growth and life

The tree outside my window is now full of lots of green growth. The leaves are kind of ugly if truth be told, and they block my view of NYC. At the same time, they are part of a canvas of new green growth - from the grass to the other trees and bushes here on the grounds. Together the represent new life in spring. I suppose growth, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.

Earlier this week I pointed to an important conversation taking place over at Sr. Julie's blog around perceptions and assumptions about nuns. The conversation has taken off over there. Today she has started a new thread asking what growth looks like in a religious congregation. Is it strictly a numbers game? Is it growing new branches and replacing last year's leaves with new ones? Or is it being open to new and as yet unimagined ways we are being called to serve God & God's people. To quote Julie:
As nuns, we do not exist to perpetuate ourselves or to set ourselves up for emulation; rather we exist to serve God, the people of God, and all of creation. Our congregations are gifts of the Holy Spirit for the good of the Church and world. We trust that God knows best and by the power of the Holy Spirit enable us to do the work of God. If that means a handful of nuns, great. If it means truckloads, that’s great too. Vitality and growth have so much more to do with being true to this original call and gift of the Holy Spirit.
As a new member of a religious congregation that has had by my count 9 deaths of Sisters this year alone - and it's only June - this is certainly something I've been thinking about. If I didn't think that our spirit and charism was alive and well, if I didn't sense life and vitality and growth, I don't think I'd be here. But the thing is ... I do. And it has nothing to do with numbers. It has to do with the sheer joy that fills the air when we are gathered for community events. It has to do with the words of wisdom that are shared, the depth of our common prayer experience. It has to do with the new, different and continuing ways our founding mission is carried out today. It has to do with the men and women who join us as Associates and collaborators. It has to do with hope and trusting that God's in the mix, the Holy Spirit is with us, and our charism of peace through justice is not only alive in us, but it is alive in a world that desperately needs our presence.

Now, for someone who is focused on numbers this probably wouldn't make sense. Likewise (and I can say this a recovering control freak), if you are someone who needs to know exactly what your life will be like for the next 5, 10, 15, 50 years, religious life at this juncture would probably be frustrating. The amazing thing, however, is to know that we don't know what it will look like 5, 10, 15, 50 years from now ... because we are alive and growing in new and unknown ways, because we are open to the Spirit wherever she calls us. We follow in the footsteps of brave and pioneering women. Our western province was started by 2 women who travelled across the country in 1890 to beg in the mining camps for money to build a hospital. They didn't know how things would turn out, but they had faith, trust and hope.

Those are my random thoughts for this afternoon. If you find this topic interesting, I recommend Julie's blog. She's got a wide readership and is hosting a wonderful discussion.

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