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.