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Thursday, 04 August 2011 02:59

Reflecting on new directions

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"Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland."  Isaiah, 43:18-19

These were the words that kept echoing in my head as we discussed the survey at our National Assembly in Hobart in early July. Even a quick glance at the report reveals that there is very little point in dwelling on the past or longing for former days. 'The future is not what it used to be'. It will be something quite new. Yet in our discussions in Hobart there was hope and energy; energy about a new call as Religious. The future might be more limited but it will be faith-filled, mystical and prophetic.

Today we are both blest and cursed to live in a time when the old certainties have been eroded and the new is not yet convincing. That is why I find these words from Isaiah so apt and encouraging. Isaiah is speaking to Jews sitting exiled in Babylon and longing for Jerusalem. He tells them to 'forget the former things', when all they could think of was the Exodus and the Temple. He promises them that he is doing a new and better thing. However, it is still a shoot and only just springing forth. Its beauty is fragile and far from irresistible. It can easily be ignored or overlooked.

That is why Isaiah challenges them: "Do not you perceive it? Can you not see it?"

One of the challenges of the survey and of leadership today is to be able to see the 'new life' and to celebrate and encourage it. We need bifocals that will help us face the challenges that come with diminishment and ageing and at the same time recognise the power of God breaking through, the new things God is doing.

The survey is not just a collection of graphs and tables. It is part of the 'signs of the times'; the springboard for future theological and prayerful reflection.

We are challenged to reflect on the reality of the figures, as we will not find the new thing without discernment. In doing this we need to reflect on our visions and to plan for the future.

We need to care for our younger members because there are so few of them and we need to work at vocations.

We have to cooperate and collaborate with one another. We also have a call to partnership with laity as we are not going to be able to exist on our own.

It is easy to be hopeful when bolstered by the success of our works and the optimism of everyone around us but it requires faith and courage to trust that all will be well when we are not so successful, when the future is uncertain and when God often seems absent.  This was precisely the position of the Jews to whom Isaiah was speaking. But Isaiah, assured them that God was doing a new and better thing. 'Can you not see it?' Hopefully this survey and the conversations it seeds and provokes will help us to see the new life and celebrate and build on it.

Father Noel Connolly SSC
Regional Director
St Columbans Mission Society, Australia/New Zealand

Pathways November 2010

Have your say...


"thank you, Father Connoly for your words of wisdom. when i was a young one, and visioned new ways for my order, it was fiercely resisted. that was back in the late '60's. May the now oldies (I am 70 myself now) have more courage!"
- godsgirl, 27-11-2010

"Conggatulatio Father for your enlightment about faith.You are from St Columbans Mission Society. Please Fr, may I know more about them? my E-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it."
- TOBBY OKOL ECAT, 02-12-2010