News and Information

News and Information for members of and people interested in the North American Conference of Associates and Religious.

Flame Light SunNACAR enters June with the fire of Pentecost and the passion of the Sacred Heart, even as so many of us wait in our Upper Rooms for the time when we can reemerge safely and reunite with one another and all our beloveds. 

How blessed are we to have the spirit and spirituality of our various congregations to sustain us, as well as their indomitable legacy of heroic service in times of the world’s greatest need.  

As so many of our wisdom figures go home to God during this pandemic, how challenged are we to live on in their love by being what they were—single-hearted women and men of the Gospel.

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Fishing with cast net from a boat near Kozhikode Beach, IndiaIn James Martin’s, Jesus: A Pilgrimage, he reflects upon Jesus stepping into Simon’s boat and asking him to “put out a little way” so Jesus can better address the crowds that are pressing the shoreline to hear him. Simon was wrapping up a long night of unsuccessful fishing and must have been tired and frustrated.  But he obliges, and after Jesus finishes, He tells Simon to ‘put out into the deep’ to lower his nets. What? The preacher knows better than the professional angler? Peter was fortunately humble enough to honor the request. And … cue up “miracle music” … the fishing nets fill to the point of breaking!1

There is something to be said for giving it a second look even though you think you know the waters well, for letting circumstances open you to new possibilities.

In the April issue of The Associate, Jeanne Connolly described the portion of our recent Board meeting that included representatives from the National Religious Vocations Conference (NRVC), Religious Formation Conference (RFC), and the Leadership Collaborative, whom she welcomed by saying: “… everything is open for conversation with the understanding that we firmly believe that God is serious about the future of the associate way of life and because we … serve associate leaders and prospective leaders …. we want to further this form of Gospel life, not to the exclusion of other forms, but in relationship with and in collaboration with others.”

We’ll do precisely that—serve our associate leaders, all hands on deck for the next year with no diminishment in NACAR service. So when you receive your membership renewal notice this month, be assured that your investment secures all upon which you rely—information, connection, and inspiration.

We appreciate you who have affirmed and creatively responded to our honest assessments and requests for committee members and financial assistance. We NACAR Board members continue to cast our nets seeking collaborative possibilities to ensure that NACAR continues to serve and promote associate life in the years ahead. As Jeanne indicated in her December 5, 2019 letter, we pledge to share the results of our futuring work with you by March 2021.

Now is not the time to hold back a single spark of an idea as we navigate these deep and compelling waters together. We rely upon each of you to share what you see from bow and stern, port and starboard, to discover that to which God now invites us.

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Cross and BibleLast week, Catholics marked the beginning of their Lenten journey by receiving ashes. In doing so, we united ourselves to Jesus, choosing to travel this Lent through the darkness of the inner desert so that we can rise with Christ into the light; the light of life that is spirit-filled, connected, and purposeful.

Our companions on this journey will include scripture, prayer, and acts of penance. Some people will choose fasting and will experience how important it is to develop a hunger and thirst for God and for God’s Word. Others will deprive themselves and in a gesture of solidarity, will share with the poor. Still, others will open their hearts to God through new spiritual practices or acts of mercy.

Those of us who are associates and religious will be with one another, in spirit and in person, offering the fruitfulness of our personal journeys, finding ways to respond more deeply to our desire to live Jesus’ mission within the charisms of our congregations.

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DaffodilsSpring is one of my favorite times of the year. Where I live, it is sometimes fleeting and easily missed. Whether we take the time to notice it or not, it still comes faithfully … despite late-season snow and “unseasonable” temperatures. The trees, grass, and flowers awaken from their winter slumber. Spring is never canceled—it may arrive differently from year to year or from one geographical location to another, but nature awakens to the new.

It seems to me that the global pandemic related to the novel coronavirus-COVID-19 provides each of us with the opportunity to awaken to the new. Our lives are necessarily very different from what they were just a few weeks ago. Business and life are far from “normal.” We have seen and experienced the oneness as a global community in ways many of us could not have imagined. We have been given a new wake up call to, as Sr. Ilia Delio writes, “think new,” because the power of God is yearning to do new things, to create more wholeness of life, to transform earth into the fullness of Christ, so that “they may all be one” (Jn 17:21).*

In these days of “physical distancing,” we are being invited to “think new” about how we learn, connect, share gifts and talents, and celebrate liturgy. As a human race, we can live through this time with love, gratitude, hope, and grace or fall into dystopian despair. I feel truly blessed to be surrounded (virtually) by many loving and compassionate groups. It is exciting to explore possibilities and to “think new” about services and ministries. NACAR strives to be one of those organizations providing support and sending positive energy into the world. We encourage you to share the new ways that you are learning to be community in this current reality. How might we re-imagine the Associate-Religious relationship in this new time … together for the sake of the world? May this spring and Easter season be a season of awakening and an invitation to “think new.”

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Wholehearted living is not like trying to reach a destination. It's like walking toward a star in the sky. We never really "arrive," but we certainly know that we're heading in the right direction. Brené Brown

Wholehearted living is a concept named by Grounded Theory researcher Brené Brown and it focuses on living your life from a place of worthiness. According to Brown, to live wholeheartedly, you need to foster courage, compassion, and connection, so you can go about your days satisfied that no matter what you have accomplished, no matter what you have left incomplete, you are enough.

I have been working on a presentation of Brené Brown’s work on Wholehearted living and reading about her in-depth interviews with men and women all over the country. She spoke with people who were living joyful, loving and inspiring lives and wanted to find out how they were experiencing Wholehearted living. They were filling their life with themes such as trust, faith, worthiness, hope, authenticity, love, gratitude, creativity, and rest.

As I was looking at these themes from Brené’s work, it made me think of the many associates around the country who are filling their lives with these same themes and living Wholehearted lives inspired by the charisms of their communities. Living a Wholehearted life also means embracing our vulnerabilities and still seeing ourselves as worthy of love and belonging. As associates, we are entering a time of vulnerability in the future of community and associate life but our vulnerability can lead us to new paths of belonging and joy if we can live Wholeheartedly.

Brené Brown’s work and the spirit of the associate movement inspires me to keep striving towards a Wholehearted life. May we continue to fill our lives with faith, creativity, hope, love, gratitude, and rest and embrace our vulnerabilities so we can experience the joy of a Wholehearted life.

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