February 07, 2004

Regional and Institute Leadership Teams meet in Guyana

Leaders of the Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas and Regional Communities in the United States met for their winter conference in Georgetown, Guyana from January 27 to February 2. In choosing this site, leaders were actively seeking an opportunity to experience the reality of life and ministry in a country outside the United States.

Sisters of Mercy have served in Guyana since 1893. They have sponsored schools and orphanages, a leprosarium and a hospital. Today a home for boys who have ‘graduated’ from the orphanage but are not yet finished their education is also sponsored.

Regional community presidents and the Institute Leadership Team departed Georgetown Guyana after five full days of meetings with a deep appreciation for the opportunity to visit this beautiful country and meet the gentle, gracious Guyanese people.

Sisters Julie Matthews (Guyana/Dallas) and Eileen Campbell (Merion) gave beginning and ending reflections to the meeting days. Using the Gospel stories from Matthew on feeding the five thousand and the beheading of John the Baptist, they drew a contrast between the abuse of power and the empowerment Jesus models for us. Noting that both stories teach lessons in willingness to risk, to share, to face an uncertain future with confidence and openness, they invited participants to reflect on these themes as they began their time together.

At the close of the meeting Julie and Eileen returned to bring prayerful closure to this time. This excerpt from Julie’s reflection captures well the spirit of the shared Guyana experience:

Before we end I would like to share how I feel we mutually gift each other. The gift I receive from you, Sisters, is efficiency, planning, meeting, articulating values and direction, and desiring to give voice, to be heard, to participate. But the gift that was most striking this week is your gift of affirmation and praise. Theologians, sociologists, psychologists speak of our need to value ourselves and not put each other down so much. But we do it all the time. On the other hand, you affirm constantly. That is a gift to us.

Sister Marie said that the gift countries such as ours give you is our poverty. I believe that. Being poor teaches you to live with want, messiness, knowing you are dependent on others, that even the little you have could be taken away. What that teaches us is that we must enter deeply into the relationships we have, but we must hold them lightly, loosely, because all life passes away. We must celebrate the moments we have with joy and hope.

So go home, and continue to live the graces of these days. Let us hold each other lightly and lovingly; let us celebrate our need for each other.

Pat Kenny rsm

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