The following is an update following the facilitation work that "The Next & the Now" preceded in Latham, NY for the CSSJ Federation Leadership Assembly.
Religious life is the realm of big questions.
That’s part of what drew me to want to be a Sister of Saint Joseph. As I sit with the young people who I minister to on the college level, there are always questions. And whether they are big or small, each is important. As I got ready to leave last week for the Federation Leadership Assembly in Latham, NY, one of my students turned to me and said, “Why can’t you just stay here?”
I assured the students I was with that I would be back after a day, but I needed to go. Big questions don’t restrict themselves to one realm or another and it seemed after months of planning with Kathleen Durkin, CSJ that Latham was where some serious questions needed to come into play.
The big question of this year’s leadership assembly was “What’s next?” That’s not a question you can answer in just a few short days, but it is a starting point and it is a critical question to keep asking ourselves as women religious and Sisters of Saint Joseph. What’s next in a sense is what’s now.
As I recently wrote in my column for the Global Sisters Report, “Our world, our church and our congregations are at a critical point in time. We find ourselves in a liminal space, where change is pressing in and new life is imminent… Here in this liminal space, the next and the now are in coexistence. Each one is reliant on the other. Today is lived in hope of tomorrow, and tomorrow cannot be without faithful living today. Perhaps the real question at this moment is: What will we allow to be birthed in us?”
Standing in front of the Leadership Assembly this past week, sharing in conversation, engaging big questions, and pondering the next and the now, that question kept returning to me: What will we allow to be birthed in us?
Listening to the sharing of the Assembly, I could hear where the creative tension of the current moment lies. New membership, life long formation, shared governance, congregational boundaries, justice issues, corporate voice- these are where the hearts of the Assembly seemed to go.
For me, that seemed to be an indication of what might be next. Yet, I couldn’t help but wonder if we’ll take a step. Asking big questions is one thing, taking the next step of not just asking but engaging big questions is quite another. That step doesn’t guarantee answers; in fact, it almost certainly will draw forth more question than answers, but the act of engaging pushes us forward toward the future.
After having spent the day with the Leadership Assembly, I knew I’d been engaged in a process that was worthwhile. As a newer member, it is my hope that we, as Sisters of Saint Joseph, will have the courage to engage the questions that arose; that we might have the strength to be challenged, to respond to the call of our vowed life in a more authentic manner. Leaving the Assembly, I wondered what shape it might take. Our future- whether personal, communal, congregational, or federationally- is going to be influenced by what we choose to do, to be, and to stand for today.
We need to have the courage to ask big questions …and to listen for answers. What we hear may surprise us, it may scare us, and it, no doubt, will challenge us. This is the work of the Spirit, influenced by grace, and put into practice in the daily living of genuine commitments and questions. It won’t be easy, but who ever said it would be? Religious life is the realm of big questions. We need to keep asking... and acting-- our future depends on it.
(See this article in full on the United States Federation of Sisters of Saint Joseph website, here.)