Sydney Companions 2019Print
Sr Libbey Byrne has compiled this overview of the activities of the Companions of the Sisters of Charity during their first 10 years.
“From our rich tradition of spirituality with which we Sisters of Charity have been blessed, how can we give back to you?” was the question we posed to the men and women invited to explore with us on August 24, 2008. It was the first meeting of what would become the Sydney-based Sisters of Charity Companions group.
There was much discussion about faith, church and the world today and how we are called to live in it all and points which led to the establishment of the group included:
- We need an identifiable community, not necessarily residential, but a more dynamic and supportive community which gathers to share, discern and pray together.
- Can the Sisters provide opportunities for spiritual and faith development which are not readily available for lay people? Could this also include educating us about the RSC charism and ministries.
- “Group mentoring” is an important consideration.
- “Time out” for full-time mothers and workers to pray and share experiences together.
- We need solidarity for today when so many things are fragmented. We need “links.”
- We hope that there will not be too many formal meetings and that there will be time for social/friendship as well.
The minute taker noted: It was interesting how most of those attending said, “See you again next time!”
The next times
During the 11 years since that first meeting, we have endeavoured to be faithful to our beginnings and also to adapt to the situations in which we have found ourselves. The group has diminished through members’ relocation, transport difficulties and by the deaths of five precious members over the years. As in all things, however, new life emerges from sorrow in the form of new members who bring welcome life and energy to the group.
Together, we have explored the Story of Mary Aikenhead, Ignatian Spirituality, discernment, the early sisters in Australia, the New Universe Story, the writings of Richard Rohr, Joan Chittister, Daniel O’Leary and Pope Francis to name but a few. We delight in sharing about the Church we all know and love and look for articles to inform us and spark discussion. Sometimes, it’s hard to stop the discussion to remember to boil the kettle for afternoon tea… and speaking of afternoon tea, we have some wonderful cooks and never go hungry!
Because two hours on a Sunday afternoon pass so quickly, we began in 2012 to gather one Saturday a year for a longer “retreat” or reflection day. Over the years it has grown to include an overnight stay at Shellharbour with the retreat, a themed dinner on the Saturday night followed by a movie in keeping with the theme. Sunday is a quiet morning and then, reluctantly, we head home.
In our own words…
The best way to begin to understand what being a Companion means in the words of the Companions themselves:
In 2012, they said being a companion meant:
- Time to reflect
- Life giving
- Sharing and listening
- Goodness of the people
- Bond between us and trust
- Search for God
- Peace with God
- Wisdom of God within the group
- Place to share experiences – to listen, to speak
- Quiet time
- Deep time
- Community of people to whom God is important
- Place where I am drawn to God in community
- Place of consolations
- Place where worries and fears are put on hold & to trust in God
- Invitation to listen to and trust more deeply
- Listening to how God is speaking in the lives of others
- Awareness of God in everything – every event, every person
- Love everything life presents to you
- Feeling: peace at the glimmer of what could be like if I lived the above
- Frustration at my lack of belief in this
- “All is well, all will be well, all manner of things will be well
- Mystery is like a well-wrapped parcel. We unfold the parcel gradually until we arrive at the gift. Mystery of God unfolds gradually
- Constantly questioning where I am at in my faith development. How do I see God?
- Now I am invited to learn to listen and be sensitive to the messages and signs that come from God
- Sacred Space – people have become more comfortable in sharing some of their faith journey experiences
- Sharing of spirituality opportunities, not always available in our church
- Discernment process, Making Choices
- Feeling of “We’re all in this struggling Church together”
- People at different stages of faith development
- Invitation to continue sharing faith journey. I don’t know what particular direction?
In 2015, members of the group wrote:
- I have seen trust of people grow within the group and feel very much part of it.
- The group has been very important and supportive for me. It is the only group where I can discuss my faith with people who share the same values. I feel really enriched by the sharing and the support in the group. It has also opened up my friendship with others in the group in a deeper more trusting way. Also we have lovely companionship over afternoon tea
- Members thirst for more spirituality. Members are so grateful for the content of each meeting in the Sisters of Charity chapel at St Anne’s Place, Liverpool
- Companions have helped me have a broader look at what it means to be Catholic. To be “whole” not just holy
This year, the members reflected on the Companions’ 10-year anniversary:
- I really value the beautiful relationships that have developed among group members. We place great trust in each other and can talk openly without fear of judgement. Most importantly, however, is that we have become true companions to each other in difficult times and celebrate the good times with great joy
- What we reflect on in our Companions group challenges me in a positive way. It helps me, with others, to consider the writings of both ancient and contemporary Catholic authors who stir the heart in life-giving and hopeful ways
- In our common experience of Jesus and each other as companions on the journey, I often leave feeling a little more peaceful and hopeful that a positive, way forward for our messy church is possible
New members are always welcome. We meet at St Anne’s Place, Liverpool approximately every six weeks. Dates for 2020 will be added to the website www.sistersofcharity.org.au
Enquiries can be directed to Kerry by email: firstname.lastname@example.org