Passion for those made poor.
Deep trust in God.
These are the key characteristics of Nano Nagle, the foundress of my community. This is the way of being God has invited me into as a Presentation Sister. Most days this feels like an energizing gift but there are other days it feels like an overwhelming challenge. Yet through it all I know God remains at the center continually enticing me to take another step into this mystery.
I’m in my eighth year journeying with my Dubuque Presentation community. Currently I am in temporary vows and teach 2nd grade at an under-resourced elementary school in a Hispanic neighborhood in Chicago. I did not expect to find myself in this way of life but I’m glad I did. The journey has taught me so much. I’d like to reflect on religious life in our current global reality.
Today the challenges facing our world are profound. The gap between the rich and the poor is ever widening, our earth is crying out for relief from the strain our lifestyles place upon it, polarization characterizes our church and government, and the sound of violence in our streets and around the world continues to grow louder. When I look at the challenges we face I could easily be overwhelmed and paralyzed. What can one person do? What is our responsibility as a generation of young adults today? How will we find our way?
To meet these challenges we will need zeal, courage, passion for those made poor, and certainly deep trust in God. For me life as a Presentation Sister offers a way forward. I have a community with whom I can wrestle with the questions of the day. We have the deep tradition of our foundress and the sisters who have gone before us to look to as we follow the call of the Gospel. I have others with whom I can gather resources and together we can do our part to create change in the world. Better yet, I am part of a network of religious congregations around the globe striving for the same Gospel mission. Together the impact of all our prayers and works can make a difference. This gives me hope.
It is not always easy and the path isn’t always clear. Religious life is going through a major paradigm shift. To some it looks as though this way of life is dying. But to me, as I trust in God’s call, I know that it is simply changing. Our God is a God of new life. It’s encouraging to know I walk with a growing network of young sisters from different communities. Each of us called, one by one, to our community’s charism. The gift our smaller numbers offers is an invitation to greater connection and collaboration. We gather through the organization Giving Voice for retreats, conferences, Skype meetings, and online discussions, as well as locally for prayer, support, futuring and fun! The energy is growing for the next generation of religious life as we respond to God’s invitations.
I’m finding my way one small step at a time. Discernment doesn’t stop when you find your life’s vocation. In a world as complex and ever-changing as ours, it just becomes a way of life. God continues to call. I do my best to listen and to follow with zeal, courage, passion for those made poor, and deep trust in God.
I will leave you with a prayer that has recently found its way to me and fits this reflection.
God of generations,
When we set our hands to labor,
Thinking that we work alone,
Remind us that we carry
On our lips
The words of prophets,
In our veins
The blood of martyrs,
In our eyes
The mystics’ visions.
In our hands
The strength of thousands.
Jan Richardson, In Wisdom’s Path