We live in a time of incredible movement — of people, goods, ideas, and challenges.
Surely, there have been times in history that displaced millions of people, but the scale, the stakes, the responses are all new to our time. Pope Francis has called us to be a church that goes forth. The Spanish – “Iglesia en salida”– works better to illustrate the call: a Church alway “leaving”. And, we have a lot of leaving to do — out of our comfort zones, out of what we know, out of our own challenges. This invitation becamevery clear to me the last few weeks. I just returned from a long trip abroad that included the LCWR annual visit to the Holy See, the CHA ecclesiology seminar, and my congregation’s cosponsored CHRISTUS Health pilgrimage to Rome and Lyon. Small wonder I bear all the signs of a returned pilgrim: worn out and disoriented, with the crumpled clothes to go with it!
At each stop of my journey, I realized that there is no perspective without distance. We need to “go out,” to go forth or simply to “salir,” in order to see our call with better clarity. Our stories as women religious are filled with courageous women who “moved” — left their familiar surroundings, engaged the world with conviction, and migrated to the far corners of the world. How are we going to participate today in this time of incredible movement? Are we even considering moving, any “salida”? Can we at least “move” a little distance away from our convictions?
During the LCWR visits, we participated in the papal audience. Hearing Pope Francis´ message repeated in one language after the other, greeting the pilgrims from Colombia, and Poland, and France, and Korea and Canada, and the United States I
suddenly realized how “small” my image of church often is. We are a community bigger than our language, our race or culture, our nationalisms. A community called to unity by the joy of the Easter message. The realization can be overwhelming when you find yourself a simple pilgrim among many others the world over.
The CHA program brought me to Assisi where I felt as if I was hearing the story of Francis and Clare for the very first time. The beautiful Umbrian crisp spring day and the flowers everywhere helped, of course. You truly feel why Assisi is the City of Peace. But it was my fellow pilgrims, the men and women of Catholic healthcare today who brought me to tears at the tomb of Francis. Their willingness to learn, to witness to the healing ministry of Jesus Christ, their appreciation for our legacy and history and faith, made me realize that indeed we are all pilgrims on a journey.
And finally, as I stood before the holy sites of our cosponsoredministry — learning about the conviction and resilience of our founders, I was filled with awe for their “courage.” Reggie, a friend on the trip, noted Maya Angelou’s observation that courage is the most important character trait a person must have. And as I knelt on that Holy Ground, the very place where our sisters made the decisions to come to America, I prayed for their courage so we too may move, as they did, that we too may be filled with the conviction that the Gospel is far more important than any hardship, any complication, or any ideology.
May we all experience the perspective of pilgrimage, and return home ready to move, one more time!