Staying at the Table: Our Commitment to Community
By Sr. Annie Klapheke, SC Federation Temporary Professed
These words rang out, filling the center of a circle of twenty-six women religious, gathered for a weekend of prayer and fellowship. Each year in the middle of January, Sisters from a variety of congregations gather for the annual Giving Voice 20s and 30s Retreat. Giving Voice is a peer-led organization that creates spaces for younger women religious to give voice to their hopes, dreams and challenges in religious life. Praying with the image of the Trinity was the ideal way to introduce the retreat theme, Staying at the Table: Our Commitment to Community. The Trinity teaches us that God’s very existence is as community.
|Circle of young Sisters at the Giving Voice 20s and 30s Retreat (photo: Giving Voice core team)|
For women entering religious life today, community life is one of the biggest draws. Yet, as we immerse ourselves in this life, at times community is also one of the greatest challenges. Throughout our weekend together, we reflected on wisdom from Jean Vanier, founder of L’Arche communities. One quote, in particular, seemed to ring true for many of us:
“We can choose to live in a community because it is dynamic, warm and radiant. We find happiness there. But if a crisis arises, with tensions and turmoil, we begin to doubt the wisdom of our choice: ‘Maybe I made a mistake.’ If we enter community because of our own choice, we will stay only if we become more aware that it was in fact God who chose us for this community. It is only then that we will find the inner strength to live through times of turmoil.”
The call to religious life, and the call to a particular community, can feel exciting, challenging, and totally mysterious. And at times of greatest struggle, as Vanier suggests, it may even feel like a mistake. At these times, returning to the core of who we are, which ultimately leads to returning to the core of who God is – the all-loving community of three who first chose us – helps to reaffirm that God makes no mistakes. God is always working for our good.
Gathering with Sister peers helps each of us return to our core. The weekend together was steeped in meaningful conversations, voicing dreams and struggles, laughter, prayer, kickball, and breaking bread together. As we listened to and affirmed one another, we created community among us. And it is in community where we find our belonging; our belonging to God and to each other.