Friday, December 11, 2015

Vision: "Why being single and living as a sister aren’t the same"

As the semester comes to a close, I am trying to catch up the publications that have come out over the past few months. Below is one- an article in the most recent edition of Vision Vocation Guide about the difference between vowed religious life and life as a committed single person.  In some ways, because of the publication, the material deals more with ideas and ideals than experience; there is much gray in the midst of it all- not all communities are the same, but the reason for and state of religious life stand as a distinct and unique. Religious life is definitive, a unique expression of the Christian life lived out by grace in commitment. It is a radical calling, not better or worse than any other, yet certainly distinctive.  With all that said... I hope you enjoy the article. Blessings, Colleen

When I told people I was thinking about becoming a religious sister, they asked me the same questions: Why did I feel called? Why religious life? Or just plain, Why?

And once I told them about my desire to grow in my relationship with God, to serve others, and to live a radical life of intention in line with the gospel, the inevitable questions were: Why become a sister? Couldn’t you do all those things as a committed single woman?

Yes, I could have done all of those things as a committed single woman. I realized this as I discerned, so the bigger question for me was: What exactly is the difference between a committed single life and a vowed religious one?

The answer to that question is more complex than simple statements. It digs deep into the nature of call and vocation, uncovering who we are and what call truly means. Single life and religious life, after all, are both calls. Before we can look at how the two are different, it is helpful to understand what they have in common.

As Christians, we are called to live out our faith. The lives we lead reflect the love of Christ, and our vocations are the way in which we are most called to share that love with the world. Our true vocation enables us to be our most genuine selves as God created us to be.

The people who questioned me about why I was becoming a sister rather than staying single had my best interests in mind. I could do everything I sought to do as a committed single woman, but they missed one key point: discernment of a vocation is about more than you.

Vocation is about you and God—your deepest desires and God’s deepest desires for you. Discernment is about discovering those desires in relationship with God and naming what gives fullest life to that relationship. You don’t become a sister because of a lack of options, just as you ideally don’t remain single because nothing better has come along. You commit yourself to a way of life based on how your relationship with Christ calls you... Read the rest here

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Big Questions

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.)