rELATIONSHIPS FOR mISSION
religious formation conference meets
being signs of courageous hope
Dominican Sisters supported Sr. Helen Cahill (Peace) as she received an award at the Religious Formation Conference.
by Mary Ellen O’Grady, OP, and Priscilla Torres, OP
In October, we attended the Religious Formation Conference (RFC) 2019 Congress “Being Signs of Courageous Hope” in Louisville, KY. We joined Sisters, brothers, and priests who minister in formation and leadership plus Associate directors who joined the RFC for the first time. The gathering included prayer, presentations, and seminars.
Father Bryan Massingale, a priest of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and professor of theological and social ethics at Fordham University, gave an inspiring keynote address on “Courage for an Interim Time that Does Not Yet Know Its Name.” Fr. Bryan began with a poem by John O’Donohue called “For the Interim Time.” This poem is featured in O’Donohue’s book To Bless the Space between Us: A Book of Blessing. It’s worth pondering and can be found online by searching the title. Fr. Bryan said we are living in a time of change and uncertainty. He quoted Pope Francis. “We are not living in an era of change, but a change of era.” He talked about three signs of the current time: climate disruption, the rise of white nationalism, and a shift in sexual ethics. He asked, “How do we live in this interim time?” He said that it is through courage from our faith that we will navigate this time of uncertainty. Courage is needed to speak truth and face the unknown. Women and men religious are being called to be forerunners of a new humanity coming into being.
The second keynote presenter was Norma Pimental, a Sister of the Missionaries of Jesus and the executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley. Norma spoke about her outreach ministry at Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen for migrant families who arrive with nothing but the clothes on their backs. The center is the first stop after being released from U.S. Customs and Border Protection. In meeting immigrants, Norma states, “We must remember the person before us is sacred and approach them with respect. Never forget the human dignity for each person.” When someone asks her about what she is doing, she says “restoring human dignity.” Norma asked the question, “To what borders are you being called in your area?”
We gathered with those in the Midwest and shared information to better communicate and collaborate. Priscilla Torres, OP, attended Patty Galleher’s seminar titled “Fostering Healthy Sexual Integration in Formation” and a gathering of those participating in the ForMission program. Mary Ellen O’Grady, OP, participated in two seminars related to the Associate relationship.
During the banquet, the Mary Emil Penet, IHM, Award was presented to Helen Cahill, OP (Peace), for her work with and support of formators over the years.
The witness of courageous hope presented throughout the congress left one with a feeling of hope for the unknown future.