Well, I haven’t been that good at keeping you all updated. Sometimes it’s just really hard to put it all into words for all of you. There’s so much that’s internal and still yet to be revealed… even to me. That’s why the majority of what you have read on here seems superficial at times.
Last week we started our study on the vows. Judy Fergus of the Orange CSJs came to share with us on poverty. It was good to hear her perspective because she’s been in leadership before. I appreciated what she was able to share with us. It seemed to me by the end of that Tuesday/Wednesday class that she’d only been able to scratch the surface and that iceberg underneath was where my heart has been. It remained untapped until further reading and discussion. It seems like this vow is so much bigger than the monetary poverty/economic poverty that folks keep talking about. This is the aspect that my family I know is worried about: that I won’t have money to live on and that I don’t have control over the money that could be mine alone if I were in a career and single. I see the vow as so much bigger though. Don’t get me wrong, solidarity with the poor is a ministry of the sisters that is very meaningful and necessary for our world. I tend to think that God’s directing me in a way as to not ignore people that are suffer because of different kinds of poverty… poverty of spirit, poverty of health, poverty of life-giving relationships, poverty of knowing a loving God.
There are those that need basics: food, water, shelter, sleep, etc. There are services that help these people receive these needs for the day and others that teach them skills that would get them out of their current situation. My question was: What happens to these people once someone helps them find a job and maybe a home? What got them into this situation? How are they going to maintain it? There are practicals like keeping the job and putting food on the table but there’s a step above that that most likely has been denied as well. This step above is a sense of safety, belonging, and esteem. Even people that grew up with the privilege of two parents, a roof, a bit of money and an education have unmet needs in this area. I think maybe for me that this area of poverty is just as much a call for me (if not more) as the folks without basic needs. There are folks whose needs are based on human rights or a need for healthy relationships. What prevents these things? Sometimes it’s a need for systemic change and sometimes it’s a need for personal transformation. Either way, these are needs that call for attention. These are all things that still need much reflection but I suppose it’s part of this journey of practicing this vow. Like I’ve heard, it’s never an arrival, only a journey.
That was the ministry piece of poverty. Also, the piece that we’ve spent a great deal of time with is the role of poverty within the community. How do we live it together? How do we challenge each other? There are some other big questions that go with this and I know that as you’re reading this, some may even be going through your mind. The question of whether it’s better to “save money” by living alone and closer to work. The question of whether it’s better to live in low-income individual housing than in a house with other sisters. The question of whether it’s better to rent a house in the inner city to be in solidarity with those you minister to or whether it’s better to live elsewhere in a house that’s owned and work with the poor in that same inner city. And also the question of what example do we give to newer or interested members when they meet sisters, ask them about their experience of community living, and hear that actually that sister has lived alone for X number of years. These were all things brought up in our class. I don’t claim to know the answers or solutions to these questions. I just look forward to the open discussions because as one article that we read stated: the vow cannot be standardized for every sister but supported by the community. So I guess that brings the additional questions: Do we support the way our fellow sisters practice the vow of poverty? and How do we do that?
Can you tell it was a topic with more questions than answers? I sort of wish that we could have had someone come talk to us about poverty that’s entered within that last 10-15 years (either instead of or in addition to what we had). It seems to me that sisters who entered right out of high school (or even while still in high school) had a different experience than those of us today. When folks enter today, they come with some sort of independence financially… some more than others of course. I don’t know that this can be said for the majority of sisters that entered Pre-Vatican II. Even though I haven’t had an apartment on my own since I entered right after college, I was independent in many ways and I think it’s a bigger jump both into community and into the vow of poverty, etc.
I’m looking forward to these discussions when I get back this summer. I know these topics are hard for some people because we can live the vows out so differently but with the same heart. That’s what I want to talk about: that same heart… the one that God has called and how sisters have experienced that calling in relation to the vows.
This weekend is the L.A. Religious Education Congress at the Anaheim Convention Center. We had a full day of workshops, etc. today and will be going back tomorrow (Saturday) and also Sunday. What a jam packed weekend with lots of input and even more to reflect on. There’s good energy and material to enliven the part that might be slacking at this conference. It’s like a huge retreat weekend with 40,000 of your best friends. Introverts nightmare as they say but I like it, just a bit more tired afterward. You won’t hear me complaining though, there are great speakers. I’m hoping to write about it after the experience is over this weekend. Some other topics to speak of soon: vow of chastity/celibacy, our intercommunity class with Simone Campbell, and lastly experiences with our presentations. Stay tuned… I promise it won’t be this long next time!