Yesterday I joined with six others in committing to being a consociate member of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet (CSJ). One young woman was also received into the novitiate of the CSJ community during yesterday’s ritual of welcome and commitment at the Presentation of Our Lady Chapel in the Carondelet Center in St. Paul.
In the photograph above I’m pictured with the two inspiring women who served as my companions during my two-year consociate candidancy - Rita McDonald, CSJ and Marguerite Corcoran, CSJ.
Following is the full text of my commitment statement.
Friends, for as long as I can remember I’ve always been drawn to the idea and the actual experience of journeying. In my youth in Australia I’d love nothing more than to embark on a quest to scale some deserted rocky outcrop. And as a young adult, I made the journey from Australia to the U.S. so as to study theology at the College of St. Catherine. It was here that I was first introduced to the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet. And in one way or another, I’ve been journeying with them ever since.
Our Christian tradition is filled with journeying stories. One of my favorites is the story of the wandering magi, those three wise strangers from the East, who went in search of the Christ child. I’ve come to see this story as a powerful metaphor for the journey that each one of us is called to take so as to seek and embody a Christ-centered way of relating to our deepest selves, to others, and to God. It’s a way of relating that’s characterized by an openness to mystery; a willingness to search and question, to grapple with the complexities of human life. It’s also a way of relating that’s characterized by trust rather than fear.
I see and experience in the CSJ community the embodiment of this way of relating. CSJ sisters and consociates model it in their interactions with one another, with the “dear neighbor,” and with creation itself. Furthermore, as their inspiring history attests, the CSJs are not afraid to journey – geographically or spiritually – so as to embody this profoundly relational way of being present in and to the world.
As I mentioned, my journey with the CSJ community began in 1994 when I commenced my studies at the College of St. Catherine. In 1997, after an invitation from CSJ Sister Brigid McDonald, I became involved with the Twin Cities justice and peace community – in particular, the weekly vigil at the corporate headquarters of Alliant TechSystems, Minnesota’s largest military contractor. Through such justice and peace work I have come to forge lasting friendships with many CSJ sisters and consociates.
I’ve also built lasting friendships with a number of CSJs through my work with the Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities, the organization to which I serve as executive coordinator. The Sisters have, over the years, been very supportive of the ministry of CPCSM. Our dear friend and CPCSM co-founder Bill Kummer completed the consociate program in the last years of his life. I learned a lot about the CSJs as I observed their loving support of Bill as he prepared for his death.
In addition, and perhaps in part because of my convict heritage [an attempt at humor!], I’ve always been greatly inspired by the CSJ’s efforts to build and sustain a community of equals within the hierarchical structure of the Roman Catholic Church – no mean feat! I’m also inspired by the many ways the CSJ sisters and conscociates bring hope and build community within our wider society. I resonate with how Irene O’Neill, CSJ talks about community. She observes that: “Community is never static; it unfolds and changes. It is about real face-to-face settings in which people can learn how to relate to each other – with trust, shared values, responsibility, caring, and mutual obligation. We need community because it provides connections for [all who are] disconnected . . . forgotten . . . lonely . . . estranged.”
The CSJs embody this understanding of community in their ongoing development of numerous pastoral and spiritual ministries, their proactive response to a range of societal needs, and their challenging of unjust systems of power and economics. All such endeavors provide experiences of connection and belonging for which so many in our world hunger.
The prospect of journeying with the CSJ/consociate community, learning and growing from such a shared pilgrimage, and being able to share my gifts and talents along the way, is the main reason why I feel called to be a CSJ consociate. A personal goal is to be always growing in awareness and compassion, in that way of relating that I spoke of earlier and which our brother Jesus embodied - and continues to embody through communities like this one.
I greatly appreciate being welcomed as a fellow pilgrim within the CSJ community, and am honored to be able to walk with such wise and justice-making women and men. I therefore commit myself to live the mission of the Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet and Consociates, St. Paul Province, moving always toward profound love of God and the dear neighbor without distinction. I pledge myself to live the vision and values of the community as a consociate within the context of my life and responsibilities.
Note: The beautiful candle that each new consociate was given upon making their commitment was handcrafted by Gerrie Lane, CSJ.
See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Beginning the Process
Reflections on Associate/Consociate Programs by Joan Chittister