If you've been reading my blog off and on over the past several months, you may remember me writing that this past summer was our General Chapter. When Sr. Laura returned from Rome we talked a great deal about the Chapter. Last month all our Sisters received the Chapter Document, To the Ends of the Earth. WHAT A DOCUMENT! I was hoping for something from the Chapter that would serve for me as inspiration and encouragement for the journey... and that's exactly what I got!
Shortly after I read the document and prayed with it for the first time, I typed a letter for the Sisters in our province. Unfortunately, that letter is still saved on my hard drive and was never sent out. This morning during morning prayer one of our Sisters read parts of the document... which prompted me to continue reflecting on it today. I decided to share with you some parts of my letter to the Sisters in order that you might understand, at least partially, my enthusiasm.
What follows below are some of my reflections...
The first thing I noticed about the document is the continuity between it and Women of Hope from the 29th General Chapter. The starting point is the Paschal Mystery which was the focus of Women of Hope. Picking up with the thoughts of the previous document, which asked us to consider how new life comes from death; the current document gives signs of new life and encouragement to bring forth more new life. What I like about it is that the encouragement to bring forth more new life is not given as concrete directives, but in such a way that challenges us to ask the tough questions. That for me is part of the beauty of To the Ends of the Earth.
Paragraph 4 states, “…our poverty should not make us fearful. We recognize ourselves as small and fragile and we have the audacity to say: it is ‘the hour’ of the Congregation, the hour for us to
live in a new way as disciples and missionaries.” This quote is one of my favorites. Sometimes it can be easy for me to worry about our size or to feel a little anxious about the future. But this statement calls me to hope – and to recognize the present Grace of God. It calls me to ask, “In what new way am I or are we called to live? In what new way are we called to be disciples and missionaries in today’s world?” Those of you who know me well know that these are the types of questions that really excite me. Therefore, the document had me hooked.
I found the next section on being disciples of Jesus in the image of Mary quite challenging, but in the best sense of the word. The way it begins reminded me in many ways of my study of the vow of obedience. What is our call from God? “We hear the call to be open and welcoming communities” (§9). This leads me to ask, “How are our communities open and welcoming? How do I practice hospitality – to those that visit as well as those with whom I live? In what ways can I/we be more open and more welcoming?” ... I’m excited to be here as we pray a response to these questions.
Paragraph 12 offers a different type of challenge, “We feel that it is necessary, in order to live in fidelity to our heritage, to return to the sources and to what is essential in a renewed way. We cannot be content to repeat what we have understood up until now.” When I read this I thought,
“Wow. That’s an exciting, yet daunting task.” This is no small feat. What is the “renewed way” of returning to our sources? Concretely, what does that mean for us? How? How does one highlight the relevance of our Charism for today’s society? Although it calls me to ask really tough questions about myself and us as a group, I am not discouraged. Quite the contrary, I am ready to embrace these challenges side-by-side with you all.
The next section offers two topics with which I will definitely pray and reflect.“Imitating Mary we learn to welcome the other, with a discreet presence and full of respect, listening and in dialogue. She invites us to take time to really encounter people, and to build networks with them. She teaches us to recognize the hidden presence of Jesus in every human encounter” (§13). “Our mission is to make possible for others the encounter with Christ, whom we love and whom we desire to make known” (§14). What I like about these is that it’s a perfect reflection point as I re-enter a life of ministry.
In the same way, I find in paragraph 16 a challenge in the way I will do ministry, but also a reminder of the gift that is support through community (as in FMI community, but the larger Marianist Family
and beyond as well):
Wherever we are, we create spaces of compassion, of listening, of healing, of tenderness. We are not able to respond to all calls but we have to ask ourselves in community: Who is knocking at our door? What can we do? To whom do we need to go? Drawing strength from our community life, we will create the responses, simple and adapted though they be. We are invited more and more to work in networks with others: laity, secular associations, members of the Marianist Family, other religious, Church organizations, members of other religions.
The document ends with a prayer to Mary that I foresee using frequently for reflection. Some of my favorite lines are:
~ “With you we want to welcome this Word, so that it transforms our lives and our communities.”
~ “Make us women of faith following your example, with our feet firmly planted in reality, happy to work in community to give life and bring the wine of true joy to those whom the Lord places in
~ “…vocations are born where we do not expect, and missionary initiatives fill us with hope.”
~ “Today, we place ourselves at your service, ‘it is the hour’ of our Congregation.”
I hope that maybe you can catch a little of why I am excited about To the Ends of the Earth. I think the document is a beautiful call for us... and something to spirit us forward.
On a completely different note... things are going well for me in Dayton. I sense that I'm finally finding some balance of all the essential pieces of life - prayer (community and personal), ministry, "down time," and care of self. One thing that's been really good about this semester is the opportunity to meet and learn from so many different people. I've been moving in many different circles here - in parishes, the Archdiocese, Marianist communities... I've learned a lot.
Well, this post is almost impossibly long. So I'll end here.
Many prayers for all who read this!