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.