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Becoming Attentive to Signs of Emergence in Our Midst

Posted on July 1, 2020, by Catherine (Kitty) Madden CoL

Pink and purple butterfly graphic for Interchange What is Emerging?

Against the backdrop of the coronavirus global pandemic, with the new moon of late May beginning to set with the sun, 25 women from 19 locations in two countries came together for a weekend retreat where we became “a temporary intentional community of diverse people wanting to explore emerging forms of living a committed life.”

It was not the usual Loretto retreat on the beautiful Motherhouse grounds that was envisioned by the planning committee made up of Susan Classen, JoAnn Gates, Cathy Mueller and consultant Debbie Asbury. No airport pickups. No rooms to prepare. No meal plans. Rather, in response to the need to “shelter in place,” with the able assistance of Zoom tech adviser Lydia Ahlum Hanson, each of us settled into a neat little square, all of us nicely fitting on one page.

As JoAnn invited each of us to share “What has been on your plate today?” and “How are you?” the little squares on the page easily began to form community. Guided by Debbie, our facilitators used graphics and visuals (often from nature), music, poetry (including “Blessing” and “The Porch of Possibility” by Cecily Jones), and Tai Chi movement, also ensuring free time for prayer and processing, often in nature. Google docs helped focus new learnings and allowed for creative additions to our discussions.

Reminding us that “longing gives rise to commitment,” JoAnn, Susan and Cathy walked us through Susan and JoAnn’s Loretto-accompanied journey that began with musings in 2007 and culminated in the making of non-canonical vows in Loretto in November of 2017.

Zoom breakouts deepened our sense of community as we shared past experiences, present ministries, hopes and dreams for the future. Given that we all were women, major areas of diversity were in age (32 to 83) and sexual orientation, together with the wide range of ministries represented: from care for the sick, counseling and consulting, work with migrants, care for the elderly and those sexually abused, retreat work and work for climate change, community development and leadership, together with the accompaniment of younger people seeking new ways of living committed lives. Claire brought her work with youth in Call to Action and her longing to one day be ordained a priest, and Katie shared her ongoing journey with Nuns and Nones, aka Sisters and Seekers, and the ways in which the movement is flourishing.

However, looking around the screen, we saw that color, gender and cultural diversity were notably missing. Thus, the culminating session was marked by our strong collective desire to ensure that “radical inclusivity in the service of life” needs to be at the core of whatever new forms might be emerging.

Postscript: Writing with deep sadness in the aftermath of the Memorial Day lynching of George Floyd, I give thanks for the ways in which our sisters and brothers, young and old, of all colors and cultures, are coming together in radically inclusive ways in their commitment to root out systemic racism, ensuring that “everyone be able to breathe.”

Retreat participants ‘settled into their neat little squares.’
Photo courtesy of Katie Gordon

Catherine (Kitty) Madden CoL

Catherine (Kitty) Madden CoL, continues to work as a volunteer in social work and international outreach with Casa Materna, which provided services for high-risk pregnant women from rural communities in the northern Matagalpa region of Nicaragua., to help reduce maternal and infant death. Kitty helped to develop a fund-raising group called Friends of Casa Materna to support Casa’s mission. She resides in Matagalpa.
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Loretto welcomes you

Learn more or plan a visit to the Motherhouse!