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Catholic Sisters Deepen Collaboration for Justice

Sister Dorothy Pagosa, SSJ-TOSF (third from right) and the registration committee prepare for the conference attendees.

On November 11-13, 2014, social justice promoters from congregations of women religious gathered at River's Edge Retreat Center in Cleveland, Ohio for a the first-ever national convocation. Sr. Dorothy Pagosa, SSJ-TOSF joined over 150 participants representing more than 100 congregations from 26 states and one Canadian province at "Entering the Transforming Future: Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) Ministry in the Coming Age of Religious Life."

The justice promoters met to strengthen their work on critical global and national issues. They shared innovative strategies and best practices to respond more effectively to issues that affect the lives of people and the planet. The justice promoters also established a network for intentional collaboration and to share prayer, education and action resources.

Keynote Speaker Marie Dennis, co-president of Pax Christi International, challenged participants to work toward the New Creation. "Work for peace is like that – slowly pushing back the fear, the terrible threat of violence, the reality of social injustice to make room for life. Effective peacemaking acknowledges the interdependence of communities around the world. The fact that our security is intrinsically interconnected with that of the families in that little village in Afghanistan is crucial. In the soil surrounding the village are planted the landmines of further violence and the seeds of peace. But to understand that fact and to discern how we as individuals or nations might nurture the seeds of peace and snuff out the roots of violence, we have to get close enough to such marginal places – from where the world looks entirely different – to understand."

Mary Jo Nelson, OLVM, facilitated the work of the two-day event.

The convocation also featured eight "Transformation Talks" prepared by participants. These TED-style talks shared insights into specific social justice topics, built social media skills, and reflected on the spirituality underlying action for justice.

Participants gathered for "Entering the Transforming Future: JPIC Ministry in the Coming Age of Religious Life" rooted themselves in their Catholic tradition and reached towards the future, as is evident in the name adapted from a line of Rainer Maria Rilke: "The future enters into us, in order to transform itself in us, long before it happens."

"While the future is unknowable, the fact that these Sisters and those who represent them remain deeply committed to justice, transformation and collaboration is a sign of hope for all." said Ann Oestreich, IHM, co-chair of the Convocation.

When asked what the most important insight from the Convocation was, Sr. Dorothy Pagosa commented, "There was great energy here to move forward on issues of justice. We hear a lot about diminishment in religious congregations. This was not evident at the convocation. There was powerful sharing on environment, gender, immigration, etc. The desire to network and work together for a better world was strongly evident."

     
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