Widening the Tents of our Hearts

Written on: September 3, 2019

The following is written by Sr. Eileen White,GNSH, who recently attended the Leadership Conference of Women Religious annual Assembly. This article appeared in the Bucks County Courier Times and is reprinted here with their permission.

The picture above is by Martin Robles/Unsplash

I had the privilege a few weeks ago of attending a meeting with more than 650 other Catholic Sisters who are leaders in their communities. The Leadership Conference of Women Religious gathers once a year for an assembly comprised of powerful presentations, prayer, song, worship services, discussion, action on behalf of social justice and peacemaking, and the sharing of our lives as women of faith. The theme of our meeting this year was Imagining Leadership in a Global Community. 

Sister Pat Murray, IBVM,  gave a stirring speech challenging us to “widen the tents of our hearts.

“The prophet Isaiah said: “Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes.” (Isaiah 54:2) This is a helpful image for religious life today because it speaks of both flexibility and rootedness, unbounded hospitality and secure identity. We are invited not to hold back, to stretch wide but at the same time to “strengthen our stakes,” by ensuring that what holds the tent in place goes down deep. This verse invites us to make space in our hearts, for Christ and for those who live on the margins of life.”

One of several actions of the assembled leaders was to publish an open letter to President Trump and then pledge to share its contents as widely as possible with our friends and relatives and with the wider public. Perhaps you have seen a portion of the letter on Facebook or elsewhere. I quote some of it here:

We live in a world increasingly marked by hatred, brutality, and violent conflict. . . . . We are caught in a political culture paralyzed by ideological extremism and hyper-partisanship. These are times that require exceptional insight and courageous leadership.

In the face of these unprecedented challenges, we are outraged, and heart-broken when our political leaders appeal to our basest instincts and stoke the fires of fear that threaten to tear the fabric of our nation apart. . . . .

Mr. President, we beseech you to end all divisive and polarizing rhetoric. We implore you to never use language that disrespects, dehumanizes, or demonizes others. We expect our president, and all who serve this nation as leaders, to be always mindful of the common good and the dignity of each and every person. You hold a position that has the potential to inspire the best of every one of us and we ask you to use this unique status to bring about healing and never seek to create division.

When we were asked at the Assembly, having heard and read the proposed letter, if we could affirm it, we nearly jumped to our feet and burst into applause.We were happy to speak as one strong voice advocating for courageous leadership at the local, national and global level. As vowed religious women in the Catholic Church, we have committed our lives to creating a more compassionate world and we do not want to hold back, as Sister Pat stated, if there is some way we can promote dialogue rather than discord, reconciliation rather than perpetual conflict.    

We pray that we will be faithful to our call by God to be peacemakers as we continue to advocate especially for those who live on the margins of life. We are fortunate to belong to communities of faith who help us “strengthen our stakes.”

How are you supported in your faith and your commitment to peacemaking?

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