Recently, while on vacation, I enjoyed some of the scenic views in the upper peninsula of Michigan. One of the highlights of my trip was a visit to the butterfly house on Mackinaw Island! I love butterflies and believe they are the perfect symbol of transformation. They witness to the new life that can emerge in the process of transformation. The words, “transformation” and “transition” are used often when talking about religious life and the process of initial formation in religious life.
As every butterfly is diverse in its beauty, so too are the women who respond to God’s call to religious life. They bring their various gifts, experiences, and talents to this life. They are from various cultures and ethnicities. As the Formation Coordinator, I am often privileged to witness the Spirit’s transforming grace in the lives of women in initial formation. Another important aspect of this process of formation, is the personal experience of the Spirit’s transforming grace within me. The ministry of formation is a process of the Spirit which changes both the person in formation and their formators.
Formation is often a time of learning, personal growth, change, and letting go. Perhaps the learnings are new insights about ourselves, or perhaps new talents are discovered. Formation is a continual process of learning and change. I remember hearing early in my own formation journey, “The only thing constant about religious life is change!” I have found this statement to be an accurate assessment. Being open to change is an important quality to possess for living in religious life. In fact, openness to change and God’s transforming grace is important in life and in our relationship with God.
While change is an intimate part of the journey, so is grace—God’s transforming grace. I like the image of the butterfly as a symbol for the journey of formation. The butterfly witnesses to new life and transformation. It also symbolizes joy and hope. Transformation, joy, and hope are all part of the journey!
My prayer for all women discerning religious life, those who are in formation and Sisters who recently professed final vows, is that they continue their openness to God’s transforming grace. May they also continue to witness to the transformative power and new life proclaimed in the Gospel.
Perhaps God is calling you to discern a call to religious life? Why not check out the details of our next Come and See Retreat in Akron, OH on September 10-12, 2021. You can participate in person or virtually.
Pat Dual, OP