It's the beginning of a new school year and we in campus ministry are busy doing outreach to new and returning students. We're putting up fliers, updating our website, tabling on campus, and shamelessly promoting our events on Facebook. Why? We do it not just for the sake of evangelization and because we'd like large numbers at our events, but because our students need us. Especially at our university, where it's so easy for students to feel invisible among 42,000 other students, community is essential. Our motto is "A Place to Belong," and I hope that we are able to provide a place to belong for every student.
Community in religious life is a place to belong as well. It has many meanings in addition to that, of course, but underneath it all I hope that each of our members feels a genuine sense of belonging. As the only sister under fifty in my congregation, I haven't always felt a sense of belonging; instead I have sometimes been more in touch with all of my differences than I have with what I hold in common with my sisters. However, I have learned that even if I'm not feeling it, I really do belong, just as everyone does. In the community of Jesus everyone has a place; in fact, the closer to the margins a person is, the least status she has, the greater her place is in the kingdom of God. I belong to Christ, and therefore I belong to my community, to my Church, and to all of humanity. When I don't feel like I fit in, I pray and deepen my connection to Christ, becoming more aware that I belong to everyone, just as everyone belongs to me. The sense of belonging is both affirming and challenging to me; it's great to be a part of something, but it's not easy allow a space for those who are the most difficult. In essence, though, that's what religious communities are. Even the sisters who think differently than I do - who come from different places and hold different values - belong to me. As a novice, I remember one of my sisters smiling and saying of a sister much different than she was, "Oh, well, she's one of ours." I thought that was well-said. In accepting someone different than me, I realize my own sense of belonging; if she belongs to us, then I belong to us as well.
My hope for Giving Voice is that it's "A Place to Belong" for each of us. Of course we all belong to our own congregations, but we belong to each other, too. We hold a certain span of ages in common (and all that goes with that), but otherwise we also have a great deal of diversity within our group. And everyone belongs. I feel that connection strongly, and I hope that you do too.