Associate Director Julia Townsend’s presentation to CSM Chapter 2019
In their usual manner of Hospitality and generosity, the Sisters of St. Martha welcomed four Martha Associates to participate in 2 ½ days of their general Chapter (April 2019). This was unique and extra special, as Associates are not usually invited to attend any of the general Chapters of Religious Congregations. The Sisters of St. Martha continue to be wise visionaries!!!
Martha Associates, Mary Gillis, River Ryan, CB ; Annella Wehlage, Lethbridge, Alta; Gary Rankin, Trenton, NS; and Julia Townsend, Sydney, NS, were guests of the Sisters during this sacred time in their history. It was our privilege to attend the excellent presentations on Wednesday, April 24 and Thursday, April 25, 2019 given by Sister Elizabeth Davies, RSM, Congregation Leader of the Sisters of Mercy in Newfoundland. In addition to being an extremely well educated Lady, as well as a Scripture Scholar, Sr. Elizabeth was also delightful, with her lilting Newfoundland accent, warm smile and wonderful sense of humor!!!
Sr. Elizabeth opened her presentations with a little history that General Chapters are the oldest forms of democracy for Religious Congregations, going back 1700 years. This event allows all voices to be heard, even the youngest voices! It is pure gift!
Sr. Elizabeth then followed with a beautiful song entitled: “The Mystery of Your Gift”, by Josh Groban (Words on Web Site). An amazing beginning to the two days!!
Sr. Elizabeth’s focus throughout her presentations, was to provide input to the Sisters of St. Martha which could assist them to build on their Direction Statement of Chapter 2014. The Sisters of St. Martha continue to live their lives as mission, seeking “to creatively break open conversations around communion, living community, and ways to respond to the Prophetic call of Apostolic religious life today” (CSM Chapter prayer, 2019)
Over the two days of presentation, Sr. Elizabeth prepared seven sessions. The themes were as follows:
1. Setting out on the Way
2. Exploring this moment in the Martha Charism
3. Sacred Communion of all creation: seeking communion
4. Witness to Life Giving Choices: Prophetic call
5. Living undaunted hope
6. Living our Charism of Gospel Hospitality
7. Weaving the threads into a new tapestry
Sr. Elizabeth’s words were life giving! These are some phrases that spoke to me over the two days of Chapter that we attended, that I would like to share. You may wish to ponder their meaning within your Associate Groups.“Creation is the Body of God” (Richard Rohr)
There are two incarnations: (1) God incarnate in creation (2) God became flesh in Jesus
- “ Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting Covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth” (Gen 9: 16)
- Flourishing humanity; thriving earth; evolving universe (Elizabeth Johnston)
- We have abilities to be “Cantors” of the universe
- Many Religions, one message! Every religion is the one true religion! We all come on many different roads, but every religion has same basic message!
- Vatican 11 says we are a Pilgrim church, always in need of reform and change! A Church in need of conversion and forgiveness, growing in grace, working to understand the truth! In our Church, we have both seekers and dwellers! We do have a Church that is able to embrace all of us, and able to help us to deepen and enrich our faith. Is that happening?
- Pope Francis says we are: ”Missionary Disciples”! The Church which goes forth is a community of Missionary Disciples who take the first step, who are involved and supportive, who bear fruit and rejoice! (Joy of the Gospel)
- Reflect on your intimate connection with the earth.
- “ But I know somehow, that only when it is dark enough, can I see the stars” (Martin Luther King Jr.)
- “There is a crack in everything; that’s how the light gets in” (Leonard Cohen)
- We must keep giving: what more can we give?
- Sisters of St. Martha have been exemplary leaders in sharing the new understanding of the Universe story. The strongest voices have been those of women religious!!
- The heart of Cosmology is the communion of all creation!
- When we gather as a community, the Cosmic Christ is with us, and , we together, are changing all of creation!
- When we pray together, we are changing all of creation!!
- Each of us is unique! God meant there to be absolute diversity!!
- Living the Promise through the pain!
- We need to develop contemplative hearts! Come to the quiet! Stay in the present, experience God there!
- Remember that each one of us holds a piece of the truth!
- Actively listen to each voice!
- “Detuning the strings to get the new sounds” Find out what you can make with what you have left! (Yitzhak Perlman)
- “ Only when we know and name our broken rocks, only then can we be prophetic”
- In the Eucharist, the only ritual which Jesus asks us to repeat, we remember the brokenness of Jesus.
- Five moments of compassion:
- Contemplative seeing
- Heart filled with compassion
- Mercying : what we do
- Building Circles of Gospel Hospitality (Community)
- Building a culture of Gospel Hospitality
- “Our task must be to widen our circle of compassion. To embrace all creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty” (Albert Einstein)
- Every good we do changes all of creation!
- “Tapestry” (Marcienne Reinstra)
It was a blessing to have been present with the Sisters to hear Sr. Elizabeth. There is much for us to reflect on and much for us to do as Associates in helping to live and share the Martha Charism.
On a beautiful spring evening, Thursday, March 21st. what a pleasure it was for all of us, Sisters and Associates, to welcome back Julia Townsend, Director of Martha Associates, our guest and speaker from Antigonish.
It was most fitting that in her forty five minute power point presentation, Julia chose OUR CALL TO HOLINESS as her theme. This topic served to seamlessly reinforce the message from the Document of Pope Francis’ Rejoice and Be Glad. Our group has been reading and discussing this Document at our regular meetings. In summary Julia stated that we are all called to the vocation of holiness; called to be the best versions of ourselves. Through the grace of our Baptism, she related various ways each of us can respond to this call to holiness. Weaving in the lives of some well known Saints, it was interesting to note how they each had experienced enormous struggles and challenges on their own faith journeys. She closed her presentation with an inspiring and uplifting message from Father Bill Burke which was followed by a quiet reflection.
Julia had spent a great deal of time and prayer and preparation putting this presentation to paper and we are all grateful and abundantly blessed by her efforts and enthusiastic spirit!
Next Martha Associate meeting takes place A WEEK EARLIER, April 11th. All members of the Martha Board of Directors will be invited to attend. We’re looking so forward to building and exploring our relationships with them and with our precious Sisters departing this summer, discussing how best to move forward together as we ‘attempt’ to fill some awfully large shoes!!
Joan is in charge of prayer and Annella, Kathy and Ina will provide snacks for the evening.
The last Saturday in May, the 25th, five o’clock,will be our bbq. Please mark this date on your calendars!
Your Associate Scribe,
For our February evening meeting, a huge harvest-like moon hanging low in the sky served to direct us as we made our way to the Retreat Center situated on that ‘holy hill.’
Kathy Gillis used her book SACRED SPACE thoughtfully leading us in chapel prayer. Caroline followed to shepherd discussion on the third chapter of Pope Francis’ document, GAUDETE ET EXSULTATE (Rejoice and Be Glad.) This one dealt with the Beatitudes, and in the Pope’s own words, is a “Christian’s identity card.” To quote further from the document, Pope Francis writes, “Jesus explained with great simplicity what it means to be holy when he gave us the Beatitudes.” I think we all agreed that within that chapter’s nineteen pages, there was much to ponder and pray over, to guide and challenge everyone of us.
For our March meeting, we will be graced by the visit of Julia Townsend from Antigonish. We are all looking forward to her message of inspiration as well as her generous happy spirit. Romano will be our leader of prayer while Sharon and Caroline have volunteered to provide snacks. Our April meeting will be moved a week ahead to the 11th.
Sr. Claudette and Julia were in Calgary on Monday, Feb. 26th, 2018 to meet and visit with three of the Ladies who were active members of the Calgary Associates. Due to the challenges of an Associate group meeting together in such a large city, the Calgary group has had to disband. However, a small group of 4 Ladies remain connected to the Martha Associates. They continue to be invited to the Western Retreat weekend each year, and they still receive a visit from the Martha Associate Director which helps to keep them connected! It was a lovely visit with these wonderful Ladies!!
Sr. Claudette Gallant and myself made our second trip together to Western Canada to visit the Sisters and Associates in Lethbridge! Needless to say…..we left Spring and found Winter!!! There was lots of snow and ice in Lethbridge, and it was cold!!! Thank goodness for my Canada Goose jacket!!
We were greeted warmly by the Sisters who live in Lethbridge, Sr. Josie, Sr. Theresa, Sr. Josephine and Sr. Madeline!! We also had a warm welcome from the Associates who were able to make it to the meeting!
CHARITY FRIENDSHIPS: DEEPENING our RELATIONSHIPS through CONTEMPLATIVE CONVERSATIONS
From October 15 – 21, 2017, I was blessed to be able to attend the Federation Grassroots Retreat at St. Joseph Motherhouse, Sisters of Charity in Cincinnati, Ohio. The weather was beautiful and provided an incredible backdrop to a wonderful week of sharing, friendship and conversation!
A meeting was held at St. Clare’s Convent Monday, April 24th, 2017. Coordinators were present from Sydney Mines, Glace Bay, Eskasoni, Glace Bay and Sydney. Regrets were sent from the Trenton Coordinator / Co- coordinator. After a warm welcome from Sr. Claudette, Julia lead us in the opening prayer. Then each group gave an update on their respective groups. Updates were also given on the progress at Bethany, the 2017 Associate Retreat, Sycamore deadlines, update on the Directory, the upcoming ARCAN Conference, and Mass for Shut Ins. Some discussion was held on concerns, ideas and visions for the future! Our day ended with the praying of our Associate prayer! Details of the meeting will be brought to each respective Associate group by the Coordinators!