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Friday, 03 July 2015 16:56

Living with gratitude, hope and passion

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Sr Carol Sr Berneice 150

For consecrated women and men to live with gratitude and hope involves grounding themselves in their collective story and seeing the historical and cultural context of religious life today. Understanding one’s worldview, the history of religious life and new ways of seeing and thinking about the world provide a context to discern a passionate and radical response to the gospel through engagement and relationship.

This was the broad message of Dr Carol Zinn ssj over six talks at the recent 2015 Catholic Religious Australia (CRA) National Assembly held in Brisbane on 23-25 June with the theme, “Live with Gratitude, Hope and Passion: Celebrating the Year of Consecrated Life.” Sister Carol, a Sister of St Joseph from Philadelphia and the Past President of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), has been on a speaking tour around Australia since early June, offering her insights on religious life from her leadership roles within her congregation, the LCWR and as her congregation’s representative to the United Nations for 13 years.

The Assembly began with a moving Welcome to Country by Aboriginal elder Aunty Estelle Sandow, Thomas Coghill, David Miller and Ravina Waldren of Murri Ministry. CRA President Sister Berneice Loch rsm welcomed to the Assembly around 170 Congregation Leaders, lay partners, and religious leaders representing Papua New Guinea/Solomon Islands and the Congregational Leaders' Conference Aotearoa - New Zealand (CLCANZ).

Sister Carol’s sessions were an invitation to see the world the way God sees and loves: as gift, as sacred, where everything is connected and unified by diversity. “God loves the world unconditionally, with freedom and respect,” she said. “God loves the world inclusively, each and all, all the time.”

Religious life as a radical response to God’s love is indeed a life. Yet as Sr Carol pointed out, “It’s not about the ministry; it’s not about the Church. It is a life lived in and through the Church for the life of the world.”

“What is the radical response to the Gospel that is needed in Australia in 2015?” she asked.

This shared experience of the gifts and future direction of religious life was discussed over three days with Sister Jan Barnett rsj as Facilitator. The event also included presentations from canonist Loreto Sister Mary Wright, Truth Justice and Healing Council CEO Francis Sullivan and CRA immediate Past President Sister Annette Cunliffe rsc, recently appointed Executive Officer of the National Committee of Professional Standards (NCPS).

The thought provoking sessions, enriched with Sr Carol’s heart-warming and humorous anecdotes were appreciated by participants. “This conference allowed me to see things in a different way,” said Sister Lucilla Botha of the Institute of the Sisters of Reparation. “It is always very encouraging to come here. We learn from one another. When we see each other and listen to each other, we feel we are not alone.”

“As a lay person having only worked until now in a purely secular but service-orientated environment, Sister Carol made me think outside my personal comfort zone and reflect deeply about the meaning and purpose of my role in ministry, “ said Dr Tessa Ho, Trustee of Mary Aikenhead Ministries. “Most of all, I felt an overwhelming feeling of loving connectedness with the religious leaders in the room. I was assured that my vulnerability in all our current uncertainties about the future is compatible with living a life well lived: to serve as God wants me to serve.”

At her closing address, Sister Berneice highlighted areas of action and leadership for the gathering: responding to the crisis of abuse in the Church with love and mercy and witnessing to ecological conversion and interconnectedness.

"We can feel intensely the hurt that has been caused to so many people that impacted negatively and very heavily on the lives of the abused and the lives of those intertwined among them.”

“We can't change what has happened, but we can certainly influence and change what will happen into the future,” she said. “It is a time for church leaders to be counted, to put the needs of current and future generations ahead of what might at times seem to be the best interest of our individual groups.”

“It is the change in the heart that will sustain a lasting and consistent determination to bring about a new earth with a new people.” 

She offered encouragement for the gathering. “It can sound so overwhelming for leaders. It illustrates again how much we need to work together now and into the future.”

“Together we do so much better than do things separately. And in this Assembly we can mirror in some little way our interconnectedness...to be part of God's mission in this world.”

By Giselle Lapitan

 

(Photo, top left: Sr Carol Zinn ssj on the left with CRA President Sr Berneice Loch rsm.)

Read upcoming articles and resources on the 2015 CRA National Assembly through www.catholicreligiousaustralia.org.au or follow CRA on Facebook and Twitter.