From our founding years, my religious congregation has been geographically spread across wide distances. In January 1884 we were founded in the Diocese of Nottingham, England. By November 1884 our sisters had expanded to serve immigrant Irish women and the visually impaired in the Diocese of Newark, New Jersey across the pond. And by 1890 our pioneer sisters were invited to the Pacific Northwest to open a hospital which would serve the mining and timber communities in Bellingham, Washington.
On one of my last whirlwind trips from New Jersey to Seattle, one of those squeezed between commitments on opposite coasts with barely a moment to breathe, I found myself lamenting the fact that our three centers are 3,000 miles apart from each other. As an elected leader who wants (and needs) to spend time with our sisters and associates in all three regions of our Congregation, I was tired in that moment.
But as I sat there complaining, I reaching an aha moment of wonder. I don’t have to take a train or a boat or send telegrams or letters that must also travel by train and boat. I can make a phone call or send an email or even better meet with one of my UK sisters via video conferencing and take a six or eight hour flight and physically be present with my CSJP sisters and associates. We are so connected as a CSJP family, even across the miles, … pure grace!
There is of course the physical and mental wear and tear of travel, made more complicated by our security responses to a wounded and weary world. I have become a wee bit obsessed with effective packing and the benefits of quality luggage … packing cubes being my latest discovery! I’m now trying to be more intentional about bringing what I need, and no more, while still looking presentable. Then there’s the effort to make sure you have your electronics and the files you need for x and y meeting. It’s an effort, even with the benefit of modern airline travel.
But it is also sheer grace that, after I head on a plane this evening in the Newark airport, I will wake up tomorrow in Birmingham, England, just a short drive from our sisters in Leicestershire. I will breathe in the air that our founders breathed. I will rub shoulders and share tea with our UK sisters and associates. I will experience their gracious hospitality, enjoy their warmth, and share my own presence.
Travelling grace indeed!
And as I prepare to travel to reconnect with my CSJP family, I think of and pray for families separated by miles. Those who are do not have the proper documentation to visit an ailing family member across the border. Those forced to flee their homes in the dead of night after a drone attack or bombing. Those who leave family and seek to find a job in a foreign land to be able to send money home. So many families, separated by the miles. So much to be grateful for, so much to pray for, in our human family.