At the 2013 North American Ursuline Convocation, we gathered in groups the afternoon of July 6 to consider questions and share ideas. An Ursuline Sister/educator shared this technique, which I unabashedly promised to steal and invited the 200 people gathered there to join me in doing.
In her morning announcements, this Sister from Dallas tells the high school students she just spoke with St. Angela Merici and offers a list of jobs the founder of the Ursuline order needs them to accomplish. Often there are specifics that “Mother Angela” has assigned for kids and the classes. They laugh. They joke. But they remember. And they do.
Counsels of St. Angela — one of which is to gather on occasion (this counsel and others were written on colorful banners around the hotel where we stayed) — are at the heart of how the Ursuline Sisters live. At this year’s convocation, (they happen every three) nuns from Canada, the United States and Mexico were present.
But the convocation is so much more than a gathering of women called to be nuns. So much more than an educational event for women and men – Sisters, Associates, Companions, co-workers and friends – who embrace the mission and ministry of St. Angela Merici and the Gospel. It’s a place to be renewed in the spirit of St. Angela and to realize that by embracing her charism and serving God’s people we make a meaningful, positive difference in the world.
Representing the Ursuline Sisters of Youngstown were five Sisters and 12 lay people associated in some way with the community. There’s so much we experienced that I can’t fit it all here. But I asked the Youngstown crew some of their thoughts, and share them here:
Ursuline Associates Kathy and Dave S., and Sister Patricia McNicholas
Kathy: “My husband, Dave, and I really felt privileged to be with women who’ve dedicated their lives to living the Gospel in our community, and to meet people from around the nation and the world who’ve done the same.
Also, to be able to share how we can grow together — how we… can further Gospel values and be responsive to changes in the world.”
Sister Patricia: “The convocation was inspiring. I’ve only been at programs for the homeless for a long time, so to get back thinking about values of religious life, particularly Ursuline life, and how do we expand our circles to really be more inclusive of others. I think we have a tendency sometimes to think of we and they, and this inspires us to think about how we can break out of that mentality that’s so easy to fall into.”
“My talk was about how the values that I learned at Ursuline High School — specifically how the values of Angela — have manifested themselves in my life through service to the community.
One of the most important things for me to share is how much, as a young adult, I value spending time with Sisters. It’s really an inspiration. They value my being here and they are open and welcoming to me. I feel like that is something a lot of other young adults can benefit from as well and I’d like to see more of that.
“What’s exciting for me in this gathering of Ursulines from all over North America is the fact that we’re not alone in Youngstown doing this, that Angela’s mission is alive and well all over the world, really. And to see 200 Ursuline friends and Associates and Sisters witnessing to that spirit in their own lives and ministries is very energizing to me.”
Sister Marlene LoGrasso, Sean and Jackie F., Ursuline Associates (with yours truly)
Sister Marlene: “I’ve been coming to these since 1992. The speakers are all good, the program is good, the liturgies are wonderful. But for me, the most important thing is the circles, the tables. It’s at those tables all the wisdom that comes out in the discussions (about the speakers). You don’t have to stay at one table, you move around, and you hear wisdom throughout the day.”
Sean: “It’s inspiring to see and meet so many Sisters, see the inspirational things they have going on, hear their stories of Angela and how they are impacting people’s lives.”
Jackie: “ I’ve enjoyed getting to know people and hear about so many different perspectives and ministries. It’s made me want to learn more. I really like the perspectives that everyone is equal and active listening.”
“I’ve seen that there isn’t another HIV/AIDS ministry, so the theme of inclusion and expanding circles is one that makes me proud of the ministry. A lot of people experiencing HIV/Aids have been shut out of the community, sometimes their family community, so creating that inclusion for them is so vital and important. And for moving forward, keeping in mind that we’re doing the right thing.”
PS: The Convocation logo, imprinted on the beautiful scarves you see most of us wearing in the photos, is of St. Angela and her followers and was designed by Sister Agatha Fitzgerald of the Ursulines of Brown County, Ohio. The picture above doesn’t do it justice.
Final evening of the Ursuline Convention–Mass at Ursuline Academy. Here is a clip from the opening song, “Sing the Circle,” written specifically for this year’s convention..Sr Dorothy, Associates Patricia and Sandy.