Why would anyone want to join the Society of the Sacred Heart? Why join us rather than any other congregation? Put another way: What do we have to offer that is unique to us?
This is the question we have been putting to ourselves over the last two and a half years. If we cannot answer that question then how do we engage in vocations ministry as a congregation in a meaningful and focused kind of way?
Our answer to this question has to be something about our charism, the word we use to express the particular gift that defines us as a Congregation: our spirituality, the way we look at the world and interpret events and what motivates our lives. It is in contemplating the Heart of Jesus and being drawn into union with His Heart that we are compelled to relate to others with His compassionate love. Through contemplation we discover in God’s Heart all the pain, suffering and joy of the world. ‘The pierced Heart of Jesus opens our being to the depth of God and to the anguish of humankind’
On our vocations website and literature we expressed this twofold movement of prayer and apostolic action as ‘Journey into the depths of God and the heart of our world’.
For us this journey is both a joy and a challenge; it is a journey that we don’t make alone but in the company of sisters. We live and pray in community - in a local community, in our Provincial community and as an international community. Through prayer, and reflection together, on the Gospel and on our life experience, we discover where God is leading us, challenging us as a group into the next stage of the journey.
Traditionally our Society has been associated with the work of education. In these times, in a rapidly changing world we understand education in a much wider sense than only school and college teaching. ‘Caught up as we are in the desires of His Heart, we want people to grow in dignity as human beings and as children of God. Our starting point is the Gospel with all that it demands of us of love, forgiveness and justice, and of solidarity with those who are poor and rejected...’
(Constitutions) Our sisters will be found therefore in all kinds of different expressions of this educational call - nursing, teaching, advice work, retreat giving, catechesis, youth work and many more.
It could be said that we are not unique in our spirituality of the Heart of Jesus, and this is true. The next question might be ‘Why do I want to follow Jesus with this particular group of women?’ There could be as many different answers to this as there are members and potential members: because I feel at home... because the way they live their love of the Heart of Jesus matches my own sense of how I want to live my life... because their journey to God echoes my own... expresses my own...
I asked some of our sisters how, looking back, do you know that the Society was right for you?
Responses came from a wide age range, the oldest is 91, the youngest, still a candidate, is 27, and the others are somewhere in the middle! You can read all the responses here
, but these are a few extracts...
The individuality of the women I met, their strong contemplative core and a vague idea of what the spirituality and charism were about - but really, fundamentally, something just clicked with the Society...
What that "something" was only became clearer to me after I had entered, as I discovered a spirituality centred on the Open Heart, which resonated with my own personal, as yet unarticulated and unexplored spirituality. Over the years, I have journeyed more and more into the Heart of God, which is also a journey into myself, and my own Heart, with all its pain as well as joys. The more the journey progresses the clearer that "something" becomes, and the more I know myself to be truly at home, in the place God created me for.
During the weekend I heard women talk about their life in the Society, how they understood its charism and tried to live it out. As I heard them talk I remember thinking that it all made a scary amount of sense to me, somehow I felt that I could understand what they were saying through my own experiences of God and the world. As they went on to talk about community life and being part of an international congregation, I heard reflections that matched and built on thoughts that I'd had in the past. It seemed as though there was something here that resonated with who I felt I was and who God was inviting me to be. I left feeling that this was a way of life that seemed deeply attractive and exciting...
Siobhan (left, with Karen & Katie - all three started the journey with us in September 2011)
The right order for you will be the one that helps your relationship with God to grow. Our Society has been the right one for me: in this life I have had the opportunity to grow closer to God through prayer, through reflection on life in the light of the spirituality of the Society, through the companionship of sisters who share the same spirituality. The spirituality of the Heart of Jesus means growing in understanding what Jesus is like, his preferences, what he wants for people, his love for them, and you see this in the Gospel, and what we see in Jesus is the love of God. An apostolic order like my own supports me in trying to love people as Jesus loved them.
The thing is, if God is calling you then you want to respond with all your heart. You can't know everything that life will involve and deal with it in advance. A life of faith is a life of risk not of certainty apart from knowing that you can count on God's fidelity and the support of your sisters.
1: I am 91 yrs old and I have never looked back, so I know I am (or have been) in the right place.
2: I feel the Spirit is always with me and has never left me so I must be in the right place..
Before entering I wasn’t certain. So I thought I would give it a try. I am still here at 91!!
Maybe, what we have discovered is that above all, the most important thing is to live our own lives to the full, to witness to the joy of knowing and loving God and knowing ourselves to be loved by God. As it says in our constitutions:
‘Our happiness, our peace, our whole way of being, will be a sign of Him whom we have met and who comes every day of our lives to fulfill God’s covenant with His people’