“I always come away from these conferences with a sense of greater purpose and with inspiration but I think particularly so at this one. There’s a kind of shift going on amongst us and a whole focus outward and signs of the practical steps that we’re beginning to take.”
“Refreshing the Wineskins” was the theme revisited by Sr Pat Murray IBVM who was the keynote speaker at CoR’s AGM, attended by more than 110 members of the Conference of Religious. Developing the concept of ‘renewal’ and of ‘mission re-ignited,’ Sr Pat returned to last year’s image of a wineskin being transformed, but using it this time as a metaphor for personal change and helping those present to see it as a catalyst, urging them forward into action on key issues of concern for society and humanity. Sr Pat detailed the intensive efforts of the UISG to develop networks and relationships globally as a means of helping the most vulnerable on the planet.
The emphasis on mission follows a concerted effort by the Conference of Religious to develop greater cohesion around collaborative action and intercongregational working. This has manifested itself in the very well attended anti-trafficking meetings in January, in London and Manchester and in follow up meetings for awareness raising and showing ways of assisting with frontline work. For instance, CoR supported a meeting organised in the northwest in April attended by Religious, Priests and lay people and is holding a further awareness raising session in London at the end of June, with input from a variety of experts who work with trafficked victims.
At the AGM, after reflections led by Sr Pat Murray, the conference developed detailed group conversations on how individual Religious and congregations could do more to tackle social issues. Brainstorming around key problems resulted in ideas being pooled, suggestions for networking and collaborating, and the development of action points, with key interested individuals coming forward to help lead others.
As well as further exploration of the very difficult problem of human trafficking and modern slavery, a recurrent issue that arose in multiple conversations was that of the climate crisis and the necessity for religious congregations to take to heart the warnings in Laudato Si’ and to personally pledge to get involved in campaigning / awareness raising. Other key topics that the conversations covered included greater efforts in the area of inter-faith dialogue and renewed attention and action to tackle social exclusion, in order to provide greater assistance to refugees & asylum seekers and the homeless.
Feedback from attendees:
Sr Patricia Byrne: “This was my first time here and it certainly has had an effect on me. I now know much more about CoR and I’m connected to CoR in a way that I haven’t been before. Sr Pat’s presentation was fantastic; it led us along a pathway to a point where we engaged with topics & came to a consensus about what we’d like to work on. Her sense that networking & building relationships is the best way forward in the future gave us a good understanding of how to proceed. I think that we will achieve something as a body in working towards these issues in the future and I hope to be part of that.”
Sr Michelle O’Reilly: “It’s been a wonderful conference. I’ve felt a lot of support from everybody here and we seem to be more outward looking this year, towards mission rather than insular.”
Sr Kate Midgely: “It’s good to connect with people who are concerned about the same issues; for me, it’s the climate crisis; by being in the same place we can network more easily. It’s been useful to experience the energy of others who are concerned about the same issues.”
Fr Kenneth Okoli: “Sr Pat the presenter helped us to critically think of our relevance in contemporary society, as a means of developing our greatest abilities as Religious with a common goal.”
Sr Sheila Barrett: “I love meeting Religious. I always come away from these conferences with a sense of greater purpose and with inspiration but I think particularly so at this one. There’s a kind of shift going on amongst us and a whole focus outward and the practical steps that we’re beginning to take.”