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Emerging Forms/Emerging Mission

Posted on November 1, 2018, by Susan Classen CoL

(Editor’s Note: Part 1: A reflection at the one-year anniversary of the Nov. 4, 2017, vow celebration.)

JoAnn Gates and I recently visited Natural Bridge State Park in Kentucky where I was fascinated by tree roots growing around large boulders in their search for soil. Just as tree roots are drawn around obstacles toward the soil, humans are drawn by God toward that which God loves. In other words, toward mission as an expression of God’s love in the world.

The introduction to the three vows clearly identifies mission as the heart of the call:

Humanity and Earth, our home, are experiencing great suffering, largely as a result of human misuse of resources and energies intended for our common good. Believing that all life is an expression of the Life Energy of God, aware that my life is not given for me alone and desiring to touch suffering with compassion and love, I freely and consciously place my life in the service of the One Life.

At this one-year anniversary of the vow celebration, I provide a brief glimpse into three conversations that point toward new mission opportunities.

• It was noon and JoAnn and I were eating lunch with Cory Lockhart, a retreatant at Cedars of Peace. Cory spends several months a year working with Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) in Palestine. Between stints with CPT, she gives classes and workshops related to compassion, nonviolence and nonviolent communication. We shared our vows with Cory — vows which identify the core energies of grounding, connecting and cooperating as expressions of the life energy of God. How might greater awareness of those universal life energies contribute to peacemaking efforts? What if we worked with Cory to plan a retreat combining that awareness with her Nonviolent Communication Training? That conversation opened the door to opportunities with the Loretto Volunteers, an Outreach Team retreat and the possibility of a Community topical.

• About a dozen Community members were still gathered around the back table in the Motherhouse dining room long after breakfast trays had been cleared. We were in animated conversation with Rachel Plattus, a visitor passing through on her way to Boston. Rachel works with the “Nuns and the Nones,” a movement connecting women religious with justice-oriented millennials who don’t identify with any one religious tradition but who are seeking spiritual meaning and depth. A handful of Loretto members in St. Louis participate in a local gathering of the “Nuns and Nones” and helped make the connection with the Motherhouse. Where might these relationships lead? We don’t know. It is clear, however, that the relationships are energizing, relevant and worth fostering.

• I was at a workshop when I met Charlene Diorka SSJ, program director for the Collaborative Leadership Development Program (CLDP). Loretto members have participated in CLDP, which provides transformational leadership training for religious communities. A quick conversation during the break led to further communication between Charlene and the Emerging Forms Committee. How might CLDP and Loretto work together in convening conversations with other religious communities? We will keep you informed as next steps take shape.

Conversations beyond Loretto are energizing, but conversations within Loretto are equally important and life-filled. How do we ground ourselves during times of change? What relationships and connections hold us? How does power manifest in and through us as we work together and network with others? Our committee is in conversation with others in Loretto as we consider opportunities for Communitywide reflection.

These words from IATW are as inspiring as they are familiar: “Our life in community in the present time empowers us for mission and is itself an expression of mission.” It should come as no surprise, then, that Loretto’s pursuit of emerging forms is giving rise to emerging mission.

Look for Part 2 in the December Interchange.

Susan Classen CoL

Susan Classen CoL

Susan has been a Loretto Co-member since 1996. She is the director of Cedars of Peace, a retreat center on the grounds of the Loretto Motherhouse. A passion for transformation is the common thread that weaves its way through her varied interests which include gardening, woodworking, retreat leading and involvement in Loretto’s Farm and Land Management Committee. Previously, she lived and worked in Latin America.
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