Address to Sacred Heart Colleagues and Friends in Ireland and Scotland
Thank you for this invitation to meet you and to share something from our perspective of the international Society of the Sacred Heart.
We come today to recognize YOU, colleagues and friends who have shared our spirituality, life and mission. You are part of a worldwide family of Sacred Heart associates, collaborators, alumnae, friends who share the desire to make God’s love known in the particular circumstances in which they live. Your Sacred Heart colleagues are in 41 countries in 5 continents, some with a long history such as Ireland and Scotland, and some much younger, such as Indonesia, where we have been for just over 20 years now, or Haiti where we have been for 10 years.
Who are these colleagues and friends?
Some are directly part of our educational ministries as board members, educators, staff, parents, alumnae. Our recent documents say that “our colleagues carry the mission and charism for us, with us” and that is certainly true in our schools in Ireland and Scotland.
You are part of a network of over 110,000 students in more than 150 schools who share an approach to transformative education which integrates intellectual development with growth as a person, the service of others, the building of a world community and a centeredness in the gospel and particularly the love known in the Heart of Jesus. We are most grateful for the generosity and deep commitment with which so many people, and particularly you in Ireland/Scotland/Malta have taken up the educational heritage of Sophie and made it your own – for the sake of future generations.
Others of our colleagues and friends are people who are more specifically drawn to the spirituality of the Society of the Sacred Heart and come together for study, reflection and prayer. These groups take various forms – associates, prayer groups, people who gather to deepen their grounding in the mission of Jesus and of Sophie. Our own faith journeys have been inspired and deepened by yours
And on each continent we are engaged with other colleagues and friends in other religious congregations, dioceses, lay groups in the Church and civic organizations where we work together for the values of the gospel. Some are people who join us in our projects for justice and peace. Many times it is we who are joining you in areas of service. We are grateful to be part of such collaborative efforts which enable all of us to bring our varied gifts to meet the needs for compassion, justice and peace in our world.
Every 8 years the Society of the Sacred Heart has a General Chapter, the legislative body of the congregation which meets to set direction for our life all over the world. One of the important documents which came from our recent chapter was addressed to YOU: our Sacred Heart Friends and Colleagues who have shared our spirituality, life and mission.
On behalf of all of us throughout the world, I bring you this message from our recent document:
We have recognized the many ways in which you are part of the Society of the Sacred Heart. You encourage us to continue to walk in the way of Sophie. Her heritage belongs to us all. With you we try to listen to the heartbeat of God in the reality of our world. Together let us continue to strive for a world where no one is excluded and each one has a rightful place.
We ... reach out to you in gratitude for all the ways in which you walk with us. With you we embark on the next stage of the history of the Society with courage and confidence.
Let me take three phrases of this statement and link them with the five priorities which the Society chose at that same chapter for the living of our spirituality and mission for the next eight years.
The first phrase: Her heritage belongs to all of us – this is a heritage of love grounded in deep prayer which opens us to the love of God. We invite you to join us in our priority to renew our call to Sophie’s heritage of Contemplation, the attentive listening and receptivity that allows God to draw our hearts and enables us to discern how to love in very specific situations.
Another aspect of Sophie’s heritage is her conviction about the importance of the education of youth. At the chapter we renewed our own priority for young people, calling ourselves anew to being present to them in ways that enable them to grow into their potential to shape the future of their world according to gospel values.
Second phrase of gratitude: Together we listen to the heartbeat of God in the reality of our world:
What are we hearing of God’s heart in today’s world? Sometimes we hear and resonate with God’s pain and sorrow in the face of violence of all kinds. Sometimes we sense the tender, forbearing, patient, hopeful love of God in the way parents relate to their children or a counselor accompanies a person whose heart and psyche have been wounded. In our church, we may be feeling the ache of God’s heart in the face of abuse by some church ministers and inadequate response on the part of some church leaders. Or we may become aware of God’s heart beating in joy as we take in more deeply the interconnectedness of all creation and respond with respect, awe and changed patterns of living. Our listening to the heartbeat of God led us to a renewed priority for Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation in solidarity with those who are most Vulnerable.
The last phrase: With you we try to strive for a world where no one is excluded and each one has a rightful place:
In a world challenged by issues of inclusion and exclusion, we placed a priority on Dialogue and on Community. Dialogue, and particularly intercultural dialogue, that we might learn to engage with one another in ways that respect the other, to open our hearts, minds and spirits to really welcome and understand other ways of approaching reality. We reaffirmed our priority for community – yes, within our own living communities, but also honing the attitudes and skills which help us create community wherever we are and to contribute to the building of a world community in which no one is excluded and each one has a rightful place.
These priorities are part of an ongoing dialogue about our spirituality lived in the 21st century. They become part of the heritage of Sophie which belongs to all of us, which is IN us, not as a static heritage which can be handed on as a package. It is a vibrant, living attunement to the heart of God, which calls us to encourage, enlighten, challenge and discern with one another how to be the heart of God on earth today.
On behalf of the international Society of the Sacred Heart, we come today to thank you for having made this heritage your own and for sharing with us the commitment to live this love of God’s heart in Scotland and Ireland in this 21st century for the sake of the future of our world! Let us continue to encourage one another in this shared journey! Thank you.
Kathleen Conan rscj