Friday, May 31, 2019

They Times They Are A-Changing

Many religious communities of sisters struggle with the question of vocations. We would love to have women join our life, continue our mission, continue our charism. Yet we are getting fewer and older. We have trouble meeting our needs for ministry, for leadership, and for the day to day functioning of our communities. Does such a community have the capacity to welcome new vocations? Can they provide a healthy space to nurture their vocation? Can they build sustainable life-long relationships in community with newcomers who are decades younger than themselves?
I find that communities are reluctant to close down their recruitment efforts and to definitively say no to future vocations for their community. They have difficulty admitting that their community does not have the capacity to admit newcomers, to provide them the orientation, formation, and education necessary for their lives, and to open their hearts to new relationships and new ways of being in community together. Lacking this capacity, they may accept women who walk with them for a time but then are left to walk away sad because they are not afforded the resources to support their life-long commitment.
And the women who come hope that they will find a community that will support and nurture their life of community, spirituality, and mission. They come with high hopes and joyful expectation of becoming a Sister and of giving their lives to something bigger than themselves. It is important that they realize the challenges they will face. Religious life is changing radically as the greatest generation of US Sisters passes into elderhood and on through the paschal mystery. Those who join religious life today must seek and find their circles of support within their communities, and they must also build circles of support in the broader global sisterhood in intercommunity and Intercontinental relationships. 
As I write this, I am reminded of the lyrics of Bob Dylan: "The times they are a-changing."
Keep your eyes wide
The chance won't come again

Friday, May 17, 2019

Transferring between Religious Communities

I have heard a good bit lately about Sisters transferring between religious communities. This was a fairly common phenomenon in the 80s and 90s when as many as 1% of women religious had experienced transferring from the religious community they initially joined to another religious community. I think of this as the first wave of transfers after a change in canon law made it a more feasible option. This first wave trailed off after 2000. Many Sisters who transferred during that time are happily in their new communities. During the first wave, there was a program that helped Sisters share their experiences and helped smoothe the path of integration into their new communities. I transferred communities at the end of that first wave and very much appreciated the opportunity to network with other Sisters who were transferring and benefit from their experience and encouragement.
In the past several months, I have heard of several sisters who are considering transfer or who are in the process of transfer. It leads me to wonder whether there might be a desire or a need to provide a forum or program such as was available in the 80s and 90s. If you would be interested in helping to organize such a program, or if you would be interested in participating, please reach out to me and we can move this forward. Please pass this invitation on to others who may be interested.

Friday, May 3, 2019

Authentic Encounter

pocOur local group of vocation directors met for a few days of input, networking, engagement, and planning. Our speaker via video, Dr. Hofsman Ospino, shared rich insights into the place of culture in vocational discernment, and more broadly, its place in our communities, in the church and in society.
Historically, people of color have not received the same opportunities and access that has been afforded to white people. This is true in the wider society and this is something that we are working to dismantle. We do this first of all by becoming aware of our privilege and by taking on new habits of mind and heart. We also do that by seeing and deconstructing societal norms and barriers to people of color. We have a lot of work to do.
In our days together, we focused inward on our church and on our religious communities. How can we be more 'sister' to our sister of color? One of our sisters of color shared her hopes: more than strategies or quick-fixes, she hopes that we can come into a more and more authentic encounter. She hopes that we can truly dialogue with each other and share our community, our spirituality and our struggles for justice.