"Always be prepared to go on Mission. Always be prepared to die." This is the advice given by the foundress of my Congregation, St. Marguerite Bourgeoys, to her Sisters.
I have always been struck by the juxtaposition of these two directions: Mission and death and they have stayed with me from the time I first encountered them. Our Congregation, like most, if not all others, has a wonderful Mission statement that speaks to our communal desire to serve God. Our overarching ministry of "liberating education" reflects our historical and founding ministry of teaching while allowing for a more diverse interpretation of education.
Despite this however, I have spent quite some time struggling with the concepts of Mission and Ministry. It seemed to me that with entering religious life, something as fundamental as "what I do" should "look" different. Perhaps it was a previously unacknowledged internalization of what I thought or understood a nun should do/be, but I needed my ministry to be more than my job, despite my salaried work very much fitting into the concept of liberating education. It was a struggle that left many of my Sisters baffled but, interestingly enough, my non - "religious community" friends understood it implicitly.
The struggle resolved itself in this way: I came to a place where I had to name what I understood my (personal) Mission to be. At the root, I had to understand the "why" of what I was doing, of discerning this at a deep and intimate place for me. At the heart, I grew to understand that, for me, Mission was my desire to do God's will. I was then able to have a much better understanding on the question of Ministry - the activity flowing from the Mission. Though I am not in the ministry to which I believe I am called - I have come to understand that where I am and what I am doing right now is in preparation for that ministry.
Marguerite's advice continues to run through my head - always be prepared to go on Mission, so what do I discern as being God's will for me right here and now? Always be prepared to die -no longer a strange juxtaposition but rather a different phrasing of the same desire because I am not on this earth to stay and someday the will of God for me shall be manifested by my death.
Our Congregational Mission Statement says that: "...Whatever be our age, our state of health, our mandate and the milieu in which we exercise it, we are "persons sent for mission" who seek to proclaim, by their entire life, the Good News of a God of Love." So, when our Sisters move, even in their 80s and 90s, we sing our sending forth hymn reminding them that they are going on a new expression of Mission - the ministry may be yet to be determined but it is the Mission that is primary.
This has all taken me a while to understand and I have no doubt that it will take more time to truly live it, but I can now say that I understand Mission in a way that is fundamental to my being and my relationship with the Living God. Ministry now flows from this understanding as an expression of that intimacy with my God.