Spiritan Missionary News
Lay Spiritans: an expanded vision
For a number of years, in an increasing number of countries, lay people have been expressing an interest in our Spiritan family. Some are drawn by our way of life, others by our spirituality, others by the work we do, still others by a combination of all three. One result is that we now have women members in our Spiritan family. Lay people and professed Spiritans are in a way being pushed towards each other as companions who find mutual enrichment on their common journey.
Lay Spiritan Associates exist in each of the four North American Provinces: U.S. East and West, Quebec and TransCanada. Dermot and Deirdre McLoughlin became the first Lay Spiritans in TransCanada in 1975, forming the nucleus of a Toronto-based group that developed around them until they moved to Sioux Lookout in Northern Ontario in 1997. With the relocation of two of the Toronto families, the TransCanada group currently consists of six couples divided into two clusters, a Toronto/Hamilton grouping and a more dispersed Winnipeg/ Sioux Lookout grouping.
Lay Spiritans undertake to work within the Spiritan Congregation in the building of God's kingdom of Love, Justice and Peace. Committed to personal prayer, community and the defence of the weak and marginalized, they engage in a wide variety of Justice and Peace activities through their involvement with the First Nations people of Canada, development and peace, racism issues, education, medical ethics, conflict resolution, refugees and immigrants. The lay Spiritans belong to various Spiritan committees and join with the professed Spiritans on spiritual, social and decision-making occasions. Their everyday world of family, work and civic interaction is a unique site of lay ministry and witness which benefits from the vision they bring and the choices they make in their family, professional and social lives. They do not come empty-handed, in fact they bring valuable experience, talents and skills to the Congregation. They support or take responsibility for specific Spiritan works, initiate new areas of ministry, and bring a Spiritan spirituality to areas of secular life which they can access more easily than the professed Spiritans.
One day in my English class for New Canadians we were discussing the different ways we use the future tense: 'We will, we are going to, tomorrowÉ' I went on and on and sensed they were getting more and more uncomfortable. Finally one woman said to me, 'Anne, I don't talk about the future.'The whole class chorused their agreement. 'I don't know what's going to happen tomorrow. Maybe I'll be dead.' Other students said,'We can talk about the past, but if you want to talk about the future, you have to say In shallah before you say anything. You have to say God willing.' The class was mostly Muslim.
Anne MacGregor O'Neill
Much of my past few years has been spent in communities north of the road system with the First Nations people, the Ojibway and Cree. There has been much sadness and tragedy in their lives. Many a time I have sat with the families of suicide victims. I have felt helpless and completely powerless and often asked myself, "What am I doing here? Am I being intrusive? Should I leave?" Yet each time I know I am where I should be, and the fact that I am an older woman makes it even more important that I stay. If someone talks, you sit still and listen, if someone holds your hand or weeps on your shoulder, these are silent words. Listen, enter into the pain and wait.
Sioux Lookout, Ontario
The witness of the Spiritan confreres of TransCanada and my fellow lay Spiritans, the warm welcome I always receive, the sense of belonging to an international, multicultural global community, the insights shared during our regular home liturgies, the life of our founders - all these things continually call me to try harder to live up to the Spiritan charism.
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