Elizabeth (Betsy) Rockwood’s sharing on her recent attendance at the Annual Meeting of the United States Conference of Secular Institutes.
I would like to express my gratitude to the Oblate Missionaries of Marry Immaculate for the privilege of attending the USCSI Annual Meeting September 28-30, 2018.
The meeting was held in the beautiful setting of the Franciscan Renewal Center in Scottsdale, Arizona. We were blessed with good weather and so could move easily back and forth to our various locations for meetings, meals, sleeping and quiet walks in the beauty of the desert-like setting.
The USCSI leadership did a truly awesome job of organizing everything from arrival, transportation, housing, meals, facilities for the meetings, presenters for the meetings, appropriate and artistic printed hand outs and worship all the way through to organizing our transportation for departure.
The Rev. Ralph B. O'Donnell, Executive Director of USCCB Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations Office blessed us with his outstanding presentations.
The presentations and information during the weekend resulted in a sharing that united us in our common ground of commitment to consecrated life as members in our various Secular Institutes. I personally found it was stimulating to share experiences with others from different parts of the U.S. We all share a common concern for the aging of our members while at the same time a decline in new vocations. One new insight for me was that this decline in vocations is world-wide within the Catholic Church. Fr. O'Donnell was planning to leave shortly after his meeting with us for a meeting in Rome on the subject of vocations.
The "Panel of Young People," "Parts 1 and 2," were intended to focus on the "strengths and attributes of your institute's charism to accompany youth on their way to faith and discernment." There were three presentations from different Secular institutes on the subject. I was one of the presenters. We all did our best but certainly did not solve the major challenge in our church today concerning vocations. The most promising thing is that we, as members of secular institutes, are recognizing the challenge and seeking to find our Lord's will forward in this.
I would like to share with you two insights on this important subject that may deserve our thoughtful consideration. Prior to coming to the USCSI meeting I had asked our OMMI members to share their thoughts with me on the subject of vocations. Here is a response that I found especially thought provoking.
"I find that the birth of a vocation is truly a mystery...A psychologist told us that for Secular Institutes the members have to be mature...because we do not live in communities. Now a days the members that are accepted are older and of course more mature. They have experience of life. Let us be open to the working of the Spirit in us and around us."
Another similar thought that came to me is from a conversation I had recently with a long time Missionary of the Sacred Heart priest who has been for many years head master of a private School for boys in England. He said:
"It used to be, if an 18 year old boy came to me and said he wanted to become a priest, I would rejoice and encourage him. But today is a different world. Today, I would say, "Wait. Get your college degree. Work a few years in a profession, earning a living, learning about today's world. Then come back to me."
Food for thought!
Elizabeth (Betsy) R.
Having at heart the advancement of women’s place in the world I organized for the second consecutive year an event on the theme “The interior strength of women” following last years theme which was “Woman’s interior beauty.”
In my presentation I invited women to become more deeply aware of their interior strength – what was the source of this strength... Within us is something much greater than ourselves, something divine which will remain forever. Woman is a multifaceted diamond, resilient and fragile, that reflects many qualities and strengths. (Upon arrival each had received a token diamond.)
It is through love that she is resilient and through love that she is fragile.
Created in God’s image to love, give life, care, sustain growth, encourage, support and heal - without expecting any return, all of which arise from the heart of God as Mother. Indeed, could God have created woman if he himself did not have a mother’s heart?
This interior strength of woman is seen in her action, in her capacity to rise up to challenges, making of obstacles a spring board to go beyond with courage, faith and adaptability. It is this energy that gives soul to the home and workplace, soul in sports and in education. Her reaching out reveals the woman’s readiness to value the happiness of others ahead of her own.
Recognizing this strength is not a matter of undue pride but of standing up in full awareness that it is God gifted. This strength is the Love from which arise all other qualities we have received and that we develop by putting them at the service of others.
We heard Danièle Paré with her magnificent voice pay homage to the Virgin Mary with her rendition of Gounod’s Ave Maria. Then, Simone Desgroseilliers, harpist, accompanied with music her witnessing of the interior strength that sustained her during trials that become the source of life and hope.
Since men were also guests at this event the next witnessing was that of Jean-Marc Gaudreau who relates how he discovered his wife’s interior strength through her five-year battle with cancer. He acknowledged that, as a couple, these were the best years of his life because he learned to express his true feeling: Why wait for tragic events to recognize the beauty and the strength one’s partner, he said.
The last witnessing was that of Diane Labranche-Lampron, a business woman, wife and mother of 11 children. She discovered interior strength that she developed as she coped with a multitude of experiences which she shared with us with sprinkles of humor. Her interior strength carried her through dramatic situations that ultimately ended happily.
Over 160 guests attended the event. Video in french only