I realized this morning that I have not posted anything here on the blog in the new year! I’ve had many things kicking around my head and heart, but I guess they have not been in publicly consumable form for the most part.
I did manage to break through my writer’s block for a bit earlier this week. The result is my latest column on the Global Sisters Report, in which I ponder indifference and disconnection, justice and injustice, privilege and moral action.
Facing an overwhelming sea of social injustice, I am coming to realize that my privilege moderates which realities I choose to see and which I take to heart. My privilege distances me from the experiences of people living in poverty or those who daily struggle against racialized structures of injustice which limit access to education, housing, and employment. My privilege obscures my own complicity and connection to the root causes. My privilege makes indifference and disconnection possible. (Read entire column here)
Have you ever noticed that you really start to appreciate some things in their absence? Friends, family, and in this case, writing. Writing is a gift that helps me process and relate to the world and the movements of the spirit in my life. Writing helps me connect with my deepest and truest self. Writing is gift … even as these words come forth from my mind and heart through my fingers to the screen.
Maybe I’ll be writing more soon … maybe not. But whatever comes is surely gift!
My latest column has been posted on Global Sisters Report. This one is more of a reflection where I mull over the communion of saints and what their witness and presence means to us today:
There is great wisdom in our Catholic tradition of setting aside time in the liturgical year to remember all the saints and souls, just as we take time to remember and celebrate the impact of our loved ones upon their passing. As theologian Flora Keshgegian writes in Redeeming Memories: A Theology of Healing and Transformation, remembering is meant to be oriented to ‘affect present action'(p. 25). We do not remember to stay in the past. Rather, we remember for the present, and dare I say, for the future.”
For a little more than a year now I have had the honor and privilege of sharing a virtual space over at Global Sisters Report with other younger Catholic Sisters. The weekly Horizons columns are published every Friday and feature some great writing and important perspectives on religious life, justice and the world.
My own latest column was just published – “Be the Present.” It is my attempt to put my experience spending four days with 70 Catholic Sisters in their 20s, 30s, and 40s at Giving Voice into conversation with spending the next five days with 800 elected leaders at LCWR. There was an incredible movement of the Spirit at both gatherings–real synchronicity.
My generation is known for its ability to multi-task, and perhaps that is a good thing. So much is happening in this present moment in religious life. We are tending to what is passing. We are discerning and nurturing what is emerging. We are building a bridge between the two. And all the while, as faithful women of the Gospel we are reading the signs of the times and seeking to meet the thirsts of the world. This is a moment which needs all hands on deck, all perspectives, all capacities, all wisdom. This moment needs us fully present.
The Spirit is certainly moving among us. That was clear both at Giving Voice and at LCWR. “Your task,” Janet Mock told the LCWR Assembly, “is discerning where and how to be in communion with the activity of God in our world now, at this present moment.” I believe this is the task of all who are living religious life today. It is the only way we will navigate this tremendous time of change and build the magic suspension bridge to the future of religious life.
Yes, this is a teaching document, but it is so much more. It is a poetic reflection on what it means to be human. It is a challenge to “every living person on this planet” (3) to responsible living on our common home for present and future generations. It is an invitation to shift our understanding of our relationship with the rest of creation from one of domination to partnership, from exploitation to protection, and from separation to connection.
It is certainly significant and meaningful to have a religious and world leader with the credibility of Pope Francis unequivocally state that “. . . we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system. . . . mainly as a result of human activity” (23). However, his message is much deeper and even more challenging.
Having just finished my second reading of Laudato Si’, I think that his most radical message is that we are family. God has put us into relationship with each other and all of creation, and we therefore share responsibility for the whole. “Because all creatures are connected, each must be cherished with love and respect, for all of us as living creatures are dependent on one another. Each area is responsible for the care of this family” (42).
My latest contribution to the larger conversation has been posted on Global Sisters Report: Nuns and Nones. It’s a snapshot of my musings on some of the recent reports and happenings in the world of religion, namely the Pew Report documenting the rise of the “nones” – the 56 million americans who claim no religious affiliation – and the interest in the future of nuns.
In a society where the numbers of nones are on the rise, the number of nuns is declining. I believe it is possible to view the dynamic forces behind both trends as part of the same rapidly changing landscape of religious life and shared socio-political context of increasing inequality, poverty, violence and environmental destruction. This trend and shifting landscape also apply to the wider church, especially given that the numer of U.S. Catholics is also declining according to the Pew research.
This raises a number of questions for me. First of all, the attention paid to Catholic Sisters, combined with the not insignificant efforts to help ensure our future, make me think that somehow it matters that we are present in the church and society. But are we merely symbolic figures, or is the way we engage the signs of the times and live the Gospel of some relevance and importance beyond ourselves? If so, how can we remain relevant and engaged in the larger questions of meaning and justice in the context of a society which increasingly eschews religion? If I do not want to be limited or defined by popular culture images or stereotypes of nuns, how does my life of ministry and prayer lived in community witness to the Gospel in a sea of growing inequality and indifference?
Next week is Earth Day … and so the theme of my latest column on Global Sisters Report is care of creation.
God’s creation is not only beautiful and awe-inspiring, it is also life giving! My experience as a Sister of St. Joseph of Peace, in particular my own deepening understanding of our spirituality and charism, has reoriented my commitment to care for God’s creation. I am motivated less and less by a sense of obligation, and more and more by a desire to praise, reverence and serve God by protecting creation. I am a slow learner, but thanks to my sisters, I think I am finally starting to get it.
My latest column has been posted on Global Sisters Report, in which I reflect on religious life through the lens of Downton Abbey, specifically comparing being a younger catholic sister in elected leadership to the experience of Matthew Crawley being the heir to the Earl of Grantham.
“There I was, sitting in the chapel with my Sister housemates, when I found myself thinking: ‘It’s almost as if I’m Matthew Crawley.’ … I am grateful for my random Matthew Crawley thought because it has helped me to come to grips with some of the responsibility I feel for the future. If I am honest, at times it is a heavy weight on my shoulders, as I suspect it is heavy on the shoulders of many younger members. How can we possibly follow in the footsteps of the women who answered the call of Vatican II so fearlessly? … “
Today (February 8) is the feast of St. Josephine Bakhita who has beatified by Pope John Paul II. Today has also been declared, under the leadership of Pope Francis, as the first International Day of Prayer and Action against human trafficking. I wrote about the connection between these two important dates in my latest column on Global Sisters Report.
The column draws upon research I did for my Masters thesis, “Human Trafficking as Social Sin: An Ethic of Resistance.” I see Bakhita as a model of resistance and believe that her story can help evoke in contemporary people of good will the motivation needed to take actions of solidarity and resistance to human trafficking today.
The story of St. Josephine Bakhita invites us to take an honest look at our own connections to the social sin of human trafficking. What are the unjust social and economic structures and distorted social norms which allow human trafficking to thrive? What actions of resistance might we take to heal relationships distorted by human trafficking?
Here are some resources for this first ever International Day of Prayer and Action against human trafficking.
Human trafficking is a social evil perpetrated by human beings. Human trafficking is not inevitable. As St. Josephine Bakhita’s story tells us, it is possible to resist, and it is possible for ordinary persons to resist in solidarity with trafficked persons. We can start today through our prayer and action against human trafficking.
My latest column is published over at the Global Sisters Report. It’s my attempt to engage the pesky and sometimes polarizing question of distinctive religious dress (aka habits) in a helpful way.
I am blessed to have younger religious friends, women and men, on both sides and in the middle of the distinctive dress question. Some of my sister friends are in communities that wear a habit. Most of my sister friends are in communities like my own that transitioned to simple dress almost 50 years ago, before we were even born. And some belong to communities that wear a habit for prayer, liturgy and ministry, but dress simply the rest of the time. This seems to be an option mostly for male religious, although I know a few sisters in this category.
As younger post-Vatican II religious, we made a decision to enter communities that have already made communal decisions about this question. We go where we feel at home. But in my experience, we do not judge those who make a different choice. We do not deride our peers either for wearing an “anachronistic costume” or for being a “plain-clothes nun.” Those labels belong to other generations, or perhaps should belong to none. Our attitudes of respect and inclusion affirm the both/and nature of the question today. Left to our own devices, over time, I believe we can heal this polarized division and in turn help heal a rift in religious life and the church. We find our common ground in the habits of love we develop, which form us as religious and shape the witness of our very lives as ones who follow Jesus in a particular way.
For the past few months I have been a monthly contributor to the Horizons Column at Global Sisters Report, dedicated to the reflections of younger Catholic Sisters. My latest column was just posted. It’s not the column I was planning to write this month, but it is the one that kept coming to my heart and that my fingers wanted to type. I generally find that in such cases, what I am writing needs to be said and shared. Here’s a snippet:
I recently found myself playfully adapting the opening line from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice: “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”
Thinking about, and praying for, some younger Catholic sister friends who are grieving the loss of dear wisdom women in their religious communities, I repurposed the quote in my mind and heart: “It is a truth increasingly acknowledged, that a younger Catholic sister blessed with friendship in community, must be in want of religious life age peers.” …
Increasingly, my experience of religious life friendship – both intergenerationally in community and with religious life age peers – has confirmed my belief that engaging in play together makes us better able to grieve and live into the unknown future of religious life.