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 nacar 02Associates focus on the charisms and gifts of their Congregations’ foundresses during the NACAR retreat at the LaSalle Retreat Center in Plano, Illinois

A retreat gives people time to look inward and reflect on one’s life journey and to discern some next steps. Attending the 2015 North American Conference of Associates and Religious (NACAR) retreat May 26‒29, 2015, provided opportunity for me and Associates of other congregations to reflect on the gifts of our congregations’ charism and its expression in our lives and ministries.

nacar 01Sr. Judy Gomila, MSC, directs the 2015 NACAR retreat for Associates in leadershipSr. Judy Gomila, MSC, a native of New Orleans and a Marianite Sister of Holy Cross, facilitated the retreat held at LaSalle Retreat Center in Plano, Illinois. The retreat focused on breathing in the Spirit through presentation, reflection, and faith sharing. It gave us the opportunity to focus on our Congregational charisms within our lived relationship with God and to tailor the Great Story of Jesus and our Foundress to motivate and inspire.

“Be Light to Color Others”

The first evening after introductions, we opened the retreat in the retreat center chapel with a beautiful prayer that helped us to focus on our natural rhythm of breathing. The chapel impressed me because all the stained glass windows depicted young saints. What stayed with me throughout the retreat was the quote from Sr. Joan Herpin that Sr. Judy shared with us: “We are all stained glass windows, beautiful in ourselves but meant to be light to color others.”

The next morning our discussion centered on how spiritual gifts always come with a real and abiding presence of God. Our energy comes from the abiding Presences. Our spiritual gifts allow others—our brothers and sisters, the body of Christ—to experience God as well. Others are drawn to the charism by the genuineness that you make to the presence of God. One of the most important things that we as leaders should remember is to remain kind, caring, and truthful. As Associate Leaders, we should always keep the poor in our hearts and minds.

In the evening on the second day, we did an exercise, “On the Edge of Tomorrow: A Drama in Three Acts.” Acts 1 to 3 were written by Sr. Elaine Kerscher, OSF, and we had to write Act 4 that reflected our experience with Associate relationship. This segment of the retreat gave me a deeper understanding of how we build on the shoulders of the past.

Jesus Is Our Common Story

The next morning, we discussed how Jesus is our common story and how our stories can instruct, nourish, heal, inspire, and build community. We discussed how Jesus sets himself as the measure of how we are to love one another. Sr. Judy used the image of a pinball machine to illustrate how Jesus could change the direction of people’s lives. We can do the same—we can change the direction of lives by the kindness and presence we bring to others. Sr. Judy reminded us that one way we measure our lives is to measure them in love—not by our possessions.

nacar 03Director of Associates Joan Mills (center) enacts a Scripture passage during a spiritual exercise at the NACAR retreatSr. Judy also gave us a clear view of co-missioning and discipleship, talking about how discipleship is not about just me and Jesus. When we say Jesus is our leader, it means we become familiar with how Jesus lived and we embrace this in our lives. Sr. Judy stated that co-missioning is not our own mission but the mission of God. We are co-missioned to do the work of the Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier.

We ended the retreat by allowing the Word of God to become enfleshed in us. Each of us chose one of our favorite Scripture passages, and once everyone finished reflecting on these passages, we broke into four groups to share what we heard were the similarities and commonalities or differences with our Scripture stories. Then we presented something that embodied our Scripture passage, such as a poem, a dance, a song, etc. Doing this exercise allowed the Scriptures to become real for us—we became part of the story. After this exercise, we shared how our Foundresses’ stories and history are relevant for us today.

By the end of the retreat, what became clear is that each of us, regardless of the charism we follow, is in the process of becoming. We had the chance to discuss how we are all at different stages on our journeys. The retreat left me energized and hopeful for the Associate relationship.

By Joan Mills, Director of Associates

Published: September 10, 2015