Coming together to celebrate life

Recently the clocks went back and the wonderful display of Autumn colours began to fade as the leaves fell to form a damp carpet underfoot, heralding the end of a beautiful Autumn season and the beginning of Winter’s dark days. At the same time, we are experiencing the devastating effects of the recession, knowing that there is worse to come. The Church too is rocking in the turbulent waters of scandals, divisions and secularism, in a crisis that is putting the faith and hope of many to the test.

In this climate, it would be easy to fall into apathy, indifference or discouragement. So when a weekend meeting was planned for all the sisters of our communities in England and Ireland, we had a choice. We could either focus on our diminishing numbers and resources, our fragilities and limitations and make plans for the future or we could come together to celebrate the present moment, to renew and re-energise and for the simple pleasure of reconnecting, catching up on each other’s news and on the happenings in our different communities and ministries.
As we are striving to be women of hope in a world that is badly in need of that most challenging of Christian values, we chose to focus on the here and now and how the Spirit of the risen Christ is present and active in our lives. We met in the Guy Chester Centre of Spirituality in Muswell Hill, north London, a lovely venue, tastefully decorated, intimate, restful and so hospitable, the perfect setting for our group of 18 sisters with Christine Partridge from the Kinharvie Institute who facilitated the workshop gently, skilfully and effectively.

We know each other well (one of the advantages of being a small Congregation!) and so we were able to share easily and trustingly, beginning with experiences that have been life-giving in our ministries or in our communities. Later, we were invited to become aware of and name the gifts we bring to our community. Needless to say, it was easier for some to name amd affirm the gifts of the others than to recognise their own giftedness! Nevertheless, this was an energising and affirming session, hopefully encouraging each one to celebrate and use her gifts to the full.

After almost five years as part of a European Region, we felt the need to take stock of how this has affected us. Our experience reflects on a small scale what is happening in the European Community where mutual understanding, collaboration and the common good are values that do not come naturally! Being able to name together both the positive and negative aspects of this new structure helped us to a new stage in the process of letting go and moving on. This led us towards a renewed commitment to developing closer links with our sisters in France ad Italy and the search for a deeper understanding and acceptance of our diversity.

We all returned home invigorated and energised, grateful for the opportunity to renew friendships and to share about what is the essence of our life and what motivates as religious women.