By: Sr. Jeanmarie Gribaudo

Sisters of St Joseph attending the Leadership Collaborative gathering in Chicago.From May 30 to June 2, twenty Sisters of St. Joseph had the opportunity to attend a conference in Chicago with about 60 other sisters, sponsored by the Leadership Collaborative — a gathering for those under 65 who have participated in a leadership development program. The idea behind these various leadership development programs is to help this age cohort understand its strengths/weaknesses and the gifts/challenges of being leaders wherever they find themselves. After all, all are called to leadership in some form.

The Leadership Collaborative gathering, as well as other such age cohort gatherings, are critically important as most of those under 65 have entered communities in parties of one or two. There is a need to discuss with our peers where they have been and discover where the voice of the Beloved might be beckoning as congregations go through immense loss.  

There were two focal points for this conference, both of which emanated from the history of our Jewish brothers and sisters: the destruction of the temple in 70 AD and the story of Ruth, Naomi, and Orpah.

Leadership Collaborative gathering last month in Chicago.Our congregations, like the Israelites during the period after the destruction of the temple, have a lot of letting go to do...letting go of one another through death and illness, letting go of our institutions, letting go of what was.  

The story of Ruth, Naomi, and Orpah also had much to offer for reflection as we discussed our reality. Orpah is the little-known daughter-in-law who left Ruth and Naomi to do what Naomi had originally asked and did what God had planned for her. Orpah risked going forward into the mystery. Then there is Ruth who refuses to leave Naomi and thereby risked in another way, not knowing what was ahead. 

No judgment should be passed on these women... just different ways of moving into the future...both ways demand risk and necessitate loss.

Loss is going to be a part of our going forward...how will we do this in order for something new to come forth? How will we embrace the suffering that will and is coming with such loss? Will we react or create? Risk, peril await. How do we remain steadfast and flexible as we find our way forward...as we embrace alienation, risk, unknown, and loss?

We need these conversations with our peers in order to have the courage to take the next steps. Gratitude abounds for the opportunities for such critical conversations among our peers. As we continue to walk with our individual congregations through this current reality, the words of St. Paul offer hope: “Regardless of living or dying we belong to the Lord.”

[Sr. Jeanmarie Gribaudo is a Sister of St. Joseph of Boston]