Associates and Religious: Current Realities/Future Expectations
Judy Swett, CSJA and Kathy Tighe, CSJA
Our time with the New England Region Associates [NERA] was sacred. The November 5, 2016, gathering began with contemplative prayer and “Veni Sancte Spiritus” flowed throughout.
Providence Associates, Gail Furman and Fran Popko, our gracious hosts for the day, invited us to pray, listen, reflect, and share. Cathi Duffy, Associate of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus, was our humble guide in exploring/ translating the data-filled findings of the extensive CARA* study commissioned by the North American Conference of Associates and Religious [NACAR] in the spring of 2015.
During our circle discussions, we asked questions and pondered how the CARA results related to our own communities. Everyone agreed that associates and sisters are aging Caucasians and a diversity of new members is needed. Sadly, we learned that in several communities associates outnumber sisters at this time. One associate present expressed concern that few in the Church know about associates. A vowed religious mentioned in the study stated: “As the number of religious has decreased, the associates bring new life, energy, ideas, enthusiasm…and are a sign of hope that our spirit and charism will continue through them in new way.”
The big question for the evolving associate movement is, “Are we ready to take responsibility for the associate community?” The study indicated that 50% of responders felt they were prepared to lead gatherings and only 36% were inviting others to become associates. In response to, “How do you think the associate-religious relationship will change in your religious institute in the next 5 years?”, associates and vowed members see a 61% increase in numbers and 45% of responders see an increase in associates in leadership. How can we, together, make our associate-religious relationship stronger? The consensus of the gathering was two-fold, leadership empowerment is vital as is inviting new members. What do you think?
* CARA [Center For Applied Research in the Apostolate] at Geoergtown University Washington, DC, NACAR commissioned this report which explored the fruits of hundreds of associate directors and thousands of associates and vowed religious sharing their current understanding of associate-religious relationships and ideas about the associate-religious movement for the future.
Deepening Prayer: Growing in Inclusive Love
Denise Edinger, CSJA
Amidst the lingering leaves of fall, CSJ associates and sisters gathered at Saint Joseph Hall, Framingham, on Saturday November 19, an annual tradition and one we look forward to each year.
Following lunch, we gathered to listen to program presenters, Suzanne Bradford, CSJA, Rita Cormier CSJA, Mary Nagle, CSJ, and Della Rodriguez, CSJ. In keeping with this year’s theme, Deepening Prayer: Growing in Inclusive Love, each told of their personal prayer journey.
As stories unfolded, common themes of early childhood memories, personal struggles, personal transformation, and mystery emerged – God's personal sacred bond clearly woven within each life. Recollections of “Angel of God, my Guardian Dear…” and “Prayer is the lifting of our mind and heart to God” from the Baltimore Catechism, evoked common early memories. Remembrances of families praying together, formally and informally, were also shared. One remembered her mother gathering the family together during lightning storms exhorting ‘Sancta Maria’ to help them! The seeds of each presenter’s prayer life began in childhood but growing pains of doubt, abandonment, reconciliation and peace were also evident. Each has struggled, but it is within the struggle that God’s mystery unfolded.
At the end of the day, associates and sisters gathered to greet and pray with the family of Mary Mahoney, CSJA, in Bethany’s Chapel of the Holy Spirit. Mary passed away on November 17. Della’s concluding words taken from our opening prayer by Pat Bergen, CSJ, were apropos for the day’s closing, “When my day goes well, may I rejoice, when it grows difficult surprise me with new possibilities.”