Sr. Ricca Dimalibot was one of three sisters invited to prepare a response to the keynote address of LCWR’s annual gathering, which ran from Aug. 11-13. More than 1,100 people were registered for this virtual event. The keynote talk was given by Sr. Mercedes Leticia Casas Sánchez, FSpS, immediate past president of CLAR. Sr. Ricca’s pre-taped response followed. The text in blue are quotations from Sr. Mercedes’ address. To read her full talk, click here.
BY SR. RICCA DIMALIBOT, CCVI
Mercedes’ words reminded me whose shoulders I am standing on when she talked about the unbroken bond that connects us to the courage and faith of our foremothers, the cloud of witnesses who cut the deep grooves that paved the way for us today. In continuing the legacy of our founders, she encourages us to find spaces where we allow religious life to be recreated and renewed through our charisms as we respond to the world’s needs.
Mercedes proposes several paths of contemplation to create spaces for the future. First and foremost is for us to be women of the Spirit, moved by the law of freedom. The Spirit moves freely and blows where it will; it is uncontainable and unstoppable. When I think about creating space, what it means for me is that I am given the freedom to be authentic, vulnerable but fearless to search the origins of my longing, because I am free to explore and to grow in that space as I discover who I am in God.
Creating space would seem untenable because human beings have the natural tendency for togetherness and relationship. It’s not a mystery why social distancing brought an immense psychological toll during this pandemic. But I think what Mercedes has in mind is space as a container of grace and sacredness because it is our meeting place with God. Making our religious communities places of encounter with God and with our brothers and sisters would allow us to feel the closeness we are aching for.
Placing God’s grace in a box is the exact opposite of creating space. There is no realm of transformation when there are walls that stop the influx of grace. We built walls and boundaries, believing that they would solve all our problems. We say, “Let’s just invent another law to rein in peace and order.” The walls that we build around us only make us prisoners of our insecurities.
-A RESPONSE TO SR. MERCEDES LETICIA CASAS SÁNCHEZ, FSPS
What I find more distressing are my personal, invisible walls of fear, lack of imagination, paralysis to take risks. My vocation dictatesthat I need to increase my trust in Jesus’ free flow of love, justice, and peace that works through my weaknesses.
I am compelled to ask the following questions. Are we as religious women complicit with the institutional church in walling off the movement of grace even in situations where love abounds? Am I as a religious sister acting like I have the switch that turns grace off and on to dictate where God’s grace should go? With so many people suffering because of antiquated laws, have I become a conduit of oppression instead of an agent of love and grace?
Thankfully, as religious women, we could also create spaces for hope, as Mercedes tells us. There is freedom in acknowledging that the future of religious life is beyond our vision and comprehension. Yet, is anything too marvelous for God (Genesis 18:14)? As a sister in congregational leadership, I must believe that what I have dedicated my life for still has something to say to the world. Elise’s and Mercedes’ words are proof of that. I am dangling at the realm of transformation, the growing edges of conversion, the place where God is most actively seeking me, and where I could intensely “feel the feelings of God”(Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel).
Lastly, Mercedes prompts us to revisit the signs that tell the world who we are, not by institutionalizing our ministries but by purifying our purpose and giving new meaning to our prayer, community life, vows, and ministries. Revisiting the signs means becoming more mystical and less professional, stripped of all the non-essentials guided by whatever it takes to follow our charism.
My trust in the Incarnate Word leads me to believe that religious life could be that mystical place, the space where people find God and where the realm of transformation takes place.