I am fresh off four days of laughter, prayer, and meaningful conversations with 70 other younger Catholic Sisters at the national Giving Voice gathering. Giving Voice is a grassroots peer-led network of younger women religious. The mission of Giving Voice is to “create spaces for younger women religious to give voice to their hopes, dreams and challenges in religious life.”
We gathered in Kansas around the theme “Crossing Boundaries in Religious Life.” We heard challenging words from our conference speakers, Sisters Sophia Park, SNJM and Teresa Maya, CCVI. Our peer GV leaders created a space where we could be present in the moment, an emerging theme of the days. We are living religious life with our elders as we let go of what was, and we are often looked upon as the future of religious life. These days together helped us to remember that we are also the present of religious life. We have touched the religious life that was, and we are building the bridge to the future. Yet we cannot forget that we are also the present. We are here now, called by the love of God to join in prayer, ministry, and service to the Gospel and God’s people in need.
It was a joy to reconnect with old friends and to make new ones. It was also wonderful to be there with two other CSJP Sisters to share the experience. This was also the first Giving Voice conference in many years that I did not help plan. I had no jobs and was able just to come and be present and enjoy the light, laughter, and love of my peers. There were also five of us at the gathering who have stepped into the ministry of leadership for our Congregation. This was yet another gift of Giving Voice in my life, to have time to process and connect with peers in the midst of a similar life changing experience.
We were a beautiful embodiment of God’s diversity, coming from different congregations and parts of the country/world. While more than 90% of US Catholic Sisters are white, we are representative of the diversity of the US church. At one point of the speakers asked how many present were born in another country to raise their hand … almost half of the room raised their hands! What was perhaps most beautiful to me was how comfortable we are with each other. We laughed and shared, and laughed some more. We had fun and we had poignant moments and we were present to each other. And that, my friends, is pure gift and food for the journey.