Signs of Courageous Hope

Reflections on our experience at the Religious Formation Conference Congress 2019

by Ann Marie Cappello, SJ

Sisters Rosemary O’Brien, Susan Herzing, and I (pictured l-r Sister Rosemary O’Brien, myself and Sister Susan) attended the Religious Formation Conference Congress 2019, held recently in Louisville, KY. This month’s Mission Possible column offers our collaborative thoughts on the experience and a reflection from Sister Susan on the inspiring side trip to the Abbey of Gethsemani.

The conference attracted more than 300 attendees from throughout the U.S. and the world. The theme: “Being Signs of Courageous Hope” was the perfect framework for a few days of enriching networking, dialogue, learning, prayer, Eucharist, and celebrations. Keynote speakers touched minds and hearts with their challenging messages. Father Bryan Massingale referenced Pope Francis’ words ‘that we are not living in an “era of change,” but rather a “change of eras.” These words were then expanded by Fr. Bryan in his presentation, “Courage for an Interim Time that Does Not Yet Know Its Name.”  He referenced lines from a poem by John O’ Donohue as being an apt description of the times in which we live: “the old is not old enough to die away, and the new is still too young to be born.” No one, he said, can tell what the new age we are entering will be like, but we know it will be radically different. This, indeed, is a change of eras.

Sister Norma Pimentel, MJ, spoke compassionately about the universal call to embrace our brothers and sisters who are forced to migrate from their homeland with courage and hope.

We, along with the other attendees, were profoundly moved by both presenters who challenged us by their very presence. They were the message.

Another highlight of the trip was sightseeing and dinner with Sister Josette Gocella, who lives and ministers in Louisville.

Reflection on a Visit to the Abbey of Gethsemani

by Susan Herzing, SSJ

Nestled on 2,200 acres of land 60 miles south of Louisville, Kentucky, lies the Trappist monastery of Gethsemani, where 38 monks reside and open their lives to share peace, tranquility, and prayer with those who seek time and space away from their daily lives.

During the Religious Formation Conference, we were given the opportunity to experience this and to learn about Father Louis, better known as Thomas Merton, from Daniel Horan, OFM, a leading international Merton scholar. He shared ways that Merton’s legacy continues to inspire and challenge. We learned about life at the abbey; we saw the hermitage where Merton wrote, and we saw his grave. At noon, we prayed with the monks. All of this was enlightening, but through it all, there was an overriding presence and challenge. God was there: in the place, in the space, in the monks, and in us.

The fidelity and devotion of the monks were palpable. We were invited to find God wherever we were, to keep our eyes on Jesus, to give thanks for all that has been, for all that is, and for all that is yet to come. We left this holy ground changed. For some, the change was small. For others, it was a resolve to learn, pray, and be more. Whatever it was, we each came away touched, challenged, changed.

Sisters, Agrégées, Associates and friends 

We’re excited to share the inspiring keynote presentations from the Religious Formation Conference Congress 2019. Please join us for these video presentations in the coming months. Please come; you will be inspired. There will be two viewings of Fr. Bryan’s talk: Courage for an Interim Time
Monday, November 11   3:00 p.m. and
Tuesday, November 12 6:00 p.m.
SSJ Community Living Center, 5031 West Ridge Road, Erie, PA