On Being Gathered – Pastor’s Reflection (September 25, 2016)
I write to you from Nashville, Tennessee. Here, our Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia have extended a lavish southern welcome to our cloistered nuns who have gathered for their quadrennial assembly. In the life of their Association this gathering holds the place of a “chapter” among the Friars. Coming together for 10 days, the Nuns follow their accustomed rhythms of prayer, but they also socialize, receive input from speakers,
legislate for their association, and elect officials for the same. The gathering offers luxury of length, joy of
connection, and stress of governance.
I am present for this gathering because I am assigned by the Holy See to accompany the Association as an advisor and facilitator. This comes as my first service in such a role, and has impelled me to hone new skills. Yet another demanding joy and growth! Facilitation offers the daunting challenge of keeping a group together and the exhilaration of helping it find its own mind. What a happy thing to be able to say, “You know, Sisters, you are actually on the same page.” The more a group has a sense of its collective wisdom, the more confidently, and swiftly it can address the issues that emerge in its life.
The dates for this Assembly were set years ago, before I was part of the picture. So, I have been able to see for a long time that there would be a collision between this set of demands and those presented every year by the beginning of parish life. This would pose a challenge in any year, but in this year of so many initiatives it raised serious concerns for me. I took counsel with my Brothers, staff, and parishioners, and asked if we should postpone anything until my return. To a person, they said “No”. The next comment was always some form of, “it will be good for the parish to go on without you.”
This was followed by lots of planning with lots of people about lots of things. We had to get ready for the beginning of Parish Study, the all night watch on September 14-15, the beginning of religious education, the invitation to parish involvement on September 18, and the first Parish Vespers on the same day.
From idea to execution, the Community of the Parish came forward in splendid fashion to take
ownership of its own life. I could see it coming in the steady willingness of people to take on new things, or do old things in new ways. I could also hear it in the voices of people when I called to check in and heard so many fine reports, and I could read of it in the packet sent to me with the relevant programs. I can never say how encouraged and gratified I am by the investment of so many in our common good. Friars and Sisters, staff and parishioners claimed their roles with generosity and panache. What results from such commitment is not just successful events, but patterns of life that will nourish all of us for a long time to come.
Of course I also had the Nuns praying for blessings on all our endeavors, and they are a powerhouse!
As you read these lines, September wanes and October’s gifts come into view.
Next Sunday, October 2, we resume Solemn Mass at Noon at St. Vincent Ferrer. Bishop Walsh will be present to confirm our young people and the Freshmen from our High School will be present to be welcomed into our community.
We will begin a drive for supplies for infants and their mothers to assist in the work of the Sisters of Life.
We celebrate, on Friday, October 7, the great Dominican feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, with a Sung Mass and Rosary procession at St. Catherine’s.
Otherwise, we can pray for a normal month in which to enjoy God’s beautiful autumn.