Oh, the places you'll go if you collaborate
You're off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting,
So . . . get on your way!
- Oh, the Places You'll Go! by Dr. Suess
Dr. Seuss wrote that just for us, for women religious today. And how exactly shall we go? How do we climb that mountain? Answer: by sharing the gifts unique to religious life, as our response to the signs of the times.
I learned a lot about three of these gifts in my last ministry of advocacy at the United Nations, as I directed a coalition of 21 congregations of women religious (UNANIMA International), and worked with another 30 congregations there as well. I'm learning even more as I begin a new ministry here at the Global Sisters Report, networking with many more communities — and all the lessons I'm learning about these three gifts seem to be taken out of the same textbook.
One gift speaking very powerfully to women religious these days is collaboration. We see it in practice everywhere in religious life: as partnerships among congregations in ministry, in formation, in advocacy, in retirement housing, and in cooperative ventures around many issues (disasters, migration, water, fracking, human trafficking, women's / children's needs …). The pages and websites of National Catholic Reporter and Global Sisters Report are full of examples. Instead of competing with each other for bragging rights about whose schools or hospitals are best, we are standing shoulder to shoulder with each other in Haiti, Asia, India, East Africa, Brazil, North Dakota. We are combining knowledge and resources and uniting around issues.
Could we say that collaboration is the new common charism of religious life today? This is not to discount our historical individual community charisms, but to highlight a new gift of women religious to a world very much in need of it. Can you think of any facet of today's reality — the church, politics, society — that would not benefit from a little collaboration?
As we set out to climb that mountain and remake the world through collaboration, we find that love is common to all our endeavors and something we do well. Love is certainly a gift for the world, especially in light of the new spirit of intolerance and hate that colors our social and political landscape.
Another gift we have to offer is our talent for sharing stories, which leads to love and collaboration and nurtures them both. Have you ever known an ugly person? I can't say I have — because as soon as you get to know someone, have shared their story and "walked a mile in their shoes," they aren't ugly, no matter how many warts they have. Sharing our stories is the best way to get to know each other. It's very hard to fear or hate someone you know.
And stories are such good teachers! The only sermons / homilies I can remember from months or years ago are the ones in the form of stories. (Jesus figured that out — we call them parables.) Stories have a power that mere "preaching" does not. One of the really life-changing stories that I remember from a homily was told by a missionary priest, who recounted a conversation he had in a South American country. A poor peasant woman took him aside and spoke softly, "Father, tell me if this is true. I can't believe it, but one of my friends said it was. I know you will tell me the truth." She asked, "Is it really true that in North America, you flush your toilets with clean water?" The congregation all sat there, stunned, as the truth sank in — that for most of the world, the water in our toilets would be considered a better source of safe drinking water than what they have. And that was all the motivation I needed for working on water as a human right at the United Nations.
As the new liaison to sisters for GSR, I am privileged to work with sisters in this ministry of story-telling, mostly in the columns and blogs sections. The stories and reflections sisters are sending me are fabulous — so varied in topic, and told in so many different voices — no two are alike. I come to work each day eager to see what I will find in my email.
And it is those three-fold blessings which I am most enjoying in my new ministry here: Collaboration and networking with sisters in the U.S. and all over the world, sharing the Love of our sisterhood and our ministries, and Sharing the Stories that we are living to change the world. Today is our day — our gifts are needed as never before!
If you would like to share a story, a theological reflection, a meditation, or even your response to current events, trends in religious life, or a great piece of art, contact me, Sr. Michele Morek, at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 816-968-2232 to discuss your ideas for a column or other contribution to Global Sisters Report.
We are in Great Places! Today is our day! And we are climbing that mountain together!
[Michele Morek is an Ursuline Sister of Mount St. Joseph, Kentucky. She joined GSR in January as liasion to women religious and organizations in the United States.]