About every five years, our sisters gather together from their missions across the US, Puerto Rico and Mexico for an Assembly. An Assembly is something like in-service training for us. This time, our theme was Goal One from our 2013 Chapter, “to enhance community life and spirituality.”
In the morning we had some fantastic presentations that left us wanting more. Fr. Patrick Griffin, CM regrounded us in our Vincentian heritage. Archivist Fr. Gary Banks, ST reminded us of our avant-garde foundation in the rural South, the unlikeliest location for a Catholic religious order to be born. Archivist Sr. Theresa Ahern, MSBT reviewed the many cities and towns across the United States, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Mexico and Cuba where we have lived and served and formed Catholic apostles over the decades that followed.
Clearly our presenters enhanced our spirituality! Fr. Gary reminded us of our first fervor, when drawing and hauling well water was considered fun. He reminded us of the tragic burning of our first beautiful Motherhouse that, nevertheless, left behind the only thing we truly needed: a humble wooden Chapel which still embodies the true essence of our spirit.
Sr. Terry reminded us that in all the stunning profusion of disparate ministries we have taken on over the years, we have always and only really been about strengthening the spirituality of the laity. We do whatever we can, wherever we are, as long as we can do that one thing.
What about the afternoons? We could have had a guest speaker give presentations on community life. We could have had workshops in communication or conflict resolution. It’s not as if we couldn’t benefit from it! Or we could have some quality time together as sisters; actually enhancing our community life rather than talking about it. What would stay with us longer? What would warm our hearts? What would actually enhance our community life? We chose to set aside time to simply be together in everyday community life activities together.
Yesterday, I picked up the book we each received as a gift at the end of our Assembly: Called to Community. And I remembered walking into room after room of my sisters having fun together: chopping cilantro for salsa, gluing snowflakes onto homemade Christmas cards, sharing stories about their first missions, twisting silk flowers into wreaths, knitting prayer shawls, learning how to paint with water colors, doggedly filling in the endless blue sky on a jigsaw puzzle….
As Missionary Servants, we know in our bones this life is not simply about the work. We are by our very name (i.e. Trinity) called to community. It is by being in this together, by loving each other and laughing and having fun not working together, that we become an authentic Power for Good.