Commissioning of GS Volunteers
It is my privilege to share with you some reflections relative to what is meant by "commissioning" and why it is so appropriate a term to use for this event. Today, our volunteers officially join us in a formal relationship to walk with us in mission to all served in Good Shepherd. They share not only in what we do, but who we are. Their words and the reception of their GSV symbols now give them the authority, you might say, to officially represent us as co-missioners, to act and speak in our name, and most especially to witness to our core values, those values now passed on to them by our founders, St. John Eudes and St. Mary Euphrasia, passed down through the centuries to all in Good Shepherd (Sisters and partners in mission) who have lived and served God's lost and forgotten ones to this very day, thousands of us in over 72 countries. Think about it— what a privilege, what a responsibility, what a grace, and what a joy!
For our Good Shepherd Volunteers, there are very specific core values they embrace — we call them the four tenets of GSV — simplicity, community, spirituality, and social justice. These tenets are very specific and intentionally chosen with great care, and they are more needed today than ever before. Our GSV's recognize that doing the restorative work of social justice requires a deep spiritual life, a life that extends and involves community on every level, a simple lifestyle that calls them to live in solidarity with those they serve (especially the poor and those on the margins) and one which calls them to make hard choices about allocating resources. Basically, for them, the shorthand term they use for this is "Just Love". What gives us joy is less about who loves us or we think does not love us, but who we have loved as an expression of that divine love because of the realization of the immense love God has given to us first. SME has said it "I only loved, but I loved with all the strength of my soul." She gave her joy to others and kept the difficult parts of her struggles more to herself and a few close confidants. This is why we need all these "tenets" we are talking about and which they have all been introduced to during this past week. God knows we have enough anxiety, depression, divisiveness and joy-less people we see every day. But how counter-cultural, and how refreshing it is to meet people of joy, people who have received the good, people who have heard the proclamation of God's love and believe it and live it out and want to proclaim it and celebrate it. It's all free gift (it goes beyond what we may achieve professionally.) given to people who' just love."
Right now, receiving this responsibility and charge to be co-missioners may seem scary, and we may feel we may not be "holy" enough. But Thomas Merton has said that to be holy is to be yourself. To be the best self you have been called to be.
I'd like to share a story told by a Jesuit, Fr. Michael Nimes, SJ. For years, he ministered at Notre Dame and was known as one of the most influential professors there. For the last 30 years, he has been at B.C., and he tells this story about his mother, who began suffering very severe dementia She had always lived with or near him, and when he could no longer have her cared for at home, she went to a very fine nursing facility near the college. Every night for 6 years, he went to see her, talk to her, feed her...and she did not know who he was, just a nice man who visited...One night, shortly before she passed away, she spoke to him and in response to his question about who he was she said, she didn't know who he was but that she knew 'he was someone she had loved very much.' He then called his brother, Kenneth, (A Franciscan theologian) He told his brother and family that his mom had it right. She was the theologian par excellence in the family. It is less about who loves us then whom we have loved and how we have loved. It is all about the loving, it is all about the grace, the good, the great sign of the work of God.
Fr. Nimes' mom had it right, and Mary Euphrasia had it right. "I only loved, but I loved with all the strength of my soul." Hopefully, we can have it right, too, if we too "just love" and see what JOY that commitment can bring to all we meet.
Sr. Marie Francis Lomeo