At this 26th Congregational Chapter at Pattaya, a new word began to be spoken among us. At first only a few heard the word. But like the imperceptible growth of light in the early morning dawn that small word gradually took hold. The word was “earth”, “earth province”, “earth community”, and “RNDM earth community”.
Soon questions about the word began to be noticed: What does it mean? What are its implications?
As the questions came tumbling out of us so our conviction grew that the Spirit was inviting us to new explorations of the Gift of God among us, which seemed so refreshing and so urgent.
- What would it be like to call ourselves an RNDM earth community?
- Where would it lead?
Other questions followed:
- Might earth teach us what we need to know in this time?
- What kind of communion would grow among us?
- What would mission look like through the lens of an RNDM earth community?
- What shared vision could an RNDM earth community evoke among such a diverse community?
- What sorts of relationships might we need to develop and cherish?
- What kind of formation would we need to offer young women?1
- What could earth teach us about structures and leadership?
- What barriers might fall when all RNDMs stand together, our feet planted firmly on earth and our hearts in God – when we know that we all come from earth and will return to earth?
- How might the concerns, questions, insights coming from the provinces and regions be addressed, through the lens of an RNDM earth community?
- What impact does the vision of our RNDM earth community have on our Congregational Mission Plan?2
We experienced ourselves as being called home to our place within the earth community.
This coming home has helped us recognize more urgently the harm being done to earth. We see the distress of our planet and have allowed ourselves to be moved. We see the undeniable harm humans have done to soil, water, and air as a profound religious issue, the moral and ethical imperative of our time.
We believe that when we set our hand to the task of repair, we have vast resources of spiritual, psychological and physical energy from other human partners and from earth itself working with us, working in us. To tap into these energies is a source of power, a power that can guide us away from being a destructive presence on the planet.
Within an intelligent, self-organizing, living earth, humans can join the enveloping community of living beings in a mutually enhancing manner. We believe that our deep call today, which touches on every aspect of our religious missionary lives is to stay awake to the call of earth.
We believe that the gift given us today is the way we are coming to see our Congregation as RNDM earth community. It is a new expression of our charism which will affect our life in contemplation with God, our life in communion with one another, and our life of presence in mission.
One bread, one body, one mission, we set ourselves to the task of living our way into new understandings of this clarion call.
"We recognize earth itself as a developing community of beings. – Thomas Berry csp"
God’s Creative Word
"In the beginning …
God spoke …
The universe flared forth
in stars, galaxies,
and eventually our planet home.
One hundred and fifty years ago, Euphrasie Barbier heard God’s creative word in silence and the Congregation of Our Lady of the Missions was born.
Now, at this 26th congregational chapter, we, her 21st century sisters, hear the cry of earth’s distress rising in the silence.
Seized anew by the mystery of God, who is Silence, we receive the Word of Life, and fired by the Spirit, we share life and love with all creation.
We make our life an encounter with God-Trinity God-in-relationship and become contemplative witnesses in a pluralistic world.
We do not stand alone. In union with our foremothers who also felt this original fire stirring in their hearts, and with all who form the congregation today, we welcome women who feel the same fire to join with us in this new moment.
As we stand at a critical moment of earth’s history, so we RNDMs stand at a critical point, a time to treasure our past and shape our future.
In the midst of great diversity and fragility, we form one RNDM earth community, with a common destiny.
In an evolving and expanding universe, we listen to the heartbeat of earth. Together we expand the boundaries of our hearts and minds, to learn from earth. We open our beings to “harness for God the energies of Love,” 3 of Divine Presence, of Divine Missions.
We long to make real in our time, the cry echoed by Euphrasie, that all is One, all is Love - that we are One and we are Love.
Let ours be a time remembered for awakening a new respect for our earth, for one another, for ourselves and for our common destiny."
Drinking from One Spirit
"Listening to the heartbeat of God
and grounded in the dynamism of the Divine Missions
we hear the cry of earth and her people. 4
Our response draws us into a radical change in mindset
towards a fuller recognition
that as members of the RNDM earth community
we have one mission,
form one body
and share one purse.
We reach out to the poorest of the poor
- including the poor earth.
We have come to recognize that in partnership with the earth and many others we have the vision and the capacity to engage with the challenges of our time in increasingly life-enhancing ways.
Earth sustains life and possibility through her rich diversity of communities interacting with one another. We experience this diversity with our partners in mission as fresh hope and promise.
Earth teaches us how not only to survive our fragility but also how to thrive through the ability to adapt. This flexibility gives life, strength and meaning to our future.
As RNDM contemplative missionaries we are drawn into an incredible mystery of Divine relationship where we recognize ourselves called not “servants but friends”. partners, co-creators with God!"
We are challenged to unfold and develop more creative expressions of an RNDM earth community so that we are true to ourselves, our earth and our different ways of being in mission. Therefore we will embrace the adventure of sharing our charism within and beyond our membership. Indeed earth is a celebration of diversity, and imagining and implementing a variety of RNDM partnerships is one way of joining the celebration.
"For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body – Jews or Greeks, slaves or free – and we were all given to drink of one Spirit." - 1 Cor. 12:13
Longing to Be One
"Our longing to be One and to be Love
inspires us to be an RNDM earth community
Our shared life in community finds its source in God-Trinity, who has inscribed the rhythm of Divine relationships into the fabric of creation.
We are drawn into this dance of communion with each other, interwoven and interdependent with all that is. We celebrate the grace of difference, and the giftedness of each Sister."
Our RNDM structures support patterns of relationships and networks which facilitate this gift of communion in the midst of our diversity. As “friends in search of God” 5 we celebrate life and share mission together. We joyfully nurture relationships that are life-giving and based on a spirit of trust, cultural sensitivity, mutual respect, appreciation and encouragement. We participate actively and responsibly in the Mystery of the Universe and in the unfolding story of the Congregation. For the full flourishing of our RNDM life, members with gifts for leadership form collaborative teams. They are affirmed and empowered by the community in their service of love. 6
"Listening deeply to the wisdom and creativity within the community,
our leaders call us all to moments of
so that the energy and potential of the community
are continually released and refreshed for mission.
Attentive to the movements and rhythms of earth, concerned for the well being of all members, they are vigilant as they steward the abundance and fewness of our resources.
“One heart, one mind, one purse” Euphrasie’s dream for her sisters is ours today – our bond of communion, our gift of solidarity. 7
With grief and repentance, we courageously name the pain that still exists among us in the form of racism, prejudice, the effects of colonialism and the misuse of the power of money. All of these result in forms of oppression, manipulation and control which have no place in our RNDM earth community."
"They devoted themselves … to the communal life, and the breaking of bread … They held all things in common, selling their possessions and distributing the proceeds to all as any had need. They broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts." - Acts 2:42, 44-46
We set ourselves to speak with clarity and act with love when considering our financial resources. The common good, the life of the whole, is our prime concern. Our structures will invite us to a joyful sharing, transparency, accountability and a concern to ensure sustainability. Respect and mutual understanding are our guiding principles, recognising that each season in the life of our RNDM earth community has its own fruitfulness.
We recognize that in light of this new awareness of ourselves as part of the earth community, we RNDMs will need to continue to imagine our way into the new structures and relationships that will be required of us. We recognize that humans do not so much think their way into new ways of living, but live their way into new ways of thinking and creating. We commit ourselves to this task, which is also a wonderful adventure.
"Let ours be a time remembered
for awakening a new respect
for our earth and all her inhabitants,
for one another, for ourselves
and for our common destiny."
1Manila 2000 and Bangladesh/Kenya Formation 2006 documents [Return to 1]
2Congregational Mission Plan, Kenya, 2006 [Return to 2]
3Pierre Teilhard de Chardin [Return to 3]
4See Constitutions #52 [Return to 4]
5Augustine of Hippo – translation of the Rule of St. Augustine. [Return to 5]
6Leadership for RNDMs for Today and Tomorrow, Kenya 2006. [Return to 6]
7EB Letter to M Pierre, June 1884. For a fuller understanding see Missionary Beyond Boundaries by Marie Bénédicte Ollivier p. 639. [Return to 7]