publications world-wide. The published interview there is a paragraph about religious life where he focuses on the prophetic dimension of the life itself.
Religious men and women are prophets.... In the church, the religious are called to be prophets in particular by demonstrating how Jesus lived on this earth, and to proclaim how the kingdom of God will be in its perfection. 
We prophecy, not by foretelling events in the misty reaches of the future, but by living the Gospel here and now. Francis named this as the essence of the life. Yes, the vows give it shape, but it is the prophetic mission that is at is core.
The prophetic function and the hierarchical structure do not coincide. 
He is not proposing an oppositional role, yet he acknowledges that religious and the hierarchy play different roles among the people of God. In the best of times, this allows us to walk together and work together for the common cause of the Gospel. However, it also means that there are times when it will be a challenge to strike this balance that allows both to remain faithful to their call.
Being prophets may sometimes imply making waves. I do not know how to put it.... Prophecy makes noise, uproar, some say ‘a mess.’ 
Yes, then, so let's get out there and live the Gospel - and make a mess. I can definitely see that statement being lived out by Pope Francis. He is making noise, an uproar, a mess. Yet goodness and authenticity are a part of this mess.
Prophecy announces the spirit of the Gospel.
The vocation to prophecy invites us to live the Gospel, announce the Gospel with our hands and with our hearts and with our lives.


Saturday, October 5, 2013

Off the Grid

I'm reading Sandra Schneiders' new book, a sweeping testimony about where religious life has been in the last half century, and occasional glimpses of growing edges.
She writes about the alternate economy that we create with our vow of poverty. Forsaking an independent economic existence, we hold all things in common. That's all things! We sink or swim together. What one has, we all have; what one lacks, we all lack. We try to live that early Christian community proclaimed by Jesus and witnessed in the Acts of the Apostles.
It strikes me that we try to live 'off the grid'.
People in the sustainability movement try to live radically off the power grid - disconnected from electric power. They do this as a witness to the un-sustainability of modern life, and as a challenge to develop a more sustainable life.
By committing to evangelical poverty, we choose to live off the economic grid. Well, to be honest, most of us are only somewhat successful at this off-grid project. We still participate in the over-all economy. Nevertheless, we come together to experiment in Gospel living, in Gospel economics. We forsake an independent economic existence and choose to hold all things in common.
This commitment is much like a married couple who come together to build a life together. Any family can live in interdependence and hold all things in common. In this, religious life is like a large extended family. May we be a blessing to one another as we commit to Gospel economics.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Be the Change

Be the change you want to see in the world. - attributed to Ghandi.

I have a chance to be the change that is:
spiritually meaningful - in relationship with the Christian community movement, with other younger women religious and with the women of Giving Voice
ecologically sustainable - in relationship with the ecovillage network
socially justice - acknowledging my interdependence with those living in wealth and in poverty, and making choices to live justly, making stands against injustice and making waves to draw attention to systems of injustice and paths to justice.
A more complete quote from Ghandi is:

“If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.”

Let's be the change...


Saturday, September 21, 2013

Called to "Amen"

Summer time is a time for community meetings in many congregations of Sisters and Brothers. In my ministry, I am blessed to share this time with different communities, as I come in for a day or several days to share my expertise and experience with them.

Community meetings, chapters and assemblies are times to pray, struggle, live and celebrate together. I've heard a lot about transformation in these meetings. Evolving into something new and better, greater, etc.
Augustine, the great expert in transformation, tells us that transformation begins with dissatisfaction with who we are, or how things are going. This growing dis-ease combines with a longing for a better version of ourselves, or a more integral, more radical road. I believe that some individuals and groups of sisters and brothers are called to this transformation that sets out and takes nothing for the journey: --no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra tunic.
I believe that part of the challenge to transformation at this moment for the larger group is that there is much that is right with who we are and how things are going. This is true, even if it is not sustainable and many communities are in their last generation. We already hear the faint whisper: well done, good and faithful servant.... And in this moment, I believe that the transformation that we are called to  is a "yes-to-what-is", and thanksgiving for all that has been. I believe that call of this moment is the call to "Amen".

Saturday, September 14, 2013


I love the connections that we make through life
... how we weave in and out of each other's circles
... blessing one another in known and unknown ways.
Over the last couple of days, I have had the opportunity to touch the lives of several people, and be touched by them. They are folks that I have met through my various circles, and who are friends of friends of friends.... It is amazing to give and receive blessings in these circles of life.
Building each other up, giving and receiving blessings and touching the face of God as we weave the tapestry of life.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Facebook is the cotton candy version of life...

 I know very well that Facebook is the cotton candy version of life --- sweet, fluffy and insubstantial ---- and will make you nauseous if you consume too much. (Jess Hoskins) 
Jess was responding to this post:
Lately I keep hearing friends tell me how depressed they get scrolling through their Facebook feeds. It’s pretty impossible not to compare your life to the lives of other people as you glance at smiling vacation photos, people who look blissfully in love, people portraying the most gorgeous, happy and fun parts of their lives.  .... No matter how “perfect” someone’s life looks on social media, or when you see someone walking down the street, you never know what someone is going through..... Read more...
Thanks Jenny! I think that it's great that we are positive in our dealings with one another. I believe that life has its challenges and I've made a deliberate choice to see things as half-full, though I often have to remind myself when I get into a half-empty mindset.

For me, prayer is spending time in "God-space." Spending time in space where God is God and I try to let God's perspective pervade my own. I think that God space helps me to re-focus and re-commit to that half-full mentality.

Today in religious life, we are at a crossroads.
There are lots of shifts. There are lots of challenges, There is lots of letting go.
There are also lots of jobs well done. There are lots of opportunities for wider involvement. There are lots of openings and new possibilities. 
Thanks for the reminder that life is a mixture of ups and downs. The good-old-days had the same mix of opportunities and challenges, riches and poverty.  

Saturday, August 24, 2013


Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. -- ML King
As we move toward the anniversary of the March on Washington, these words of Martin Luther King come to mind. They seem capture my thoughts as many sisters come away from our chapters and assemblies.
For those not in religious communities, "chapters and assemblies" is nun-speak community meetings in which sisters gather from all parts of the congregation to celebrate unity in charity, to discuss important issues in the life and mission of the community and to elect leadership. They are organized to encourage and facilitate the broadest possible participation.
We have prayed and celebrated, we have faced the challenging truth of our present reality and we have struggled with deep questions: what does it look like to live the Gospel right here and right now as a Sister of St. Joseph, or St. Francis or Mercy, or.....

And in the light of this moment, I hear the words of Martin Luther King. And I take on the challenge of living the Gospel today - this day - right now.

We have big issues facing us. The next 10 to 15 years of religious life will be a time of continuing to mourn the passing of the largest groups to enter our congregations and serve the people of God for generations.

At the same time, there is a new energy emerging. I see it, I hear it, I feel a rising hope. This is a hope that rebels against despair. It is a hope that does not wait for change to roll in on the wheels of inevitability. It is a hope that accepts the challenge of continuous struggle. This is the hope that has been the mainstay of religious life through the ages, and the keystone of Gospel living for everyone.

For me this means choosing joy, when life is not giving rainbows... choosing joy because of the God who is joy and love even in the midst of challenge and pain. This keeps me saying yes to God and choosing life, choosing green, choosing community.


Saturday, August 17, 2013

Musings of a Discerning Woman: Losing Voice

Musings of a Discerning Woman: Losing Voice: Well, irony of all ironies, I am headed to a conference of 800+ women religious leaders to tell them the good news of younger women religiou...

Musings of a Discerning Woman: Sharing Voice: GV Booth at LCWR My 2013 visit to the Leadership Conference of Women Religious Assembly representing Giving Voice is complete! And given...

Saturday, August 10, 2013

... the Bee, the Butterfly and the Breeze

In the name of the Bee -
And of the Butterfly -
And of the Breeze - Amen!

Sitting in the garden, in the quiet of the morning, the short poem of Emily Dickinson came to mind. How lovely and gentle the dynamism of the morning! The energetic, creative bee. The whimsical butterfly, symbol of resurrection. The breeze that blows where it will. We hear the sound it makes, but do not know where it comes from, nor where it goes. All of this brings to my wakening mind and heart the image of the Trinity: energetic and creative, whimsical and re-creative, and the inviting, surprising spirit that brings gifts and energy as a new day dawns.

Here I work in the soil and labor to heal the space and here God works in the soil of my life and labors to heal my own space, plant seeds and bring new life. And Emily's prayer seems to speak of that cycle of life and blessing.


Saturday, August 3, 2013

Emerging Religious Life

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...
Religious life in the US today is at an important place within the life of the church and within the life cycles of many institutes. For many women's communities, the median age is approaching 80 years of age, nearly the life expectancy of women in this country; men's communities are generally a little better off. Given this reality, some communities are coming to realize that they likely have, at most, one or two more cycles of leadership (usually 4-6 year terms) before the matter becomes critical. Then there will be neither time nor a critical mass of members able to make decisions, get the affairs of the community in order, and ensure the dignity of their final years and legacy. While some communities will continue , many communities are approaching their historical completion as institutions, they are likely writing the last chapter of their life-story, whether they realize it or not. This will require some realistic and careful planning to prepare for this phase of the life journey and to fulfill it with dignity.
This is the work of the large dominant cohort,  work which will ensure that the last chapter of their community's history is as compelling and grace-filled as was the first chapter and every chapter in between. It is immensely important work, and it is necessary to ensure the legacy of the community, allowing members the ability  to make their own choices in this regard, and to live this phase in a way that does honor to their heritage.
If this is not the final generation of the community, for many, it is nevertheless a time when the majority of community members will have moved from active ministry to the ministry of elderhood which is more focused on prayer and presence than on carrying the responsibilities of active ministry. This too will require careful though and transition.
This task is the focus of the Covenant Project workshops which are being held both online and on-ground as well as other similar programs.
There remains another task of religious life today, often the task of the minority of younger members in our congregations. From the midst of the current communities, members wish to remain in relationships with their sisters and are ready to support them in their work and bless them on their journey. However, this group has another task: to imagine the future of religious life in the next fifty years. We are committed to doing honor to our heritage, and to making choices to adapt the life to the new reality in which we find ourselves.

As we move forward with the transformation of religious life, we need to examine those elements of structure that will assist us in our journey, and those elements that are holding us back. How might we imagine a way to free the emerging energy in religious life to explore new paths? How are we creating spaces for this in our midst today?

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Realism, Daring, Hope

Envisioning Our Future with Realism, Daring and Hope
Beth Quire, OP ( North American Representative for the Panel Presentation by Younger Sisters )

Enter Religious Life NOW? Aren’t you worried about the future?” NO, I’m not worried, my God is FAITHFUL!!! In reflecting on the questions and the theme, the image that came to me was pruning the rose bushes. This year, I was delayed, it was late February and new growth had begun to appear. I still knew they needed to be pruned. Pruning can be painful, cutting back and removing, but we do it so that new life can come, today this same task is needed for Dominican Life. I’m going to begin by looking at the Future of Dominican Apostolic Life in North America, move on to the expectations of young people, continue with our missioning challenges and close with what I think Dominican Life will look like in 10 years.
Our Future through the eyes of realism, daring, and hope is a sobering picture. We have been institutional for many years; with the sisters forming the work force. There are now fewer of us. This fact worries some sisters. How will we keep the institutions going? How will we encourage more women to enter? How will we care for our elderly? These are the wrong questions. Instead we need to ask, “What is the Spirit calling us to TODAY?” The image of Dominic with the Gospel in one hand and the newspaper in the other can be our guide. What is our newspaper or web info telling us today? Before you write me off as na├»ve, let me explain, “How will we care for our elders?” is the wrong question because it is the wrong focus. Of course we will care for our elders, but we will do it differently.
Our future calls us to great change. I believe we need a paradigm shift. Some sisters in North America think that the answer is merging together. This simply makes us bigger. Merging to create totally new congregations means that a great deal of time and energy will need to be spent looking inward. I believe we can collaborate in many areas without creating whole new congregations. Paradigm shift does not mean just turning and looking in a different direction, it means questioning the entire perspective from which we view and the assumptions that we make. It is being totally open to what the “new” has to say, open to things never imagined before. As with pruning when we look at a bush recently pruned we can’t help but wonder, have I cut off to much? But this does not stop us; we know it must be done, so too with the shifting of our life.
Looking with realism, means using all that the Spirit sends: the gifts of our sisters and the lay people who collaborate with us. Realism is not ignoring the facts because we don’t like what they say or becoming overwhelmed. Realism is facing the facts, naming them and then choosing a path right through them, together. Jim Wallis, an evangelical minster and a leading social activist in the US, describes “hope” as “believing despite the evidence and watching the evidence change.” So realism forms the foundation. Or what we are dealing with is fantasy, not hope.
The daring and pruning require real soul searching discernment, both individually and congregationally. To prune one needs to know what to look for, and where to cut. In North America many of us have Mission Statements, Ours focuses on “the young, the poor and the vulnerable,” so this needs to be our guide for pruning. With fewer sisters, there will be no room for the new growth if pruning does not happen. We have to clear the path. We have to choose. Not choosing is also a choice.
The wisdom of the four pillars: preaching is but one. Contemplari et contemplata aliis tradere. Pruning allows the dormant time of being.
What young people expect of religious? Authenticity. They look to see, “Is there simplicity to their life style?” What we need is the courage and wisdom of Dominic, who sent the entourage home for his preaching to be more believable. Young people see justice as key and many have spent a year or two after college working for justice. They expect us to be working on behalf of the poor. They care about our planet, more that anything, young people want religious to be authentic spiritual mentors and guides. Open to the gifts the Holy Spirit is bringing in them. They see the incongruence in the Church and some put us in this same category.
Considering the realities of our globalized world the most significant missioning challenges are the shifts from institutional to marginalized, from many to fewer, from entourage to counter cultural.
As we hear the call to minister to the poor there is a tug in us. We need to let institutions transition to unconsecrated lay leadership. There are a few layers of implications here: letting go of control, but also losing the steadiness of the income and finally our corporate identity. Earlier I mentioned the pruning: This means cutting off some healthy branches and stalks to give energy and nutrients to those that fit with our specific charism. That does not negate the value of these other ministries.
There is the obvious challenge of numbers. This challenge shrinks if we let go of the mindset of staffing institutions. We need to recognize gifts we don’t have and support those who have these gifts. If we are truly partners that means EQUAL.
As was shared at the UISG a few years ago, it requires a shift from the sisters being the center of the circle radiating the charism out. To a new circle where the charism is in the middle and both sisters and lay enfleshing it and allowing it to grow. When St. Catherine of Siena was talking to God in her dialogues, God said to her, “I could well have supplied each of you with all your needs, both spiritual and material. But I wanted to make you dependent on one another so that each of you would be my minister, dispensing the graces and the gifts you have received from me.” ( Dialogue 7)
Naming the huge challenge to be “counter cultural,” Jon Sobrino, liberation theologian, asks “Will you choose to live with less, when you could have more?” Once again not choosing is also a choice.
All of this leads to how I envision Dominican Apostolic Life in 2020 … I believe Congregations in North America that are vibrant, alive and growing will be ones that: embraced a multicultural environment; partner with lay colleagues; and live authentically and “counter culturally.” The global Dominican family will be technologically interconnected, living simply, communally and collaboratively with members from different congregations under the same roof.
Realism, Daring, Hope.” Yesterday we heard a great deal of realism and when we go home we need enough hope to “believe despite the evidence and watch the evidence change.” But this won’t just happen. First we must have the conversations. We need to dare enough to cut and keep cutting the dead branches then cut deeper some of the healthy branches, so that there is sufficient energy and nourishment to focus where the Spirit is calling us TODAY !

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Giving Voice - National Conference

Here are some notes from the national conference of younger women religious held in California in early July.

We are building the bridge while we are walking on the bridge at the same time. We may not even know where it is going but we are walking together. We seek to be the glory of God, fully alive for the kindom of God. We are one.

Just two weeks after the “Nuns on the Bus” national tour ended in San Francisco, another group of Roman Catholic Sisters—these sisters of the younger variety, aged 25 to 49—gathered in the Bay Area for the Giving Voice National Gathering.  These “young nuns,” most of whom are the youngest members of their religious orders, prayed and reflected on the future of mission and ministry in the Church and society in the 21st Century.

Mission and Ministry in the 21st Century - Giving Voice 2013: Burning Questions from the Opening Ritual: We posted our burning questions in our meeting space On Friday night we were invited to reflect on the following questions:  What bur...

Younger nuns envision a future much smaller, but still bright

By Valerie Schmalz

Some of Sister Chero Chuma’s friends back in Kenya think she wasted her visa to the United States – becoming a religious and joining an order of mostly elderly nuns in the Seattle area.
“It is amazing when you feel a call and you respond to a call. It is not that you choose to do that,” said the Sister of St. Joseph of Peace who recently enrolled in the nursing program at Seattle University.
- See more at:

Saturday, July 13, 2013


I listened to On Being recently. A transgender individual was discussing her experience of identity and expression of that identity.
Feeling an inner truth about herself and her identity, she was nevertheless required by her physical maleness to live another identity. When she transitioned, she was more comfortable with her identity. Yet those around her, accustomed to the previous identity felt less comfortable, and various people 'preferred' one identity or the other.
It was a touching story of a person's journey into self discovery and inner truth.
The account brought me to reflect on the notion of identity and the various expressions of that identity in my own life and my own circles. Identity is a tricky thing since each of us is many things at the same time. Some of our identities and expressions are superficial, and can be taken up and left off at will. E.g. I'm a Cardinals fan, but that's not a core identity.
What is my core identity and how do I express that identity to those among whom I live and work, and in the circles in which I move?
In God-space I am most wholly who I am, created by God, who is Love. Created by Love for Love. God is Love. God is a verb not a noun. God creates by Loving. God Loves by creating. God creates in the divine image, so I am an image of God-Love.

I express this identity in many ways, as a person, neighbor, christian, friend, sister and Sister.


Saturday, July 6, 2013

Silos and Networks

I've had several conversations lately that lament the siloed nature of  much of life. We live in so many insulated groups and communities. Working to do great things to be sure, but also working to preserve the group and it's distinction from all the other folks out there doing great things. Here I'm thinking of religious communities, do-gooder communities, ministries, service organizations. We became mega-communities, self-contained, and doing great work, chugging along without much connection to those around us who are on the same road.

I'm grateful that all around I see the growing interesting networks. We connect with others who are living spiritually meaningful lives, doing good, or building community or working for social justice, for peace and for sustainability. I find that by connecting with others, by building relationships, I am strengthened personally and I have more energy for building up my own group.

I don't see this as breaking down to individualism, where each person is on their own. I definitely find that connecting in meaningful communities and groups is important. And when these communities and groups can network into communities of communities, then there is an amazing synergy that can develop. This can happen on-ground and online. It can happen formally and informally through conversation, celebration and common projects.

I see us moving from a world of larger and larger siloed mega-groups into smaller, agile, autonomous groups that are networked in meaningful relationships with other groups on a variety of fronts. I see in this a mirror of the way God made our natural world. Plants, trees, animals all live together in mutually beneficial relationships. And God saw that it was good.


Saturday, June 29, 2013

Joy in the Journey

There is a joy in the journey
There's a light we can love on the way
There is a wonder and wildness to life And freedom for those who obey....
--Michael Card

Moving forward in community, it is a challenge to take the joys of this day. I make a commitment to the road I am on, rejoicing in the gifts of this moment.

At the same time I reach out to make the dream a reality, inviting others to share in it and rejoicing with those who come to live in hope. The gift of this moment is the broader community that has welcomed me into the neighborhood and ecovillage. Together we are beginning to build a more sustainable life.

At the same time, I am still inviting others who want to live the gospel radically, in the great tradition of religious life, and in the company of countless women and men who have walked this road before us. I live in hope and in the wonder and wildness of this journey. Open to receive the gift of today, and willing to walk courageously into the challenges it offers.


Saturday, June 22, 2013

Road Trip

I had an opportunity recently to do a roadtrip with two other sisters from another community who entered religious life the same year I did - 1978. We were all within a few years of the same age. This may seem like a simple thing, but it really was such a great experience.
To put this in context, 95% of religious women in the US are over the age of 60. In my community, I'm almost always the minority in any gathering, and so I usually am out of my comfort zone when we do what's best for most, or talk about what most want to talk about.
I didn't know one sister at all before the trip, and the other I knew just a little. We happened to be heading in the same direction, so we agreed to link up for the trip.
There was an immediate 'at home'-ness as we made our way. We shared a similar connection, a deep, lived commitment to religious life. An understanding that this lived commitment has its ups and downs, but it is deeply enriching.
We remain in the life, even though it is clearly going through a period of decline. We have lost one third of our members in the last decade. We will lose another one third in each of the coming decades, leaving just a remnant in 20 years.
We remain in the life today because we recognize that it is also a time of re-imagining and emergence. Fresh voices are speaking up. We can build on what has been, and call forth new generations of religious life. This will take vision, courage and tenacity. Alone I would not have the strength to go on. But this road trip reminded me I am not alone. In other gatherings of religious in the minority cohort, I know that we are few, but we are called to be members of this generation, with the task of bridging between what was and what is emerging.
Only in God can we continue to walk this road, and in God we can walk with confidence.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Riverside Meditation

This morning I woke up looking over the Ohio River. It is a lovely, peaceful view. When I first woke, the water was glassy still as the current moved slowly down stream. Then little by little, the wind and waves picked up. Still a gentle scene, but the water is more active, the glassy stillness is gone.
It reminds me of my own waking into a place of contemplation in the early morning hours. There is nothing to disturb my quiet resting in the God of Love. Gradually as the day begins, people and events blow over that glassy stillness as I engage the people of God and the things of God.
As the day flows on, I try to let some of that quiet stillness in the God of Love flow through the day, and flow through me into the people and events I encounter.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Moving Forward in Hope

I had the opportunity this past week to participate in a program of the National Religious Vocation Conference. Held in Chicago, it was entitled Moving Forward in Hope. Sr. Mary Johnson SNDdeN gave the input sessions based on her research into the demographics of Catholics and of new entrants into religious life.
Mary's presentations were fascinating, diving deeply into the extensive information that is available, and exploring all that we can know about the present situation of religious life, with a particular emphasis on vocations to religious life.
The take away that I have is that there are lots of young catholic men and women who are deeply committed to the values of the Gospel, to living lives of service, to doing justice, to living sustainably and to developing a deep and nourishing spirituality. The question we all engaged was: how do we as religious women effectively reach out to these women and invite them to consider religious life? I think there are two prongs to this question:
  1. First we who are living religious life seek to provide the opportunity and space within our communities to welcome and nourish prospective members and newer and younger members in religious life. I believe that we do this by living authentically, justly and sustainably in vibrant communities committed to the Gospel.
  2. From this space, we can move out into circles and communities in the wider community, where people are doing justice, living sustainably and committing themselves to spirituality and service. There are lots of communities and groups that are working and living these values. 
Religious life is a particular way of living the Gospel that has enduring validity. Among the various ways of living with integrity and of living the Gospel, religious men and women come together to live simply in mutual interdependence. Vowed life in community is a graced response to the universal call to holiness.
I would invite anyone who feels called to religious life, or to explore a calling to contact me or some other religious community you know. It is a life that can be very enriching to those who live it and to those we serve.
We're initiating a conversation among religious women in their 40s or 50s would like to connect about building a future full of hope. Email me: if you would like to participate in the initial conversation - we're hoping to organize a gathering in summer of 2014.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Trinity, Communities and ATD

The western liturgical tradition celebrates Trinity Sunday this weekend. In a well known image, The Holy Trinity by St. Andrei Rublev, uses the theme of the "Hospitality of Abraham." The three angels symbolize the Trinity, which is rarely depicted directly in Orthodox art.
The Trinity is central to the early development of Christian belief in God as Creator, Redeemer, Unifier. In the early Christian centuries, the community of faith struggled to understand how God was one, yet manifold. The formula of God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit came to be understood as central to the Christian faith, being discussed at church councils that gathered mystics and prophets, who were lay and ordained theologians.

Elizabeth of the Trinity, a modern mystic prays this way:
O my God, Trinity whom I adore, help me forget myself entirely so to establish myself in you, unmovable and peaceful as if my soul were already in eternity. May nothing be able to trouble my peace or make me leave you, O my unchanging God, but may each minute bring me more deeply into your mystery! Grant my soul peace. Make it your heaven, your beloved dwelling and the place of your rest. May I never abandon you there, but may I be there, whole and entire, completely vigilant in my faith, entirely adoring, and wholly given over to your creative action.
The Trinity finds a modern expression in the three prongs of the ATD movement: working to bring forth an
  • environmentally sustainable, 
  • spiritually fulfilling,
  • socially just 
human presence on this planet.
ATD describes and promotes a movement that is made up of hundreds of thousands of individuals and groups that are each working in their own neighborhoods, in their own circles. Each of these individuals and groups subscribe to this trinity of values, while focusing its attention on one or the other of them in a more particular way.

  • There are communities that gather to live and promote environmental sustainability, both for themselves, and for the broader human community as well as for the broader community of creation. 
  • There are communities that gather around spiritual values, for example those that gather to live the gospel deliberately and radically.
  • There are communities that work for justice in so many different ways in society.
It seems this triad of communities is an in-breaking of the Trinity of Love into our world. May this Trinity Sunday be an impetus to re-commit to living these Trinitarian values and weaving them into the fabric of our lives and communities.


Saturday, May 18, 2013

Emergence: Two Loops

How do organizations grow, expand, mature, decline and re-emerge? There are probably as many ways of unfolding of this pattern as there are organizations in which it unfolds. However, there are some interesting theories advanced by organizational studies and business writers, as well as by those reflecting on emerging consciousness.
One such theory really speaks to me as I continue to explore the emerging reality in religious life today. It starts with a simple life-cycle curve based on the biological life cycle. Individuals are born, grow, mature and decline. This cycle is repeated in every species and it is the basis of evolution as organisms pass on their genetic code to succeeding generations and those organisms adapt to changes in their environment and habitat. Izaac Adizes writes extensively on the application of the biological life-cycle to organizations and the characteristics of organizations at the various stages. Lawrence Cada applies the notion to religious life.
Deborah Frieze takes the concept one step further, asking how it is that organizations can be re-born, re-founded or transformed. She calls it the two-loop model. The origin, growth, maturity, decline life-cycle remains in place. If the organization is to be transformed, some of its members - usually just a few pioneers have an insight into the essential nature of the organization and into why it is declining and how it might better adapt to the evolving reality. They take the kernel of the organization's life and step apart to incarnate this in a new way. Gradually, they are able to articulate the emerging reality and gain a few collaborators. Slowly they grow and begin to emerge as a distinct expression. At this point, members of the original organization may bridge over and join the emerging reality. The diagram below is based on Deborah's work and helpful to me in visualizing this movement.
Where to you see this dynamic played out? Where are we in giving birth to an emerging reality in our various organizations, movements, configurations? What do we need to support and sustain this emerging and transformational energy? Where is the Spirit moving among us this Pentecost?

Friday, May 10, 2013

Transforming Religious Life

RFC has been running a program on transforming religious life. It has run for three years, and each year it was offered in several cities. The program is an invitation to religious to come into conversation about renewing / transforming their communities.
I didn't attend the first year of the program, but I attended the second and third (this year). I was there last weekend, and found the conversations and networking to be very enriching. I guess whenever you get 100 people in the same room all oriented toward something they love, it's going to be enriching and energizing.
The program invited us to explore contemplation as the basis of our lives, and contemplation moves us into a space of personal and shared discernment.
From there, we were invited to explore mission, community and solidarity with the poor. These elements, contemplation and discernment, and mission, community and solidarity with the poor were places of common spirit among us. We definitely saw the special uniqueness or flavor of each community, and the tremendous wealth that we share in common.
One question that echoed through the room on several occasions was: how do we bring this back to our home communities, how do we get everyone moving in the direction of transformation?
While I'm all for that, I wonder if the question is rather: How do we get all of us who are ready for transformation moving in the same direction and sharing energies and gifts?
I think if we wait to get everyone on board and moving, we may miss the moment of transformation. What if we come together - there is so much good energy flowing! Be a blessing right where you are and join in widening circles of blessing where all is gift.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Gangster Gardener

"Growing your own food is like printing money."

I have a back-yard garden for the first time in... a long time.
I can say a whole-hearted YES to Ron's ideas.
Another friend at Carondelet Community Garden Urban Farm writes this:
Grow food for recreation! Grow to make yourself happy! Growing anything can be very rewarding, calming, therapeutic and an excellent hobby. You wanna grow the biggest celery or the rarest vegetable? Do it! We grow when we grow!
Growing my own food means my veggies won't be ...
poisoned by herbicides and pesticides,
grown in GMO monocultures,
picked and shipped by underpaid workers, or
trucked for hundreds of miles.
Growing my own food is ...
an opportunity for me to slow down and spend time in the fresh air,
an opportunity to get out and meet and share with my neighbors,
my joint project with air, earth, wind and sun,
a reminder than I am one with nature, and
a gift of God and a space for prayer,
Here's to gardening!!!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Beguines Old and New

The world's last Beguine died in Flanders on April 14, 2013. The movement lasted nearly one thousand years. See a report on this here.

Marcella Pattyn died on April 14, the day after I moved into the new intercommunity house. This is particularly poignant because in one listing, I named this community the Beguines of St. Louis.

There is a sense in which I feel blessed by this last Beguine who stayed around till this house opened and we could re-ignite this women's movement that is rooted in radical gospel living. Marcella will have to stay with us, as we rekindle the fires and gather anew in this way of life.

I blogged sometime back about the Beguine movement - you can check out those posts here. I find this movement intriguing. The women faced challenges to living religious life in the conventional way in their day and age. So they found creative ways to build communities and a lifestyle that would support them in their vocational choice.

I call on Marcella to be with us, and bring all her Beguine sisters to pray for us and support us as we continue the great work of religious life, under their special patronage and inspiration.


Saturday, April 20, 2013

All this life and heaven too: A wide-open YES

Silvana offers this reflection:

All this life and heaven too: A wide-open YES: A few weeks ago, on the 25th March, I wrote about the Annunciation on its "proper" day (here).  It was a wintry, frosty day, and I...


Thanks Silvana for a reminder about a 'proper' yes. A yes to vocation is a yes that has the potential of growing your whole life, growing to the 'size' of God. It is always a challenge and a gift the living God, creator of the sun and moon and stars, and the deepest ground of our being. A wide-open, no-holding-back, joyful YES to the God of Love.


Friday, April 12, 2013

Move In Day

Inter Community House
The snow is melted, and it's starting to green up.
Today is move in day.
For years, we've continue to talk about religious life, where it is and where it is headed. One of the issues we have identified is the need for vibrant communities where religious women can live among other younger religious who are in active ministry, committed to justice, sustainability and spirituality.
So tomorrow, that dream takes a giant step toward reality. I mentioned earlier that we were moving toward concrete plans. Well, I guess moving in is about as concrete as you can get.
It's a modest house in a working neighborhood. We will be part of an eco-village - a group of families in the neighborhood committed to sustainability and justice.
There are also other intentional Christian communities nearby, so there is lots of good energy and mutual support in that network as well.
There is room for four sisters, I'm the first to move in, and there are several others interested in the project. I'm hoping someone will be ready to move in soon. There are also other places in the neighborhood, when we outgrow our current space.
The veggies are sprouting and there will soon be fresh greens and other signs of spring. We'll cooperate with others in the ecovillage to work at sustainability practices.
If any younger sister finds herself in the St. Louis area and needs a place to lay her head for a bit, let me know. There should be space over the summer, e.g. for urban retreats or vacations.
Say a prayer for a smooth move in and lots of good greening energy for this project.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Community of Communities

We gathered Friday evening for potluck and sharing the amazing energy that is gathering around the notion of building community in response to today's challenges, in response to the longing in our own hearts, in response to our desire to live the gospel more intentionally, to live more simply and sustainably and to support one another in the work of justice.
Catholics, Evangelicals, Orthodox, Anglican, Presbyterian, some of us straddling several traditions.... We were all there. We were all welcome.
We shared food for body and soul, and spoke of new communities forming, of people looking for community and people who had already established themselves in communities. "This is how I want to live." "This is how I feel called to live." "I see myself in community for the rest of my life."
As we exchanged stories and dreams, we also shared contact information and plans for getting together for more conversation and mutual support. I sensed I'm part of a movement larger than myself. By building community in my house and in my neighborhood, I can also build this movement. I stand in solidarity with everyone working for justice and sustainability and the spread of God's creative love in hearts and lives and neighborhoods.
Yes, this is why I love community people. This is where I belong. Thanks everyone for a wonderful night.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Some Call Me Sis: Resistance to Change: Personal and Pope Francis

Some Call Me Sis: Resistance to Change: Personal and Pope Francis: We will be entering Spring in the next week and this causes me to think of change. It has been a weekend of meeting with others at the Mo...

Thanks Vicki - Good stuff. I am certainly more hopeful about church than I have been in a long time, but I too know the resistance to change within myself and around me. Inertia.... But I pray we can get the ball rolling, personally and collectively.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Power of Networks

The shift from tree to network affects so many aspects of our life. It may also affect the way we organize ourselves in community. We have known a tree structure with central authority that organizes and coordinates the life and ministry of our congregations. But what happens when we start thinking in terms of networks. Our relationships are our strength as we reach out in relationship with other individuals and groups.
The notion of a community of communities has been gaining strength. Self-organizing communities come together around a common life project of radical gospel living and a common experience of God, community and mission. These groups then come into relationship with others who have gathered around similar or complementary visions. The network affords mutual support, as well as feedback about the quality and integrity of each community in the network. In this way, we can be a blessing to one another, both those of similar orientation, and those with different orientations.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

New Pope, New Dream, New House

Wow, what a week. The good news about the papal election seems to be indeed good news for the 99% of the church and of the world. People who could use a friend in high places, people who can hope for a better tomorrow. One papal election can't do it all. I think we need moderation and we all have to do our part. But I find the election of Pope Francis to be a tremendous boost to my hopes for living a radically gospel centered life and inviting others to join. What can we all do together for the least of Jesus brothers and sisters?

Then there is this video by Bono on the alleviation of extreme poverty. Not only can we do this, we are doing it. Together, we can end poverty.

And my final good news is the new house. I should be moving into the new inter-community house just after Easter. I believe it is an opportunity to be more intentional about community, about rebuilding the church and about rebuilding a more just and sustainable world.

This period of lenten renewal is an opportunity to open to the spirit and let the dream of God become a reality in our hearts and lives, in our church, and in our communities and world.


Saturday, March 9, 2013

Occupy Religious Life Action - 2013

I'm thinking back to last year's Occupy Religious Life Action in August in Chicago. We gathered in the Federation Novitiate house of the Sisters of St. Joseph to discuss where we are with religious life and what we're seeing for the future and what we can do to make it a reality today. See the post from that gathering here.
At that gathering we had some great conversation and we were able to log in participants from around the country for some conversation as well.
It might be time for a reprise this summer. If people would be interested, I have a house in St. Louis where we have space. I know the Giving Voice gathering for sisters under the age of 50 is being held in California in July. If sisters under the age of 60 are interested in gathering in St. Louis, let me know.
Like last year's event, the time and agenda will be developed by those of us who are interested in coming. But the focus will be around gathering a circle of younger women religious.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Reflections on On the Pope's Resignation

File:Astronomical Clock, Prague.jpg
What does it mean to let go of power?
To know when to step down?
To know when the time is right?
To do the unimaginable?

It's not giving up, but letting go.
It's not defeat but fulfillment.
It's not denial, it's affirmation.
It's not dying, it's really living.

For everything under heaven there is a time. God has made everything appropriate in its time, and has also set eternity in their heart.

As we go forward, step after step, day after day, heartbeat after heartbeat, it is hard to know when that time comes. Yet as way leads on to way, eventually the time comes when we have to make a change. We have to surrender to what is, to surrender to what will be, to surrender to the heartbeat of the Eternal.

In wisdom, in gentleness, in silence, the God of Love whispers when it is time.



And a new beginning ... this just out from Sr. Sarah Heger and Fr. Toby Collins:

Friday, February 22, 2013

Triad of Communities

There are several intentional community networks forming in my area.
Sustainability - The Ecovillage people are gathering around the issue of living more simply and sustainably. We garden. We conserve. We recycle. We share tools and services. We share our hopes and dreams for a more sustainable and equitable society. We also long for justice and tap into the spiritual depths in order to sustain our commitments.
Justice - The occupy groups and justice and peace community seek to address issues of justice and non-violence in our own community as well as across the globe. We advocate. We hold teach-ins. We occupy. We commit our time, our resources and our lives to making our corner of the globe more just, more peaceful. We also know that part of our commitment to justice is the commitment to live more simply and sustainably, and the commitment to spiritual grounding.
Spirituality - The intentional Christian community people go to the Gospels for the source of our choices. We join together for mutual support in our radical commitment to living the gospel, to prayer and to growing in the love that that was Jesus central message.
All three groups commit
  • to live lightly on the earth, 
  • to work for a more just and peaceful society, and 
  • to live spiritually meaningful lives.
Some of us come to this triad of values through the door of sustainability. Some come through the door of justice and peace. Some come through the door of spirituality. But in reality, all three of these values are interconnected and mutually enriching. My life is so greatly enriched by being in these circles.
For me, as we move forward in religious life, I believe we will find our unique place in this triad of communities, in this triad of values. As religious men and women, we bring unique blessings to these communities, and we will also receive their blessings as we journey together.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Choose Life

As we begin our Lenten journey, the readings offer us a choice: You have set before you life and death – Choose Life! And Jesus comes along in the Gospel to remind us that choosing Life may actually require us to forfeit life. As I settle into prayer with these words, the short phrase Choose Life echoes in my heart.

Choosing life today might call me to slow down, when I want to rush, or to rush, when I would rather linger. Choosing life may invite me to be kinder and gentler when I feel my emotions rising more brusquely. Choosing life may mean standing fast when I might shrink back and take a comfortable road. It may mean standing up for myself or for others or for justice, in the face of challenges. Where will I find the courage to choose life, in whatever my day presents? I will find it in these very words – Choose Life - the Word of God that carries within it the power to renew.

As I sit in prayer, Choosing Life seems to urge me to open my whole self to the loving embrace of Jesus and to rest in his gentle arms enfolding me in peace. I let God's love flood the whole of my being and recreate me in the Divine image, in Love. With every breath I surrender to God's life as it flows through me, renewing, healing, loving. Yes. Yes to God. Yes to Love. Yes to Life.


Saturday, February 9, 2013

Sharing Faith

Recently, I had the experience of giving a retreat. It was an opportunity to assemble a series of presentations on various aspects of faith and spirituality. I had never done any quite like this before and it was really a chance to pray with and for the group, as I prepared the materials, and then as I prepared each presentation for the group. I was a privilege to see them respond to the movements of the Spirit in and through the days we spent together. I wondered at first what I might possibly have to share and how it might be able to move the group which was quite diverse. But it was an opportunity to share my deepest beliefs about who God is and who God is for us.
Sharing faith is always an opportunity to touch my own deepest roots and discover anew the God in whom we live and move and have our being. I think that living in religious community and sharing community creates ever new opportunities to share faith and to challenge one another when we are not at our best. I can loose that fire and spirit of a vibrant spirituality. But it only takes the opportunity to share it with others, and to receive their spark and my own is re-kindled. But it is also rekindled when I have the opportunity to share with others.
It seems to me that the fire and light between us is as potent or even more potent that the fire and light within. Perhaps this is the meaning of Jesus words: wherever two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in their midst.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Community of Communities

I am a Sister of St. Joseph, and as such, my gravitational center is within my own community, my sisters in community. This is where I am at home. I identify with the community as together we support each another, we pray together, we rely on each other. This has always been true of religious communities. However, there is a difference today. In the past, my community was my total community and I was fairly isolated from others. Today, our communities are more permeable, we still live, work, pray and play together. At the same time, we also live, work, pray and play with other sisters and we engage with our ministries and with other communities. We sing in the parish choir, we live in an ecovillage, we engage with our ethnic group, we celebrate with our families, we network within our profession and we have countless other affinity groups. All of these relationships enrich our belonging to our primary life community. Multiple circles of relationship help us to navigate the uncertainty and fragility that integral to our lives today in our world and in our religious communities.

I am a part of my Sisters of St. Joseph community, my Sisters 2.0 community, my ecovillage community, my Black Lives Matter community, my tax-assistance community, and my family. And in ministry, as I move from place to place, I am welcomed into many different communities of sisters around the globe, as part of a global sisterhood united for community, spirituality, and justice.

We are beginning to use the term dual-citizenship to describe our membership in our own congregations and in various inter-congregational networks. We are better sisters in our home communities when we are able to engage in these wider circles of relationship. There are in fact many circles that claim our energies and that in turn support our vocation. This community of communities and this web of relationships provides mutual support and energy in the challenges that we face in our individual lives and in our communities.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

UMaine women’s basketball director of operations leaving program to pursue religious vocation

ORONO, Maine — Basketball has always been an important part of Tracy Guerrette’s life.
The St. Agatha native has demonstrated her passion for the game as a player, coach and support staff member.
Yet for Guerrette, basketball takes a backseat to the most important aspect of her life — her Catholic faith.
“I’m 32, so when the Lord keeps tugging at your heart, nothing else will suffice but to give him my whole life,” Guerrette said. “He’s poured out his love into my heart so much so that I can’t help but, in turn, give him everything.” Read more....

* * * * * *

This is the seed of a vocation - that sense that God has poured so much love into our hearts that we can't help but give everything in love - to God, to community, in service. This is the moment when me and I and mine step out of the center and love focuses me on someone else, whether on God or on service or on another person in my life. Stepping out of the center expands my heart and my horizons and allows me to be the most loving person that God made me to be. It is always inspiring to hear this same story told, even when the names and places and details are different. It is like the same song in an infinite number of variations. Blessings on you Tracy and on everyone who takes the time to listen and respond to the call of God in their lives.

And here is a video of Sr. Sarah Heger's final vow ceremony.

In a sense the vocation story comes full circle with the profession of final vows. In another sense, final vows is the beginning of an amazing journey that is religious life. Sarah takes her place as a full member of the Sisters of St. Joseph, and as a religious. She joins us on the journey of radical gospel fidelity, along with men and women from around the globe and across every century of the Christian story, right back to the time when Jesus began walking this journey with his disciples. Every profession renews the vitality of this way of life.


Saturday, January 26, 2013

A Contemplative Space: Pondering God’s mystery across faiths

The Trinity is indeed the Christian account of God. But that is not to close down the possibilities for other persons of faith sharing in God’s inner life. Indeed very much the opposite, for if God is the God who enters deep into creation and is forever shaping that creation for God’s own providential purposes, then there can be nothing and no one beyond the scope of God’s love. Read more...

Deep in the heart of the religious vocation is a spirituality that roots and grounds it. This the ever deepening source of life, community, vows and ministry. This article explores the deep contemplative space that can reach out to the God space in other religions and culture, and across the differences in community and church. It weaves together deep moments of the Catholic tradition, showing their openness to others.

Here is a sister in action - testimony of her students....

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Catholic Sisters: Love in Action

This week I would like to share two touching tributes to the golden age of religious life in the US. The first is a video created by USF students highlighting their conversations with Women Religious.
What a witness to the life and work of generations of women who have lived the gospel, who have served the poor, have walked with the people of God, who have tried to go out and meet the needs of the weak and lonely.

The second is a powerful piece called: We Were Called Sister....

As we move forward imagining the emerging future of this life, we gratefully receive the blessing of these women who have gone before us. It is their witness of courage and faith that encourages us to go forward.

And finally, we have this post from a sister-blogger friend:

God Calling on Line One.... Great reflection on the call to religious life today.


Saturday, January 12, 2013

New House Forming

For some time now, I have sensed the urgency to commit to the future of religious life as it is emerging today. I have been longing for a community where we share our radical commitment to living the Gospel personally, communally and in ministry. I have been involved in many conversation circles that explore the new energy stirring among us, circles where we expressed a desire to continue the contemplative process and conversation, moving into action.
In this spirit, I am joining with others in starting an intentional community of younger women religious where we can explore this emerging future in a practical manner. Two of us are currently looking for housing, in St. Louis, probably a rental house with 4-5 bedrooms where we can begin community together. Others are interested in the project, and as the group grows, we hope to find nearby houses. Following a village model will provide some flexibility as we grow into our new reality.
This community will be the chance to move forward concretely with plans for vibrant community, simple gospel living, and commitment to spirituality and to sustainability. If this sounds like what you are looking for, let me know.
One of the keys to the project is providing a community where younger women religious can support one another in prayer, community and mission. As each of our communities ages, it becomes more and more difficult to find 
Over the past several months, in addition to networking with sisters from various congregations, I've been networking with intentional communities in the area. We have various foci: sustainability, community, spirituality, peace and justice. We also know that by sharing our journeys and networking with one another, we can all bring our dreams closer to a reality.
Giving Voice - St. Louis
St. Louis Ecovillage Network