Saturday, 31 December 2016 17:27

Affiliate Retreat at Watch Hill

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Bob Short – Executive Coordinator

Some retreat attendees: L to R, Top row: Mark Morrison, Joan Crowley
Row 2: Ann Braudis, MM (presenter), Mary Ford (MEF), Jane Dubois, Kathy Morrison
Row 3: Myra Green; Front row: Bill Wheeler, Bill Murphy, James Comes, Monique Cerundolo

The Greater Boston Affiliate Chapter held their annual retreat in mid-November at the Maryknoll Sisters’ retreat/vacation house in Watch Hill, RI.  The retreat followed the 2016 election by only a few days, and the 14 Affiliate participants from five New England states arrived feeling rattled, despondent and holding emotions not felt in a long time.  Thankfully, retreats, if they are good, have a way of opening our minds and souls to deeper, more hope-filled realities.  This retreat surely did that.  What’s more, the physical setting, with expansive views of the Atlantic Ocean accessible from many vantage points within the spacious house; and, outside, a leaf covered pathway that led one to that ocean shore in just minutes, politely colluded to usher in a sense of, “It’ll all be ok.”  

The theme of the retreat, “The Wine Never Runs Out,” might initially strike one as a gratuitous marketing tool to get people to sign up, or a pseudo-therapeutic session to ease election woes.  Our wonderful retreat presenter, Ann Braudis, MM, spoke of this theme as drawing on the Biblical promise of the fullness of life and the symbolism of nuptial radiance.  The subtheme was “Evolutionary Spirituality,” inspired by Mother Mary Joseph.  This main focus throughout the weekend was greatly facilitated by the depth of Ann’s understanding of this area, as well as by the way she invited all of us to share our own lived wisdom.  Evolutional spirituality, flowing from integral philosophy and enriching all faith systems, recognizes that in evolution there are profound spiritual teachings.

It occurred to me that lately many of the books I’ve read, conferences I’ve attended, and conversations I’ve had make reference to evolutionary spirituality, to new cosmology, transformative/quantum consciousness, and people such as Chardin, Berry, Tucker, and Delio, and their buddies.  It appears that we are approaching (already in) a new historical moment.  Maryknollers have often been at the forefront in naming the systemic obstacles to human flourishing, such as precipitous ecological degradation or political and economic structures that put wealth and power in the hands of the few.  But, in listening to Ann and each other as the retreat progressed, it struck me that, even if only a small percentage right now, humans are moving to a place where we are looking at our very perception of the nature of reality.  There is an emergent paradigm (cosmology), one that looks at our understanding of the origins of the universe and our place as humans within it.  This will be a critical factor that in time (perhaps decades) moves all of us to a deeper realization that we are in relationship to all, connected by One Loving Presence.

Heavy stuff… and not easy to accept by those of us more comfortable with a mechanistic, Newtonian universe.  Yet, at least some among us already have an intuitive sense that this is on target.  A few lines from John O’Donohue’s  “For the Interim Time” often comes to mind in this regard:  

Do not allow confusion to squander
This call which is loosening
Your roots in false ground,
That you might come free
From all you have outgrown.

The Wine Never Runs Out. A smile comes over me when my thoughts return to our time together at Watch Hill.  While each of us is at a different place in our life journey, many in the Chapter have been coming together for over 20 years.  There is a sense of camaraderie, of being at home with each other. We have been washed in the Maryknoll charism and, unlike so much that is happening in our world today, this makes sense to us.  And so, greatly helped by Ann’s presence and by the calming sounds of the nearby ocean, a good deal of hope was restored.  Apprehension of what will follow in the next four years with the new administration did not go away, but we now knew that we belong to an unfolding story greater than ourselves. We are  grounded in a bigger vision.

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