A Gathering of Associates and the Religious
Who Journey with Them
St. John’s ,NL Associates and Religious from the Redemptorist, Presentation and Mercy Congregations gathered at the Lantern on October 15-16, 2010 for their first joint Associate/Religious Conference. Three Associate members representing the Congregations of the Sisters of Charity, the Sisters of St. Martha of Nova Scotia and the Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Halifax came also from Nova Scotia to participate in the conference.
The theme of the conference, “With Burning Hearts: Together for Mission”, set the tone and grew in intensity as the conference unfolded. At the opening session on Friday evening, Archbishop Martin Currie, Sister Sharon Fagan, Sister Elizabeth Davis and Father Stephen Morrisey greeted the gathering with words of inspiration, support and encouragement.
The conference presenters, Peg Maddigan and Ann Godfryd, both Associate members of the Congregation of Notre Dame did a magnificent job in facilitating exploration of the three main components in the Associate Relationship: Spirituality, Community and Mission. Through the process of Theological Reflection in the company of revered Scripture personages each phase of the Associate Relationship unfolded.
Session one dealt with The Spirituality of Associate Relationship, with the sub-title “Like a fire burning in us…” from the Emmaus story. It was in the company of Mary and Cleopas as they journeyed to and from Jerusalem that Associates were led to examine their own stories. Allowing Jesus to reinterpret their stories as He had done for Mary and Cleopas, Associates found new insights and deeper meanings which they shared with one another in their groups.
Session two, Journeying Together: “Let me go with you…” (Ruth 1: 11-19) was the focus for the reflection on community. Answering the call to Associate Relationship can mean a real metamorphosis in one’s life – an experience of loss, change, on-going conversion and transformation. In examining the journey of Ruth and Naomi, Associates were asked to reflect and share on the questions, “Who has been like Ruth in my life, supporting me on my journey?” and “What strengths and vulnerabilities do I bring to my spiritual friendships?”
Session three, Partners in Mission and Ministry : “they took him aside and explained…” (Acts 18:24-28). The story of Apollos, Priscilla and Aquila provided an excellent example of the different gifts that we all bring to mission and ministry and how these gifts complement each other. It is in the humble recognition of one’s gifts and in collaboration with others that the richness of the community is offered in service to the Mission of Jesus.
Throughout the conference the prayer, reflection and sharing of one session flowed with ease and growing depth of sharing into the next. The final session provided an opportunity for the Associates and Religious of each congregation to meet together to examine the questions: “What is working for us?” and “What needs to be developed?” These questions led to open and honest sharing resulting in some suggestions and challenges for life and growth.
The final step on the conference journey was to the Basilica for Liturgy. Associates were invited to share in the various ministries at Liturgy and as such were able to give further witness to their role as lay ministers. Archbishop Mart
in Currie spoke in his homily of the Associate Relationship as a valuable lay movement sharing the charisms of their religious congregations for the Mission of Jesus in the Church.
All who participated in this first joint con
ference of NL Associates and Religious came “with burning hearts: together for mission” and left with vessels of rich fuel for feeding the flame. We express deep gratitude to those brave pioneers who set the sparks of Associate Relationship in our congregations and to those many Religious and Associates who have stirred the embers and nurtured the flame throughout the years.
God is indeed doing a new thing among us. It is flaming forth and we are open to perceive it.
Coordinator of Mercy Associates
With Burning Hearts: Together For Mission