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.
Some of the retreat conferences, such as the one on "Lectio Divina" focused on our individual relationship wtih God, a few, including "Care for the Sick" focused on the immediate community of the Benedictine Sisters of Chicago, but most, such as "Hospitality" and "Care for Creations" were aimed at building a Benedictine sense of community in a broader sense; with the people we encounter and indeed with all created things.
As I reflected on these topics, I realized that the distance to St. Louis did not mean that I was not also in community with my Giving Voice Sisters. While I did not get to share their experience at the conference directly (and I will be the first to admit that doing so virtually is not the same!), I have already begun to share the fruits of those experiences. Their transformation will, if I allow it, also transform me and--according to the vision of Benedictine community made present in our retreat, allow us to go out and transform the world.