Keeping the ‘C’ in Covid, our Directors of Mission build on their last newsletter article, which focused on connection, with a reflection through the prism of conversation.
A cursory scan of the Painted Life of Mary Ward will leave the viewer in little doubt that conversation is at the heart of her spirituality. Mary is depicted repeatedly in dialogue with the maid, her parents and relatives, various priests, companions, and younger Sisters. Her direct conversations with Jesus and God, her ‘Friend of all Friends’, are detailed by the artists with a robust intimacy. Across the latter part of 2020, we have found ourselves in several settings with members of our broad and diverse network, dialoguing with the passion of Mary Ward’s friends in the iconic open circle.
A series of webinars organised across October facilitated deepening conversations across our global network. To celebrate the 75th anniversary of the United Nations, senior students conversed with panelists passionate about juvenile justice, refugee and asylum seeker reality, and the plight of our fragile world. Primary school students dialogued with presenters from Vietnam, Australia, and Kenya to mark the Day of the Girl, including Sr Santrina Raymond ibvm, who joined our open circle at 4 am Kenyan time! Our Mary Ward Justice Forum, exploring the impact of Covid-19 on Australian women, welcomed 150 participants from eight countries. Our Chat Channel during this webinar ran as a parallel dynamic conversation to that provided by our outstanding speakers: Sarah, Leonie, Miriam, Kirsty, Michelle, and Sabeen. A report of the Mary Ward Justice Forum, with accompanying video recording and resource list, is available to keep the conversations going!
We have been enriched by conversations with educators across the globe on the Pope’s Global Compact on Education, members of the Institute from Peru to Korea examining the reality of human trafficking, our extraordinary cohort of school mission leaders, Loreto office staff, and students across our land and region. Conversation topics have ranged from daily challenges to democracy, from the need for toilets in rural Vietnamese schools to remote learning and home-schooling trials. Whether in Zoom breakout rooms, via FaceTime or Microsoft Teams, there has been a palpable proliferation of connections in this Covid year. This is of little surprise when one considers the high level of importance placed on communication by Institute members since the earliest days. Dialogue between sisters has always promoted a shared sense of mission. Mary Ward and Gonzaga Barry adopted a conversational tone in their letter-writing and, in Barry’s case, superb newsletters. The best conversationalist at Loreto Ministries is Andrew, our IT support. Andrew engages with elderly sisters and struggling staff (like us!) with a grace and generosity that is at the heart of our mission. Covid conversations have flown from both verity and vulnerability, and, often from vulnerability to verity.
We are grateful to all those with whom we have conversed and connected across this challenging year. We hope and pray that Christmas conversations with family, colleagues, and friends are entwined with freedom, justice, and sincerity. We look forward to continuing and deepening our conversations across our diverse network with members of our open circle and beyond in 2021.
Authors: Anne Muirhead and Michelle McCarty
Directors of Mission, Loreto Ministries | December 2020
Feature Image: Painted Life | The Early Companions