Over the last two decades, many religious communities have undergone intense discernment about their future. The number of women in religious life is drastically different than it was a century ago and thus communities have been exploring what these consequences might mean for the future of religious life.
In a *very* basic summary, communities have discerned one of three options:
Completion or Fulfillment - Some congregations have decided not to accept new members. Reasons include discernment that their mission has been fulfilled or is being fulfilled by others or other practical, financial or social reasons.
Merge or Forming of a New Community - Some communities have collaborated with others of a similar charism, founder or mission to form a new or larger community. In this way, they can share resources and receive the benefits of global membership.
Moving Forward - Still other communities are moving forward, accepting new members to their communities. They may be employing the same methods or exploring new ways of living religious life.
The Sisters of the Precious Blood are moving forward. A long discernment process culminated in the 2015 Assembly in which the Sisters of the Precious Blood explicitly discerned to be open to vocations. A directive stated, "Recognizing the relevancy of our Precious Blood Spirituality for today's world: we choose to continue vocation ministry with emphasis on inter-cultural possibilities."
In other words, we see a deep need for the Precious Blood in today's world. The Precious Blood of Jesus was shed to unite us with one another, with God and with the world. So a world separated by so many things (politics, race, violence, poverty and more) is in desperate need of those who are to be a reconciling, life-giving presence.
Since pledging to be open to new members, explicitly stating we are open to women of other cultures, we have seen an increase in women interested and entering our community. To date, we have eleven women in formation with the Sisters and nine of the eleven are black, indigenous and/or persons of color. It certainly appears the Holy Spirit is continuing to affirm our discernment.
What this means for the future of religious life is only known to the Holy Spirit. Together, newer and established members of the Sisters of the Precious Blood are co-creating with God what a new way of religious life will look like. It is certainly a daunting task, but one full of possibilities. It requires women of faith, courage and creativity. So, if the Holy Spirit is nudging you to do something wild and risky with your life, consider religious life. I'd love to talk with you!
I leave you with a popular prayer or poem, often attributed to Oscar Romero, but actually written by Fr. Ken Untener.
It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work. Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of saying that the Kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the Church’s mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.
This is what we are about.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.