On Sunday, January 12th, Teresa Maya, CCVI graced a group of sisters, staff, associates, and co-creators with her wisdom on the reality and future of religious life. Her talk, titled Hope is the Gift of Communion, challenged those present to consider how living our faith and loving in the present is an expression of hope.
We know that religious life is dwindling, but Maya preaches a firm message that we are, still, enough. Instead of feeling like we need to conquer the world, Maya encouraged those present to think small.
“Part of learning to be small is learning to collaborate with the laity and to honor their call, their gift, their perspective, and their commitment,” she shared after her presentation. “Why can’t our lay ministers be committed and buy into mission? Some of our associates have been in my community longer than I have! They know the charism better than I do!”
“We actually don’t have a choice,” Maya continued. “No matter what, this is the future.”
The “this is the future” message was prevalent throughout her talk. Christianity lowering in ranks of world religions? This is the future. Laity joining in community with religious? The future. Community in individual homes rather than a motherhouse? The future. Or, in many cases, the present.
Yet, for Maya, smaller numbers and a different expression of religious do not lead to despair. Rather, she shared that core groups of believers committed to faith, hope, and love in community are exactly what our world needs.
“Never doubt what a core group of believers can do to impact the world around them,” Maya shared, telling the story of a group of environmentalists in her congregation who faithfully uprooted invasive species around the motherhouse. Although many doubted the importance of their work, it wasn’t long before the community was stunned by the results: the lack of invasive species allowed monarch butterflies to once again inhabit the property. When Maya saw this, she sat outside of her office and cried.
“Their faith brought back the butterflies,” she said.
So, how do we live our faith as an expression of hope? How is our loving an expression of hope? Maya says to start now, where we are.
“The Dominican Sisters of Hope have journeyed first in their merger and then in their constant search for how to do things into the future, whether it’s with new staffing models or land easements,” Maya shared. “I have admired from afar their willingness to bear witness to the rest of us. I feel gratitude for that.”
Maya also mentioned that New York is “a privileged place to hope in.”
“Morever, Hope is based in an inter-religious, multicultural place that welcomes a lot of strangers. The world is right here. What does that mean for Hope’s mission?”
Maya doesn’t have all the answers, and neither do the Dominican Sisters of Hope. But, both are trying. And, according to Maya, trying, right now, in the present, is the important work.
“If we hope in the future,” Maya says, “we have faith in the present.”