2021 Encuentro

My Dear Sisters,

I am humbled and honored to give voice by proclaiming how good it was to come together for the Encuentro:  Liberation, Justice, and Healing!  (Ps 133:1 comes to mind.)   I had met only a few of us before the workshop, mostly interacting by zoom and e-mail, but it was so good to BE together.  Many of our Congregations have been doing work, internally and externally, on matters of equality and inclusion on topics of race, class, sexuality, etc.  I consider this Encuentro, which means “encounter,” as a continuation of this important work in our own time.   As we shared and processed our own experiences, I felt we were doing “what is ours to do,” as Sisters under fifty, from where we stand with our own horizons.  I found it both life-giving and stretching to hear each other’s stories as we nurtured bonds of Sisterhood and processed information, honing tools to better shape our responses to current realities.

Ana Yelsi Velasco-Sanchez, our presenter and facilitator, engaged us in a wholistic approach to justice work.  While she included diversity, inclusion and equality, and touched on matters such as race, gender, and ability (and I would also include age), she went beyond these individual topics to considerations for any type of justice making.  I found her approach applicable for most if not all of us, personally and professionally. The variety of motivations that prompt justice work included the reminder to be open to what we do not know, which will help us promote justice in just ways, for no one wants to inadvertently replicate unjust systems!

Ana Yelsi engaged us through both head and heart, through statistical facts and artistic knowings of reality.  For example, we considered our own experiences of exclusion and sketched an unjust situation and proposed a solution; we walked a time-line of just and unjust decisions in state and national headlines; we wrote reflective letters to those who came before us, those with us, and those who will come after us; and we colorfully (and humorously) illustrated self-care practices for ourselves and then gave these to another!   She stressed that to care for others, we must also care for ourselves individually and as a community.  This keeps our passions alive, nurtures soul-space and fun as well as work, promotes healing, and hopefully avoides the burn-out that is sometimes prevalent in those who engage in justice work.   Liberation, justice, and healing are practices which we all need in one way or another, or at least I do!

Speaking of self and community care, did I mention Mass?  Our prayer and liturgies together were vibrantly nourishing.  From learning new songs to hearing two of our own Sisters preach, the experience was liberating and healing.  I’m sometimes told, “You are the future of religious life.”  While I believe in and hope to live into this future, at the same time we (and others) are the present of religious life.  During our days together, I felt our energy.  I continue to give voice as we live religious life for ourselves and our world, in our own time, alive today!

Sister Theresa Pitruzzello, CSJ

Congregation of St. Joseph