Musings of a very lucky fly

Sisters in LCWR leadership being blessed by St Louis
Catholics at vigil outside Old St Louis Cathedral
This week, I have been a very lucky fly on the wall at the LCWR Assembly.  I was there representing Giving Voice.  Our core team had a booth in the exhibit hall so that we could share information with leaders of women's religious communities about how their younger sisters might connect with other age-peers in religious life through Giving Voice gatherings and virtual connections.  That part alone was a wonderful experience.  On the one hand, when a Provincial or Congregation Leader would come to the booth and I knew one of their younger Sisters, I was able to say to them, "Oh, you are in [insert Sister's name here] community.  She is a wonderful woman.  She brings so much to our gatherings" ... or some variation thereof.  On the other hand, it was equally cool to tell the story of Giving Voice to Sisters who weren't aware of us.  I look forward to the fruits of those connections, namely new faces and voices joining our growing network of younger women religious!  What grace.

As if that wasn't exciting enough, here I was a just-perpetually-professed Sister at the LCWR assembly, in the midst of 900+ deeply prayerful, faith-filled, hopeful and prophetic women.  Not only that, I was in their midst at this history-making moment just months after making my own life-long commitment to religious life.  I have long felt that I am standing on the shoulders of our founders, pioneer Sisters, and those who have gone before us.  This week however made me realize that I also stand both on the shoulders and at the same time stand with this generation of women who have embodied the vision of the Second Vatican Council. This is a blessed time to be a woman religious--a time with great responsibility and risk, but much grace.

I of course was not in the executive sessions, but as an exhibitor I was able to join in the opening prayer sessions each day and heard the keynote address, the panel on the future of religious life including a talk by my friend Sister Jennifer Gordon, SCL--and the powerful Presidential Address by Sister Pat Farrell.  I am still reflecting on and processing all that I heard and look forward to hopefully reading transcripts in the future.

While I was not privy to their discernment or discussions, I was able to soak in the energy and general vibe of the gathering.  This is hard to describe, but it was combination of love, hope, creativity and passion.  Yes there was some frustration and pain underneath, but at no point did I sense overwhelming anger or fear.  Instead, the presence of the Holy Spirit was palatable.  In her address, Sister Pat said that a prophetic response to the doctinal assessment should be "humble, but not submissive ... rooted in a solid sense of ourselves, but not self-righteous; truthful, but gentle and absolutely fearless."  From the perspective of this not so impartial observer, I would say that the women gathered in St Louis embodied the best of this ideal.

Aside from the serious and historic elements of the experience, it was also just fun to be there soaking it all in.  At one point on the first day I found myself playing "Spot the famous nun."  Simone Campbell.  Joan Chittister. Sandra Schneiders. Teresa Kane.  Just to name a few. I even got to talk with some and have my picture taken with others.  My high school principal Sister Janet Stolba, in leadership for her community the Religious of Jesus of Mary, was there.  I find it so funny how our paths in life take such interesting turns! I also got to see my own Sisters in leadership connecting with their peers, and felt deep love, gratitude and a dash of pride for all they do for our Congregation.  And I did all of this with my own Giving Voice companions, sharing the experience, soaking it all in, filled with joy and hope for the future of religious life.

I am indeed a very lucky fly on the wall.  Next up, I'm headed to spend a few days with my Dad.  Most likely I won't be blogging for a few days, but I wanted to share these impressions for those who are curious what it was like to be here.

For those who want actual news and other opinions about the goings on in St Louis, I recommend checking out the SisterNews website.

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