On Sunday, February 23, Sister Mary Pellegrino, CSJ spoke in the chapel at Mariandale to the Dominican Sisters of Hope, challenging us to shift the narrative of our current experience of religious life from one of scarcity to one of abundance. Drawing on the work of Biblical scholar Walter Brueggeman, she framed the task as a prophetic witness to truth, grief, and hope to a society that lives in illusion, denial, and despair.

“Our work is living as though we’re already there,” she said.

At this particular moment in history, our first task is to face and tell the truth about the reality of our disordered society. Previously unimaginable events such as mass shootings, devastating wildfires, the refugee crisis, and abuse in the church have now become common occurrences. Women religious have a special calling to witness to the presence and power of God in a society living in chaos, confusion, and fear. 

“Those of us who have the spiritual capacity, this is our moment,” she said. 

The second task is to express our grief, and to create spaces for others to do the same. Grief work “is just as urgent as telling the truth,” according to Pellegrino.  Too often we deny grief, and our lack of self-knowledge can result in the projection of interior chaos onto others. The result can be anger, resentment, and passive aggression. “When we can name it, we can control it,” she said, and then our grief can become a source of positive transformation. 

Sister Mary Pellegrino with the Dominican Sisters of Hope leadership team

Finally, Pellegrino challenged us to “express hope in a society that lives in despair.” Urging us to live into our particular charism as Dominican Sisters of Hope, she encouraged us to focus on the places in our personal and communal lives where we experience abundance.  When we do so, she said, we begin to see that “we have enough. We are enough. And some of us have more than enough.” 

She asked each one of us to consider the question of what it means to be “apostolic when I’m no longer active in ministry.” At this point in our lives, many of us are experiencing an interior spaciousness for contemplation and mission, she said. And as women religious, we have a depth of spiritual energy and social influence to offer a culture that is longing for purpose and meaning. 

The question is one of legacy. She encouraged us to consider whether our community’s resources are abundant enough that we can have a transformational impact on problems such as poverty, eradicating its root causes, rather than addressing symptoms.

“How will we spend our influence?” she challenged participants, and “how do we teach others to recognize that spaciousness in their own lives?” 

Mary Pellegrino’s full talk is available on video.