How to repair and build communion

Blog Published: April 11, 2024
By Sister Lucy Zientek, CDP
Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR)
Lucy Zientek is a Sister of Divine Providence, Melbourne, Kentucky, and currently serves on the leadership team of her congregation's U.S. province. She has 14 years' experience as a research and development scientist prior to entering religious life. She has served on parish pastoral teams in the areas of adult faith formation, Christian initiation and pastoral ministry. She also presents retreats and days of reflection. Supported by an educational background and career and ministry experience in science, theology and spirituality, her special area of interest is the relationship between science and faith.

St. Paul's perception of reality was upended on the road to Damascus, but the conversion he experienced there took the rest of his life to play out. Conversions have beginnings, but are really journeys that take time, prayer, discernment and trust that God will provide what's needed to bring those journeys to fulfillment. Sister Luzy Zientek

But what can be said about the kind of conversion needed to heal the damage that clericalism does to the church's communion?

There's no simple answer, but several years ago, the Holy Spirit may have provided us with some wonderful guidance about this.

It emerged from the lived experience of sisters serving on the leadership team of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) between 2009 and 2015. It was during this period that LCWR was apprised of and responded to the decision by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to conduct an assessment of the conference's programs and activities.

They were difficult years, and the journey was anything but easy. Yet, marked by the deep individual and corporate prayer, reflection and discernment of LCWR leadership, and supported by that of sisters throughout the United States, it was also a remarkably beautiful and sacred time that yielded a treasure trove of spiritual wisdom.

Afterward, the group came to understand their learnings might prove helpful for others working with similar difficulties in an increasingly polarized world. The sisters who were most involved with the conference's responses then captured the insights that emerged from the struggles and blessings of that journey by writing personal reflections that were shared with the world in the book However Long the Night: Making Meaning in a Time of Crisis, edited by Immaculate Heart of Mary Sr. Annmarie Sanders.

What kind of conversion is needed so dialogue can happen "without subordination, exclusion, and competition"?

In However Long the Night, Dominican Sr. Mary Hughes points to humility as a powerful spiritual tool. It calls us not to subservience, but to embrace and stand in the truth about ourselves: our strengths, gifts, failures and limits. It highlights our need to "be vigilant about conscious and unconsciously held assumptions" we have about others, that over time can lead to misunderstandings that undermine communion when they are incorrect.

Nothing is more important today than humanity's transformation from species to a communion. Species direct energy primarily toward themselves; a communion of persons finds its own fullness in the fullness of the other.

Any hope we have to effectively address climate change rests on our acting in a globalized, unified way. We're not there yet. Why? Because our hearts must freely embrace their conversion, while our bodies transform the way we direct energy across the planet. Both are needed, but becoming communion is now the key.

I hope and pray that our church takes the extraordinary opportunity presented by the synod to model for the world how to repair and build communion with each other.

We’re delighted to share with you this blog from the monthly feature “The Life” courtesy of our friends at Global Sisters Report. This month, The Life panelists reflected on the question: What is the spiritual conversion needed for healing to take place from clericalism? What would you hope to see? CLICK HERE  to read more blogs from The Life series, GSR’s monthly feature about the unique, challenging, and very specific lives of women religious around the world.

Photo credit: "LCWR" by bellmon1 is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.

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