Why mission matters: annual sponsorship conference
Why mission matters: annual sponsorship conference shines light on service today
Pat Kerrigan and Emilio Alvarez
For the FSPA sisters, affiliates, prayer partners, sponsored organization staff members, Assisi pilgrims and guests present for the 28th annual sponsorship conference, there was a call to mission.
Co-presenters Sister Fran Ferder and Father John Heagle shared their years of ministerial, pastoral and professional experience. Sister Fran and Father John co-present at national and international conferences, lead workshops and have authored several books and articles on spirituality and human relationships.
Together, they explored with attendees “Why Mission Matters.”
Father John asked: “Who are you and what are your gifts? What difference does your mission make? How do you explain what you do?” He added, “mission is not just a mission statement … it’s a story that we live. A story that is deeply personal.”
Sister Fran suggested that “we’re building something together that’s bigger than all of us. Mission grips us; it makes us want to be more compassionate.”
So what is our mission today, during a time when, as Father John noted, “our biggest moral challenge is coming to respect the other?” What is our call today? And it’s not a call that will come by phone. Rather, Sister Fran explained, “the call comes quietly from our deepest desires; it comes from that which we want to make better. It is out of that deepest call that our mission arises.”
Invited to respond to Sister Fran and Father John’s presentation, Sister Laura Nettles challenged organizations of today. “Earlier, Sister Fran used as metaphor the building of the Cathedral of Notre Dame and the builders’ perceptions. Some see themselves moving rocks. Some see themselves building a tower. Some, the entire cathedral. If, together, today, we are building something bigger than ourselves, do we enable our colleagues to ‘build a cathedral?’ Do they know they’re ‘building a cathedral’ or do they think they’re simply moving rocks? And, if we’re called to be healers, not to fix, but to be present, how do we do that? How do we come together and heal one another?”
Kristy Walz, Franciscan Spirituality Center development director, summarized the presentation as bringing messages of inclusivity and love. “Thank you for reigniting in me wonder and awe.”
St. Anthony Regional Hospital & Nursing Home CEO Ed Smith offered “our organization, our community has been nurtured by the FSPA. I am a ‘Franciscan Lutheran’ inspired by the sisters to do better. So when asked ‘what do you do?’ we respond: we make our friends’, our neighbors’, lives better.”
The conference concluded with the long-standing tradition of presenting the Christian Mission Award — first presented in 1993 to St. Clare Health Mission. Pat Kerrigan, FSPA mission integration director, proudly honored Viterbo University’s Magnify Retreat. “Through these student-led retreats,” said Emilio Alvarez, Viterbo University director of campus ministry, “participants get a sense that there is a God who truly loves them.” The retreats include games, talks, as well as time in reflection and prayer. The first Magnify Retreat was held in 2013. “The idea of what Magnify stands for is to magnify what God has given you.”