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\"We are Gift to One Another\" - Religious and Lay People Working Together

It was a profoundly inspiring moment at the CRA National Assembly when lay partners acknowledged the positive influence of religious men and women that motivated them to work as partners in mission.\"\\"\\"\"

 

It was a profoundly inspiring moment when lay people at the CRA National Assembly acknowledged the positive influence of religious men and women in their lives that fuelled their commitment to work as partners in mission. This affirmation also assured religious men and women that lay partners would continue to uphold and respect their particular religious charism and heritage.

 The first day of the assembly featured a panel of lay colleagues from different congregations who shared their stories: Mr Peter Turner, Director at Catholic Education Office Wollongong; Mr David Robinson of Mary Aikenhead Ministries, Ms Kate Fogarty, Principal at St Joseph’s College Echuca; Mr Michael Yore of the Good Shepherd Family and Youth Ministries and Ms Peita Ward, Oblate of the Sisters of the Good Samaritan.

 

Ms Liz Orupold, Executive Officer to the Congregation Leadership Team for Mercy-sponsored Ministries said, “I asked a couple of leaders the other night after we heard the first panel of five lay speakers, ‘What was so inspiring for you?’. For me, the stories from the panel of lay colleagues described our work; it’s a task given to us by the religious.”

“Their response showed me it isn’t simply about the task but it’s also about the passion, the ways we engage and the reasons for our involvement. They find it inspiring that somebody else wants to continue the mission.”

Lay participants were also greatly encouraged and affirmed in this assembly, which allowed them to explore collaborative ways of responding to the mission and call of Jesus, in the context of the challenges presently facing religious congregations in an increasingly secular and post-Christian world. 

Managing Director of Emmaus Partners Greg Baynie said, “We’ve also been affirmed by the Religious. Br Philip [Pinto of the Christian Brothers] said this morning that we have sacramental powers as laypeople and it came as a revelation to me, that we are given gifts that we can use,” he said. “It was quite profound and that probably was the takeaway phrase for me.”

Ms Natasha Siebert of the Edmund Rice Network, who also featured in the integrative panel with other congregation leaders said, “The blessing for me was the opportunity to be reminded and to reconnect with why I actually engage with the Edmund Rice Network, and why I’m so excited to do what I do.”

The talks and sharing sessions yielded rich insights on how lay people can continue the mission of religious institutions yet uphold the history and essence of each religious charism.

“What nags for me is how powerful your invitation is,” said Ms Siebert. “What I’m being asked to do is to help you issue that invitation; to help you find new ways in communicating that invitation.”

Ms Orupold admitted it was a bit overwhelming to think about increasingly taking on the responsibility for religious ministries. “I sometimes sit and think that in the work that I do, I’m not saving the world, I’m not necessarily going to go to Pakistan or another country and engage in the work the religious orders have done and continue to do,” she said. “I don’t know if I can do what the religious orders, in particular the Sisters that I know, have achieved.”“What I’m being asked to do is to help you issue that invitation; to help you find new ways in communicating that invitation.”

“Whilst overwhelmed, I was reminded that charism is not exclusive to the religious, rather it is a ‘gift’ from God given to me through baptism. I was also challenged by Br Philip Pinto cfc about how I would use this gift in my life,” she said. “Do I live or just merely exist? Br Philip suggested ‘the world is God’s agenda’ and if I want to find God, I only need to look around me in the here and now.”

“As a layperson, how I can help keep Catherine McAuley’s vision alive and continue the legacy of the Sisters of Mercy? The imagery of the world as God’s agenda makes me think it may just be achievable.”

There was a sense that more reflection and discernment were needed to see how the religious, the laity, and the wider Church will engage with each other in the future.

Mr Baynie who works with different congregations believes that collaboration is vital. “An emerging theme for me is of people working across congregations with cross congregational thinking. What would that look like in the future?” asked Mr Baynie. “How can there be further collaboration across communities? How can laypeople be encouraged and invited to move across communities and bring their experiences from one community to another as a further source of inspiration?”

“We’re talking in Brisbane now about ‘a different way of doing Mercy,’” said Ms Orupold.  “And we don’t know what that would be.”

It was clear however, what the starting point would be. “It’s about Jesus: ‘Who is the face of Jesus?’ We’ve all got our individual experience of Jesus who calls us and we can bring this to the way we respond in mission,” she said.

Religious charism and the relationship between laity and religious may be in the process of finding new expression in these changing times, but the affinity between religious and the laity was reaffirmed by Sr Helen Toohey csb. “We are the gift to one another,” she said. “It is the heart of what it is to be a Religious.”

“That’s how the early Christians would have supported each other.”

(Top, left photo: The panel of lay colleagues, L-R: Mr Peter Turner, Mr David Robinson, Ms Peita Ward, Mr Michael Yore and Ms Kate Fogarty) 

(Top right photo: L-R Sr Mary Lowcock rsm, Sr Kath Tynan pbvm, Sr Sandra Lupi and Ms Liz Orupold at the 2012 CRA National Assembly)

(Bottom left photo: Mr Greg Baynie with Augustinian Recollect Sister Ruth Gulane)

Read the story from The Good Oil on Peita Ward’s address at the CRA National Assembly. 

Read the talks/presentations of the panel of lay people at the 2012 CRA National Assembly.

By Giselle Lapitan

 

 

 

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