Wisconsin Religious Collaborative Blog: Better Together: Sharing Our Journey
Over the last 10 years, I have attended many of the workshops designed by the conferences that serve the needs of religious congregations. While listening to the input in those early years, I was highly aware that my own province was struggling to face our reality. Finally, in 2011, we acknowledged that “we are moving to completion.”
That acknowledgment freed me to listen differently to the input we received from then on. I became fascinated by the idea of covenanting. However, when I heard Janice Bader, CPPS, then executive director of NRRO, present statistics about the median age of communities reporting to the National Religious Retirement Office (NRRO), I quickly realized that covenant relationships would not be sustainable. If more than 75% of LCWR communities in the NRRO sample had a median age of 70 or above there would not be enough communities to partner.
“There has to be another way to do this,” I thought. I found myself thinking about what would happen if the communities from my LCWR region (Wisconsin) would band together to create something new. I mentioned to region members my idea that some type of cooperative might help to provide internal management functions if we could just figure out how to structure it.
I realized that to move forward we had to dream together. I invited those who had interest to come to a meeting in October 2015. As a result, five leaders volunteered to form a group to research the possibilities. We were able to get grant funding and spent two years developing the Wisconsin Religious Collaborative. Incorporated in 2018, it has nine member congregations and a lay executive director.
This new beginning gives me energy and spurs creativity in my own leadership. “There has to be another way to do this” has morphed into “There has to be a better way to do this” as my team works with our general leadership to plan the future for our province.
That perspective spills over into work I do with our diocese and other organizations. Each time I enter into a brainstorming session this new outlook allows and encourages creativity. Grounded in reality, it focuses on the possible and leaves out fear and only tried and true methods. It is an organic way of proceeding that taps our experience but also the positive energy of the group. We are small but we still have something to contribute.
As a result of practicing this way of imagining I am more sensitive to what is happening around me, more confident that there are seeds of newness in even the most dire circumstances and more dedicated to the belief that dreaming and working with others is far more fruitful than going it alone. This enables me to let go of pre-conceived notions and to welcome ideas that spark new options for growth. This stance enables me to look at setbacks as opportunities to learn. I must pay attention. It might demand an admission of failure, but it is never the end of the process. Something new could emerge, another member of the team might see a possibility I cannot see. Together we can find a better way.
Pat is provincial of the USA Province of the Sisters of Mercy of the Holy Cross and serves as the president of the board for the Wisconsin Religious Collaborative. This blog post was first published by LCWR in the Winter 2020 Occasional Papers.