Saturday, October 25, 2014

Why Bother?

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Sisters 2.0.1

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

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Sisters 2.0 Quarterly Phone Call

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, October 4, 2014


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