By Sr. Shannon Fox
Giving Voice is a peer-led grassroots national organization of Catholic sisters under the age of fifty which creates spaces for younger women religious to give voice to their hopes, dreams and challenges in religious life.
"Charism Happens" was the mantra of the Giving Voice 2013 gathering at Notre Dame de Namur University in Belmont, California. The theme of the gathering was "Mission and Ministry in the 21st Century." Younger sisters ranging in age from twenty to fifty from more than thirty congregations gathered together to dream and reflect together on this theme. Sr. Kimberly Mulhearn and I were fortunate enough to attend this exciting and inspiring gathering.
The weekend was peer facilitated by the Giving Voice Core team and National Gathering Planning Team. Our guest speaker was Sr. Yolanda Tarango, CCVI, renowned theologian and congregation leader of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word. She discussed her experience of Mission and Ministry in the 21st Century. Some important insights she offered included: "The religious life we joined is not the religious life we are going to live" and that "charism is dynamic, not static." The message was that as religious, we continue to evolve and change with the times.
We also engaged in "open space technology" that allowed us to share our deep stories and peer facilitated discussions around such topics as multicultural ministry, visioning of future religious life, building visibility of younger women religious, playfulness in ministry, and inter-congregational collaboration. Discussion centered on mission and ministry and how we as younger religious can continue to plant seeds and grow our charism in our ministries.
One of the best sharings of the weekend was hearing members of the group give their "harvest" or experience of the happenings of the days together. They shared their gifts, insights, hopes and dreams of the possibilities for the future of religious life. One of the major insights from these sharings was the realization that "we are walking the bridge and building it at the same time" and that together we will reach the other side of that bridge.
The most important aspect of the gathering was the opportunity to gather with a peer group to share our stories, dream and reflect together on what mission, ministry and religious life in general mean to us. Even though we may be smaller in number, we are still following our call, because we "seek the face of God and seek to be the face of God."
Further information, insights and reflections from this gathering can be found online at www.giving-voice.org.