Monday, January 16, 2012

We told our stories - That's all.
We sat and listened to each other
and heard the journeys of each soul.
Edwina Gateley

Right now I am on my way back to Dayton after spending the long weekend in Phoenix with 17 other women religious in their 20s and 30s. We came together at a small Benedictine Monastery tucked away in an ordinary neighborhood. There we prayed, shared our dreams, our hopes, our fears... laughter, tears, silence, and plenty of very loud moments! Essentially, we shared ourselves.

I arrived late Friday night - after the opening prayer and initial sharing. But, I was welcomed as always with open arms and open hearts. There were some women I had seen several months ago... others I haven't seen in two or more years... a couple that I've seen in recent weeks... and a few who were new to our group. And yet, I was home with them all. We came from several different religious communities - different geographical locations - different stages (perpetually professed, temporary professed, novices, and candidates) - and with different community experiences. And yet, there is something very deep that bonds us to each other.

Saturday morning we spent time in contemplative silence together - opening our hearts to God and listening for the still, small voice that is God. That was the perfect way to start the day. It may seem counterintuitive that we would remain in silence for the first 90 minutes or so of our morning, but that's what we did. And it was perhaps one of my better prayer experiences and a perfect way to enter the sharing of the day.

That night we gathered outside around a sometimes blazing fire, making s'mores, sharing laughter, telling stories... There was some singing... a little Lady Gaga on the iPod... and a genuinely good time.

Sunday morning we sat outside again in wonderfully temperate weather - prayed with a beautiful poem written by one in our group - and shared our dreams for the future. Many of us shared ministerial dreams - new ways of educating those on the margins of society, new ways of administering health care, exciting endeavors into eco-spirituality and care for the environment... Others of us shared about hopes for communities marked by a risk-taking spirit and a willingness to have a prophetic imagination. The conversation was rich with ideas and laden with hope.

Our official time together ended with Mass with the community that gathers each Sunday at the Monastery - people from the surrounding neighborhood. It was a beautiful liturgy... simple, but very nice.

Many of us stayed an extra night and departed today. I am grateful that was what I chose to do...

Last year, for whatever reason, I wasn't able to go to Phoenix for this annual gathering. There must have been some Marianist thing with which I was involved. However, my hope is that while I still fit the age category, I will not miss another gathering. I believe wholeheartedly that it is essential that those of us who are younger in religious life come together as often as is feasible - to dream together, to support one another, to ask questions about another's experience, to say, "No, you're not the crazy one"... to laugh together, shed some necessary tears... to listen together to God speaking through our lives.

The above quote from Edwina Gateley comes from the poem that shaped our weekend. It's a rather long poem, but I'd like to share it with you. It is perfect for what our time together was about:
The Sharing - by Edwina Gateley

We told our stories - That's all.
We sat and listened to each other
and heard the journeys of each soul.
We sat in silence
entering each one's pain and
sharing each one's joy.
We heard love's longing
and the lonely reachings-out
for love and affirmation.
We heard of dreams
and visions fled.
Of hopes and laughter
turned stale and dark.
We felt the pain of isolation and
the bitterness of death.

But in each brave and lonely story
God's gentle life broke through
and we heard music in the darkness
and smelt flowers in the void.

We felt the budding of creation
in the searching of each soul
and discerned the beauty of God's hand
in each muddy, twisted path.

And God's voice sang in each story.
God's life sprang from each death.
Our sharing became one story
of a simple lonely search
for life and hope and oneness
in a world which sobs for love.
And we knew that in our sharing
God's voice with mighty breath
was saying love each other and
take each other's hand.

For you are one though many
and in each of you I live.
So listen to my story
and share my pain and death.
Oh, listen to my story
and rise and live with me.

May you all be richly blessed,
Sr. N

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