All called to transformative leadership

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At the 35th General Chapter of the SNJM, Pat Murray, IBVM, held the attention of sisters, affiliates and partners present. Referring to world events and their impact on global society and contemporary religious life, she saw an invitation to two movements, “firstly to go deeper within and secondly to extend the embrace of our lives to the needs of our world.”

In keeping with the theme of “The Call of Our Lives”, Sister Murray linked four aspects to the process that each person can undertake for transformative leadership:

  • Acknowledging wounds
  • Fostering interculturality
  • Practicing radical hospitality
  • Building global brotherhood and sisterhood

Her words resonated with SNJM sisters who were called upon to discuss them. “We are invited to rebuild our relationships with ourselves, with others and with God,” said one participant, who insisted on the need to “dig deeper”. Others emphasized the importance of listening, recalling that we “didn’t know how to listen to ourselves and the world, without judging the world.”

The importance of listening to all people, especially those who are suffering, is also essential. “We need to be more attentive to people who are going through difficult things, who have hidden suffering and who don’t feel understood enough.”

Discovering the culture of others

The question of interculturality brought to light the benefits of being in regular contact with people of different nationalities, especially at Maison Jésus-Marie (MJM). It requires creativity to get to know each other’s culture and discover what is hidden under the tip of the iceberg. Similarly, we must learn to be creative in our hospitality towards strangers to be able to help those in need.

Some sisters are comforted to know that they share the same challenges and realities with each other, and that, through their “small daily actions”, they participate in building this renewal. While each person’s abilities must take into account their own limits and context, their actions are nevertheless still relevant.

Commenting on the words and actions of Pope Francis in her talk, Sister Pat Murray highlighted his attitudes and the movement he has inspired to create a synodal Church. She remarked that the Pope’s ability to acknowledge his mistakes resonated with sisters, as did his promise to show more compassion and kindness, to be more benevolent, and to support and listen to the needy.

The place of women in the Church

The speaker recalled the collaborative work among women religious congregations under the umbrella of the International Union of Superiors General (UISG), which includes some 2,000 communities with over 700,000 women religious worldwide. Closer collaboration with male counterparts has also recently begun.

In this journey to build global sisterhood and brotherhood, she also addressed the place of women in the Church and the important role they can, and do, play. Acknowledging that several steps have been taken to increase the place of women in the Church by Pope Francis, Sister Pat Murray recalled that even Pope Francis has said “we haven’t understood how and why women are important in the Church.”

As one participant pointed out, women are not readily accepted in the Church even though they have knowledge, skills and experiences to share. Still, several took the opportunity to express their determination “to share their particular charism.”

While no one present was able to precisely answer the question raised by one participant “What can we do to change things in our current context?” some mentioned the importance, as religious women, of continuing with their commitments wherever they are: whether it be with refugee committees, on boards of directors, or in parishes.

On this point, as with the creation of a synodical Church, the sisters agreed that we must think outside the box. Sister Murray added with a note of optimism that “we will see the presence and leadership of women flourish.” She concluded by saying “we can only answer the call of our lives by walking together, sharing the lights of the Holy Spirit, as we move toward the edge of tomorrow.”