National Vocations Awareness Week: 4-11 August 2019
Religious Life is evolving in a Context of a Paradigm Shift.
For me, Religious life has been a fulfilling, challenging, stretching, disillusioning, confusing, enlightening and personally transforming journey of the gradual discovery of the meaning of living to my full potential this ‘one wild and precious life’  that I have been given. The phrase, ‘a vocation to Religious Life,’ when I joined the Josephites in the early 60’s meant to me the ‘giving of my whole self to God and to what matters to God’. The gospel call of justice for all peoples seemed simple and clear and with youthful enthusiasm, joy and trust I ventured forth with many others to be a gospel witness and to make a difference. Maybe in that attitude there was a hint of seeming arrogance of which I was completely ignorant at the time!
Behold, Vatican 2 Council (1961 – 64) called for Renewal in the whole of the Catholic Church including the renewal of Religious Congregations! This initiated us into the beginning of a paradigm shift in how we understood our Christian story, church, mission and religious life in a wholly different way. The Church and therefore Religious Life was now seen to be IN the Modern World not apart from it. Again, with youthful confidence I, with many others, became involved in Renewal Groups, new Catechetical approaches, justice and peace groups, theology courses/degrees and social justice action.
It turned out to be a journey of over 55 years where the new horizons and renewal could be described as bringing both ‘light and darkness’. In a paradigm shift everything changes. Reaction to the changes in society, Church and Religious Congregations soon became evident. The ministry of sisters was more concentrated on the individual’s passion and gifts as a response to the seen ‘need’ rather than belonging together as a group of sisters in a school or other mission. Sisters and others experimented in ways to be an ‘intentional community’ for mission. Others found their passion in justice ministry, pastoral ministry, spirituality ministry, administrative ministry, rural ministry and others. Sister-companions left to follow the gospel call in a different way, priests argued to have the option of marriage, young people explored other spiritualities or found the Church not relevant to their lives and most challenging of all the acknowledgement eventually came of Church cover-ups of Priest child abuse. I wavered, like many others, from certainty to uncertainty, trust to doubt and experienced the call of courage to stay in the ‘shadow’ or darkness where transformation often takes place. As the Psalmist says: ‘To God the light and darkness are the same’.
Katrina Brill rsj
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