Sunday, April 2, 2017

Our Mission Together

Some of the students with whom I was studying 
I have just completed a month of studying French in Lyon, France (thank you to my Congregation for funding the studying).  While studying I lived with a community of Sisters of St Joseph of Lyon.  It was a total immersion for me in the French language and culture.  As I have reflected on what it meant to me to live in a different culture and try to communicate in a different language
Learning to make crepes in French
(emphasis on try), I realized something that is pretty significant to me.  Every evening I engaged in three activities with the sisters, we prayed together, we ate together and we watched the news together.

Together when we prayed the office I struggled mightily to understand what page we were on- numbers are very hard for me to comprehend once you get past 99.  During my time to read, I slaughtered the pronunciation.  Sometimes when we were offering prayers, I could understand what the sisters were sharing but often not.  I might have wondered what the purpose was of attending these prayers when I could understand so little and I really wondered why they didn’t just say I didn’t need to read since what I read was so poor that it really disrupted the flow.  However, I found I both looked forward to and dreaded (my pronunciation was really, really bad) this time together.

In the middle of my studies, my community was invited to join with a Lyon community of the Sisters of the Institut (part of the congregation in Le Puy.  We had a time to visit, had an afternoon tea and then prayer together.  I could follow about 1/3 of the conversation.  However, there came a time when
Visiting with the Sisters
we were talking about mission and the importance of the many things that were happening in the world and how we were responding.  At that time, I think I understood the essence of everything that was being said.  It was quite profound because I knew that they were not talking more slowly or using words that my 4 year old vocabulary could understand…but I knew that we were sharing the essence of who we were together…and I could even say a few simple things to add to the conversation.
After that I think I understood why the praying together in a way that is so different from what I usually do in the US was so meaningful.  It is where our togetherness is deeply felt and shared and our commitment to mission is nurtured.

That leads me to think about my life with the sisters in St Louis.  For several years now, the sisters at the mother house (about 20 of us) gather monthly for sharing of the heart and the order of the house.  Over time the sharing has become deeper and I honestly believe that the atmosphere of the house has deepened too.  Now I would articulate what I have been sensing for a while, it is when we are together in prayer or in conversation, whether we understand what is being said or not, it is when we recognize in each other the vital connections that we have, that we more fully understand our mission together.
My local community in France