Seeking inner peace to create a more peaceful world: a young sister reflects
The youngest member of the Sisters of Providence shares some of her experiences here. Twenty-eight-year-old Emily TeKolste entered the Sisters of Providence as a postulant in the fall of 2016. Here she shares a bit about her journey so far.)
Life as a new member of the Sisters of Providence has been a blessing to me. In the times leading up to my decision to join the community, Sisters of Providence were a blessing to me. And as we approach World Day of Consecrated Life, I would like to offer a few stories of my experiences of how religious life is a blessing to our world today:
Before joining the Sisters of Providence, I met regularly with Sister Carole Kimes. As my discernment guide she was helping me navigate the process of deciding whether to join the Sisters of Providence. One day I was sharing frustrations about an ongoing challenging relationship. Sister Carole asked me how I felt about the situation, and I started to say, “Well, I understand …” She stopped me at that point. She pointed out that I was not answering the question she asked. Because she stopped me, I was able to realize that I had trouble identifying my own feelings. I was seeking to understand the perspective of the other at the expense of recognizing the impact that it was having on me. In pointing this out, Sister Carole was not downplaying the value of seeking to understand the perspective of another. She was emphasizing that I can still recognize my own feelings and experiences as valid and valuable.
Doing the work of going deeper in my own experience will allow me to sympathize better with others. It will allow me to interact with the world from a place of deep peace. Ignoring the hard questions and the hard work of my own emotions sets me up to be a failure at bringing the more peaceful world that I seek to the world around me. It is only out of a deep sense of inner value that I can truly see the value and dignity of all people.
At a recent gathering of younger sisters from many communities, sponsored by Giving Voice, we discussed healing divisions in the context of seeking unity without requiring uniformity. As members of a variety of communities, we honored each others’ experiences and approaches to religious life.
In seeking greater unity, we started on our own doorsteps. We were all women religious who wear common clothing similar to those around us. But women religious come in all clothing types. There has been a historical division between those who chose to remain in their habits and those who chose to shed their habits following the Second Vatican Council. Similarly, approaches to authority and the vow of obedience differ greatly, and often line up with differences in dress. Conversation throughout the weekend focused on bridging those historical divisions and developing strategy that allows for true collaboration, not just inviting others to contribute to “our” projects. The willingness these sisters showed to adapt their ideas and seek ways that work for others showed a true desire for inclusiveness.
One sister spoke of a recent gathering that included younger women religious in, and not in, habit. “As I sat down next to her at the dinner table,” she said, “it didn’t matter what she was wearing. We were just two people eating dinner together.”
This “culture of encounter,” as Pope Francis called it, is how Jesus lived. It’s how we break down the divisive language in our world today and truly work for the common good, for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s vision of the Beloved Community.
(Grow personally and spiritually with the Sisters of Providence. Single, Catholic women ages 18-42 are invited to a Live Joyfully Come and See retreat March 31-April 2 at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.)