Called to Communion as Friends of Nano
Thank you for your invitation to be with you here today. [Terry gave this address at a consultative meeting, organised by the Presentation Centre in Ireland, in the Spring of 2006, on the development of the Strategic Plan for Ministry for Presentation Sisters in Ireland.]
I feel blessed and humbled and I am among you simply as your sister and to share my reflections from that space. My reflections come from my own experiences, what I have received from others whom I encountered in life and also from conversations we had together as leadership team.
Called to simple conversation
When I was invited to come to this gathering of the Friends of Nano my first thoughts went to a simple conversation I had some 35 years ago. I was 17 and was searching what next for me. A school friend of mine came to visit me and shared how she has decided to join the Presentation Sisters. I had never seen or heard of Presentation, but something stirred in my heart. I asked her, ‘do these Presentation sisters minister with the poor?’ She said yes. So it was, I wrote my first letter in English to a Presentation sister. It had only one sentence. ‘ Dear Sr…..I heard about you from my friend, can I also come?’ So I came, I saw and I stayed. When I look back at the last 35 years I am amazed at the small and big miracles that have happened in my life and in the lives of so many as we journeyed together. I believe it is simple conversations as brothers and sisters that change lives, that change the world to a more human-divine space for all. History has proved it to us.
You are here today for conversation and our call is to multiply these opportunities for conversations. To me this is the first challenge for us as congregation and for us as citizens of this planet. I wouldn’t be here today if it was not for that simple conversation between friends in my home. And for the courage of the pioneering Presentation women who came to India and dared to engage in deep conversation with my people, mysterious isn’t it?
The Gospel is full of stories of conversations which Jesus had with people particularly people on the margins: the Samaritan woman, the Syrophonecian woman, Zachaeus, disciples, tax collectors and sinners. Through these simple awakening conversations he brought about personal conversion and structural transformation . So it was in Nano’s life, conversations with her sister, her friends, her uncle, her brother, bishop Moylan, those made poor were to be catalysts for major change in this land and across the world.
Called to Spirituality of Being in Communion
The heart of our Congregational Gathering is the call to a Spirituality of being in Communion.
What is at the heart of this spirituality? What does it mean in real life? What does it look like? What implication does it have for us as friends of Nano? In an attempt to engage with these questions we must believe that we are one holy mystery, one sacred community.
I invite you now for a minute or two to look at this artist’s impression of the spirituality of being in communion.
This beautiful picture depicts a whole web of relationships and symbolises real inclusion and interconnectedness where all are welcome and all are connected.
Called to Relationship
We belong to a great web of relationship, and interconnectedness, in which every particle is interwoven with every other, and in, some mysterious way, each particle holds and reflects something of the totality. (Indra’s net) We are part of all that has been, all that is and all that will be. This should make a difference to the way we live. Every choice we make, every response we offer, every reaction we reveal has an effect on that web of being. We are made for relationship. Who we are and who we are becoming is through relationship, with something, or someone. The wisdom of creation proclaims it. ‘No single creature can disengage itself from the dance of creation without jeopardising the eternal beauty of the dance. We are indeed created to be WE. To opt out for merely being I is to opt out of the creative process itself.’ Margaret Silf. It is only in interrelationship that we have our being and meaning. God is relationship. God is communion. Everything any of us does affects all of us, affects the whole universe. Where one of us is, all of us are. I cannot touch a flower without troubling a star. Simply this is the holy mystery of connectedness. ‘Relationships are all there is.’ Margaret Wheatly. Who we are and who we are becoming is because of relationship. ‘ I am because we are.’ (spirit of Africa) Our gathering together here today has already affected the whole congregation and the whole Universe. Whether we like it or not Power and energy is going out of this room.
The heart of the spirituality of communion is to behold the divine in every piece of creation, in ourselves and in one another.. It’s a huge challenge to change our perception, our behaviour and our choices. If we live with that mindfulness, look at the world with holy eyes, would there be war and violence? Would there be hunger and poverty? Would there be power over others? Would there be exclusion of some? Would there be extreme wealth? Would there be destruction of the earth? Instead how beautiful it would be for brothers and sisters to live together in unity and harmony, walking this earth consciously, reverently and compassionately. This is so much at the heart of celtic spirituality, we only need to dip into it.
‘Everything that is in the heavens, on the earth, and under the earth is permeated with connectedness, penetrated with relatedness.’ Hildegard of Bingen
Called to be Citizens of the Cosmos
We are citizens of the cosmos and brothers and sisters to each other and all of creation. Any time I introduce myself to others I always say I am Terry, from Kerala, the Jewel of India. That is how I was introduced this morning. I was challenged by the vision of Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of our time. He said something like this about himself.
First and foremost I am a citizen of the cosmos, then of this planet, then of Asia, then of Tibet and lastly Dalai Lama. That is the heart of the matter. Think Big, be big, let your hearts be greater than the universe. God is greater. God does not confine herself to Christianity, to Catholic Church, to Presentation or to any religion. God is greater than everything… our mission is greater than Presentation. Perhaps we need to make a right about turn in the way we look at ourselves and start thinking big like Dalai Lama. Then perhaps we will see ourselves as citizens of the cosmos and as brothers and sisters to each other and all of creation. Then we will find new expressions of global solidarity.
Called to Solidarity
In a world tossed by violence and war, how do we as friends of Nano be peacemakers and bearers of justice? How do we act justly, love tenderly and walk humbly with our God.
I spent a good number of years in Zambia some of it in a rural area with people made poor. During my time there I received much more than I gave. It happened one day that Patricia a friend of mine and her friend Maria were to go for a meeting for women delegates. Patricia had enough money to hitch a lift but Maria had no money at all, she was too poor. Can any one guess what they did? Patricia decided that they would not hitch but that they would walk together. So they walked in the evening and early hours of the morning to get to the place of the gathering (45 km.) When I met them and heard their story I was inspired, and more so challenged. I never stopped admiring their spirit of solidarity to let go of the small comfort in order to walk with another in their need. This is true solidarity that has feet and hands. This is compassion turned to love action.
Our Challenge is to make more of this solidarity happen between peoples and nations, between men and women, rich and poor, between the human race and the rest of creation. As a Congregation we can share our resources, finance, personnel and property to speak and act for global justice. We need to shift our resources to where the need is greatest so that we can create globalisation of solidarity rather than globalisation of economy.
This calls for a great sense of responsibility to our mission as citizens of this planet and as friends of Nano because what happens anywhere is a matter for us all. As Martin Luther King Jr. said ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’ You might remember the open day during the Congregational Gathering in Dalgan Park. That was a moving experience for me. Suddenly all the stories from around the world became one story of the earth. Within 48 hours we had the whole congregation, associates and friends taking part in a conversation that hugely affected the congregational gathering. To me it was a powerful experience and witness to being cosmic.
Called to seek quiet spaces
I met two young women from Finland in Glendalough this summer who were looking for accommodation in the hermitage where I was staying. So I directed them to the parish office. Late that evening I met them again in the church grounds, which is so beautiful. This is what they told me. ‘We spent most of the day here. This place is full of divine energy. We are here in Ireland for some days. Seeking quiet spaces… where we can sit and meditate, where we can enter into silence.’ Nothing in all creation is so like God as stillness ( Meister Eckhart)
If we want to be peacemakers, people who struggle with those made poor, to engage in non-violent ways then we cannot do it without seeking quiet spaces…where we can sit and come home to silence and stillness…where we can hear the still small voice of the divine in the cries of the poor and the poor earth…where we can take a long loving look at the reality and breathe hope. This is a huge challenge for us, as companions of Nano because she sought it herself so must we. Seek what she sought.
Let God’s silent presence within us become that reality which gives meaning, shape and purpose in our lives.
Called to make a difference
‘Something new is happening. A new vision and a new energy are coming into being.’ Thomas Berry. We are privileged to be part of the NOW moment. It is both a critical moment in earth’s story and an exciting moment. Will we capture this moment and make a difference?
Dear friends, Never doubt the power of a small group of committed people to change the world. You are that small group. You have seen miracles happen before your eyes through your various involvements.
The very title of Presentation Centre speaks of policy and systemic change…through social inclusion, ecology and human rights, and innovative learning. You are blessed you have this structure in Ireland. So much has been done through this centre to enable systemic change. The challenge for all of us is if we are to be about systemic change in these areas then ‘we must encounter and know the poor. An effective way to God is true encounter with the poor…to know and encounter them in actual poor.’ ( Tony Grittins) Not only our hearts but also our feet must be with the poor. We cannot care for the poor without also caring for the earth that sustains them.
No matter what ministry we are engaged in it has a dimension of education and formation. We are challenged to create systems of education in which human dignity is recognised, human rights protected, human development is promoted, human participation is enabled and integrity of creation is respected. Education that awakens the prophet within each other, education that transforms, liberates and not domesticates. Education that is a life long journey of becoming human and revealing the divine. At the heart of this empowerment is peoples education, peoples awareness, peoples organisation, peoples action, peoples power. They are the subject of their own lives. We are simply companions, mid wives enabling life…life for all…partnering each other and creation so that all may have life, life in its fullness. Education today is a call to mentor and multiply leadership.
Like Nano we are called to sing a different song, dance a different step, we need to dare to be different, ‘dare with holy boldness’ because we are to be at the service of the needy in a prophetic way. We need to catch up with Jesus and Nano in this. Anything less than a radical response in the spirit of our foundress is just a recycling of the old. ( Tony Grittins ) It is as living friends of Nano that we can generate hope and vitality. She is not here, we are here and her living energy is within us.
Called to be disciples
Ministry today calls us to a radical following of the Jesus of the Gospel calls us to be disciples and not just devotees. You are all aware of the two feet approach, direct service and systemic change. ‘We must be aware not simply of the pain but we must be aware as well of why it pains, our ministry must not only be to comfort but also to challenge, not only to care but to change, not just to attend to but to advocate, not just of vision but of voice, not just the warmth of our presence but a prophetic stance. We must set out to soothe the pain as well as to cure the cause. We must proclaim Jesus the healer but also Jesus the prophet.’ Joan Chittister. We can’t all do everything certainly together we can do a lot. What we can do together we need not do alone.
Called to ask ourselves…
When was the last time we were accused of being with the marginalised? When was the last time we spent our lives on the razor’s edge of danger? When was the last time I sought silent space, when was the last time I had simple conversations with my neighbours, when was the last time I extended a hand of solidarity? When was the last time I saw the face and voice of divinity in all of creation? In another culture? When was the last time I sought to network with others?
‘Creativity flourishes not in certainty but in questions. We are closer to God when we are asking questions than when we think we have answers.’ Sue Monk Kidd.
Our answers may be different but its important we ask the questions.
We must engage with the deeper “why” questions. If we are to be people of hope we must continue to search for deeper meaning, we must continue to believe that “we can make sorrow and suffering into a compost out of which the roses of joy can grow”.(Satish Kumar) We must be people of hope...people who can look straight into the eyes of reality and breathe hope.
In her day Nano was not always able to solve the problems which confronted her but she refused to ignore them and passionately did all that she could to make a difference to the suffering people of Cork… we are charged with the responsibility to continue to make a difference in our world of today
Dear friends, be brave and like Nano dare to be people of hope…then there will be place at table for everyone born.
Please join in the song: A place at the table…
A Place at the Table
Music: Lori True / Text: Shirley Erena Murray
For everyone born, a place at the table,
for everyone born, clean water and bread,
a shelter, a space, a safe place for growing,
for everyone born, a star overhead.
And God will delight
when we are creators of justice and joy.
Yes, God will delight
when we are creators of justice, justice and joy!
For woman and man, a place at the table,
revising the roles, deciding the share,
with wisdom and grace, dividing the power,
for woman and man a system that’s fair.
For young and for old, a place at the table,
a voice to be heard, a part in the song,
the hands of a child in hands that are wrinkled,
for young and for old, the right to belong.
For just and unjust, a place at the table,
abuser, abused, with need to forgive,
in anger, in hurt, a mindset of mercy,
for just and unjust, a new way to live.
For everyone born, a place at the table,
to live without fear, and simply to be,
to work, to speak out, to witness and worship,
for everyone born, the right to be free.
Not only God will delight…
God is delighting in you today.
Thanks and God bless you all.