This weekend, we attended the North American Conference of Associates and Religious (NACAR) at the Villa Maria Community Center in Pennsylvania. This beautiful setting served as the gathering place for Associates and Sisters to come together to share, to learn, and to reflect on how we are “called to carry the charism” of our communities.
Upon arrival we settled in to a very comfortable and spacious room. We went to supper after a short nap and were privileged to sit at a table with an Associate who had spent 30 years working in Haiti as a missionary aiding the poor and homeless. The food was almost too good and, if you were on a diet, it was beyond being able to resist.
The first session focused on understanding how each community’s charism connects Associates and Religious and on understanding the role of the laity in the structure of the Church and canon law. The speaker, Fr. Arthur Carrillo, CP, noted that together we have a common task of building the charism given by the Holy Spirit. What we gained from this first session was an understanding of the importance of our charism as an Associate of the Dominican Sisters of Peace, which, of course, is to preach and live the Gospel values.
The second session, led by Associate Jeanne Connolly, focused on the Associate movement and seeing this movement as a way of life and a call of the Holy Spirit. This speaker emphasized that becoming an Associate is a choice and that being an Associate is a “public and formal commitment to embrace and live the mission and charism of a religious congregation…” She noted that it is important to recognize that being an Associate is a way of life and that we are called to share responsibility for fostering relationships with Religious, moving beyond dependence to interdependence, offering our gifts to build up the community. What we gained from this second session was an appreciation for the importance of community in being an Associate and in living out the Gospel values.
The most important experience gained from attending the NACAR workshop was to learn from other communities and to share our experience of our community with others. It was clear there were differences between our communities but there were far more similarities. The most important of similarities was that we are all working for a common goal of peace and helping the marginalized to know respect and love in our shared world.