by Sister Judith Park
It was, simply put, a blessing to be together. This was our third meeting and most would agree, our best. Perhaps it was because it had been so long since we met in person. Perhaps it was because we are finally getting to know one another. Perhaps it was because our facilitators – Sisters Sheilagh Martin and Evelyn Williams, women we so esteem, asked us challenging questions and created a relaxed and open atmosphere.
It was Sister Joan O’Keefe who had the idea that this cohort – those who entered from 1967 on – should gather. And so we have.
Many months ago we had asked Sisters Sheilagh and Evelyn to design a process for us and to facilitate our meeting. They were marvellous. Let me take you through the two hours that followed our lunch together.
Sister Cathy Stare welcomed us and asked that we merely be open to the grace of the gathering. And so…creating the sacred space began with Suzanne Abruzzo’s song and video: “I Have Called You By Name.” We had time for silence and then we moved into the work of our groups.
This was posed to us: Over the past two years we have been involved in Pre-Chapter Contemplative Circles, Completion and Formation dialogues, Racial Justice, Cries of the Poor and Climate Change Circles. COVID-19 has accompanied us and claimed our attention – in addition to the challenges of ministry and daily life.
How has all of the above shaped your thinking and response to the continuing call of God?
HOW HAS ALL OF THE ABOVE SHAPED YOUR THINKING AND RESPONSE TO THE CONTINUING CALL OF GOD?
We spoke to the question and listened to one another for about 40 minutes in our small groups.
After a short break we went to the second question:
As we move towards completion as a congregation, this Bridge group will be the last group of Sisters of Charity – Halifax.
WHAT THOUGHTS, FEELINGS, CONCERNS, AND CHALLENGES DOES THIS REALITY EVOKE IN YOU?
As you might imagine, this question quickly brought us deeper. After our time in the small group, we spoke to everyone in the room of what surfaced within us.
We said: We have a passion about what we do and who we are as Sisters of Charity.
We desire to be faithful. There is a genuine fear of being alone, of loneliness as we get smaller and come to completion. There is a feeling of sadness. At the same time we know God is with us. We are being called to completion. We are being transformed now. How we do this is important. The question arose about people who want to join us now. Attention to personal needs and communal needs was mentioned. There is need for reconciliation among some of us. Twenty gathered out of the thirty-four who comprise the membership of this group. We missed their presence and their input and hope they will join us next time.
Finally, Sisters Evelyn and Sheilagh asked us to complete one of these sentence starters:
I would like us ______________
I believe we ________________
I hope we __________________
Some of what we said was :
… find ways to continue to gather in person
… support one another – deepen connections
… be gentle with one another
… gather the full group
… live now and into the future together
… we have what we need
… that we do the best we can and don’t give up
… that we will stay with the dying and move to Resurrection
… that we become more racially just
… we are enough
… that conversations continue at this deeper level
… hope we know the gift we are for the world and for the Congregation.
Now before the final prayer, the committee that planned the meeting: Sisters Mary Ann Connolly, Judy Park, Marie Sorenson and Cathy Stare, threw out the hook for a new committee. Three generous souls offered to take this on: Sisters Mary Beth Moore, Jolaine States and Mary Sweeney.
We thanked our facilitators with an array of Boston memorabilia and cannot say enough about the safe and honest atmosphere they created.
They are great Congregational women – and like those of you reading this report – we hope they are in the last group of Sisters of Charity-Halifax!
We ended with the song and video “If Not Now Tell Me When” by Carrie Newcomer.
It was a blessing to be together.