Practicing contemplative participation at LCWR assembly

by Mary Ann McGivern

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Last week I attended the Leadership Conference of Women Religious annual meeting in Atlanta. It was a fine conference. In her keynote, President Marcia Allen invited us to think on the horizon and out of the corners of our eyes how our conference of women religious could continue to benefit our world. Like Israel 4,000 years ago, we are in a state of collapse, a collapse the world shares. But this is the moment when the possibility of transformation exists.

It is a mystery Marcia invites us sisters to enter into. What is the question on the horizon and what answers lie on the periphery? We contemplate the mystery even as we stand with those who are suffering and we try at our tables to tell what we see. Marcia gives us a sense of confidence that fifty years from now we still will be standing on the margins with those in pain and sorrow, though we are just now trying to imagine the form. The conference theme, after all, was "Embracing the Mystery: Living Transformation."

Then Pat Farrell spoke intimately about her experience of contemplation. Pat was the president of LCWR during the doctrinal investigation by the Vatican. Just prior to that meeting in Rome, she and the other sisters participating spent an hour sitting together in silence to prepare. Now Pat described some of knowledge she has gained from her practice and her confidence in the rightness of the path -- even as her life remains active.

Finally Gretta Jupiter led us in a 90-minute contemplative look at racism in U.S. women's religious communities. Professor Shannen Dee Williams presented her research on black women's efforts to become sisters and how often she could find only photos because the words -- news announcements, invitations, archival records -- have been erased. Then we wrote our own sins of racism on strips of paper, made paper chains, prayed for forgiveness, and broke the chains. It was a deeply moving reflection and action, one you could do too.

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