Sisters walking together in the prairie

Transitions – endings, beginnings and time in the wilderness

Lynne Smith, OSBBuilding Community, Living in Community 2 Comments

Sisters walking through the prairie togetherTransitions – growing in community

The sisters’ community is looking forward to Rosy Kandathil’s first monastic profession on September 20, 2015 with joy! Rosy’s transition from retreatant to Benedictine Sojourner to novice and now to sister has brought the four of us closer in shared values, Benedictine practices and love. Our shared experiences over the past two years have brought growth and deeper commitment to this way of life for all four of us.One of the promises Rosy will make at her first monastic profession is fidelity to the monastic way of life. In the Rule of Benedict this is often translated as conversion of life. It is a promise that means, among other things, a willingness to change in response to God’s word or call through Scripture and events and people around us.

Transitions – from individual settings to community living

In addition to celebrating Rosy’s first monastic profession, the sisters’ community welcomes two women this month as they begin their six month journey as Benedictine Sojourners. Paz has been a researcher in biomedical sciences at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, TX. She is originally from Mexico and is in the process of obtaining her citizenship in the United States. Denise is an elementary school teacher in the New York City public schools. Even though they both spent two weeks with us this summer, they will experience a time of transition as they begin living the monastic rhythm of prayer, work, study and leisure with us.

Change or transition is difficult for most of us, Benedictines included. We seek to develop an openness and willingness to change and grow as individuals and as a community. But the truth is not many of us embrace change whole-heartedly. It takes mindful cultivation of practices that keep us open and flexible.

Change is a way of life. Few people can avoid it. Sometimes change is thrust upon us as when a loved one dies or we lose a job. At other times, we choose change as a path to growth. In our community’s case change comes as we receive new members. In whatever way change occurs there are certain predictable stages we experience as we make our way through the transition.

Stages of transition

The first stage is loss. Every change, even positive change, means saying good-bye to someone or something. It’s important to recognize our loss and grieve it. Psychologists say that we tend not to grieve fully in the present, so each new loss opens up the grief of past losses. We experience this when our grief seems out of proportion to our current loss. We might find ourselves grieving again for a long-dead family member when a dear friend dies.

During a transition we go through an extended in-between time. This period between ending one thing and beginning the next can often feel chaotic, disorienting and even threatening. People who have lost a spouse know how unmoored one feels in this in-between time. It feels like being in the wilderness. The Israelites’ 40 years in the wilderness was their transition from slavery in Egypt to freedom in the promised land. It must have taken a generation to move from the mindset of slaves to that of free people. We will do almost anything to avoid the loss of control and powerlessness we feel during this time. The Israelites wanted to return to slavery rather than endure the uncertainty of the wilderness.

What helps us navigate the in-between time is finding ways to regain some control over our lives again. This includes getting the support we need. It also helps to come to some understanding of the life event that has moved us into transition and to re-negotiate the purpose of our life in light of this event. The in-between time of a transition can actually be an opportunity for creativity as we begin to do things in new ways or use the occasion to learn new things. The process of formation as one enters a religious community helps a woman come to a deeper understanding of her call and discover how her life’s purpose fits with the mission of the community.

As you help us welcome Rosy as a sister and Paz and Denise as sojourners this fall, may we all be open to the gifts and blessings they offer and the change their presence will bring among us.

More on building community

Follow this link to read additional blog posts from Lynne in the series titled Building Community.

Comments 2

  1. Wonderful news and wise words! It is wonderful to hear of God’s claim on women’s lives and their faithful responses. But it is also good to hear that even desired and welcomed change brings with it loss–loss of what was and the comfort and stability of those old patterns and relationships. May this time of transition be a thin place in the life of HWM, a place where God is especially near and creative possibilities are birthed in community.

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