Thursday, August 16, 2012

A Week to Remember in St. Louis- Barbara Marx Hubbard and LCWR

The Sisters of Saint Joseph and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious have a unique and valued relationship with Barbara Marx Hubbard, the renowned futurist who was the keynote speaker at the historic LCWR meeting last week in St. Louis.  Through her relationship with Sr. Judy Cauley, CSJ, a member of the Congregation of St. Joseph, Barbara has learned lots about us and about religious life.  Barbara honored us when she stopped by at an evening gathering of the Sisters of St. Joseph attending LCWR.
Sr. Judy Cauley, CSJ and Barbara Marx Hubbard

In her presentation at LCWR, many Sisters of St. Joseph took note of her frequent use of “our catch phrases” such as the “more,” not separating ourselves from our “neighbors,” and “generous promises”.  One of her closing statements addressed to LCWR was that “I really see you as pilgrims, pioneers evolving into the more.”

In her LCWR presentation, in an emotionally powerful, upbeat mode, Barbara Marx Hubbard shared her growing understanding of the transformative power of evolving consciousness.  She told us that, "We have come together at the most critical time in the history of humanity...our systems are not sustainable as is...we face radical breakdown or through innovation, creativity and love- a breakthrough. She noted that we can no longer return to our prior pre-crisis state...we will either breakdown or break through- we will evolve or we will become extinct.  Many of us could easily see the connections to the LCWR crisis of the doctrinal assessment.

Barbara reflected back to us the characteristics and capacities that she sees in women religious that manifest the type of leadership that a breakthrough requires.  Characteristics such as deep gospel living in the model of Jesus, engaging mysticism, being faithful in seeking out and meeting unmet needs are ideals for which we strive.   Solidarity with the earth, being whole-makers and risk takers for the sake of the mission are values which we try to live.  Social entrepreneurship, being  faithful to dialogue and discernment,  speaking truth to power, and commitment to seeking the more, what Ilia Delio calls "the God ahead in an ever evolving world”, are capacities we have tried to develop and be faithful to for years.   

In speaking about women religious she said we were “the best seedbed to the evolving church and the world.”  She noted that new things always happen in unexpected places. Further quoting Ilia, she said, "Evolution opens a window to the Divine Mystery." She spoke about the power we have to choose to destroy the world or become co-creators. She gave us three points for consideration:
1) Crisis precedes transformation,
2) Problems are evolutionary drivers- they help us see what is possible, and
3) Nature takes parts and through synergy, the broken parts of systems and fragments can become more than the sum of the parts.

I was especially impressed when she shared that the type of leaders we need today are those who handle the emergencies and facilitate what is the emergent new.

Barbara shared her experience at the Democratic National Convention in 1984 when her name was placed in nomination for the Vice Presidential of the United States.  At the convention she  spoke of her wish to create  a “Peace Room” as well equipped and staffed as the current US “War Room”.  It would be able to map, track and connect what is working in the world to create emergent, loving societies.  She identifies this as the most important speech she ever gave.  She then went on to say that of the hundreds of speeches she has given, her address at LCWR was the second most important.   

She then shared with us that as we cultivate evolutionary leadership, what will emerge is new relationships, new social entrepreneurial forms of service, new centers of communication and new ways for our charisms to thrive.  She encouraged us to turn to one another, to form hubs of co-creativity, to expand our networks for a co-creative society and to trust the co-creative process.  She stated, “The future is the primary dwelling place of the God ahead.”

Throughout her talk, Barbara made frequent references to scripture, especially St. Paul, the work of Teilhard de Chardin and other Catholic theologians.  In the end, she encouraged us to see the recent doctrinal assessment as an act of grace.  “It opens up the more, the potentiality of women and this is precisely what the world needs now,” she said.  “Your deep commitments to your charisms and your generous promises are a global agenda for the evolution of the world,” she added.  She challenged us to make our cooperation and compassion more visible in the world.  We need to overcome divisiveness and move away from fragmented either/or points of view.  She expressed great interest in our processes of self- governance where leadership and direction are found by having the largest possible sharing, including everyone.   Expanding openness of communication, sharing leadership and spirituality is what the world is deeply missing.

It was a wonderfully inspiring and challenging week at LCWR.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Live from St. Louis

Update from St. Louis at the LCWR

This morning I attended the pre-meeting, “Innovative Best Practice Forum” prior to the opening of the LCWR conference.  Giving Voice led off this session by talking about the benefit and processes of peer convened and peer led groups for younger members of religious communities.  They spoke of the importance of having a “holding pen” for their struggles, noting that often sisters who are not their age-peers move too quickly to try to solve their problems, which is not always helpful.  Through their peer experience, they cultivate mutuality and explore issues over time in a deeper way.  They find these experiences together with peer led groups help them become more skilled  at seeking more non-peer group mutuality, claiming their place and voice in congregational decision-making processes.  One panel member described her experiences at Giving Voice as a way to “harvest hope with my peers.”

Two religious communities, one from the Sisters of Divine Providence and the other, our Concordia Sisters of St. Joseph, spoke about their models of restructuring governance.  Both groups emphasized involvement of sisters in “conversation circles” to advise the congregational leadership in more significant ways than past leadership models.

Sr. Sharon Casey spoke about her Dominican group’s process in moving towards covenant relationship with another community.  With consultation from Sr. Amy Hereford, CSJ- Carondelet St. Louis, they have discerned their next steps for their congregation.  She noted that they found Amy’s article, “Options for Small Aging Communities” and articles by Ted Dunn to be very helpful.  Then another community further along in the covenant process described how they are entering into a gradual process of building trust and understanding with another religious community to gradually assume responsibility for care for aging members, manage fiscal and legal affairs, and carry out their legacy through sponsored ministries and distribution of assets.  She noted that this covenant relationship allowed them to maintain their identity and international connections and plan their legacy into the future.  It is a gradual process and developing relationship.

After a brief break, attendees went to small table conversations to learn about more innovative best practices.  I attended the Rochester SSJ session on Communal Discernment.  Srs. Mary Lou Mitchell and Eileen Daly spoke about their experience with using communal discernment to make a major decision about health care for their senior sisters.  The process and involvement of all the sisters was very profound and moving.  Using an Ignatian model based on the 30 day exercises and the Sisters of St. Joseph traditions of sharing of the heart and order of the house, the community moved to a decision that felt right for them.  Sr. Eileen noted that “going forward we would probably use a process like this for all major decisions.”  It truly was an example of “Leadership of the Membership.”  Sr. Mary Lou commented that they will “continue to deepen our communal discernment skills, slowing down, not reacting, and taking the time to make the decision.”

It was a great morning.  This afternoon is rather loosely scheduled, with the opening prayer service this evening.  I’ll add pictures when I get home tonight.