UK Religious life
“Meet the variety of Religious Congregations present in the UK, find out more about them, join in their events and enjoy a window into their life.”
This is what you can find if you open the UK Religious life on Facebook.
As a Cenacle sister in a small international community based in London, I am part of a “large community” of sisters and brothers throughout UK. We all have the same desire: reaching out to other people, especially young people, and giving them opportunities for a celebration and a sharing of the riches of our way of life.
We want to offer young people help in making life choices on their walk with God, whatever their vocation in life and that means listening to them, welcoming them on their way where they are and where they are in their journey.
But how was it possible to manage this in a pandemic time? this is the challenge that the UK religious Life has brilliantly taken up over those last 2 years.
“We find ourselves in this new world and have taken on the challenge of reaching out to others in this new way. Pope Francis reminds us in his letter for World Day of vocations, that Josephs dreams led him into experiences he would never have imagined. We invite you and the young people to follow your dreams and ponder the question: “What is God’s dream for you?
UK Religious life was confident that we can share our way of life with others even through technology. “Only 12 months ago we would never have thought it possible to reach out to so many young people at the same time from the comfort of our own homes”.
Openness, listening, sharing and action
And the 1st step was to propose Zoom meetings for all the religious who wanted to join. It was powerful to discover how many of us there are and how we want to share, to have a better knowledge of your desires, our dreams, our abilities. Together we talked about our needs and how we could go further as a team.
Following these meetings, several sessions were run to help the members of our congregations to discover and use Zoom. Zoom trainings sessions for beginners and more advanced users were planned and followed by a significant number of people. This was a very good training and allow us to share our skills and difficulties.as well as a time to be together, and for me, to discover a lot of people that I never met since I am in London.
Another step was to suggest that we raise awareness of our communities using the facebook page: our London community was presented on the UK Religious life Facebook page: “Congregation of our Lady of the Retreat in the Cenacle or (Cenacle Sisters) Website: www.cenaclesisters.co.uk“.
On the same time, we were invited to use more this page to present our online events:
- Some congregations run online weekends of prayer, reflection, input and discussion for women thinking about the vocation to religious life.
- Others online retreats, Online pilgrimage retreat, Discernment blog, novena…..
- Proposals that were previously experienced “face to face” were adapted and offered online:
- The Compass online programme of study, discussion, reflection and sharing about different topics.
- “Vocation Café “ : an event thought out and carried out together
This is a good example of the transformation brought about by the pandemic. Many congregations offered Vocation Café before the first lockdown and used to organise such events on their own. But, when we discussed how we could use our online resources to take advantage of the lockdown, we realised that by holding these ‘Vocation café”, together, we would be offering a better view of the diversity of religious life. Online, it is possible to have people from different congregations together on the screen, men and women, apostolic life, and contemplative life! What a richness!
So, more than 20 brothers and sisters who were interested in participating in these “vocation café” are now on a list and every month, some of us are present and share with the young people who join us.
Another big event that brought us all together was LIVING JOYFULLY !
A Celebration of Religious Life in the UK! In preparation for Vocations Sunday, a three-day event where young people were invited to come along and meet some of the HUNDREDS of religious communities present in the UK.
Thursday 22 and Friday 23 2021 we met young people from secondary schools around the country to find out more about the Vows of poverty, chastity, hospitality, and obedience, to learn about the different forms of Religious Life present in the Church today and to ask questions of Religious.
Then on Saturday 24 there was an opportunity for over-18s to log-on and meet with a variety of Religious, hear vocation stories, to learn more about prayer and discernment and to join in the celebration.
It was a real success and we reached I think about 700 young people ! and the Religious Vocations Team hopes to be able to offer this event at another time for those who missed out this time…
Another fruit of this pandemic time : Regional Vocation Groups.
During our meetings we discovered that in some parts of the UK, people in charge of vocation knew each other; but in other areas there was no network. People asked if it could be possible for those who wanted to to set up Regional Vocations Groups. We thought that if we shared our resources, abilities, skills and dreams we could better meet the needs of young adults and offer them a better response. And also to sustain the hope of many of us who have not had young people join our communities for years. And that was done !
I am part now of a “London Regional Group” with about 15 other religious, male and female. We met around every 3 months, for a time of prayer, sharing, news and pooling our desires for the future of our group. It seems possible now to meet each other “in real life” and we have planned a walk, picnic, and a time of prayer to meet again in September.
What about the future?
I have no idea, for many congregations there has been no vocations for a long time and all the above seem may seem powerless.
But I want to share my admiration for all that has been done, and my faith that God asks us to sow and He is the one responsible for the growth of the seeds and the harvest ..May he bless us and give us the strength, joy and faith we need to go further together .