Here are my “Closing Remarks” at the recent AASH Conference held in Miami, FL.
Sunday-April, 17, 2011
Good Morning, everyone!
Hasn’t it been just wonderful to be in this beautiful place together? It is so lovely here and the natural beauty of our surroundings reflects to me the lush abundance of God’s grace in just everything.
I do not know about you, but, for me….Being here these past 3.5 days has been truly an experience of ‘El Jardin” –of truly being at home in God’s heart with each of you. Everything has been so thoughtfully and sensitively prepared, I know that this does not happen by accident, but by loving attentiveness and careful planning.
[Where is Laurie Nuell?] Laurie, I feel that St. Madeleine Sophie would truly find the (your) work of Laurie Neull and her conference committee to be an example of what our opening speakers Suzanne Cooke,RSCJ and Maureen Glavin,RSCJ referred to as “activity that is truly permeated with presence.”
I offer a humble thanks to Laurie, her committee and our hostesses, Suzanne, Carrollton and all involved for this rich experience of Sacred Heart community that this conference has afforded all of us. In a special way, and for all of the RSCJ that are here, and, also, for those who are with us in spirit, for making this experience financially possible for so many RSCJ. There has been such great JOY in connecting with all of you for those of us that are here and each of us will look forward to sharing this experience with others in our communities as we return home.
Now, when Laurie called me and invited me to be the final speaker at this conference, she said that she felt it was really important to have a final speaker to bring all of these speeches and seminars together, highlight key ideas and to set forth a Call to Action that would to leave each and everyone one of us with inspiring ideas of how to live Sophie and Philippines Vision into Tomorrow.
Well, Laurie, that is a really a tall order, and, in fact, I believe that this has already been accomplished through the prayerful and thoughtful reflections of each of our speakers. But, I will try to three simple things this morning:
1. First, I am going to share something that I do following every conference or important meeting I attend and that I learned at the Rosary as a student and that is practiced in every Sacred Heart school today—reflection on experience and invite you to do that with one another;
2. Second, I will share a few insights from what I have heard during that has really stuck with me.
3. And, third, I hope to show a 4-5 minute video (if all goes well with the technology) that I assemble last night to very highlight special moments we have shared here and to send us forth from this conference.
So, first: I would like to invite each of you to put into practice espacio—as we heard from Suzanne Cooke in her seminar, a minute or two of silence—in order to listen with your heart and to God speak through your experience of these last few days together.
In this minute or two of silence, you might ask yourself:
1. What have been the special moments of Gods’ grace for me? What really touched my heart in a special way and moved you?
2. What commitments—large or small—do you feel God inviting you to make as you leave this conference?
[OPTION: Now, I’d like you to turn to your neighbor and share something that you can—something that you received as a gift or special grace.]
[OPTION: Now, I’d like to ask 2 or 3 brave souls to stand up and to share what they have received from the conference as graces and plan to take-away as responses or commitments as you leave. ]
Thank you to each of you for sharing with all of us.
This practice of personal and communal reflection on experience has been an important part of my life as an RSCJ for the past 30 years and I think doing it here together—even for just a few minutes–reinforces a key message of this conference—that together we cultivate hearts that are open to God’s word, and that we, as St. Madeleine Sophie says, “cultivate a field for Christ” and hearts that are responsive to God’s subtle movements in our daily experiences.
In short reflection on experience becomes a means for being “contemplatives in action” and helps us to grow in deeper union with the sentiments of Christ’s heart.
I would now like to share a few of the fruits of my own reflections from the conference about how to live Sophie and Philippines Vision into Tomorrow and a few related Calls to Action.
1. My first insight has to do with openness, honesty and transparency in our relationships with God, self and one another.
I was very moved by the story of Monica and David because my youngest brother in our family of 10 children was born with Down syndrome. While he only lived for a few short years, John forever changed what I value in others and he taught me every day about what really matters in life—that something we saw in the documentary about the simple love between 2 people. As we saw, this kind of unmasked and transparent loving—love without pretense.
So, my 1st call to action emerges from the witness of this type of loving: OPENNESS, HONESTY AND TRANSPARENCY IN LOVE with God, self and others.
2. My second thought and call to action has to do with Hope: From the Goals and Criteria for Sacred Heart Schools, 2006, we profess, “…a hope that believes in the goodness of each person, a hope that believes in the goodness of humanity, a hope that believes in and trusts the love of the Heart of God.”
Hope is one of the deepest tenets of Christian belief and practice, and we are reminded of this virtue through the unceasing hope of Sophie and of Philippine and of their hope—their belief that the transformative power of Christ’s light will illume our way, lighten our darkness and, indeed, make all things new.
The 2nd call to action is to Practice the classic virtue of hope.
3. The third thought has to do with a STYLE… a WAY OF BEING or an ATTITUDE… rather than a thing to do or AN IDEA.
It’s about a way of spirituality called “pilgrimage” (Kurtz). We all made a form of a pilgrimage when we came to this conference. We committed to the journey amidst many other options and without really knowing how it would turn out.
Pilgrimage is something I believe that both Sophie and Philippine understood and saw the necessity for in life. In fact, I believe that living the vision of Sophie and Philippine will require that each of us MAKE PILGRIMAGE across borders and boundaries of all sorts—technological boundaries, the boundaries of our politics, of our geography and of our culture to name just a few. This means that we will move forward in life—never stopping—and that we will increasingly become, as Cecile Meijer stated, global citizens even though our destination is not always apparent and there is not always certainty. As the slides in Cecile Meijer’s, RSCJ presentation showed so poignantly yesterday, we are in joined as “children of the Sacred Heart” across the world by living this spirituality of the heart.
The third call to action then, is to MAKE PILGRIMAGE AS A WAY OF SPIRITUALITY—to be boundary crossers our times and to become global citizens.
4. We also heard from several speakers about the tremendous fragility of our changing world—of our mother earth, and of the many vulnerable and suffering people. We heard about the challenges in living in the global community from New York Times journalists and Surgeon Generals whose experience call us to ponder how we do live this marvelous love of God’s heart in our world.
I know that none of us arrived here without our minds and hearts so full of the apocalyptic images of the tsunami in Japan and unaware of the real and actual threat of a nuclear meltdown.
With one disaster following on the heels of another one in Haiti, we know what several spoke about in their seminars to be true: that we are all called to respond in the face of human need—that our hearts literally move in us to find each in our own way a response to the needs of the vulnerable and the suffering in our world.
This instinct to respond in loving ways to the hurts and the needs of others is at the very heart of who we are as “children of the Sacred Heart” and of experiencing the pierced heart of Christ.
So, my final call to action is to DO something—really anything. Commit to it and “Just do it!”
To all of you, I want to say special thanks for the outpouring of your love and your generosity through the special funds that were able to be created by the Society following Hurricane Katrina and the disaster in Haiti. I can only tell you from my personal experience of living through such a time how difficult and humbling it is to be so leveled by a storm and so very dependent on the kindness of strangers. I think that this is an example of the “widening circles of compassion” that Suzanne Cooke,RSCJ and Maureen Glavin,RSCJ call us to in their opening presentation.
Now, as a way of concluding, I would like to show a short 5 minute video that captures images, feelings, words and highlights of the conference. Hopefully, this video will re-connect you with the reasons that drew you here, the joy that was such a part of this time, the friendships that were made and renewed, and the prayer, party and people that joined us in Cor Unum during these days.
God bless each of you on your pilgrimage of love and on your way home, where ever that is for you.