“Crossing thresholds is in our DNA. We are sparks of the universe that keeps creating and re-creating itself again and again,” Joyce Meyer explained in her address during the Gathering of Presentation Sisters (GPS) held in late July in Brookings, South Dakota.
Fifty-five Presentation Sisters traveled from as near as Sioux Falls and as far as Africa to take part in this three-day gathering of sisters with energy and vision for the Presentation mission and charism for the next few decades. While each of the seven congregations that make up the Conference of Presentation Sisters was represented, the group also welcomed sisters from Ireland, Zambia and Zimbabwe, which brought a more global perspective to the worldwide mission of the congregation.
The idea for this gathering came from a spark that began with the Trasna group in Aberdeen. Trasna, which means a crossing place, is the name of the group of younger sisters that meet to discuss the future of the Aberdeen congregation. Trasna members realized that the conversations they were having at a local level might have even more significance if they were in dialogue with the larger Presentation family.
This spark ignited into a flame with the support of the Conference of Presentation Sisters, who co-sponsored the event. The flame was fanned by each of the congregations as sisters from across the globe engaged in conversations about the future.
Participants registered for the gathering early in 2017 and were placed into threshold groups. These groups, each named for a flower in honor of McCrory Gardens, the venue for GPS, met via Zoom technology for three months. With a goal of preparing participants for deep and meaningful conversations and reflections when gathered face-to-face, a core planning team provided the stimulus for each of the discussions.
When the sisters arrived in Brookings, Sister of St. Joseph Kathy McCluskey, facilitator, used these small-group conversations as a foundation for deeper discussion and guided reflection pertaining to:
- Why is the Presentation charism important?
- How with the charism be carried into the future?
- What will those living the charism be doing in the future?
Each of these topics was rooted in the charism of Nano as a radical response to the Gospel. The group concluded that the charism of Nano and the Presentation spirit value relationships and communal discernment to meet the pressing needs of our time. There was a strong sense of expanding the idea of Presentation people, with sisters serving as models and fostering the discernment of non-vowed religious to carry forth the Presentation mission in partnership with vowed religious. Many ideas for fostering these partnerships and seeking to be globally connected in hearing and discerning a response to the needs of the world emerged.
It was clear from the summary and evaluations that the gathering was a success and the sisters long to continue with their Zoom conversations, to expand their membership to include Presentation people beyond vowed religious and to look to a future gathering that would allow them to continue to explore and visualize an emerging future as Presentation people in the world. While no definitive plans were put to paper, an illustration of a sprouting seed being nurtured and blossoming into a tree encompassed the week and many are looking forward to what may come from the gathering with the support of the Conference of Presentation Sisters.
As Sister Joyce reminded participants, Thomas Merton’s words should reassure those looking to the emerging future. Merton states, “You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith and hope.”