Each year Loreto schools in Australia adopt a specific Mary Ward virtue to explore, reflect upon and celebrate.
In 2020 the focus is on VERITY (or TRUTH).
Here, Loreto Ministries Director of Mission, Anne Muirhead, uses a beautiful prayer crafted by 2020 Loreto Student Leaders as a scaffold to reflect on Verity.
LORETO IN LOCKDOWN
Traces of Truth in our Year of Verity As Term Two unfurls in varying guises across our land we return to the guiding Mary Ward virtue for 2020 – Verity. How has the Covid-19 pandemic sharpened… broadened… honed… our understanding of this core value from our living tradition? In this reflection I have returned to the Student Leadership Prayer as a scaffold for some musings; this powerful text crafted by our extraordinarily blessed 2020 student leaders on an early summer afternoon at Loreto Ballarat… God of light, who guides us in ways of truth. In addressing God as our light, how could our 2020 student leaders have dreamt what darkness the world would tumble into across their ‘leadership year’. Although the pandemic has wrought devastation on a massive scale, I often ponder the losses these brilliant leaders and their peers have experienced – our hearts go out to them. And yet, they have led us in news ways to truth… through virtual assemblies and liturgies, in clever and humorous videos and in words of encouragement in newsletters. They have shared wellbeing tips and raised funds for Caritas Australia and Mary Ward International Australia. Do they know that they are our ‘light’? Our Principals and staff have also been the brightest lights in this current darkness: adapting to change with agility, communicating with compassion and clarity, working through the holidays to prepare classes, promoting mental and physical health and well-being… all the while ‘guiding us in ways of truth’ toward faith, hope and love. We are immensely grateful for such Mary Ward leadership. Ignite within us the courage to uncover our authentic selves and in doing so discover our greatest gifts. Illuminate the path of integrity, so our lives are defined by love and honesty. Lockdown has led to a heightened degree of reflection and introspection. It is certainly hard to escape one’s very raw essence while self-isolating! Here I am faced with my fears and faith and frustrations… my yearnings and hopes. I am often reminded these days of Mary Ward gazing into that mirror, perceiving the words – Glory, Glory, Glory! This famous vision led to a major re-direction of Mary’s hopes and plans, although God did not provide a blueprint for the way forward. May all plans born in this time have God’s greater glory and promise at their heart. From a distance I am moved continually by the “integrity, love and honesty” exhibited by our staff, still enabling our students to “discover (their) greatest gifts”: IT staff working all holidays to ensure a smooth return to remote learning, ground-staff looking after the chickens, staff redeployed to assist with cleaning and other essential Covid-related tasks, PE staff running diverse training sessions, liturgists gathering us to pray in new ways, finance staff dialoguing with distressed parents, music staff gathering couch choirs and performing for local elderly friends in outdoor concerts. It’s as if our cumulative gifts have just overflowed with love and generosity. So much has been “ignited and illuminated” in these days of darkness. Let us name this Easter light! Inspire us to look beyond our own horizons to face the truth bigger than ourselves. This is my favorite line of the Leadership Prayer; it is so expansive, generous and hope filled. Sometimes I think the pandemic has elicited such a huge response because we ourselves have been impacted; we have suffered loss, grief, unemployment, failed plans and even death. Our UN desk, Mary Ward JPIC Office, Loreto Vietnam and MWIA personnel have kept our sight beyond our immediate horizons… From Kim Nass, Executive Officer, MWIA Although we do not yet know the full impact the Coronavirus will have globally, we do know this: now is not the time to withdraw, it is the time to stay. While we adapt ourselves with our families and adjust our lifestyle to a new reality, let us be reminded of those around the globe who: do not have the option to have “social distance”; do not have the financial margin to provide care for the sick; do not have a backup plan for caring for their children or the elderly; do not know the reality of clean water and soap to wash hands; do not have the benefit of regular updates and proper actions to take; do not have the emotional or physical capacity to handle one more crisis Called by Mary Ward, we seek and speak the truth: As we come to terms with the changes wrought by the impact of Covid-19 on our daily work and study routines, maybe there are larger ‘truths’ for us to concern ourselves with. Perhaps this huge global emergency will strengthen our understanding of social justice by critiquing the world’s structures, the dynamics of power, learning and politics that operate from the entrenched market profit-economy that enriches some and maintains the poverty of disenfranchised millions. May we emerge from this crisis making, demanding, choices that support the common good. Good for everyone. The sigh of the earth at this time must also point us to inconvenient truths about the way in which we continue to plunder her for resources to support our affluence. As we mark the fifth anniversary of the promulgation of Laudato Si, let us re-affirm our commitment to our schools’ positive commitment to environmental justice and sustainable practice. a truth that invites us to do ordinary things well, This maxim of Mary Ward invites us, not to over-extend ourselves or strive for unattainable heights. Instead it calls us to infuse meaning into the everyday; to see and seek God’s hand and heart in the very ordinary of our lives. In lockdown we have savoured new recipes, mastered new crafting skills, communicated in new ways… even developed new traits of character (eg jigsaw puzzle patience!!). Using Ignatian reflective techniques, such as spiritual conversation and the examen, we recognise that every aspect of our life is infused with God-gifted grace. a truth that leads to justice for all. In the past month members of the Loreto network have been invited to work for justice via support of Catholic Religious Australia’s letter to the Prime Minister ensuring that ‘nobody is left behind’, the UN’s #Multilateralism Matters movement, a webinar exploring the differing faces of gender equality, a TwitterChat on the impact of street harassment on young women, support of Earth Day and the fifth anniversary of the promulgation of Laudato Si. In the days ahead we prepare for National Reconciliation Week and World Environment Day. We have also marvelled at members of our global network: past pupils educating about sanitation in South Sudan, donating PPE equipment to local hospitals, delivering food to those in need, making face masks for neighbours in Gari-uai. Our Loreto approach to service, outreach and justice has truth at its heart: God’s truth for a world made whole and holy, where the dignity and rights of all are upheld, nurtured and celebrated. This is our Verity. Mary Ward was never interested in MY verity – an ego-focused personal truth. She invites us to discern God’s verity in these strange times; something broader and blessed, fragile yet fruitful, something beyond the constraints of ego, power, plans and possessions. OUR verity will be found… not only in individual hearts and homes, not only in individual schools and ministries… but in the solidarity of our Mary Ward network in this land, region and wider world. OUR verity is signposted by the Gospel, Mary Ward’s vision and mission interpreted in our current context. Our verity is mediated through the joys and sufferings of our communities within and beyond the walls of our schools. Discerning our verity takes calm and courageous, reflective and relational leadership… and the imagination to shape a future with the harnessed wisdom and precious truths of this time. Across these Easter days and in the approach to the great Feast of Pentecost … In Jesus’ name and with the help of the Holy Spirit, we say, Amen.
SCAFFOLD FOR REFLECTION: Is there a particular line of the Student Leadership Prayer that strikes you as particularly pertinent at this time? What concrete examples from your community can you connect to each line of the Student Leadership Prayer? What deeper truth has been revealed to you during this pandemic:
- In your family context
- On a broader societal, cultural or global scale
How might we use Mary Ward’s virtue of VERITY to lead our community into deeper reflection at this time?