Companioning towards Communion
As we came together for our session this morning, we were invited to share our learnings and insights from yesterday. However, what came up instead were questions; questions evoked by our sharing on best practices and experiences in the different levels of formation all over the globe. By this time, we had already entered more deeply into the process and clearly the Spirit has been working in us. In fact, when we were introduced to the method of “open space”, which would be our method for the morning session, it soon became visible that we are actually “on fire”.
In brief, “open space” goes somewhat like this: Whoever feels passionate about one particular issue, and would like to discuss it with as many people as possible, is invited to stand up for it and occupy a particular space in the room. The more issues are raised, the more dynamic the method becomes. Then, for a period of around 30 minutes, sisters can join a particular space and topic, discuss about it, and summarize the main points. In the next round, other issues can be visited, while the responsible person remains with her own and keeps the conversation going with a new group of participants. This process was repeated three times. In the end, we gathered in the hall to listen to the summaries.
The issues we worked on were: young people in Europe and the practice of a common novitiate, how to accompany one single formandee, use of social media, being a formator in a foreign country, preparation of CCME both in the sending and the receiving province, disagreement between formators and leadership team, and sexuality. All issues were discussed with great openness and by means of concrete examples. In her synthesis, Sr. Maria Cristina pointed out that all these issues and concerns point to the call and challenge of growing in responsibility, and that formation is meant to assist in this. She further mentioned the importance of discernment, care for life, dialogue, and the primacy of quality over quantity. “We are learners”, she concluded, “and formation means owning our call to be learners”.
In the afternoon Srs. Maria Theresia, Maria Cristina und Miriam informed us about the present global situation of our congregation. They started with statistical data which show that at the end of 2016 we were 3045 sisters in 48 countries. Meanwhile, thanks to our new mission Greece, the number of countries has grown to 49 this year. They continued sharing about common formation programs, present focuses in ministries (“formation is for mission”), as well as the networking that is happening within the congregation, within the Arnoldus’ family, with other congregations, organisations and laity. They also gave an update on the implementation of the resolutions of the 14th General Chapter, encouraging developments and worrisome challenges. Many pictures were added to the presentation, so that within two hours we visibly journeyed through the whole world and congregation. Our reality is certainly complex, and may even be overwhelming, however, as Sr. Maria Theresia put it: “We can possibly be so different because we have a very strong common spirituality”.
There were plenty to share about the “Shepherd’s hour” that followed, and much to bring to the altar in the Eucharist afterwards. As one of us expressed during supper: We have been working for two days now, but it feels much longer. Yet, we still have a long way to go… looking forward to it!