Mid-term Assembly Victoria




Presentation Sisters Victoria Mid-term Assembly 12-13 May 2012


Focus of the Assembly

As the Victorian Presentation Sisters approached the mid-point of this five year term between Chapters, we asked Monica Brown and Hilary Musgrave to lead us in two days of reflection, review and exchange of ideas for our immediate and longer-term future.  The members of the Congregation know each other relatively well, but we also know the perennial scope for new awareness, new learning, and new exploration to depth in our relationships with each other and in our living of eachparticular facet of God’s Mission taken up by our group in ever-changing ways since 1873.

Our Chapter Statement of 2004 articulated that we are “aware of our gifts and vulnerabilities”.  We find we are engaged in a continual discernment and discovery of this awareness within our individual selves and in our group.  Both gifts and  vulnerabilities marked the encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman, a Gospel passage that encouraged us to take time in this mid-term assembly to name, claim and see where our gifts and vulnerabilities have brought us as well as where they invite us further.

As we imagine future possibilities, like our founding Sisters we realise the necessity for more risk-taking, openness and trust in our contemplative way of moving within the context of where and how we find ourselves today.  We asked Monica and Hilary, our two facilitators, to help us address what sustains us in this moment, what this asks of us, what it calls forth from us and what we attend to in this time?

How we want to be together was the next question to consider. Group work reports evinced widely different insights: the practicalities of sharing our resources for life and ministry, the implications of ageing and diminishment, our current efforts torestructure our housing, our desire for a communal life of faith, and sensitive presence among and for those without hope, without voice, without love.

The image of the Emmaus journey (Luke 24) inspired our sharing of some of the blocks, the grievances, the negative experiences that need healing if we are to be together in the ways we have said we desire. A moving ritual of healing brought us, like the ‘bent-over’ woman in her encounter with Jesus to listen anew to the call of the Spirit to resist being held back from the ‘fullness of life’ Jesus proclaimed (Jn 10:10). While a ‘cure’ may be instant, true healing takes time, as we negotiate the daily choices to be made at this new place in our history.

The underlying passion that unites us became evident as we spent individual and group time with our Chapter Statement from 2004. Revisiting what we wrote two and a half years ago was heartening as we reclaimed the passion for life evident in the words. Our insights in this    assembly stressed our faith-filled and loving reliance on God, our hope to be real and generous in the face of diminishment, our compassion for those yearning for healing, freedom and a voice. We seek the communion of love at the heart of creation and at the heart of God.

Naming those who embodied this passion, those who inspired us over the years was a grace-filled activity, to call to mind and heart those whose ‘shoulders we stand on’.

The process of the two days was enriched by the gifts Monica and Hilary brought: the use of    imagery and ritual, movement and song wove together our individual reflection and group  conversations taking as focus the opening paragraph of the 2004 Chapter Statement:

At this time
there is a strong desire among us
to be together
in ways that are new and vital
so that the deep longings of our hearts
are given fresh impetus for our life and mission…

Monica’s mantras provided space and focus, while Hilary offered us her deeply reflective words and the evocative miming of the ‘sacred clown’ Naofa.  Perhaps one of the deeply appreciated gifts of our days together was our development of ease in ritualistic movement and gesture. Even those for whom such expression was less familiar were able to take part with the support of the group.

The first question that we addressed was naming the realities that shape us.  The wide spectrum of responses emphasised the complexity of living in this place and time: our personal qualities, our daily lived experience, our shared story, our life of faith, individually and as a group.  While much was of lively and positive character, we also named that much is unresolved, unshared or insecure in a time of transition and change such as ours.

The universe story holds wisdom which inspires our desire for ‘new and vital ways of being together’. Hilary led us in recalling the powers of the universe, the lessons we have learnt from the evolving nature of creation as we endeavour to shape our future.

Some beautiful insights included the importance of the now: the cycle of life, death and new life we experience within our Congregation; the generous and expansive nature of our longing for togetherness for ourselves; the beauty of each person; we lose nothing of the past in the newness and abundance of life continuously offered us by the future; and our knowledge that the energy of love at the heart of the universe courses through our veins.

The concluding focus was on the new and vital possibilities before us. New ways of tapping our own wisdom and of bringing voices from outside to inform our wisdom can happen in different, smaller ways as we develop our spirituality of endings. What we are no longer able to do is being taken up by others in effective ways. We can live with the rawness of now, the giving and receiving of forgiveness; we are able to walk into the mystery, facing the discrepancies in what we say and do.

Our two days were fresh and different: Monica and Hilary led us in new and thought-provoking processes. We rejoiced in the warm interaction between us, learning from the healing, uniting power of touch and song, the invitation felt in the reverence and love of Naofa; there was a sense of ‘softening’ among us. So we will take up the challenge from one of our oldest members to articulate a ‘spirituality of endings’ and wait with confidence for the inspiration of God who wills all of life to become new; we know what will empower and sustain us in our life and for our place in God’s Mission.