You’ve been invited …
By Sister Kathy Roberg, FSPA Formation Team
We all know the routine. Turn on your computer. Open your email. Find the invitation to a Zoom meeting. Click the link. Set your volume, turn on the camera and wait for the host to let you in. You've joined the others whose faces appear on your screen in "encuentro" — an encounter. We all can say, "Been there, done that." Is this a sign of our times, of what is ours to do in this sacred space? Is this perhaps the Spirit's way of creating interconnectedness so that the bonds of belonging and togetherness can be woven together? Are these Zoom "encuentros" — encounters — happening to heal our own brokenness as well as a fragmented world?
The reality of connecting in the COVID-19 pandemic has become all too familiar and constant for the global networking system. It's easy to manage, safe in protocol and is now the way of encuentro. Genuine encuentros, however, cannot be realized within a Zoom space. Real encuentro is to stand, connected respectfully, face-to-face within each other's sacred space, discovering the beauty in wonderment and recognizing the presence of God. We may have to wait for the Divine moment when COVID is wiped out to again unite in a relational way, standing physically present together.
But for the given time, we do have Zoom. These virtual spaces come with a variety of purposes — committee meetings, strategic planning, evaluating procedures, development proposals, yearly goal setting, etc. Many are vital and help to keep the internal mechanism of an institution spinning. Zoom opportunities come in webinars, conferences, retreats and other avenues for enrichment, reflection and contemplation. Some people have created Zoom calendars which can fill up very quickly. It is possible to experience Zoom fatigue but also to limit your time engaging in it. Encuentro through Zoom is an easy way to connect, to zoom in on new ideas via cyberspace.
There is no stopping the Zoom era, and I would say there is no stopping the movement of the Spirit.
The FSPA Formation Team's dedicating phase — lifelong formation — one of three phases that include discerning and entering, is intended to flow with that movement of the Spirit. We, and many of our sisters, have zoomed into this movement and discovered a wide variety of resources that may stimulate thinking beyond our own perspectives, provoke questions and even unlock unknown mysteries in our own soul world. These experiences can be framed as encuentros. For non-computer users, encuentro is out there, waiting.
We are not static human beings, but we strive to move forward into newness. We yearn from the bottom of our existence for something greater to reflect on and converse over. Our souls need soul talk at times, and resources, available online, in books and music and walks in nature, may be some of the nourishing ways we can take care. One of particular interest is "Living and Leading From a Place of Immense Horizon" by David Whyte, published in the Summer 2020 issue of Leadership Conference of Women Religious' Occasional Papers, in which he speaks of the essential role of spiritual practices, particularly the contemplation of poetry in the work of transforming the world. It is available to sisters in the St. Rose Media Center.
The dedicating phase of FSPA formation is in the very beginning stages of processing this information for you, so stay tuned. You are all invited.
Virtual formation in action
Religious communities from around the country came together in February to celebrate vocations in a groundbreaking way, the virtual 2021 Religious Education Conference. RE Congress declared the event — themed "Proclaim the Promise!" — to be "a radical invitation to believe that our lives and our world are sustained by God's promise."
And it fulfilled that promise. Just under 11,000 people representing 21 countries attended the virtual three-day event. From their computers or mobile devices, they could click their way to the virtual FSPA booth to watch a video, obtain information about the congregation and engage in conversation with several sisters in a chat room forum.
Sister Sarah Hennessey was a volunteer who virtually greeted FSPA booth visitors. "It was interesting, for sure," she shares. "I chatted with a teacher in New Orleans, Louisiana, who was taught by Franciscans in Pennsylvania and was interested in anything Franciscan related."
That teacher was one of 163 attendees who visited the FSPA booth. Of them, 21 visitors claimed a free book through our book giveaway to read and discern from and perhaps share with others. Attendees had their choice of one of five FSPA-authored books: "Cheering for the Good, Leading When It Matters," "Sister Thea Bowman Shooting Star," "Eucharistic Adoration, Reflections in the Franciscan Tradition," "Instrument of Peace," and "Mary of the Angels Chapel: God's Answer to a Bold Promise."
Also in the March 2021 e-edition of Presence:
Sister Karen Lueck publishes book encouraging a different view of leadership
Finding "The Way" through universal values
"Braiding Sweetgrass" woven with social and ecological justice for all creation