Risking together for mission

Risking together for mission is a big deal, and it’s going on with Good Shepherd provinces in North America. Sister and Lay Mission Partners from the provinces of Mid-North America, New York/Toronto, and Central South are playing with creative ideas as they explore new ways to the future. The Montreal province is following its own planning process while staying informed of ours.

A new paradigm is shifting for orders of women religious around the world. The evolution of the future of Good Shepherd in North America is playing its role in the global emergence. Anticipation is in the air that it’s time for massive change. What that change will be? Nobody knows yet. The provinces are exploring that together.

Risking together for mission

This time of emergence is a time of uncertainty, unpredictability, and risk-taking: risking together for mission. The only certainty right now is that the North American provinces have to cooperate to facilitate the new.

Relationships are at the heart of the matter. Order and disorder are always created simultaneously. Throughout the living world chaos is transformed into order. This will hold true for the North American provinces in the end.

Risk is another factor. Biblical Esther took a gamble on two choices: speak up for her people – the Jews — and die, or speak up for her people and spare them from genocide. She gambled the odds and took the risk. She and her people were spared.

Esther’s Gamble

Sister Sharon Rose holds documents
Sister Sharon Rose Authorson shows her zeal for Esther’s Gamble in her small group breakout session on the inter-province Zoom call in July.

Esther’s Gamble – as described in an article by its author Sr. Mary Pellegrino, CSJ, has been at the heart of small group conversations across the provinces. Some small groups grew out of the international committee of Life Seekers that was charged with exploring new ways to move the Congregation into the future. A key element of Life Seekers is to explore and develop structures throughout Good Shepherd that will reflect current and future needs and realities, all in service to freeing energy and resources for mission.

Life Seekers will report on their work during the virtual Intercontinental Assemblies (ICAs) from August through October 2020. The virtual ICA for North America (and Great Britain) will be September 21-25, 2020.

My current small group began with Life Seekers and continues biweekly. We’re taking the motto risking together for mission seriously. We meet on Zoom to strengthen relationships, ponder questions of importance, and to reflect together on more effective ways to work for mission. Topics include Esther’s Gamble and Province priorities from the Province Chapter Planning  Committee.

Connecting and unifying ideas

Our calls are helping us unify and  connect ideas to the complex situation of moving into the future. Our discussions tend to focus on how we find ways to free our lives to keep the charism, spirituality and mission alive in the context of dramatic change within the congregation and societies across the world, especially in light of COVID-19.

The meetings are helping to uncover new, innovative governance models to consider at the 2020 ICAs, province chapters, and 2021 Congregational Assembly for Contemplative Sisters (CACS), and the Congregational Chapter.

My small group discussions have included ways for risking together for mission:

  • how we might educate Mission Partners on everything Sisters know intuitively through decades of living the charism;
  • how we might share resources across provinces and units;
  • what kind of opportunities are there for professional development (formation) in understanding current structures to help determine how to move forward creatively
  • how to improve communications vehicles for better understanding the Congregation, including the missions of provinces and units across the globe.

Good Shepherd structure

As background, the Good Shepherd congregation functions with an elected leadership team and a body of vowed women committed to living in community and being faithful to their Constitutions and governance structures.

The elected leaders provide spiritual leadership and unity for the congregation’s mission and the administration. Decisions impacting the entire congregation are discerned by delegates gathered at the chapter. The chapter is the highest governing body of the institute and elects its leaders.

The elected leaders are then accountable for implementing the decisions made and directions set by the chapter. It is a model of governance that embodies servant leadership and shared authority. Now, bring this model down to the province level in North America. Visualize working with three different leadership teams that are responsible for the well-being of their respective provinces. Each created its own unique and autonomous community that reflects the spirit of a common beginning. Imagine having conversations about merging resources and possible entities.

Taking deep dives while risking together for mission

A precedent for this was set years ago with the inter-province National Advocacy Center and Good Shepherd Volunteers. These initiatives make it easier to fathom additional ways to collaborate.

It’s important that everyone engaged in the process have an open mind, open heart, and open will. Judgment, cynicism, and fear impede the process. Inter-province Zoom calls are providing space for Mission Partners (Sisters and Lay) to practice listening to one another, learning to see with “fresh eyes,” taking deep dives into tough issues and working out complex questions that involve diverse perspectives.

The leadership of the three provinces in North America are open to an emerging future. They believe that it is possible to create new systems so that a new form can emerge to carry on the mission and charism of Good Shepherd.

Inter-province dialogue and conversation

Sister Mary Pellegrino, a Sister of St. Joseph of Baden, author of Esther’s Gamble, and her colleagues at  the consulting firm Plante Moran have worked closely with the three province leaders to create an inter-province dialogue and conversation process, titled Toward a Vision of the Future of Good Shepherd in North America. This includes reflection and small group sharing on Esther’s Gamble and on analysis of the tangible and social resources of each province.

The goal is for the process to help the provinces articulate a vision in North America. The role of Plante Moran is to analyze and present the information that is gathered in the process so that the provinces can use it to make decisions.

“What we are doing now is gathering data to turn into information that can steer conversations at province chapters and assemblies,” said Sr. Madeleine Munday, PMNA Province Leader.

“What’s important for us is that it all be connected as we go forth risking together for mission – that our resources are connected to the conversations about vocation, mission, ministry, properties, and other tangible assets. Plante Moran provides a container so that as we do our work we can keep all of the data and information in mind as the process unfolds,” said Sr. Madeleine.

Over time, the process will take hold and uncertainty and confusion will fade. Provinces will take action to shape a new presence for Good Shepherd in North America, and today’s current state will evolve into the future. What is needed in the interim is faith, engagement, and an open heart.

Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your heart. Who looks outside, dreams, who looks inside awakens. ~ Carl Jung

Read Items of Interest for more stories about Sisters of the Good Shepherd Province of Mid-North America.

Jeanette McDermott

Jeanette McDermott

Jeanette is the Communications Coordinator for Sisters of the Good Shepherd Province of Mid-North America. She is a career photojournalist who has served in various capacities of print, broadcast, and corporate communications. Jeanette is devoted to creation and is particularly focused on saving pollinators and other wildlife species and their habitat. She is an ethical vegan and created the website veganstoryteller.com