At the beginning of the month, Giving Voice Sisters attended Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), participating in the opening ceremony, exhibiting with other organizations, and partaking in small-group discussions with leadership from LCWR communities.
As a member of Giving Voice invited to be present at LCWR, I thought my role would be to make my voice heard. Giving Voice was among several groups who were requested to be present at the table as LCWR strives to discern how it is called to move into the future and who will move with them. Implicit in the invitation was our job to speak for younger sisters in religious communities--those whose voices are often not heard by leadership because they can be drowned out by the far more numerous older voices.
This summer, I experienced the past, the present, and tasted the future of Religious Life today. I started my journey in June with the Past, through a traditional pilgrimage to Europe which we Dominicans, call Lands of Dominic. Even though it was a short and fast version, as one of my Sisters and I were our own travel agents, it was simple, inspiring and profound.
This summer, over 80 sisters from 50 different communities of Catholic women religious gathered at Fontbonne University in St Louis for a fantastic National Gathering exploring the theme “Boldness and Beauty of Communion: Living Religious Life Now!” The gathering was planned by a team of 7 Giving Voice Sisters and 2 lay women, led by Co-Chairs Julia Walsh, FSPA, and Mary Perez, OP. We are dedicating this July newsletter to reflections by Sisters who both attended the gathering and who joined us in spirit. Check out their reflections, National Gathering Media clippings, the gathering’s program booklet, and photos from the gathering!
A month ago, 80 of us gathered in St. Louis, MO for the Giving Voice National Gathering (GVNG). The title of the gathering was Boldness and Beauty in Communion. I am reminded by Pope Francis’ words: “Architects and painters, sculptors and musicians, filmmakers and writers, photographers and poets, artists of every discipline are called to make beauty shine, especially where darkness or drabness dominate everyday life. They are custodians of beauty, heralds and witnesses of hope for humanity, as my predecessors have repeatedly stated. I invite you, therefore, to care for beauty, and beauty will in turn heal many wounds that mark the hearts and souls of men and women today.” Here are some of my experiences of being surrounded with boldness and beauty in communion.
I am not even a Religious Sister. Well, not yet. Answering God’s call late in life, at 46 years old, I will begin my life as a sister in August of this year with the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration. Even so, I was blessed to attend the Giving Voice National Gathering in St. Louis last month. I wondered what a conference planned and run by the youngest religious sisters might be like. Would it have the depth and connection that I was hoping for?
When I walked into the large space of younger sisters at the National Gathering my heart felt like singing. I saw friends I hadn’t seen in person since the last National Gathering I attended four years ago. I’m not much of a hugger but I found myself hugging friends left and right. These women understand the weirdness and grace that religious life offers. I am always at ease at these events.
I was not at the Giving Voice National Gathering this year. My own community retreat overlapped with the Gathering by several days and I made the decision to stay with my community. But, in keeping with our retreat director's advice to "do what your heart needs," I also followed the National Gathering on Facebook. Spending a few days, living with both the input and reflections on Benedictine values with my community and (although in a very different way) and witnessing the Boldness and Beauty of Communion among Giving Voice Sisters led me to a broader understanding of both and a deeper desire to live out community/communion in the world.