The Council of Women Religious
The Council of Women Religious for the Diocese of Raleigh
60 YEARS of RELIGIOUS LIFE (RL)
Sister Carol Marozzi, SSJ
Sister Marge Polys, IHM (Offered the reflection below.)
Sister Mary Jean Korejwo, SND
Sisters Mary Jean, Carol and I entered RL when it externally appeared very different. And it continues to unfold as we respond to the signs of the time.
Today, we struggle to live the Gospel in our beautiful though fractured world. We recognize our call to serve the needs of God's people with the traditional works of mercy and education. With you, we also work to eradicate the causes of injustice and oppression and create structures that promote justice, peace, sustainability, and foster unity amount all peoples.
Living the Gospel is a radical life. All of us live in the hope that God's tender and faithful love for everyone and all creation will be made visible. We believe that God's power now at work in and through us all can do immeasurably more than we can even imagine or dare to dream.
So, what is religious life?
Religious life is life,
a life of Total self-gift,
All that I am,
With nothing held back,
From the moment of my profession
To my last breath.
Sandra Schneiders, IHM
This call to RL is a sacred mystery, why me? Why Mary Jean: Why Carol: Indeed, why? RL is pure gift and a deep choice. It is an invitation to an all-embracing and inclusive love. The beauty of our call is the embracing love of Christ and the beauty of the people we serve with - all here and others around the world.
RL is an alternative life form of witnessing the three vows of consecrated celibacy, evangelical poverty and prophetic obedience in an age when power, greed, and sexual abuse are in our face, on the news, in our politics and even in our beloved church.
RL ios changing as it has always throughout history. How very different religious life was 60 years ago. And today it is alive and well though with a smaller number of persons entering formally for many reasons. However, I often wonder, what IF the most significant contribution of RL has not yet happened.
And, New life among us IS emerging. Young men and women today are yearning for deeper meaning in their lives, for community and spirituality. Some are fascinated with the idea of following Jesus and continuing the liberating mission of Jesus. Some of them potentially have a call to religious life; Others as Associate Members in many congregations.
Most recently, I was novice director for my community. It was six years of accompanying six women discerning religious life and their call to our particular IHM community, studying the vows, spirituality, community history, constitutions, amount other things. It was nurturing them tilling the soil for the future. These six younger women challenged and inspired me. They felt a call to community with women who share their values and desires. Five of the six women professed their vows. Hey made their self-gift to God with nothing held back.
Why: Because they love God. As Pedro Arupe, SJ wrote: "Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, than falling in love with God in an absolute, final way. What or who you are in love with, what seizes your imagination... it will decide everything."
I believe one does not love the vows. One lives the desire for God. Then our actions must follow.
The externals of RL may appear different butr the motivating force of RL remains. Women (and men) join RL because they Love God and feel Called. They want to deepen their relationship with God, to live the Gospel and to spread the GOOD NEWS of Jesus the Christ. This is what drives us and new members to say Yes to RL. Love of God, prayer and relationships in the many different communities we belong to sustain us. God can be palpable. But, most of our lives happen in the nooks and crannies of life, in the crevices of life where we must be adept at sensing God's presence, as we focus on continuing the liberating mission of Jesus.
What will RL look like in 2030 and 2050: We don't know. We have not yet lived it, but the Spirit of God continues to call and guide us, every day. As Karl Rahner stated, "If Christians are not mystics today, we are nothing at all." We live in God and God lives in us.
Religious life is alive but at another crossroad. New members, while fewer today, they will continue to lead us to a more global sisterhood with porous borders, to Intercultural and intergenerational realities, to even greater collaboration across religious communities, and among all service organizations, as well as, a mission focus in the public square speaking to today's issues out of a contemplative stance and with technological astuteness. All this to further the mission of God and build connections recognizing that we are on body in Christ. Like us, they will stand on the shoulders of those many who have gone before them?
Let us send a blessing to our newer members in religious communities all over the globe and to those who will discern this call in the future. (Raise hand)
May each of you have the wisdom and courage to live your call to service the most pressing needs of God's people. There is something about a call that changes us, transforms us and won't let us go. Trust the Spirit working with and through you.
In the words of St. Teresa of Avila, we ask God's blessing on new members, and each other here today, for:
Christ has no body now on earth but ours,
No hands but ours,
no feet but ours,
Ours are the eyes through which to look out
Ours Christ's compassion to the world
Ours are the feet with which Christ is to go about doing good;
Ours are the hands with which Christ is to bless all of creation.
Marge Polys, a Monroe, Michigan IHM lives now in Chapel Hill, NC continuing to offer spiritual direction at Newman UNC.