By: Kathy Tighe, CSJA and Judy Swett, CSJA

A group of CSSJ associates at the North American Conference of Associates and Religious (NACAR) 2019 leadership retreat. (Photo provided by Judy Swett)On May 13, 2019, we took the earliest flight from Boston to Houston, Texas, and headed to the 2019 North American Conference of Associates and Religious [NACAR] Annual Leadership Retreat. By mid-afternoon, we arrived at Holy Name Retreat Center where we unpacked and explored the beautiful grounds. Twenty-seven Associates and Sisters from twenty-two different congregations throughout the United States gathered to deepen their awareness of Living the Charism in Turbulent Times. Among the group were six CSSJ Associates and Sisters from the congregations of Baden, Boston, Carondelet-LA, and Philadelphia.

After gathering for dinner on Monday, we joined in opening prayer and an overview of our days together. We continued to socialize with folks who are living the charism of congregations from all parts of the country. Sixteen states were represented. Our Boston accents were noted by all!

On Tuesday morning, our facilitator, Sr. Janet Mock, CSJ (Baden) began with the question, "WHAT IN THE WORLD IS GOING ON?" Through prayer, presentation, reflection, and group sharing we became acutely aware of the urgency of our call. She challenged us to reflect — internally and in our corporate life — the radical oneness that is inherent within the cosmic household.

To frame Wednesday's discussion, Janet posed the question, "WHAT MUST WE DO?" Janet's description of our call to action was to embrace and engage in the hard work of transforming the western world view of domination and to co-create policies, structures, and systems that contribute to a cosmic worldview that invites solidarity and communion. The complexities of our time require intercultural and global cooperation orientated toward the common good. Ours is the challenge to engage in the hard work of finding out how everything interactively connected is a potential source for experiencing the unity with which God has graced this universe.

2019 NACAR Leadership retreat. (Photo provided by Judy Swett)

In a powerful prayer-based experience we acknowledged the reality of our participation in the degradation of EARTH, our home. (We Have Forgotten Who We Are-UN Environmental Sabbath Program

On our closing day, we used a replica of our Earth and were invited to participate in cleansing the mess we have made of God's creation. 

It was an honor and privilege to journey to this NACAR Leadership Retreat. The facilitation by Janet Mock, CSJ, embodied authentic leadership which serves, empowers, and connects with all women and men of the Gospel. We learned to befriend the times we live in, to recognize our limitations, to practice virtues with intentionality, to be conscious and respectful, and to connect with every living being. The prayer rituals, facilitated by Rita Woehlcke, SSJ, throughout the gathering contextualized the content of the presentations. Our small group sessions offered the opportunity to witness and dialogue without judgment, practice deep listening, and learn from one another's point of view.

In our brief time together, close relationships evolved where CSSJ participants intend to connect through Zoom Meetings with NACAR and other CSSJ U.S. Federation members. We left Houston with deepened wisdom, a host of kindred spirits, and hearts ablaze to advance the Associate-Religious Movement in these turbulent times.

[Judy Swett, CSJA, is an associate with the Sisters of St. Joseph of Boston. Retired from 25 years of teaching Theology and seven years as a palliative care chaplain, Judy volunteers each week as a spiritual caregiver at Bethany Health Care Center, a CSJ Sponsored Ministry. Kathy Tighe, CSJA, is an associate with the Sisters of St. Joseph of Boston. She served on the CSJ Boston Associate Leadership Team from 2013-2016. Now retired from 25 years of teaching, Kathy volunteers at St. Francis House Shelter on a weekly basis.]