FAULKNER, Md. — Powerful. Gracious. Challenging. Blessed. Community. Gratitude. Eucharist. These are some of the words offered when 17 people from four Franciscan parishes were asked to share how they felt about time together at the first Holy Name Province Servant Leadership Retreat held Sept 21-23 at the Loyola Retreat House here.
We began our retreat on Friday with dinner and community building. On Saturday, we engaged in Lectio Divina, and then took part in two servant leadership circles, Deep Listening and The Paradox of Power. We closed the day with a beautiful and intimate eucharist on the lawn, best described in the words of Christopher Keenan, OFM, “Brother sun sets over the river and sister moon rises in the East.”
Saturday night was a time for fun with wine, cheese and card games. We wrapped our time up with group conversation about next steps and future hopes.
Included here are reflections by Joan Conway from St. Camillus Church in Silver Spring, Md., and Susan Ahearn of St. Patrick-St. Anthony Church in Hartford, that speak eloquently about the weekend.
A group of eight of us from St. Camillus participated in the Servant Leadership “Come and See” weekend. We represented different ministries within our parish, as well as the multi-cultural nature of our community, since we hail from six countries – Cameroon, Haiti, Guatemala, Peru, Trinidad and the United States. For all of us, it was a joy and a gift to be nurtured and to be able to spend some time with each other away from the busyness of active ministry in our parish. The first blessing then was that we were able to be with one another.
In addition, we reveled in the quiet, the scenery, the beautiful weather, and the hospitality of the retreat center. But by far, the greatest blessing was the care, leadership and love which we received from the team at St. Patrick-St. Anthony’s from Hartford, Simplicity, sincerity, unity, creativity and humility were the characteristics of these stewards that captured our imaginations and provided us with many additional blessings.
Personally, I was deeply touched by the experience of the transparency of the team, which was apparent in the open and natural ways in which they worked together. They created and held the sacred and safe space for our work, they highlighted each other’s gifts, and they invited our future participation. My own longing for a sense of belonging was satisfied in a real way as I felt part of something greater than the individual parishes that were represented. Equally important to me, was the way in which they were able to incorporate the Franciscan charism into our time together.
Leaving the retreat we were energized and left Southern Maryland facing a big challenge. How can we bring the Servant Leadership spirit and program to our community? Among the 4,500 people who attend Mass each week, St. Camillus embodies the cultures and languages of so many countries and regions of the world – North, Central and South America, the Caribbean, English and French speaking Africa, Europe and Asia. Around the table of the Lord we are often one, but in everyday reality we can be separate communities. Those of us who made the retreat believe that the Servant Leadership Program is a tool for us to form a community of stewards and servants across cultural boundaries. We will meet later in October with the friars and the Adult Faith Formation and Multi-Cultural Committees to discern who we are being called by the Spirit to the next step. We ask for prayer that we might hear clearly and face any challenges with the same creativity and love that we experienced on the retreat.
I sensed participants came with any openness and keen interest in learning what servant leadership is and how it could be developed at their respective parishes. They were open to sharing challenges they foresaw about offering servant leadership to their ministries. As Melina welcomed them Friday night, I believe they began to discern that servant leadership was not just another committee or way to bring parishioners together. They truly began to have a sense of the process as the subjects of Deep Listening and the Paradox of Power were presented. Some of the challenges they shared were: how to offer servant leadership in a multi-cultural congregation and how to get beyond the barrier of the term servant in servant leadership.
I felt that a real sense of bonding developed from the Saturday night recreation time, and I definitely sensed community had developed from the laughter and banter at breakfast on Sunday morning. Chris Keenan’s celebration of Eucharist on Saturday evening bonded us even more as the group gathered at a small altar on the back lawn of the retreat house while a spectacular sunset took place on the Potomac River. His sense of inclusiveness and love for all of us truly was evident.
Our time with participants on Sunday morning focused on how we could support and assist them as they discerned whether servant leadership could be undertaken at their home sites. Some asked very specific questions about the start-up process and other details. We wanted this to be an opportunity to express concerns and hopes so that we could give them a sense of support and reassurance that we in Hartford were accessible at any time.
— Melina Rudman is director of servant leadership at St. Patrick-St. Anthony in Hartford. She acknowledges the support of Holy Name’s leadership, saying “I would like to thank the Province and the Ministerial Development Directorate for their encouragement. Special thanks go to the stewards of the school, Andrew Reitz, OFM, and Christopher and the friars and pastoral staff in Hartford. None of this would have been possible without you, and we are excited by the possibilities for the future of servant leadership in Holy Name Province.”