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Life in community

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“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another … And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection. ... Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God” (Col 3:12-16).

 

At its center, the consecrated life is always about seeking a profound union with God in a community valuing the same goals and ideals. By living with men and women from different nations, with unique histories and experiences, we learn that community is not about what makes us different but about what binds us together.

 

Although within our communities we may come from different lands and speak different languages, our one true language is love as found in the Gospel of Jesus. Our community life proclaims Jesus Christ, risen and alive and dwelling in our midst. Members of the community never act and work as mere individuals — how contrary to our society is that — but rather as members of the body of Christ, uniquely dedicated to proclaiming Jesus to our wounded world.

 

In the course of my religious life, I have had the privilege of living with Oblate Sisters from Europe, Africa, Latin America and, of course, the United States. I have spent time with our communities in France and South Africa. The variety of backgrounds and languages can cause confusion at times, but it is personally and religiously enriching. Learning how others think, feel and even pray opens our minds and hearts to the greater reality of the body of Christ.

 

“Life in the community is thus the particular sign, before the Church and society, of the bond which comes from the same call and the common desire — notwithstanding differences of race and origin, language and culture — to be obedient to that call” (“Vita Consecrata 92”).

 

Members of a religious community are called to form a family, but one that transcends a common parentage and finds its origin in the original community: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Just as the love of the Father and the Son found its expression in the Holy Spirit, so the common bond of consecrated persons brings the Holy Spirit into the midst of the community and makes the work of the apostolate fruitful and efficacious. Life in community is rooted in our union with God and is the concrete expression of this union.

 

As sisters in Christ, we share in one another’s sorrows and joys. Each sister’s family becomes our family. We suffer together when our families experience sickness and death, and we rejoice together at the news of weddings, births and family accomplishments. With each new member in our community, our family grows.

 

As St. Jane de Chantal told the first Sisters of the Visitation, “This union between the sisters must be seen as the most precious treasure of the Order and the first fruit of our union with God.” 

 

The bonds among consecrated religious are a beautiful sign of the love of God for all people. May each of us continue to be that sign in our world today.

 

Sr. Susan Louise Eder has been living the consecrated life as an Oblate Sister of St. Francis de Sales for 44 years. She lives at St. Mary Convent and is principal at Holy Cross Academy in Fredericksburg.

 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2019