Women religious focus on caring for God’s creation

MYRTLE BEACH—Women religious spend much of their time caring for others, through teaching, health care, work­ing with the poor, parish ministries, prayer and spiritual counseling. At their annual statewide gathering, they also learned how to take better care of the earth.

The theme for the annual Col­laboration for Ministry Initiative Conference Nov. 3-5 was “Respect: Nothing in this world is indifferent to us.” It was a weekend centered on contemplating the meaning and impact of Laudato Si, Pope Francis’ groundbreaking 2015 encyclical on the importance of caring for God’s creation.

Sixty women religious participat­ed, including congregational lead­ers from Ohio and Michigan, plus a group of Australians currently visit­ing at Springbank Retreat Center in Kingstree.

The keynote speaker from 2016 returned to carry on the previous year’s message of spreading mercy and goodness. Sister Ray Maria McNamara of Belmont, N.C., is coordinator of the Mercy Integra­tion Program for the South Central Community of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas. She writes and lectures extensively on issues such as religious life, prayer, mercy and ecology.

This year, Sister Ray Maria en­couraged the women to expand the love and mercy they already show in their daily ministry to the earth that sustains them. She discussed the moral and spiritual imperatives of good stewardship for God’s creation set forth by Pope Francis in the en­cyclical, and offered ideas on how the sisters could incorporate care for the earth into their daily lives and work.

The sisters also learned about ways to be more attentive to others’ opinions and how to carry on re­spectful and meaningful discussions at workshops led by Mark Small, chair of the Department of Youth, Family and Community Studies at Clemson University. Small used pas­sages from Laudato Si that showed Pope Francis’ concern not only for how humans treat the planet, but how they treat each other. He stressed that human beings will never be able to begin to repair the damage done to the earth by pol­lution and waste unless they first learn how to repair damage that selfishness and ignorance does to human relationships.

Small offered suggestions on how to be more effective listeners, how to deal with differing opinions, and ways to have respectful debate. He told the sisters that learning these skills could help them motivate oth­ers to be more conscious of how they treat the environment, and also help in daily situations that come up in their regular ministries.

There were also breakout sessions on dealing with grief, based on the Book of Lamentations, led by Sister Pamela Smith, secretary for educa­tion and faith formation for the Dio­cese of Charleston; and helping lay people be more involved in assisting the mission and ministry of women religious, given by Sister Cheryl Keehner of the Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine.

Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone met with the sisters to hear their ques­tions and concerns, and also cel­ebrated Mass for them on Nov. 4.

The women also took part in light­hearted fun and down time, includ­ing a movie night, ice cream social, and a party complete with music, bingo and other games.

There was an uplifting “Good News” discussion on Nov. 3 led by Daughters of Wisdom Sister Joan Kobe. The sisters talked about new ministries, accomplishments and milestones in their lives. They counted up how many years they had served as women religious and discovered that the attendees rep­resented 502 years of service to God and His people.

The women also welcomed a new community to South Carolina — the Sisters of St. John the Baptist, who recently started serving in the Co­lumbia area.

The annual conference is spon­sored by the Sisters of Charity Foundations of South Carolina and Cleveland.

Miscellany/Keith Jacobs: Sister Patricia Rogan, OSF, (left) and Sister Mary Cecile Swanton, CSJB, participate in the Collaboration for Ministry Initiative Conference held Nov. 3-5 in Myrtle Beach. The theme was “Respect: Nothing in this world is indifferent to us”, centered on contemplating the meaning and impact of Laudato Si, Pope Francis’ encyclical on the importance of caring for God’s creation.