Reflections from the Giving Voice 40's Retreat

Giving Voice 40s Retreat, August 2014

For the first time Giving Voice sisters in their 40's gathered together for a retreat on August 1-3, 2014. Our gathering was held at neighboring lake houses of the Sisters of Providence and the Congregation of the Sisters of St.Joseph of Peace near Seattle, Washington. Representing 16 congregations from California, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, New York, Ohio, South Dakota, Texas, Washington, Wisconsin, Mexico, and England, many sisters travelled far to reach the holy ground of NorthLake but once together, we happily formed a new Giving Voice "40 somethings" circle.

Some of the sisters attending our GV 40's retreat retired from attending 20's & 30's gatherings and were happy to find a new place of peers to share our lived experience of religious life. For many other sisters attending, this was a head-start Giving Voice experience. Brainchild of Giving Voice Core Team member, Rejane Cytaki (SCL), the retreat was titled "Over the hill? Not! Standing on top" and was lead by Rejane, Susan Francois (CSJP), Jeannie Humphries (OSU), and Jessica Taylor (SP).

In view of beautiful Mount Rainier with ideal Pacific Northwest weather (which we learned only occurs 3 weeks a year!), our retreat began using the Circle Process reconnecting us with our inner child who easily knew how to relax and play. Our laboring minds and beleaguered hearts concerned about many things in our ministries were left behind and the present moment prevailed among us. We let go and let God work within and among us. We mapped our hearts and wrote Six-Word Memoirs revealing through our memories and present experiences who we are and will become as we age through our middle years reaching for the top of the mountain and wisdom as we hope to age gracefully.

Being a religious sister in her 40's, in these challenging times, is not an easy place to be. Transitioning becomes the new normal. Perhaps a sister in her 40's might find herself the sole member of her community going through a mid-life crisis or she may be beginning initial formation. Several sisters on our retreat were recently elected to community leadership positions (or perhaps soon may be) seemingly early in their religious lives.

Together through sharing, prayer, and discussion, we discovered many challenges and joys a sister in her 40's in religious life may experience. Many sisters on our retreat appreciated finding our common experiences and new sisters peers with whom to share and grow on our journey through religious life. There was much praying and playing that took place during our GV 40's retreat and fun was had by all!!

Future meetings of GV 40's were. discussed and for practical reasons it was decided that we will retreat together again in 2016. However, we intend to gather together during the Giving Voice 2015 National Conference in Kansas City, Kansas.

Sr. Alice Ann O'Neill, SC of Cincinnati, an artist cellist and scholar, has professional performance experience in symphony orchestras, chamber music ensembles, and as a soloist throughout Europe, Japan, Canada, and the U.S., Currently she teaches cello, string pedagogy, chamber music and various music courses at Mount St. Joseph University in Cincinnati, Ohio.