Sharing Experiences from the International Formation GatheringBack
If you’ve been following our Facebook and Twitter pages you will be aware of the range of experiences that those attending are enjoying during their time in Zambia.
We’ve asked representatives to write a series of ‘Experience Testimonies’ to share their journey in a more personal way with the Congregation and wider world and will bring those stories to you throughout this week.
We share the first four here:
“We are Moving…”
The International Formation Gathering was opened on the 17 May in Lusaka, Zambia. As the hosting Unit, we felt honoured to have the opportunity to welcome our sisters to the cradle of humanity, Mother Africa, our home. The African sisters participated in the opening ritual.
This gave us a chance to showcase our beautiful, rich and vast culture. We felt connected to our ancestors through dance, music, ululation, the sound of drums and shakers. The story telling by the steering committee motivated us to discover our own individual songs.
The facilitator, Sr Clare Stanley, challenged us to be creative by re-imagining formation and presenting it in the form of a drawing. She related a harvesting cycle to our formation gathering process. This metaphor of harvesting made us realize that no process is a neat series of steps.
Sr. Gail Worcelo, explored the Spirituality of Being in Communion with us. To live in communion, we have to move from ‘I' to 'We’. We are being pushed by Nano and pulled by the Divine to emerge. Under the theme of belonging, the single sacred community was stressed where the rights of all beings are respected.
Heart exchange and creative union impels us to approach each other in love and finding each other’s essence which is the deepest energy we can share. Continual blossoming gives us a sense of freshness in our relationships.
From our experience so far, formation is about being deformed, reformed, conformed and transformed.
Newfoundland and Labrador Unit
My reflection of our beginning days has to start with my arrivaI on this beautiful land. Over and over, I found myself saying... I am walking upon the land where we first began. In her welcome to us, Bella referred to her homeland as ‘the cradle of our humanity’ and oh, how that resonated within me.
I arrived in Lusaka on May 12th and was warmly met at the airport by Lynette Rodrigues. The Sisters at the Formation House on Luziwasi Road treated Veronica Casey, Eileen Quirke, Grace Chacko, Eileen Keating, Bernadette Healy and myself to true Presentation hospitality.
As the electricity would be off to conserve power, our evenings were spent around the dining room table in the warm glow of solar lamps and candlelight as we shared stories. On Sunday, the Sisters who live at the Hospitality House on Luzi Rd, and who were hosting other early arrivals, provided us with lunch.
There was much chatter as we sat around enjoying a delicious meal. On Monday, it was then off to Kasisi Retreat Center, where our meetings for these next 10 days are taking place. There was quite a lot of excitement as some of us greeted friends from past gatherings, as well as the excitement, of meeting new friends.
I could feel the Energy of Nano in the air as we stood outside in the dusk of evening awaiting dinner. As we deal with the challenges of trying to connect on Wi-Fi, there is also much light-heartedness with the echoing voices of ... "Do you have a signal where you are sitting?", "Come and try over here", or, "I got on; did you get on?" As we made our way back to our rooms, stars filled the evening sky and Grace was happy to point out to some of us the Southern Cross, which, I learned can only be seen in the southern hemisphere. And so, in the midst of stars, laughter and "good nights" our first evening came to a close.
At our opening ritual, I was moved by our African sisters who led us to our gathering space with the sound of drumming filling the air. There was something magical in their harmonious voices that seemed to come forth from the depth of their souls, welcoming us into this sacred space. Claire, our facilitator, guided us in an activity in small groups which took us another step further in getting to know one another ... there is nothing like crayons and coloured markers to help bring out the light-hearted side in us! There is not enough space to describe the times I have been touched by the input and activities given to us by Gail Worcelo, our presenter for the first two days, who lives and breathes the spirituality of being in communion.
I will leave that to someone else to capture, as I need to bring my own musings to a close. But, if I could capture in a sentence the stirrings of my heart during these two days with Gail, I would want to say I feel like I have been loved by Mother Earth and oh, how I want to love her back with all my heart.
Sandy Butler, NL Unit
We feel privileged to be part of the International Formation Gathering. We are very much connected with our sisters who have come before us to prepare the way for us. We are glad to share our experiences, graced moments and our innermost feelings. We are touched by the warm welcome and hospitality we received from our sisters on our arrival on this Holy Ground. The rainbow which holds different colours so as we Presentation Sisters hold the beauty and Oneness of being interconnected.
It was a graced moment to meet our Sisters from all over the world. We felt proud of our Congregation for the rich legacy we hold in common. The opening ritual was very inspiring as Srs. Anne and Bella made us feel at home with the whole group, and beating of the drums, helped us to feel to be one with the culture of this land. Intermingling of the members in the group enabled us to share and participate well.
We feel the CLT has chosen the right resource people to facilitate the gathering. We were moved by the way they were facilitating the gathering and it encouraged us to participate in our respective groups. The prayerful atmosphere which was created before and after each session was very helpful to enter into the process.
The prayer groups on 17 and 18 May highlighted the theme from among the cultures. The cock crowing and the symbol of fire and the meaning given which helped us to feel the people of this Land.
The African Canticle, which included the whole of Creation, helped us to feel the spirituality of being in communion. We felt the meditation helped us to experience the positive energy of one another and we felt the importance of being connected.
The exercises on essence booted us up and being together we felt the bond of being deepened.
USA Unit and Conference
The heavens are telling the glory of God and all creation is shouting for joy!
With this refrain we danced out of Eucharist into the warm sunlight on Thursday morning. We gathered around the patio to continue the joy we are experiencing, a deepening in “being in communion, being one” with Sisters from across the globe, with all people, our earth, and the cosmos.
“My world view has broadened as now I can name places and faces from around the world. I realize I am not in Iowa anymore!” exclaims Annette Kestel.
Shawna Foley, who has experienced concern over the serious surgery of her father this week says with deep emotion, “I can’t believe how my Sisters from all over the world inquire about how he is doing and offer deep prayer for his recovery. I feel so much a part of the Presentation family.”
“You can feel the depth of the Presentation charism in and among us. We gather here not only interculturally but also intergenerationally and we are one! It is like being with cousins I have never met before.” muses Francine Janousek.
Praying in many ways, dancing in a style of another culture, food experiences and interchange about it make meals interesting, tasty and an adventure! We have learned to eat nshima (Zambia) or sadsa (Zimbabwe). This is a white cooked cornmeal often used as a utensil to pick up food from our plates. It is much like the yellow cornmeal we eat as polenta in many countries.
One of the greatest blessings is the openness on everyone’s part to take a chance, to walk one pace beyond together, into the future assured that the Light that is Christ which shines from Nano’s lantern is leading with tender loving care.
Submitted by Francine Shawna and Annette from USA/Conference