CLC CANADA NATIONAL ASSEMBLY
October 17-20, 2019
: Discerning…Sharing…Listening…Deepening…Joyfully in Mission
The Grace: “We desire a discerning communal heart that will continue to lead us in mission as a joyful community with gifts to share.”
Thursday, October 17
Like in Disposition Days, we were being disposed to the graces of CLC Canada, the world and the upcoming Assembly.
We gathered as a national body, represented by over 30 communities, after several months of preparation and collaboration across regions. We gathered at a historic time in our world and church, during the Synod on the Amazon, and during a time of great ecological challenges. We also gathered in Winnipeg, where they are implementing their diocesan synod. And so, we felt affirmed as an Assembly in taking this time to listen deeply and discern best ways to operate in order to guide us for the next five years.
We were mindful, too, of our CLC and CVX Canada members who were in Haiti engaged in our joint Godparenting mission. They serve as a model of collaboration for us and remind us of our fundamental call to solidarity.
as We Sang “Gather Us Together”
There was a rising affect as we opened with prayer and sang, “
Lord Jesus Christ, gather us together, make us one bread, one body in your love
.” We were wonderfully surprised at the joy experienced in hearing Felipe Banados-Schwerter, through Zoom technology, describe the budding student CLC groups in Vancouver. The presence of the eagle feather at the Assembly, which years ago Graydon Nicholas gave to CLC Canada, attuned us to the land we were meeting on, the gift of our indigenous CLC members and the gift of sacred listening.
Regional Graced Histories: Seeking the
Each regional representative reported on their graced histories over the last five years. We heard a shared theme of not doing more
, but going deeper, to seek the
. We heard a common desire and efforts in each region to engage in more outreach, to grow CLC and to share Ignatian spirituality.
Circle of Elders Mentoring Younger CLC Members
Elaine Regan Nightengale is mentoring younger CLC members in the method of communal examen. She and Jewel David led the evening examen. This mentoring is a prophetic example of the mantle of CLC leadership and wisdom being passed down to the next generation.
On Friday morning, Central Region led us in a morning meditation on the call to action in Mark 6:34-44, “Go feed them yourselves.”
Energized as World ExCo and Pope Invite Us to Boldness
We felt energy when Ann Marie Brennan, the Vice President of the World CLC Executive Committee (ExCo), shared on the World Exco and recent past World Assemblies, increasing our connectedness with the World Body.
She reminded us of the gifts of communal discernment and spiritual conversation in the three rounds, which were experienced in Buenos Aires. She noted how the Pope calls us to
to speak boldly, frankly and freely, not to be timid; and encourages us to use wisdom language that resonates with youth. The image of the “moving tent” inspired us to create spaces where we could bring the gifts of accompaniment and listening to the spirit in various environments.
CLC Canada President Prayed to Renew CLC
: God Offered Resurrection
We felt hope when our President, Michelle Mahoney, in narrating her leadership journey and her prayer asking God “How could CLC be sustained and renewed?”, described God’s response in the image of a green shoot growing forth from a pile of dead pine needles, like CLC Canada moving from death into the resurrection stage of the life cycle. She challenged us to grow in our practice of the third round of spiritual conversation as a tool for transformation and growth.
Consolation in Sharing Communal Gifts of CLC
Like in Disposition Days, we prayed with our communal gifts as CLC and deepened our experience of the three rounds of spiritual conversation in small groups. We received great communal consolation. In the plenary session, we were struck by the common themes of discernment, diversity, inclusiveness and openness. The sentiments which came forth included: “joy”, “excitement”, “deepened passion”, “gratitude”, “connection”, “possibility”, “hope”, “fire”, “awe and wonder” and being on “holy ground”. The grace we received was a call to “boldness” – boldness in being open and honest; to trust in moving forward; and a call not to be afraid. CLC is a gift which we desire to share with others. There was a great sense of unity.
Powerful Experience of Naming and Embodying Our CLC Communal Paralysis
Like in the First Week,
for the second prayer exercise on our experience of communal paralysis, there was some initial hesitation or resistance but when we did embody our paralyses as tableaux or living statues, it was powerful.
Again, there was a great sense of unity in how we named our “paralyses”: fear, lack of trust, lack of spiritual freedom, incomplete discernment, not hearing, and need for greater collaboration.
As we physically embodied the paralysis, it was painful and being observed in our paralysis we felt isolated, lonely, shamed and vulnerable. However, in a simple gentle touch from the outside, like the gentle breeze of the Holy Spirit, we were liberated. It felt freeing. We were grateful, too, when the Circle of Elders shared their own experience of paralysis and liberation.
Purification Ceremony Brings Healing and Peace; Story of the Eagle Feather
We experienced further healing and a great sense of peace in the purification ceremony. The indigenous ceremony used sage, tobacco, cedar and sweet grass smoke to purify the hands, mouth, eyes, ears, mind, whole body and spirit. The experience of restoring our full beings to what the Creator God intended was a counter-experience to paralysis. We were totally silent, respectfully listening and humbled by this inculturation of indigenous spirituality. We learned the story of the eagle feather and how it represents the original lessons the Creator God gave all of creation. We followed the beat of the drum, Mother Earth’s heartbeat, to the chapel where we celebrated Mass. The singing was beautiful. During the offertory, we presented our gifts of CLC for blessing and our paralyses for healing.
Liberation from Paralysis Leads to Openness to Christ’s Call
The liberation from paralysis engendered spiritual freedom and like the Meditation on the Two Standards, we became open to the call of Christ which we experienced in the purification exercise.
Gratitude for Ignatian Family Collaboration
Penny Fitzpatrick played a moving video tribute to Fr. Larry Kroker, S.J., a significant supporter of CLC in indigenous northern Ontario. Members were filled with gratitude for the legacy of Jesuit collaboration with CLC and the sense of belonging to one Ignatian family. Fulfilling a sacred task of responsible stewardship, Bill Greenwood presented a detailed account of CLC finances. Lynore McLean and Jewel David led a communal examen, deepening our personal and communal story.
On Saturday morning the Rockies/BC Region led the morning meditation, singing with Audrey Assad’s “I Shall Not Want”, a Gospel reading on pruning the vines so that we might bear fruit that lasts, and closing with Bergan and Schwan’s “Prayer of Love and Praise.”
National Evaluation Working Group’s Sacred Story of Invitation to Radical Trust in God
The National Evaluation working group – Leanne Salel, Jane Abernethy-Parker, Ruth Chipman -- sacredly processed in to “In the Fields of the Lord” by The Porter’s Gate, with a harvest basket, and with the fourth team member, Fr. Trevor Scott, S.J. who is in Ireland for his tertianship, represented by a life-sized cardboard photo. Members were filled with joy and laughter at both his spiritual and “physical” presence with us.
The working group shared on the national evaluation process as well as their own sacred story of journeying together for four years. They related how the Elders and General Council had identified issues for evaluation, which were primarily on the organizing structure of CLC Canada. In speaking about the initial uncertainty of how to proceed with an evaluation of this scale, they evoked an image of jumping into deep water, a leap of trust and faith. In moving forward, they drew upon our rich Ignatian toolbox, our process of
discern, send, support, evaluate
and the teachings of Fr. John English, SJ. They also shared the image of companions walking in the dark with only a flashlight to guide them along the path, with God providing enough light and understanding to proceed at each step along the way. They characterized this journey as an invitation to radical trust that God will provide.
Sacred Listening and Distilling 100 Pages to Two Pages of Operating Priorities
five areas of discernment
. The task was larger than ever before experienced: they distilled 100 pages of responses down to two pages, like distilling sap into maple syrup. They experienced the deep listening evoked in this Assembly’s theme. The working group heard hurts, challenges, joys, love and passion for CLC. They prayed to hear where Jesus Christ was leading us and prior to the Assembly had shared the feedback with CLC Canada, in the form of five summaries. The reflections were a treasure and of vital importance for CLC Canada. They reported that some of the suggested changes have already been made. Their flashlights had led them to the Assembly as the next step in the process.
The working group presented the Assembly with a document which summarized the discerned priorities into three themes and 12 action points
. The document reflects the actions and orientations to which the Spirit is calling us, towards the
, with realistic limits. It is intended to serve as a roadmap for the next five years until the next Assembly.
Assembly Experience of Communal Apostolic Discernment (CAD)
The working group then invited the Assembly to jump into deep waters, a leap of faith and trust as we embarked on a process of communal discernment
Julia Donahoe MacDougald Facilitated CAD with Grace & Wisdom
Julia Donahoe MacDougald facilitated the afternoon communal discernment process with great grace and wisdom
. She invited us to desire to listen to God’s call in the midst of our gathering during our decision.
Each group reporter stood up and responded to the initial question: “Do you sense these three overarching themes, with the suggested points for action, are the priority areas?” with a response of yes, yes with modifications, or no. The representatives had an opportunity to express their modifications and concerns. There was a sense of sacred listening within the Assembly and honouring each voice. We felt a sense of gratitude for the spirit of courage as people rose to speak their hearts. Those voices provided an opportunity to further clarify the supporting relationship the “priorities roadmap” would provide for our common mission statement and the four frontiers. There was an overall sense of coming to detachment in freedom, welcoming comments, hesitations and concerns.
Julia welcomed the comments and suggested that the next step would be to vote on whether the delegates gave permission to continue with the discernment process. Recognizing there was some confusion, she offered time for clarifications and for prayer. The vote was to continue the discernment.
Fr. Erik Oland, S.J. Sang of a Sweet, Sweet Spirit, Affirming our Discernment
Then we welcomed Fr. Erik Oland, S.J., Provincial of the Jesuits of Canada. Fr. Oland began by singing “There’s a sweet sweet spirit in this place…and I know it’s the presence of the Lord.”
He spoke about the Universal Apostolic Preferences of the Society of Jesus and explained “Preferences are not what we do but how we do what we do” and they are not a list of priorities but in fact ways of engaging in mission that operate simultaneously. He talked about the conjunction of humility and erudition in the work they do. His elaboration on the orientations and dispositions of the Universal Apostolic Preferences resonated greatly with our need for spiritual freedom in own experience of communal discernment during the Assembly. We experienced a sense of affirmation.
Indigenous Inculturation Inspires Us
Following the indigenous drummer, as we processed to Mass, we sang a song expressing the prayer of the first Canadian indigenous person to pray the Exercises, written in Taize style, “Prayer of Joseph Chiwatenhwa” in the Huron language. CLC members sang in Huron, Magee McGuire sang in English, Fr. Erik sang in French, and Judith Dewitt sang the Alleluia. We celebrated the Feast of the Jesuit Martyrs. Fr. Erik spoke about the founding of the CLC predecessor, the Marian Congregations in Paris. These experiences of indigenous spirituality and the presence of indigenous members help us become more steeped as a national body, brothers and sisters in the Lord.
Discussion of CLC Budget and John English Fund
After Mass and dinner,
Bill Greenwood and Michelle Mahoney advised that the CLC budget will be presented in January
and the members suggested that a reminder about dues and donations be sent in December. There was a discussion of reviewing the SOP for the John English Fund and understanding how best to use it. Bill Greenwood and Marilou Gonzales agreed to investigate it.
Unanimous Approval of Revised Working Group Document Led to Joyful Consolation
The working group led the group in the hokey-pokey and then presented the revised document, including a preamble that addressed many of the concerns expressed. Leanne explained the evaluation process is ongoing and implementation is the next step. There was an opportunity for comments and the tweaks were recorded. Julia presented the question and offered five minutes of silent prayer:
“Do you sense these three overarching themes, with the suggested points for action, are the priority areas that God is calling us to in CLC Canada as we grow and deepen as an apostolic body on mission?”
The group approved the revised document unanimously and so there was a tentative decision. Julia invited us to move into the confirmation process, suggesting the following questions: Does the birthing process produce consolation, increase in faith, hope and love? Or do you sense desolation? Decrease in faith, hope, and love, restlessness, etc.? She invited people to sit with their feelings. Does the decision sit well with you? T
here was a sense of joyful consolation in the Assembly having experienced this communal discernment process.
Assembly’s Call to Serve the
In summary, on Saturday, not only the working group but all of the participants at the Assembly experienced a call beyond ourselves to serve the
. We recognized the willingness of Assembly participants to put a good interpretation on what others said.
The Process Guide, Peter Chouinard, expressed a feeling of fresh air when Fr. Erik arrived and the joy and relief the group felt after final vote and gratitude to Barbara Peloso, Elaine Regan Nightengale, Fr. Charlie Pottie-Pate, S.J. for explaining the different ways to do Ignatian discernment. Now we feel invited to cast our net out to catch fish. He remarked on an overpowering sense of unity in the room.
Doug Hubbard and Brian Hays led us in a communal awareness examen.
Then we moved into an experience of joyful celebration of fiddling, Red River style, and dancing, and traditional Manitoban social food, in the evening.
Graces of the Assembly
On Sunday morning, October 20, the Atlantic Region led the morning meditation, an indigenous prayer to the seven directions. The writing team –
Leanne Salel, Catherine Kelly and Mary Balfe
-- presented the Assembly summary as a closed-eye, prayerful communal listening. The previous evening, the writing team had invited Elder Lois Zachariah to mentor them in tracing, within the document, the spiritual movements of the Assembly as they corresponded to the Spiritual Exercises.
The Process Guide led the Assembly in a communal awareness examen. Some of the fruits captured include
renewed joy and hope; a deeper sense of unity and community; awe and gratitude for what God did with our loaves and fishes; strong sense of God's presence and guidance; walking and dancing on holy ground; taking concrete actions; moving forward; stepping out of our comfort zone; a living out of the life-death-resurrection cycle; deepening trust and appreciation for communal discernment; letting go of fear and encountering the Two Standards as an ongoing requirement; an openness to inculturation; deeper gratitude and understanding of indigenous spirituality; the image of a soaring eagle; gratitude for our leaders, the elders and World Exco representative; the gifts of small group sharing and the three rounds; boldness and courage in speaking truth; sacred listening; unexpected surprises; generosity of spirit; telling sacred stories; being among friends; unity in diversity; humour and laughter; loving one another; deep social awareness; sharing of gifts; experience of ‘walking with flashlights’; witnessing our lay vocation; using confusion as a teaching moment; proactive resistance against places of desolation; gratitude for our Prairie region CLC hosts and venue; and confirmation of prayer.
We concluded the Assembly with Mass and lunch and then said farewell to new and old friends alike. AMDG.
Leanne Salel, Catherine Kelly and Mary Balfe, the Writing Team