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.
Twenty years ago this spring, Giving Voice produced our first ever newsletter. Beginning as a 3-times per year printed publication, the Giving Voice editorial team was comprised of Judy Eby, RSM, Jan Hayes, RSM, Kristin Matthes, SND, and Toni Temporiti, CPPS. To memorialize these 20 years, we reached out to Kristin Matthes to learn more about the founding of our beloved organization.
May is a time to honor our mothers, grandmothers, Godmothers and of course the Blessed Mother--Mary, the mother of Jesus. And rightfully so, for it was Mary who was brave enough to respond with her YES, that set this great story in motion. When I reflect on Mary, I think of my grandmother who raised me. My grandmother was the glue that held our family together. With hard work and unceasing prayers, she raised seven children and many grandchildren. Her life’s work was dedicated to raising over 350 foster children in our county.
If your experience in active ministry is anything like my experience in active ministry, then I am willing to bet you receive a lot of emails too. It’s tempting to delete the ones that look unnecessary and word-heavy - like newsletters and electronic bulletins - but sometimes the Holy Spirit just won't let you defer to that little trash can symbol. Yesterday the Holy Spirit got me with an Easter message from Sister Roberta Fulton, SSMN, president of the National Black Sisters’ Conference. The Holy Spirit was like, “You should read this,” and I was like, “Fine.”
“I attended my first Gathering at Iona in 2017. From the moment I registered, there was someone there to welcome me! Video welcomes and personalized emails came in advance of the Gathering. By the time I arrived at Iona, I felt known by name. It was a wonderful way to be welcomed in by a group of strangers."