People often ask me about my life as a young religious and why I have chosen this path. At the Giving Voice 20 and 30s retreat earlier this month, no explanation was needed. In this space, there is an understanding of our lives. There is a sense of coming home.
In today's world, it seems rare when you find a sense of acceptance and trust immediately when meeting people for the first time. It is the gift of the sisterhood, especially as young Catholic sisters in Giving Voice.
The conversation goes on to new depths as we ask our own deep questions of life and our lives as young religious. We can laugh freely, knowing we are laughing together. We can share challenging insights, knowing we are growing together.
In this space, we can truly be ourselves with no judgments, expectations, or questions asked. We are free to be our full energetic or tired 20 or 39-year-old selves with no reservations.
This stems from how we deeply listen to one another and believe in the individual wisdom each person brings to the weekend and the community gathered. Communal wisdom is the best wisdom.
Gathering together with the theme of Healing Divisions could not have fit this time in our lives more perfectly. We shared stories of the struggles, graces, challenges, and hopes in the divisions in our own lives. We all feel divisions pulling us apart in our families, congregations, Church, society, country and world. And as we started our weekend with the song "Voices that Challenge" by David Haas, these words struck me deeply and spoke to my heart:
"Call us to hear the voices that challenge, deep in the heart of all people. By serving your world as lovers and dreamers, we become voices that challenge, for we are the voice of God."
We reflected on the tension we all feel in our own lives as we balance listening to the stories that stir our hearts, then having the prophetic voice to continue to share the stories, being the voices that challenge. Parker Palmer wrote, "if we want to live nonviolent lives, we must learn to stand in the tragic gap, faithfully holding the tension between reality and possibility." We discussed the importance of recognizing the tension, pulling us toward the center, into our contemplation, and then the need of following this contemplation with action. This leads to the importance of acknowledging, as one sister stated, unity is not uniformity. There are differences. There are gaps. Yet, we are called to engage in the tension and gain a new perspective. This may be difficult.
As Sr. Mary Sujito, SND, described, "Jesus was profoundly contemplative, intensely human in his personal relations and authentically radical in his social options."
This call to be "authentically radical" invited us to dream and challenge one another to look at what our current ministries are and where we are living, realizing proximity matters to those we strive to journey with. Conversations were held on the importance of learning our implicit bias and our communities' bias to realize who we are including and excluding in our lives. We discussed the importance of collaboration and working together in order to quickly respond to the needs of the world (and needs there are, to be sure). These led to conversations about fear, following our passions, modeling what and how we speak, and our desire to inspire others as our communities inspire us.
We bonded over laughter, stories, kickball, hiking, sharing passions for composting, and eating delicious fresh fruit off the trees. We bonded with the community of Our Lady of Guadalupe Monastery who treated us with love and abundant hospitality. We bonded over deep conversations, prayer, and singing together in harmony.
We left inspired to continue working on healing internal tensions and added fuel to our ongoing work towards healing external divisions. I know that, together, as Catholic young women religious, we can make a difference.
Peace. Salaam, shalom.
Sr. Mary Therese Krueger, PBVM
Mary Therese is a Presentation Sister of the Blessed Virgin Mary (PBVM) from Dubuque, IA. She earned her undergraduate and doctorate degree in Physical Therapy from St. Ambrose University. She has a passion for working with those at a disadvantage in the health care system and with those affected by the victims of violence.
Click here to view pictures from the 20/30 retreat: http://bit.ly/2k1gv1o