Thursday, September 28, 2017

Awakening the Energies of Love - ARCAN 2017 Conference

By: Linda Longmire, Sisters of Saint Martha Associate

Atlantic sisters and associates attend ARCAN conference

ARCAN (the Atlantic Religious Congregations and Associate Network) held its conference in early June at Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax, NS. With the theme of Greening Our Hearts, it was a meaningful look at the evolving nature of Christian spirituality through opening, growing, evolving hearts, toward the alluring call of God within all of creation... and by the very nature of love, connecting us all.

Facilitator Dolores Hall, DMin, is a warm, genuine and deeply spiritual woman.  A former Presentation Sister, she now lives with private vows and is an Associate of the ecumenical Christian community of Iona, Scotland.   She wove the conference throughout with the wisdom of poet Mary Oliver:  “Instructions for living a life: Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.”

The conference began with a respectful acknowledgement of Aboriginal peoples’ understanding of what the rest of us are just awakening to:  that, indeed, the Creator Spirit of God is within all of creation. We were led in a four directions prayer with drumming and a prayer in Mi’kmaq.
Sisters of St. Martha Antigonish, sisters and associates

We also learned about the destruction of the cod fishery in Newfoundland as one example of a devastating ecological crisis that became a sociological crisis as well, for whole communities. Hall stressed the importance of accepting reality and grieving for these losses, but not getting stuck in grief so we are able to move toward hope. Hope was defined as “moving in love’s direction”.

We were reminded that Jesus teaches that he has come so we may evolve spiritually, “that you may have life, and life abundantly”. And that God asks all of creation,  “Do you love me?” An evolving Christian spirituality awakens to this love with awe, wonder and imagination. It was Teilhard de Chardin who said that the spiritual, human and creation journey is fundamentally an awakening of the energies of love.

We recognize that our evolving spirituality also embraces the evolving nature of the relationship between and among Sisters and Associates.  Hall feels strongly that the Church and the world need Associates to be carriers of the great charisms of religious congregations, and that together we are choosing to be an integral part of an evolving nature rather than a culture of extinction.

Peg Madigan, co-founder of ARCAN, spoke to me of how God led her from her deep need for spiritual community to an Associate group, and to her eventual formation of ARCAN with S. Alma MacLellan, CND. I pointedly asked why she didn’t simply join a prayer group at her church; why her need for an Associate group? Peg spoke of the spiritual depth she was hungering for and that it was with the association with the Sisters that she found it. She also encourages us to allow God to be the one leading, as we evolve in this relationship.

It seems to me that Associates are to the Sisters what Greenpeace activists are to protecting the environment. The Sisters have nurtured the inner environment where hunger for spiritual depth is found.  Sisters and – by influence – Associates have evolved from being nurturers and protectors of this sacred environment of the heart into protectors of the entire cosmos, aware that every bit and particle of it is sacred and connected, and full of the heart of God.

As Sisters and Associates, we are the light and fire that our spiritually-hungry world so cries out for. And together, we can pray that beautiful prayer that our facilitator shared with us from the simple Scottish folk of a time long past: “in the name of God who creates life; in the name of Jesus who loves life; in the name of the Spirit who is the fire of life....” Together, we are awakening the energies of love.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Co-creating the Future God Desires

By:  Rita Woehlcke, Sister of St. Joseph
From:  The Associate, Spring 2017

As sisters and associates of our various congregations, we enter 2017 more sure of and committed to God’s  desires  for our world, especially as they are expressed in our various charisms and missions. Like our first sisters, we are meant to live “eyes wide open, ears attentive, spirit alert, sleeves rolled up” to address the miseries of our day. 

We look at the world God loves and see a country divided, a crisis of what media to trust, a world of devastating piecemeal wars, orphaned children, persons trafficked, countless refugees, festering pockets of hate and a resistance to what science is telling us about the plight of Earth. Violence and threat are palpable. It is easy to be overwhelmed and paralyzed by the scope of the needs that can block us from the seemingly small but great good we can accomplish where we are.

We believe God desires a different future and that we sisters and associates are exactly who God wants to help make God’s dream a reality. It is entrusted to us. We hear the challenge.

And so the question looms, “How big is my soul?” Our first sisters physically felt the hunger, the 
miseries of the people they served. They shared their hardships.

Our lives prepare us for the same heartfelt connections. What heartbreak and loss have stretched our hearts so that we feel and know the grieving parents and widows of the Mideast? What personal trauma creates solidarity in us with all who suffer oppression, derision or shame simply for being who they are? What debt of gratitude for the unmerited blessings we have received binds us to those in need of our blessing?

While the sisters of the past are grateful for our appreciation of their spirit and good works, they are longing for more than admiration. They are longing for us to be in our day what they were in theirs, persons inspired by the Gospel to attitudes and actions of unbounded love. They long for us to join them in “exploration into God” – not through big projects but by daily building of relationships of reverence through the practice of non-violence.

The human heart can go to the lengths of God.
Christopher Fry
Dark and cold we may be, but this 
Is no winter now. The frozen misery 
Of centuries breaks, cracks, begins to move;
The thunder is the thunder of the floes.
The thaw, the flood, the upstart Spring.

Thank God our time is now when wrong
Comes up to face us everywhere, 
Never to leave us ‘til we take 
The longest stride of soul men ever took.

Affairs are now soul size.
The enterprise is exploration into God.
Where are you making for? It takes
So many thousand years to wake,
But will you wake for pity’s sake?

A SLEEP OF PRISONERS,” from the play with that title,
By Christopher Fry, 1951

Reflection Questions:
  • How do the challenges of today’s world resemble those faced by our first sisters?
  • What graces do I need to respond as generously as they did?
  • How can we support one another and practice together non-violence in thought, speech, action?

Suggested Spiritual Practices:
  • Set the daily intention to let your mission and charism permeate all you do, asking God’s help and the intercession of our founder, Catherine McAuley.
  • Ask for the grace to be stretched in love and notice at the day’s end how God answered that prayer.
  • Practice gratitude.  Thank God for the opportunity to “fill up what is wanting in the sufferings of Christ.”

Glory be to God whose power working in us can do
Infinitely more that we can ask or imagine.         Ephesians 3:20

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Protecting Our Sacred Inner Environment - the associate movement

By: Linda Longmire, A-csm

In the early 70’s, when GreenPeace emerged as environmental activists, many of us thought that they were a fringe group overreacting to their perceived environmental concerns. However, with the growing number of environmental scientists and educators, such as David Suzuki, with his grounded presence and gravely concerned voice, speaking out about our need to care for the Earth, we have slowly come to understand the necessity of not only preserving the beauty of the Earth, but our great need to protect it as we grow in awareness of our interconnectedness to the Earth, and all creation, and of our utter dependence on it for our very survival.

I see a parallel here with the associates of women’s religious communities. We, as associates are equally concerned about taking care of the inner environment- the inner lives of people- and recognize the need to preserve its sacred beauty and to protect this inner spiritual environment as we depend upon it for our living out of the essence of what it is to be fully human.

As associates, we recognize that it is in very large part the Sisters of Religious communities who, throughout history, have cultivated and provided sacred sanctuaries, literally and metaphorically, for those in the secular world who recognized their hunger for God and for a sense of the Sacred in their lives. We are aware that the life of the Sisters and their communities feed the inner environment - the life of one’s soul.

It seems to me that ARCAN, the Atlantic Religious Congregations and Associates Network (as well as other associates- 55,000 in the US alone), is to the inner environment what GreenPeace is to the outer environment. There is a shared view that there is something precious and sacred to preserve, something to which we are all connected and utterly dependent upon, whether we are conscious of this connectedness or not, and that this view leads us to a passionate desire to protect what is deeply valued.

The Sisters and their way of life and being, in and with God, are the greening trees, the flowing rivers, the abundant fields. The associates are the spiritual environmentalists who deeply value the Sisters and their communities and want to preserve their beauty and to protect the inmost Sacred that is the source of life and interconnectedness of all creation.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

ARCAN 2017 Conference - "Greening Our Hearts"

Dolores Hall, D.Min,
ARCAN 2017 conference presenter

We are very excited to announce that Dolores Hall, D.Min, will be keynote speaker at the ARCAN conference to be held at Mount Saint Vincent University, Halifax, June 2-3, 2017.

Registration is now open !  To register online follow this link....

If you've attended other ARCAN conferences, you won't want to miss this one !   And if you haven't attended, this is a good one to start with.

Dolores is an experienced spiritual director, speaker and group facilitator. Early in her life, and for many years, she was a member of the Presentation Sisters of Newfoundland.  Currently, she has private vows, including one of non-violence, and lives these out as an Associate member of the ecumenical Christian community of Iona Scotland.

The conference will explore creation spirituality as an integral dimension of Christian spirituality.

ARACN conferences are open to any and all interested individuals however it is geared to those who are associates of religious congregations.   Often, however, there is a mix of associates and those who attend purely out of interest in the topic.  In other words, one need not be an associate of any religious congregation to attend.

To register, contact Cora Shebib (  or 902-794-4679).  Registration fee is $80 per registrant and accommodations are available at Mount Saint Vincent University.    On Friday, June 2nd, registration will begin at 5:30pm with the opening ritual at 7pm.   It will end on Saturday at 5pm.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Advent Session for Laudato Si"

Courtesy of Maureen O'Keefe, rsm

Mercy and Justice Have Embraced (Ps 85:10)

First Sunday of Advent: “Strange things will happen to the sun, moon and stars. The nations on earth will be afraid of the roaring sea and tides, and they won’t know what to do..” Lk 21:25 

In his encyclical, Laudato Si’ (LS) Pope Francis calls people of faith and people of goodwill to dialogue about our ‘common home’. As we enter the Advent season, it’s a time of preparation and hope for an earth and spirit renewed. Can I go beyond the personal to include our suffering planet?  

So as our world awaits the birth of the Infant Jesus anew, let us think especially of: 
1. World leaders meeting in Paris to discuss climate change Nov 30-Dec 11th ...
2. The global Year of Mercy starting on December 8th ... 
3. The western world struggling with the fallout from the Paris massacre... 

In response to the above, Pope Francis is urging courage, compassion, justice and reconciliation. For Francis this includes both personal and collective responsibility: “We have to adapt due to climate change. The world’s poorest people are bearing the brunt” LS’, 29

MORGAN FREEMAN Film Clip – A Beautiful World  

Quiet time to reflect on what we have seen.... Decide on one concrete action!?

The UN COP21 meeting, also known as the 2015 Paris Climate Conference, will, for the first time in over 20 years of UN negotiations, aim to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, with the aim of keeping global warming below 2°C. This is critical and urgent! 

In Laudato Si’ strategically prepared in anticipation of COP2, Pope Francis reminds us that ALL creation is a gift from God and each person and creature has a right to this common home!  Francis believes that through the mystery of the Incarnation, Christ is intimately present in the world around us. When we see the gifts of the earth in the light of the Lord, we have a deeper understanding of how to care for our common home. 

What is my response to this photo?  


“If we want to bring about deep change, we need to realise that certain mindsets really do influence our behaviour. Our efforts at education will be inadequate and ineffectual unless we strive to promote a new way of thinking about human beings, life, society and our relationship with nature. Otherwise, the paradigm of consumerism will continue to advance, with the help of the media and the highly effective workings of the market.” (LS 215)

Q. Do I agree with this statement?  Does it demand that I make any changes in how I am living? 

Reflection: Creator God, we can choose to live differently! Inspire us as we make choices so that we will recognize the impact our lives have on our environment and our human family around the globe. We pray to the Lord: Lord, help us to reclaim the future! 

Loving God, we can reclaim the future! Encourage us to be people of hope as we look forwards in faith, knowing that we can build a world of justice and peace.                                                                 We pray to the Lord: R/Lord, help us to reclaim the future! 

Brilliant God, we can choose to live in a way that creates a better world for everyone. Help us to know that our individual actions are made in solidarity with our sisters and brothers.                             We pray to the Lord: R/Lord, help us to reclaim the future! 

Wonderful God, you invite us to live simply, to live sustainably, and to live in solidarity with the poor. So help us to respond to that invitation with conviction and generosity. 
We pray to the Lord: R/Lord, help us to reclaim the future!

Pope Francis in ‘Laudato Si’ calls us to: 
A conversion, a change of heart, 
so as to see Christ present 
in the world around us. 
Francis believes 
 “This conversion calls for a number of attitudes –
which together foster a spirit of generous care,
full of tenderness.
But first, ‘it entails gratitude and gratuitousness,
a recognition that the world is God’s loving gift and
that we are called to quietly imitate his generosity
in self-sacrifice and good works”  LS 220.

Mercy and Justice have embraced: A response to the Islamic State reality...
”Nation will not lift sword against nation; there will be no more training for war.”  Isaiah 2:4
Isaiah the Advent prophet offers hope that a time of peace IS coming! Whatever we hear in the media, this is not an impossible dream. Peace-building starts with each one of us and by the way that we treat the people around us including other creatures and planet earth. 

Question: What can I do, to promote a spirit of peace around me today?
During this first week of Advent – prayers are urgently needed:
190+ World Leaders will courageously sign a legally binding, universal Climate Treaty...
For a peace-full solution to the ISIS crisis through justice, mercy and negotiation...
That each of us be active peace-makers through knowing God’s peace in our hearts...

An Advent Hope: Can I retreat from the daily bustle and create some silence and stillness?

Thursday, November 26, 2015


Submitted By:  Maureen O'Keefe, rsm

The Sisters of Mercy Newfoundland will prepare for COP21 in a seven-day vigil beginning on November 24 and ending on November 30, the day of the Conference opening.  They will also join in the 12 Days of Mercy prayer.   All are welcome to join them in their seven-day vigil.

© Mercy International Association 2015

The 21st Conference of the Parties, i.e. the annual meeting of all countries which want to take action for the climate, will be held in Le Bourget, France, from 30 November to 11 December. Its goal is to achieve a legally  binding and universal agreement on climate, with the aim of keeping global warming below 2°C.

Echoing the creation story of Genesis 1, we begin our seven day vigil on the road to the United Nations Climate Change Conference. Each day, beginning on November 30, we are invited to pray and reflect either in community or personally. Each day carries a colour of the rainbow (see covenant reference on day 7) and an image of the day of creation as well as a short text and a prayer followed by a call for action.

Our vigil will end on the first day of the Conference (November 30). On the tenth day of the Conference (December 9), the Prayer for Earth will be led by Canada/Peru on behalf of the Mercy world.

November 24, 2015 Day I

In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void  and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light. Gen 1:1-3

Prayer:  Let us create a climate of change

Lord, in the joy of your Creation,
The whole human family has received this unique gift from you: our planet Earth.
We sincerely thank you, Lord!
Lord, look on our EARTH and
help us to recognize that it is urgent that we act… for we are destroying our forests, devastating our soil, and polluting our seas.
When we do this, we cause changes to our climate, and create environmental turmoil that increase poverty in the countries of the South.
We sincerely ask for forgiveness, Lord.
Yes, it is time to act…to guide our planet in its development and in its peace. Amen.


November 25, 2015 Day 2

Humankind on the Planet Earth is ordained to live in equity, justice and dignity, peace and harmony in the midst of the order of Creation. Humankind is ordered to treat respectfully Creation, which has a value in itself. We  Catholic Bishops recognize the atmosphere, rainforests, oceans and agricultural land as common good that require our care.
Catholic Bishops’ Statement, Lima On the Road to Paris (2014)


May God bless us with wonder at creation’s glory.
May God bless us with fury at creation’s spoiling.
May God bless us with courage at this critical hour.
And may the blessing of God, Creator, Son and Holy Spirit,
rest upon us and on all creation,
this day and for the future to come. Amen.


November 26, 2015 Day 3

A flourishing humanity on a thriving Earth in an evolving universe all together filled with the glory of God – such is the theological vision and praxis we are being called to in a critical age of Earth’s distress. We need to act as members of the Earth community called to be partners with God in the ongoing creation rather than destruction of the world.   Elizabeth Johnson, csj

Creator of all that was, is now and ever will be.
Look with mercy on our frailties; forgive our carelessness.
We ask for minds to share in Your wisdom, that we might NOW become good and faithful stewards of your beautiful creation.
We ask for hearts to imitate Your love,  that we might NOW take up the cause of justice
for our sisters and brothers who go without.
We ask for spirits to share in Your joy, that we might NOW work with leaders,
organizations and communities to take action to end climate change.
For this, O God, we thank you. Amen.


November 27, 2015 Day 4

The urgent challenge to protect our common home includes a concern to bring the whole human family together to seek a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change. Humanity still has the ability to work together in building our  common home. Laudato Si’, 13

Lord, make us fervent protectors of the world That you have given us:
Where there is waste, let us practice frugality. Where there is greed, let us model sharing.
Where there is exploitation, let us shout out against injustice.
May we be vocal and persistent in demanding action on the part of governments and world leaders.
May we make everyday lifestyle choices wisely, leading by example.
Deepen our understanding of the environment and our love of each other,
that we may preserve your gifts for generations to come. Amen.


November 28, 2015 Day 5

This is a good old house, delightfully situated, fields and garden all around it. Just now it appears like a fine summer day . . . (There are) walls or hedges in every direction. It must be particularly healthy. Catherine McAuley

God of creation, we thank you for all that you have made;
For the joy and glimpses of you we find in nature’s beauty,
Help us to tread lightly and use wisely, Valuing the needs of others, and of creation, above our own desires.
Challenge us where we need to change our lifestyles,
Convict us when we need to speak out on behalf of a voiceless people, or world And soften us where we have stood
in judgement of others.
O God in your mercy, change us and use us For the restoration of your world,
and the protection of all your children. Amen.


November 29, 2015 Day 6

We do not inherit the earth from our parents, we borrow it from our children. Inuit Saying

Once we start to think about the kind of world we are leaving to future generations, we look at things differently; we realize that the world is a gift which we have freely received and must share with others. Laudato Si’, 159

Creator God, call us to renewal, to stewardship;
Call us to solidarity to Earth and all its creatures.
Give us new vision to see the fragile beauty that remains to us;
Give us new spiritual energy to become active In loving the world through our daily life;
Give us new voices to speak out for environmental solidarity.
Bless us again with the gift Of being a joyful community;
Bless us with a love of your Creation And we will glimpse your Eden once again.


November 30, 2015 Day 7

Human beings must feel that they are sons and daughters of the rainbow, those who translate this divine covenant with all the beings existing and living, with new relationships of kindness, compassion, cosmic solidarity, and deep reverence for the mystery that each one bears and reveals. Only then will there be integral liberation, of the human being and of Earth, and rather than the cry of the poor and the cry of the Earth there will be common celebration of the redeemed and the freed, human beings in our own house, on our good, great, and bountiful Mother Earth. Leonardo Boff

Holy Spirit, call us out of our sleep; awaken our hearts and minds
to our choices and their impacts.
Awaken us to the possibilities of a new way of living.
Awaken us to be renewed with creation. Awaken us to the joy of enabling others to live life to the full.
Holy Spirit, call us out of our sleep. Amen.


On behalf of Mercy World December 9, 2015

All-powerful God, 
you are present in the whole universe
and in the smallest of your creatures.
You embrace with your tenderness all that exists.
Pour out upon us the power of your love,
that we may protect life and beauty.
Fill us with peace,
that we may live as brothers and sisters,
harming no one.
O God of the poor, help us to rescue
the abandoned and forgotten of this earth,
so precious in your eyes.
Bring healing to our lives,
that we may protect the world
and not prey on it,
that we may sow beauty,
not pollution and destruction.
Touch the hearts
of those who look only for gain
at the expense of the poor and the earth.
Teach us to discover
the worth of each thing,
to be filled with awe and contemplation,
to recognize that we are profoundly united with every creature
as we journey towards your infinite light.
We thank you for being with us each day.
Encourage us, we pray,
in our struggle for justice, love and peace.
~ Laudato Si’ 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

I Was A Stranger and You Welcomed Me: Reflection for the Year of Consecrated Life

By:  Elizabeth Davis, rsm

In Matthew 25, when Jesus was asked how we could best walk in God’s way, his words were starkly clear, “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me” (Matt 25:35-36). 

The Sculpture of Hands by Gerald Squires:
The Gathering Place, St. John's, Newfoundland.
We have a poignant living out of this scriptural passage at The Gathering Place*. There, every day, we – Guests, volunteers, staff members and Sisters – live the words “I was hungry, thirsty, naked, imprisoned, a stranger . . .” There, every day, the Gerry Squires’ sculpture of hands reminds us that we cannot always tell who is giving and who is receiving. 

This is the first in a series of reflections during the Year of Consecrated Life giving our two congregations – Presentation Sisters and Sisters of Mercy – a moment of shared rejoicing in our blessed life expression as women religious. We will explore one of these markers along God’s way, “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” Who is the stranger? How do we welcome the stranger? How are we welcomed as the stranger?

The first stranger we are invited to welcome is God. God has chosen to come to us as a guest. Indeed one of the many names by which the early Rabbis called God was Shekinah, the divine presence among us. The angel told Joseph that the baby born of Mary would be Emmanuel, God-with-us (Matt 1:23). At the beginning of John’s Gospel (1:1, 14), we read, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. . . And the Word became flesh and lived among us.” Our God has expressed love for us by dwelling among us, by becoming one of us and by pouring the Spirit into our midst, “I will pour out my Spirit on everyone. Your sons and daughters will proclaim my message; your young men will see visions and your old men will have dreams” (Acts 2:17-18, Joel 2:28-32). How rarely we take the time to contemplate the depth and richness and enormity of the Trinity present within and among us – Shekinah, Emmanuel, Spirit outpoured!

After his Resurrection, the transformed Jesus appeared to his disciples and friends as a stranger. Mary, weeping in the garden, thought him to be the gardener until he softly said her name, “Mary!” The disciples, sad and dispirited in their night fishing, did not recognize the stranger on the beach until he told them to cast their net to the right side of the boat (John 21:6). Mary and Cleopas, returning in despair to Emmaus from Jerusalem, walked and talked with a stranger, invited him to supper in their home, and did not recognize him until he broke bread with them. Only then could they exclaim in joy-filled delight, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:32)

Mary and Cleopas showed the hospitality which was an essential aspect of their Jewish culture, embedded in sacred codes of conduct requiring that strangers be given food, water and shelter. Abraham’s first action after God’s call into covenant was to offer hospitality to three strangers, not knowing that God sent them, “Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree” (Gen 18:4). About Woman Wisdom in Proverbs, we are told, “She opens her hand to the poor, and reaches out her hands to the needy” (Prov 31:20).

This same sacred code toward the stranger is embedded in the New Testament. Jesus frequently shared meals with strangers: tax collectors, rich men, a prostitute, and five thousand men, women and children. He met a Samaritan woman at a well and asked her for a drink (John 4:7). He defined “neighbour” by a Samaritan traveller’s response to a complete stranger who had been injured, “He put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him” (Lk 10:34).

Bruidean of Ireland - public houses mandated for the
hospitality of the stranger, newcomer and traveller.
In later Jewish culture, there were haknasat orehim, houses where travellers obtained lodging. The Rabbis suggested that every house should have doors on all four sides, so that poor people and travellers might find easy access from everywhere. In a remarkably similar way, in ancient Irish culture, the Breton Laws mandated hospitality for the stranger, newcomer and traveller. The bruideans were public houses designated for this purpose and placed strategically at major road intersections with doors open to every direction. This openness is still echoed in the lovely Irish greeting, “Céad Míle Fáilte!” – “A Thousand Welcomes!”

There is a beautiful French hymn, Laisserons-Nous À Notre Table, the verses of which are loosely translated: “Will we leave at our table a little space for the stranger – when they come, will they find some bread and friendship? Will we leave in our words a little time for the stranger – when they come, will they find an open heart to listen? Will we leave at our feast, a dance step for the stranger – when they come, will they find outstretched and inviting hands? Will we leave at our fountains a little water for the stranger – when they come, will they find free and thirsty people? Will we leave at our churches a little space for the stranger – when they come, will they find poor and hungry hearts?” Who are the strangers whom we encounter every day – in our own communities, in our places of ministry, when we go to church or to shopping malls, when we travel? Inclusion at its most daring will lead us to take risks, make us uncomfortable and cause us to challenge a social order which keeps the stranger, the other. 

We, too, are often strangers ourselves. As we grow in awareness that we are members of a sacred community of all life, we are coming to realize that we are not owners or masters of Earth but strangers who are ungrateful guests, slowly destroying this life-sustaining place into which we have been invited. The words of the theologian Leonardo Boff call us to a very different response:

Human beings must feel that they are sons and daughters of the rainbow, those who translate this divine covenant with all the beings existing and living, with new relationships of kindness, compassion, cosmic solidarity, and deep reverence for the mystery that each one bears and reveals. Only then will there be integral liberation, of the human being and of Earth, and rather than the cry of the poor and the cry of the Earth there will be common celebration of the redeemed and the freed, human beings in our own house, on our good, great, and bountiful Mother Earth.

The mystic, Mechthild of Magdeburg, said, “How should one live? Live welcoming to all.” As we enter more deeply into this year 2015 and begin our celebrations of the Year of Religious Life, let us renew our promises to welcome the stranger and be radically inclusive. Let us remember that we are often the stranger being welcomed. Let us receive respectfully the welcome from Earth.  Let us make our own the Irish greeting and blessing, “Céad Míle Fáilte!”
*The Gathering Place, located in St John's Newfoundland,  is a community centre for vulnerable persons who are homeless or living with inadequate supports.  It is a joint initiative of the Presentation Sisters and the Sisters of Mercy of Newfoundland.    It was established in 1994 to respond to the needs of those seeking food.  In recent years programs and services have been added such as foot care, hair care, a clothing room, literacy programs, computer training and access  to housing experts, nurses and social workers.