“We are Sisters of Charity because we have been called by God to share in a common vision and sense of mission. To respond to this call and to strengthen our dedication, we freely choose to live in community.”
- Constitutions, Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati, para. 42
My local community recently went through a transition. After professing first vows, Sisters Tracy and Andrea moved out of the Novitiate community, reducing our house population from seven to five. To send them off, we gathered for an evening of prayer, food and laughter. During our time of reflection and prayer, we recalled the blessings we had received from each other, and acknowledged the need to let go in order to welcome the new.
Community living is a unique aspect of religious life which makes it distinctive from other vocations. As stated in our congregation’s Constitutions, community life is meant to strengthen our dedication to the call. However, at times, this source of strength also involves times of instability.
Move into an unfamiliar community.
This cycle of transition is especially true for women in formation, who may change local communities with each new stage of formation. We are repeatedly gathered and sent. And this transient lifestyle does not end with formation. During our evening of prayer, the more “mature” members of the Novitiate house community recalled the many good-byes and transitions they have experienced in their lives. The succession of being gathered and sent, both in community and in ministry, is a reality of our lives as women religious.
Why do we do this?
First, it is a very authentic imitation of Jesus’ life. With “nowhere to rest his head” (Mt 8:20), Jesus was a man constantly on the move. The vow of celibacy calls us to radical availability and the freedom to go where we are called. Secondly, with each move, a store of grace awaits us. From each new person we share life with, either in community or in ministry; we gather more gifts and blessings. Like the slow creation of a giant mosaic or quilt, over time we contribute beauty to each other. My picture is not complete without you, and your picture is not complete without me.
We are gathered, and we are sent. But even with frequent transitions, something remains stable. As stated in our Constitutions, “we share in a common vision and sense of mission”. The mission is the common thread that runs through each new local community or ministry experience. As our Novitiate house gathered for our evening of prayer, I looked around the room and was baffled that God had caused all of our paths to converge. Within the group, our ages span about 45 years, and we are quite diverse in terms of personalities and strengths. But what causes such an assortment of women to gather together is the collective response to a common call and vision.
Our physical homes transition and change. Our driving force remains the same. We are followers of Jesus, gathered and sent.