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Monday, 16 May 2016 20:33

Think global, act local

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Sr Berneice Loch rsm150 2015I am writing from the International Union of Superiors General (UISG) Plenary meeting in Rome where I find myself in awe at being one of 870 leaders of congregations of women. In all this diversity there is great strength, writes CRA President Sister Berneice Loch rsm.

I am writing from the UISG Plenary meeting in Rome where I find myself in awe at being one of 870 leaders of congregations of women.  Eleven languages are being used and it would be difficult to count how many are spoken by participants. They come from all types of congregations, their sisters engage in many different ministries and some live out their calling in very difficult situations. In all this diversity there is great strength. The theme of the conference is “Weaving Global Solidarity for Life”. One speaker asked if we want to be weavers or if we prefer just to press a button and let machines do the weaving. An interesting image! 

We have been privileged to hear inspirational speakers and to have a “private” audience with the Pope. The humility, joy and “ordinariness” of this extraordinary leader touched us all. A strong call is being heard repeatedly for us to be true to our vocation to be women of prayer, no matter how actively engaged we might be in ministry, and to be people of community who connect within and beyond the Church.   

The Pope challenged us to be servants but not servile. It is clear that he wants women to be able to take their place in the Church. UISG leaders are leading us strongly and purposefully on behalf of all Religious women towards a more inclusive and wiser Church, better able to bring the true message of the Gospel.   

There are ten of us here from Australia. May we bring back something of the inspiration and hope of these days. The UISG website, www.internationalunionsuperiorsgeneral.org, has several papers you will find of interest.  

Giving others a voice

Meanwhile, the federal election season is now well and truly upon us in Australia. As religious women and men we often ask ourselves how we can best use this time to gain traction for the many causes at the centre of all of our hearts. These concerns include caring of our earthly home, ending current policies regarding the treatment of refugee and asylum seekers, enabling every Australian to have access to shelter, providing adequate healthcare and other social services for all Australians, and the very long list could go on.

Due to our resources and the number of people with whom we come in contact, one of the roles we can all undertake is to give a voice to those who may not otherwise have a voice. In saying this I am certainly not underestimating the challenge we face in getting our voice heard, particularly in a national conversation that sometimes seems more focused on “what’s in it for me?”, rather than striving to ask “how can we make it better for us?”

In seeking to give others a voice, this can only be from a position of journeying with people. We certainly cannot seek to speak on their behalf without accompanying them and understanding their issues first and, where possible, assisting them to tell their stories.

One of the frustrations we all face at election time is perhaps the realisation that we have the same list of issues we had at the last election and the one before that and so on. It could be easy to say, “Why bother?” All of us however remember the people for whom we are “bothering” and for the planet we are so concerned about. If we did not “bother”, then there would never be any chance of progress on these issues and those seeking to prosecute the case for alternative views may go even further down the path they are on.

So let us use this election time to remind those women and men running for Parliament about the issues that matter. We should not be afraid to use our networks, particularly as there is always a surprising number of people running for public office who may have been educated at one our schools or had another connection with one of our congregations. It is also the time to get in front of the candidates in our local area. One of the advantages of a longer election campaign may be that there is more time for candidates to meet people. Taking small steps at a local area can build into a much larger force for change.

We can also achieve a lot more by working together and CRA will be seeking to coordinate some of our election efforts so that we are not unnecessarily reinventing the wheel.

It may sound simple, yet let us also remember the power of opening our hearts through prayer.  May all of us continue to call on the divine spirit to guide us and our country as we go through the important step of electing our next government.

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