One of the first things I learned when I became attached to my nuns, the IHM Sisters, was that we are a dynamic group. We are always moving — scoping this ministry or prayer opportunity in one place; going by plane, train, automobile, bicycle, or one’s own two feet to attend to the needs of people and God’s creation in another place; meeting up with one another in Monroe (location of our Motherhouse) or in a central location where IHMs are gathered (East Coast, Chicago, Africa, Detroit, Juarez, The Southwest, Toronto, Puerto Rico, etc.).
By our nature as an active apostolic community (as distinct from a contemplative and/or enclosed community of nuns) and living directly in the world — living and worshipping in the neighborhoods in which we work. We are also mobile — when we see a need someplace — anyplace really — we pray and consider what we can do and we go there. One of our co-founders Redemptorist father Louis Florent Gillet, CSsR, once wrote something to the effect that “we desire to be everywhere when we see so many needs.” That is truly a part of our charism as IHMs and certainly of many congregations of women religious. Even communities whose nuns are enclosed practice this charism in one way or another. They may not physically fly to Africa to help children who have AIDS, but they pray on their behalf ceaselessly. They take into their hearts and every cell of their being the cares and concerns of the world.
This reflection comes after being in Monroe for a gathering with my Mission Unit (smaller groups of IHMs in which we regularly meet, pray together, support one another, and attend to the business of the congregation). I’ve had many opportunities because of my community to see the world — again, not just by going to places (which I do) but by seeing the world through different eyes — eyes of compassion and love and the desire to walk with people where they are, embrace those who are often kicked to the side because they live in poverty or with illness, learn from and be open to others (for we all hold the spark of God within us!), provide education and opportunity to people, and care tenderly for all of creation (even the little fuzzy caterpillar meandering on the sidewalk). In religious life, we truly desire to “see the world” not from our own provincial (and limited) perspective, but from the perspective of God who knows no boundaries and makes none of the distinctions that we humans make to separate, categorize, and discriminate. And not just religious — there are many women and men in this world (of all sizes and stripes) that are committed to this vision. Each one of us has this capacity for “bigness”!