At the invitation of a Giving Voice friend, Sister Julia Walsh, I spent my annual retreat at Marywood Franciscan Spirituality Center located in the Northwoods of Wisconsin. How fitting to spend part of my time in Advent winter solitude reflecting on my time as a Giving Voice Core Team Member. I began my time on the core team 2 months after I took final vows in 2013, and during that time I have served with 13 different sisters from 12 different communities.
It is amazing to look back and see how far Giving Voice has come in these past 5 years. With receiving our official non-profit status and Hilton awarding a multi-year grant, Giving Voice has really grown: establishing a presence at CTU, hiring a communications coordinator, working on strategic planning and leadership skill processes, creating a new website, and purchasing translation equipment for our gatherings. And as of this past summer, Giving Voice is offering scholarships for leadership, language and bridge-building opportunities.
We have grown in our presence on social media with over 260 sisters participating and have had wonderful gatherings nationally and in our age-cohorts, adding 22 new communities in the last 3 years. Our network of relationships between each other has strengthened, and the resulting synergy enables sisters to collaborate and work together on projects such as the book “In Our Own Words,” an immigration demonstration and prayer services, and building bridges with CMSWR communities.
My own vocation and leaderships skills have been strengthened over the nine years I have been active in Giving Voice. From the shared decision-making model we use based on The Circle Way process I have gained leadership facilitation and listening skills that I use in my ministry and community. My friendships with peers from all over the country have led to my current ministry in Racine, Wisconsin at the Eco-Justice Center. So while I have only one Sister of Charity of Leavenworth in Wisconsin, I have several Giving Voice sisters I can also connect with on a regular basis. This Giving Voice network continues to inspire me and fills me with hope for religious life today as I connect with wonderful women from many congregations.
As our individual congregations continue to process what their roles will be in the future it is even more crucial for supporting Giving Voice by encouraging sisters under 50 to participate as well as donating vocation and formation monies.
As I ended my retreat this Taize song by Jacques Berthier popped into my head:
In the Lord I'll be ever thankful,
In the Lord I will rejoice.
Look to God, do not be afraid,
Lift up your voices, the Lord is near;
Lift up your voices the Lord is near.
This song voices my gratitude for the time I served on the Giving Voice Core Team and of the Advent hope that God’s presence is with all of us as we move religious life forward into the future.