Click HERE for photos from the SCNA weekend.

Click HERE for archived video from the SCNA weekend.

Betsy Kammerdiener, SCNA, served as a reflector for the SCNA weekend, and shared the following thoughts at the close of the weekend on Sunday morning.

How do you get started on something brand new? It’s risky. You’re being asked to go toward a place you’ve never gone before. You are disrupting your comfort zones and making yourself vulnerable to others.

I watched yesterday as you entered this room. The chairs had been rearranged into small circles. You had to navigate finding your place, connecting with new folks, reconnecting with folks you’ve know for a long time. Change was in the air, literally and metaphorically. Maybe you weren’t sure what was going to happen next but you made yourself open to the process. This is how we start something brand new in a helpful way.

Before we set off into all this newness, the Central Leadership Team spoke to us. Actually they challenged us and blessed us. The challenge, “Take the charism into the world in your way.” The blessings, “The Spirit is alive and well here.” Challenge and blessing…always good to have when you’re starting something brand new.

And then we were given the rules. Actually, Andy called them guidelines, which is a softer word than rules. Directions, maybe. We were asked to lean into the listening process by respecting each other, being transparent, not rushing ahead or dragging someone else along, treasuring the pauses and silences, being curious. Another way of saying it would be practicing the Golden Rule with each other, listening to others as we would like to be listened to ourselves.

And then you were off toward that new place. The first question you reflected on was, “What does it mean to be an Associate now?”

Three broad themes seemed to emerge from this sharing. Over and over you reflected that we are all together as SCNAs and we are all unique at the same time. You used words like family and table, connection and fellowship. You talked about how we are like-minded and diverse. You relished our relationships; you said, “We belong to each other.”

You also talked about service as Associates. You said that our Pioneering Spirit is best expressed in our active ministry. You named ways that we serve the Sisters and how meaningful those connections are to you. You also identified yourselves as serving in the communities where we live. And, equally importantly, you named service to each other as a key to understanding who we are.

The third theme I heard was little more plaintive, perhaps melancholy. You asked, “Is the work of the past lost?” There was a hint of discomfort around the coming changes, maybe even grief. Like a child leaving for college for the first time, you want to make sure that there will always be a home to come back to. It is important to tend to our grief even as we move into the excitement and challenge of the future.

After Mass and lunch you came back to the second question. Let us never forget how meaningful it is that you came back! You can’t go swimming in the ocean if you only dip your toes in the waves at the edge of the shore and leave. You were willing to come back and swim in the unchartered waters of change. Good for you!

Before that second question, Tootsie led us in a time of stretching. This was a good opportunity to remember that just as we can be physically stiff and need to stretch, so can we also be emotionally stiff when we stretch toward something brand new. Just as there was some creaking and groaning over Tootsie’s exercises, there was also some creaking and groaning over the changes in the future of the SCNAs. I think the phrase, “It hurts so good,” just might apply.

And then on to that next question, “How do we challenge ourselves and each other to grow in the Spirit of Catherine, Vincent and Louise and allow God to act through us?” Quiet reflection and then the hard work of listening to each other.

You talked about the importance of stories, of listening to the stories and of sharing them with each other. You pointed out that the way to know Catherine, Vincent and Louise was to study their lives, their writings, their passions. And you said the same thing about relating to each other as Associates. You expressed a longing to get to know each other in a deeper way through shared stories.

You also pointed out, over and over, that the way to live out the Spirit of our founders is through ministry. You describe a ministry of mutuality, compassion and inclusion. You said that we need to see the world through the eyes of others and really listen to those we want to serve so we can know how best to serve them. “Just be kind,” you said. That’s how Catherine, Vincent and Louise ministered. That’s how we should, too.

You also expressed a real desire and need to listen to the Holy Spirit before setting off on a new ministry path. You said that we need to nurture the silence in our lives because God is in the silence. When we listen to God, we can hear each other and those we want to serve. You emphasized the deep need for mutuality in this spiritual journey. “Sharing our struggles with others lets them be the face of God to us.” Silence leads to stories which lead to ministry which takes us back to more silence and more stories and ministry, on and on.

A well-earned break, a slice of bread and a cup of something hot and bless your hearts, you were ready to listen some more. The third question gave you a chance to explore with your imaginations, “What might the path look like as we embark on this journey into our future?”

By now, you seemed quite comfortable in your circles. You dreamed together and envisioned what that brand new thing could look like. Here is a summary of your thoughts.

Over and over, you sounded the call for work to be done on Formation. I could name that the “Reformation,” but that could have problematic connotations here. 🙂 You asked for better guides for the education and training of new Associates. You want a plan, flexible, open, technologically friendly, attractive to younger folks and diverse folks and folks who perhaps have never thought that the SCNA experience could be for them. But you want a plan, a firm foundation that can take us into the future.

Another theme I heard was a request to explore new avenues of service, regionally, nationally and internationally. You are open to serving with the SCN and within your faith groups. You are also curious about opportunities to form new partnerships and create new ways of serving. You ask that these ministries be meaningful, that they coordinate with the directives of the General Assembly and that they promote social justice and mutuality for and with those you will be serving.

And, finally, you are all about deepening oneness in Christ. You place value on current relationships, with the SCNs and with each other. At the same time, you are very open to forming new relationships. You want to grow, not just among folks who look like you and sound like you and believe like you. You want to grow in all directions, with all comers. You want to invite everyone to set more and more places at the table so that God’s kin-do comes here among us. Joyful commitment, indeed.

There is an old Spiritual which says in part, 

We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord,

We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord,

And we pray that all unity may one day be restored,

And they know we are Christians by our love, by our love.

Yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.

The work, the very hard, joyful work that you did yesterday and that you will continue to do as SCNAs is a God-given answer to our prayers for unity, for oneness. Thank you for being yourselves and for doing what’s before you. You are truly a reflection of Catherine and Vincent and Louise and your love is what makes us one indeed. Amen.

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