Yesterday afternoon, I arrived in Tipton, IN for a meeting with Marty McEntee. Usually while I'm in Chicago, I will be having two class days with Kathy but this week we planned a history class. Since the congregation is in it's infancy, the best person to go to is Marty (whom some affectionary refer to as Mother Marty). Marty was the president of the Tipton congregation which sparked the discussions that started to take place. Around 2000, the Tipton congregation was looking at possible changes to make to their community. They decided that they needed to look further at three options because they knew that the Spirit was not leading them to become one of the "dying breed". During community meetings, the three options they looked at were a merger, autonomy or a union with one or more other communities. In the midst of all of this Marty had come to build relationships with leadership folks in LaGrange and Wheeling at first and then more leadership members from the heartland region came to enter into their dialogue which turned into talks about reconfiguration a few years later.
It was a great two days with Marty! She was able to explain things step by step and show me who God involved throughout the process to make the congregation what it is becoming today. I was surprised when Marty told me that there wasn't a dream inside her mind that she went after. Instead, it seems to me that Marty saw a need within her congregation and allowed the Holy Spirit to work and get creative. When the sisters got their hands dirty, they were able to bring about a new zeal within more people than the 30+ Tipton sisters that said "Yes" to the Spirit's call. I never enjoyed history class very much when I was in school but this adventure I definitely enjoyed. I was able to talk to someone who was part of the history making behind the scenes. Living history is always much better than the kind you find in the books and I feel like to varying degrees, we're all a part of the living history.
Last night, Marty, Theresa MacIntyre, Veronica Baumgartner, and myself went out for dinner and went back to Marty's house for dessert. Was a great way to end the night of CSJ History 101!
I picked the title of this post because Marty said the quoted portion a couple times during our meeting. I'm always looking for new ways to express things with imagery and this is the best I've heard in a while. It seems to me that the Tipton congregation had the option of "rearranging the deck furniture on the Titanic". They saw that they weren't going to last much longer being an independent congregation and they could have just kept shuffling the leadership pool until there was no one left to lead. Instead, each sister was willing to surrender their identity of "Sister of St Joseph of Tipton" and found that they could still continue their identity of "Sister of St Joseph". That's what each of the sisters of the seven communities had to do and because of that, I can say that they've brought me new life as much as they have themselves. Thank you to each one of you for the tears, the sacrifice and the love that you put into this new congregation so far. We have hope, a new "fiery" zeal, the blessing of the Holy Spirit and also more compassion for each other. I learned a lot with Marty and have come to a knew appreciation of what it means to think BIG with the Spirit.
I hope through the CSJ example, others will learn to stop "rearranging the deck furniture on their Titanic" and think bigger!