on charism

Phil asked in the comments to an earlier post if I would care to "illuminate" him on this strange word ... charism.

Religious congregations often speak of their charism. Basically, the charism is the founding spirit of the community. It is the specific gift given by God to the founder and hence to the community and through their work, to the Church at large.

My parish in Portland was staffed by the Paulist Fathers. The Paulist charism is evagelization, reconciliation, ecumenism and interreligious dialogue. Having spent 7 years in that parish working closely with the Paulists, I could see how their charism was carried on by our parish community. We worked closely with other faith communities on social justice projects and often hosted interfaith prayer services for peace. The parish was often a first step back for alienated Catholics (like myself) - a safe place where reconciliation could take place. Whenever any parish event is planned, from the Spaghetti Dinner to the Rummage Sale to the latest environmental festival which was a great success, evangelization was always somewhere in the thoughts of the planners.

My own groovy religious community, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace, has its own charism ... peace through justice. To be quite honest, it was the charism that first drew me to the community. When I realized that it wasn't just words but was imbued in the very lives and ministry of the Sisters and Associates, I was hooked.

Our Constitutions describe our charism best ...

In accord with our tradition
we commit ourselves to promote peace
in family life, in the church, and in society.
We strive to respect the dignity of all persons,
to value the gifts of creation,
and to confront opporessive situations.
We respond to God's people in need
and promote social justice as a way to peace.

Our charism of peace
challenges us to prohphetic risk
so that God's reign might be more fully realized.
Confident of God's faithful love
and collaborating with others who work for justice and peace,
we face the future with gratitude and hope.

This might seem like some new fangled idea, peace through justice. But it really is the founding spirit of the congregation founded in 1884 by Margaret Anna Cusack. I plan to share her story later on, but she wrote in our original constitutions that she founded this community:

... to promote the peace of the Church both by word and work. The very name Sisters of Peace will, it is hoped, inspire the desire of peace and a love for it.


Questing Parson said...

Some time back I was moved from your blog to put you and the other sisters of your order on my prayer list. Now I know why I feel so delighted you're there.

Grace and peace.

Anonymous said...

Well, it is good to be "illuminated", even if I'm not a manuscript! So then the vows and works of the religious community flow from the carism. I tried to explain it to my wife last week before reading your post and failed miserably. So I'll try again, this time I'll know what I'm talking about.
So now I understand the challenges which potentially occur when different religious communities join together on single project - like the merger of two hospitals (sponsored by different religious communities) into one health system. This is pretty fundamental stuff
Many Thanks,