Do you have the support you want and need to deepen your spiritual life? To possibly discern a call to religious life? Do you have the support you need to sustain the call in a life giving community? These are some of the questions pondered by members of diverse women's religious congregations who gathered in Burlingame, California, at the Mercy Retreat Center for a program, Moving Forward in Hope, hosted by the National Religious Vocation Conference. Sr. Therese Leckert, OP, and I represented the Dominican Sisters of Peace.
The program served many purposes including providing an opportunity for members of the two women's religious conferences, CMSWR and LCWR, to join in prayer and at table to discuss issues related to the changing demographics of Catholics in the United States. Sr. Mary Johnson, SNDdN, provided statistics about the numbers of self-identified Catholics (57% are age 40 or under) and the changing race and ethnic makeup of US Catholics. She also gave an inspiring presentation which included challenging questions about our willingness to stay open to the transformation that will occur in our religious congregations as we welcome women who may be younger and more culturally diverse than in the past.
As we studied these statistics, Sr. Therese and I also discussed ways that we could invite our Sisters and Associates to continue or to begin connecting with younger, more culturally diverse adults in order for us to help meet their spiritual needs, to learn from them, and to give them the opportunity to experience the beauty and life-giving nature of the Dominican charism for life and mission.
One of the most moving experiences for me occurred in the final prayer gathering and blessing of each other as we prepared to leave the conference. After we prayed the song, Jesus Christ, Yesterday, Today, and Forever, we proceeded to bless each other for the journey, going forth to be Sisters willing to reach across theological, ecclesiological, and lived experiences of religious life, for the sake of helping to do our part to step out of the polarization and divisiveness that permeates our culture in the country and in the Church. The experience also helped me to see the importance of continuing to pray and work for the inclusion of the marginalized and for the equality of women in leadership roles in our Church and in our world.
If you think you have a religious vocation or would like to learn more about our Dominican charism, please contact one of our vocation ministers for a conversation or for more information. The next Come and See Retreat for Dominican Sisters of Peace is set for February in Columbus, Ohio - learn more.