This is one of my favorite weeks of the whole year which I affectionately call Nunapalooza because all of the sisters and associates in my IHM Community come home to Monroe, Michigan, for Community Days and Jubilee. Community Days is the few days before Jubilee where we gather to pray, reflect, and be with one another. Together with Jubilee, it is like a total immersion into the very heart of the community and of our mission in God. This year, we'll be spending time on exploring our images of God, our "God experiences", and religious life. We'll do this through study and reflection and by engaging in contemplative space with one another.
What's so amazing about Community Days is it's like a snapshot of the contemplative stance we try to live day in and day out as Catholic sisters. Though I'm reflecting about our own IHM custom, this snapshot can be seen in the ways other religious communities gather their sisters to celebrate Jubilee and engage in conversation and contemplation with one another.
Community Days is sort of like taking one theme or topic and looking at it through a variety of perspectives and seeing what meaning it has for us individually, as a community, and as we move with God into the future.
Here are some of the ways we engage with one another during community days -- keep in mind that these ways of engaging are also good for any one who is wanting to go deeper into a topic of interest.
- We'd spend time reading and studying the topic ahead of time. The sisters planning Community Days might offer a recommended bibliography of scholarly or reflective articles on the topic.
- As we approach Community Days, we might talk informally with other nuns about how the readings are going and our own take on the topic.
- At Community Days we gather as a whole community to explore the topic. The power of being in a group with all your sisters is quite phenomenal! We gather in small groups and large groups, formally and informally.
- While gathered together, we will be in a kind of retreat mode where all of our prayer and contemplation are oriented around the topic. This is done both personally and in a group context.
- We also use the beauty -- music, art, movement, etc. -- to give us other entry points into reflecting on the topic.
- We share meals together and also have casual time and fun together -- all of which serves to help deepen our connection with one another and with God.
- Towards the end of Community Days, we explore also how our conversations and contemplation can impel us forward as we continue to live and serve God's mission.
Although Nunapalooza only happens once a year, I try to take this approach of looking at something from different perspectives and live it in my ministry and daily life. This is what helps me to more into a contemplative stance in whatever comes across my path. It's not always easy, but I find it to be worth the time, energy, and discipline.
As we move into Community Days, I hope that these ways of engaging might be helpful to you in your own life. I'd love to hear about how you personally or your community, family, parish, etc. practice similar ways of engaging in conversation and contemplation with one another.