Wednesday, October 15, 2008

"The harvest is great"...

“O, the harvest is great, but the laborers are few. Let us go, let us go into the fields.” This powerful refrain, sung in the style of the African Spiritual, began our days together at the NRVC Convocation 2008. Nearly 500 Vocation Directors from as many congregations, met in Louisville for five days of workshops, keynote speakers and shared prayer. The refrain above was composed especially for our gathering by Janèt Sullivan Whitaker – one of OCP’s most talented liturgical musicians. Janet was our leader of song and cantor throughout. Somewhere between Thursday night and Friday morning, it came to me why her voice seemed so familiar. Janèt is a regular recording artist on OCP Sampler CD’s – the discs sent to liturgists with the new missal each year. We discovered a hymn on one of those CD’s for our Easter Vigil. It is a setting of Exodus 15 – the song of the Israelites as they passed through the Red Sea. It is a powerful, passionate piece to which several women recreate the dance of Miriam. One of the first things I want to do when I get home, is look that puppy up in the hymnal and see if Janèt is the composer as well as the voice that brought that sound to life.
This was, first and foremost, a prayerful gathering. One of the highlights (f0r me,) was the Solemn Vespers we celebrated on Friday evening. We walked in procession, two-by-two, from the hotel to the Cathedral of the Assumption. I wish you all could have seen it…and the faces of those stuck in traffic because of us. There was a wonder in the faces I saw and real curiosity. The local police were especially helpful at the intersections. The pilgrimage was only five blocks, but for 500 nuns, priests and brothers; it was a slow moving train! There, at the cathedral, we joined the Archbishop of Louisville who represented the local Church and prayed with us for GOD’s blessing on our ministry.
There are many learnings from this trip. Our first keynote, Rev. Donald Senior, CP, a biblical scholar recently appointed to the Pontifical Biblical Commission, spent all of Friday on the theology of “call” in the writings of Saint Paul. Our Sunday keynote, Sister Maria Cimperman, an Ursuline sister and theologian, explored the meaning of “thresholds” in religious life – places of exceptional meaning and, usually, some sacrifice. It will take some time to unpack all of this wonderful material, and, some prayerful reflection.
I attended a FANTASTIC all-day workshop on marketing for vocation ministry. I learned at least six new things in the first two hours – we certainly got our money’s worth. Another half - day workshop on reaching the “You-Tube” generation was also illuminating on several levels. The impact of technology on vocations cannot be underestimated or used indiscriminately. (I am writing this blog entry at 30,000 feet – somewhere between Atlanta and Richmond. Let’s hear it for laptops!)
The pace of this convocation is unrelenting. Most religious (myself excluded) are introverts. Five days filled with dawn to dusk programming is usually too much for most. It’s even a bit too much for me. But I am always energized by reconnecting with Benedictine Vocation Directors who attend. And, I meet wonderful men and women of other congregations who love the ministry as I do. (OK, maybe most don’t love it quite as much as I do.) There is so much more to tell, but one of the nicest things about this gathering was having my friend, Sister Mary Catherine, of St. Ben’s Monastery in MN, as my roommate. We split the all the bills and spent our one, precious “free” afternoon together. It’s great when economics can justify a HUGE personal blessing.
Well, we’re going to land a bit early, I think. Time to power-down and watch the clouds open up to reveal the grand, old city of Richmond. I’ll be back at the convent by 7PM, I think. Do look for a new post on Thursday and Friday of this week. (Trying to make up for lost time with my cyber-friends!) My comings and goings are always blessed by your prayers. Thank you for your patience and your continued interest in our monastic life.
Blessings and love to you all…
- Sister Vicki