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Deep Faith & Friendship: 20/30 Retreat Reflections

And: a reflection on the 2019 20s/30s weekend
Sister Rhonda Miska

Among the shared prayer, meal conversations, circle sharing, and informal chats during our weekend as younger Catholic sisters at Our Lady of Guadalupe Monastery, one word that surfaced again and again was, simply, and.

We spoke of our passion for our ministries seeking to incarnate the Gospel through accompanying those on the margins and of our desire to be grounded in prayer.  We spoke of how we feel rooted in our respective congregations and so grateful and energized by intentional relationships with age peers in religious life. We felt delight in reuniting with sisters we’ve known through inter-congregational formation gatherings and in meetings sisters for the first time.  We shared our experience of the sacred work of hospicing our elder sisters on their final journeys to God and of our keen attentiveness to what is being born in religious life in the 21st century.  We came together as younger sisters with our doubts, frustrations, and disappointments and our great joy, excitement, and amazement of what we are encountering and who we are becoming in this way of life.  For some of us who gathered, there was a rootedness in their own native language and country of origin and a courageous spirit of adventure to embrace mission in the US in new languages.  We shared about the “letting go” as congregations discern and act upon the need to right-size and the “letting come” as we dream of who we will be as younger women religious.  We entered into laughter in moments of light-hearted play (what’s better than the annual game of young nun kickball!?!) and holy tears in soul-sharing moments when took our shoes off before the holy ground of stories of God’s providence and mercy in our lives.  We spoke of our gratitude for the foundation of the shoulders on which we stand – our founders and foundresses, wisdom sisters and mentor gone before us – and the our energy to live fully in the present, oriented towards a hopeful future.  We sat in contemplative silence together in the chapel and spoke and sang our prayers of intercession, gratitude, and praise.

With all these ands, we joined together as younger sisters, united in our love for God, a Communion of Persons, Creator and Son and Spirit. 

Deep Faith
Sister Nicole Varnerin

Necessary. That is the word that came to me at the end of the Giving Voice 20’s and 30’s retreat. This weekend was so necessary. Each year I come tired, and each year I leave more tired, but grateful for the time, space, and friendship. I don’t think I ever felt its necessity as acutely as this year.

There is something liberating about being understood, about walking this journey together, about not feeling alone. I so often feel like I must do this alone because I am the only one in my house, in my community, in my ministry who is newly temporary professed in her 20’s. I spend so much time in my own head that I convince myself I am the only one who feels like this. That I am different, that I am broken. But I was liberated once again.

When I took a risk and opened myself up to the common circle, when I described my feelings of inadequacy, instability, unbalance, and uprootedness, my friends – my sisters – received my vulnerability with love. They sat with me in the silence, holding the space sacred and open for anything else I needed to share. They gently reminded me of their presence with a touch, a smile, and I’m sure a prayer. When enough time and space had passed, they lovingly acknowledged my feelings and admitted to similar experiences. The power of my friends, my peers closest to me in “religious life age” validating and identifying with my experiences opened up possibilities for me. These women, who I know and love, who I look up to as models of deep faith and prayer – these women had also felt uprooted, inadequate, ungrounded after their very own first professions, just like me.

Everyone, including myself, expects to be closest to God after profession, and not sustaining that feeling can be unnerving. I saw myself in these women of deep faith who looked on me with love, identifying with and validating my experience. And I knew immediately that I was NOT inadequate, I was NOT broken, I was NOT alone. And that I was, in fact, a woman of deep faith, just like them. And no amount of my own feelings, transition, or experience could change that. No one, no thing, no experience can take my faith away.

My Giving Voice sisters were a great comfort to me in that moment. And the gentle reminders of their prayer and friendship with me in this space throughout the rest of the weekend slowly unraveled the negative space surrounding me. The next day I awoke with a peace, with a joy, that could only come from a deep, deep faith within.