Reflection for a Celebration of Commitment
Note: General Superior Sister Dawn Tomaszewski offered this reflection at the celebration of commitment liturgy on June 25, 2022.
During a recent meeting of our leadership team, one of our teammates recapped a conversation she had with one of our 90-year-old sisters. In describing her life, this sister told her general officer, “My calling now is to bring joy.”
That statement alone brought joy to my heart and certainly put a smile on my face.
To think that someone in her 90’s, after a lifetime of various ministerial responsibilities and community living situations, is still responding to how God might be calling her – wow! Praise Providence for the inspiration of the Sisters of Providence.
I found myself asking, “Well, what is your calling now, Dawn? Your sisters have elected you again to this leadership position. What do you plan to do with this time? What seeds will you help sow for the next generation?”
As we gather today, for what our leadership team has been calling, “A Celebration of Commitment,” I ask each of you who shares a relationship with us within this Providence Community, “What is your calling now? To what are you committed? And why does that matter?”
I believe answering these questions could make a difference in how each of us lives our lives.
And just imagine if WE – the Providence Community – would really put our arms around what WE are called to right now. Not me, but WE.
What if WE lived as Saint Paul suggests in the section from the Letter of the Philippians that we just heard. “Do nothing from selfishness or conceit, but in humility county others better than yourselves. Let each of you look to the interest of the others, not only to your own.”
With this mindset, no one would be OTHER. You and I could actually become WE. Black and white, gay and straight, liberal and conservative, and all those categories of OTHER that can separate us from each other. Or as St. Paul says, “Being in full accord and of one mind, having the same mind that was in Christ Jesus.”
Christ Jesus who called himself the vine and named us the branches. Christ Jesus who tells us that apart from him, apart from God, apart from one another we can do nothing. I am in you and you are in me which means that no one is OTHER. You and I are already WE. And WE are the Body of Christ; WE are meant to be the Beloved Community; WE are asked to be the presence of God in the midst of all creation for the life of the world.
Of course, we need to act like we believe this.
We Sisters of Providence, at our recent General Chapter, made quite a number of promises to one another in the form of direction statements.
Commitments like …
- We will create and participate in communities that are welcoming and inclusive, communities of compassion, openness, respect and belonging.
We said we would …
- Embrace and reverence diversity in all of its forms as a revelation of Providence.
We will try to …
- Respond more fully and intentionally to our continuing call to collaboration.
We will make every effort to …
- Recognize the abundance that God has given us and use that abundance attentively and creatively to continue the mission of love, mercy and justice in service among all creation.
And as our justice focus for the next five years, we said we would …
- Advance racial equality and equity through prayer, education, action and advocacy as well as continue our efforts on behalf of the environment by developing a Laudato Si’ Action Plan.
During our Annual Meeting, we will work with one another and with our associates in a purposeful way to try to realize some of these high ideals.
Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone, in an inspired little book called Active Hope, write: “We can’t know how things will unfold. What we can do is make a choice about what we’d like to have happen, and put ourselves fully behind that possibility.”
They say, “When a change wants to happen, it looks for people to work through.”
I do hope change is looking in our direction in the coming days. Because I suspect most people in this Church know that unless we change the trajectory of the climate crisis in this world, there will be no world for that next generation. That unless we embrace the reality that relationships are all there is – relationships with all of life, and with all peoples no matter their race, color or creed, then the violence that has become so rampant in our world will have the last word.
At our deepest core, we belong to one another. Truly connecting with one another is what brings joy – which is probably why COVID has been so hard.
Jesus says it so much more simply, “your joy will be full if you love one another as I have loved you.” And what a source of hope this would be to a world in need of hope and healing – if we simply could love one another.
I believe this is what WE are called to – sisters, associates; you, our co-workers, our ministry partners; you, our family and friends. Let’s make the kind of commitment that says if I am in you and you are in me, there is no fear of the OTHER because there is NO OTHER.
We are the body of Christ, with the potential to be the beloved community. In that community each one is precious. No one dominates another, or is deemed of greater value than another. If Christ lives in us, we are aware of one large life circulating through all – the vine and the branches. We are interdependent, complementary, cooperative, self-giving, looking always to the welfare of the whole, to the common good.
Perhaps by now you are saying, “All right already, Dawn, we get it. But how do we do it? How do we become this kind of community, this kind of WE?”
We commit ourselves to it. People who are committed, who truly believe something is important – they show up, they follow through, they stick with it.
And for Sisters of Providence, for the Providence community, we lean with all our weight on Providence.
German writer and statesmen Goethe wrote this:
“Concerning all acts of initiative, there is one elementary truth:
That the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision – that no one could have dreamed would come his or her way.
Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”
… Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.
Saint Mother Theodore tells us, “Ours is a preparation for the generation that will succeed us.” So, let’s be bold. Let’s begin it now. Let this be our calling.