Sr. Ann Delaney's Reflections on the Vocation Conference
It was a wonderful experience for me to attend and participate in the Conference of The National Association of Vocation and Formation Directors. I found it to be refreshing and renewing. The preparation, organization and facilitation were beautifully carried out.
The drama of the opening ritual of a procession to the well with water jugs, beautiful pottery, candles and the globe was wonderfully creative and captured the theme of "Fashioned Formed Fired" to launch the conference in a spirit of joy and enthusiasm. The spark of energy and excitement in the room made one almost feel that magnetic pull between the Divine and all of creation.
The formal welcome, with each Canadian province represented by its flag, engendered a strong sense of national unity. A warm welcome was extended to visitors from others nations who also waved their flags.
The Scriptural themes of the two Samaritans, "The Woman at the Well" (John 4) and "The Good Samaritan" (Luke 10 ), who stopped on the road to help the stranger, gave new meaning to the Ignatian term "contemplatives in action," which we as Sisters of St. Joseph are called to be. The Samaritan woman who encountered Jesus became changed within; the Good Samaritan acted out his compassion toward the stranger by showing kindness.
Sr. Lorraine Caza CND, one of the keynote speakers, touched us deeply through her message and her manner of speaking from her heart. Sr. Lorraine captured us by her own conviction in the value of living religious life as covenant in the Lord. We must shine, she urged us, with authenticity and joy, because this life of commitment is very precious to us as we continue to live with a sense of hope in the God of surprises. It is especially true in this time of uncertainty. We have to communicate the fact that in spite of the uncertainty, and not knowing the end of the story, we can be confident that our lives will have meaning. We have to live knowing that it is in God.
Young people, Sr. Lorraine suggested, will not be drawn to us as women and men in religious life unless we are eager to receive the gift of their lives and are willing to use the gift of their lives courageously and without fear.
Some writers describe our world as being in a crisis of global homelessness. We were challenged to recognize the social fractures and cracks that are in need of healing. The people in our culture are in desperate need of a sense of belonging. Many people have missed this in their family life and are now in search of it through various forms of community.
Be hopeful, Sister Lorraine encouraged us. In reflecting on religious life today and living out the vocational call to follow the Lord, some religious become discouraged by a lack of new members. They join with the disciples on the road to Emmaus who said, "We had hoped." But Jesus surprised the disciples and showed them community in the breaking of the bread. As religious today we were invited to ask ourselves again, "Are we prepared to be surprised and listen to God who says, 'Behold I am doing something new?'" (Isaiah)
Michael Brehl CSSR challenged us to think about what this "something new" might be. He asked us to consider the word fired not in sense of a potter firing a vessel but rather as a rocket waiting on the launching pad. What are the possibilities out there waiting for the youth of today to be lived out tomorrow in "crazy freedom?"
The conference workshops were excellent. They provided new information and some fresh ideas which were shared during the breaks. Many Sisters of St. Joseph of Toronto were involved in this conference. The Leadership Team provided the reception. Sister Thérèse Meunier was part of the planning committee, and Sisters Anne Lemire and Grace Sauvé took part in ritual and liturgy. They gathered for the group picture at left: Back row: Sisters Pat Boucher, Margaret Myatt, Anne Lemire, Thérèse Meunier Front row: Sisters Mary Catherine Doyle, Jane Wilcox, Nida Fe Chavez, Grace Sauvé, Mary Carol Lemire and Ann Delaney.
Given the theme, art played an important role in the conference. Here again, the Sisters of St. Joseph played an important role. Sr. Helen Kluke created most of the pottery and gave a workshop on "The Spirituality of Clay" Sr. Susan Davy made the well, Sisters Betty Lou Knox (see picture) displayed her photos, and Sr. Virginia Varley her art.
The conference made me realize again that showing a sincere delight in our covenant and commitment to God is one particular way of inviting others to "come and see." I think our role today is to live our vows with a sense of joy in a time of uncertainty. This very uncertainty can demonstrate a sense of risk that may be very appealing to young people. I think that today's youth are in search of a sense of community. I was challenged to find more ways to share community with young people.
The last day was a creative dialogue to set new directions for the future. A heartfelt thank you was extended to the Executive and to those who had made the conference possible. The closing prayer and ritual were lively and creative as the group emerged through the doors to go forth to spread the good news to all the world.