By: Sr. Sarah Simmons
Home is a difficult thing to pin down. It is often a place, yet it is also a feeling. Over this last month I began reflecting on how my feeling of home resides within moments in time with people I love. In my eight years of living vowed religious life, I have called many places home, often simultaneously. Recently, I was driving from my childhood home to my current home when I began wondering about this word and how often I use it. I realized that the commonality among these sacred spaces is that they hold relationships in which I am deeply known. They are expansive and comforting connections that are honest and real. In late June, as I drove to and from the airport to pick up Sisters of St. Joseph from all over the country to attend this year’s Tending the Flame gathering, I felt a deep sense of home rise in my heart. Fourteen of us came together and nurtured this sense of home that was sparked to life seven years ago.
Tending the Flame is a U.S. Federation interest group composed of newer Sisters of St. Joseph from candidacy or transfer to ten years into final profession. We gather to create spaces for relationship, dreaming, and support as we journey together in religious life. Our common hope of vowed life, mission, and felt experience of belonging has built the foundation of our home-making. The first gathering of Tending the Flame took place in 2018, followed by the collective pause of the pandemic. The community regathered for the 2022 Federation Event and found the same energy and desire to create space for one another. With the help of the LCWR Emerging Future of Religious Life grant fund, fourteen Tending the Flame members physically gathered in Kentucky for a time of relationship and renewal. As we prayed, reflected, laughed, and shared with one another, it became clear that we indeed belong to one another and desire to create spaces where we can lean into the spirit of home that is present among us.
I still find myself energized by the space we created with and for one another during that weekend in June. Our conversations affirmed the call to continue cultivating relationship and giving voice to our collective hopes for religious life; both now and into the future. In order to live into this call, we will begin offering several opportunities in the next year to gather as a cohort, both in person and online. Our time together affirmed that these gatherings are essential because within our relationship with one another resides an unshakable hope in religious life, which will carry us and our communities into the next exciting adventure the Spirit has for us as vowed religious women.
Home is not a place but a relationship. My home of Tending the Flame is a space where I am fully alive with joy and hope in vowed religious life. At the end of our weekend together, as I drove my sisters to the airport, I realized how lucky I am that my home spans the world. It resides with every Tending the Flame sister who chooses to share their life, their joy, and their hope for the future with me.
[Sr. Sarah Simmons is a Sister of St. Joseph with the Congregation of St. Joseph]