NACAR Board Messages

Each month, the NACAR Board President or another member of the NACAR Board of Directors sends a brief message to all members of NACAR. You may read those messages here.

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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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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Mary and baby Jesus black and white sketch artThe Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God
World Day of Peace
New Year’s Day
January 1st a day of resolutions.

Today, we embark on a year that is sure to be longer than last year’s for it is a leap year—thanks to February 29. In this elongated year, the question is not about duration but about fulfillment. A new year is filled with potential, promise, and unfinished commitments from the year prior. How do we plan to fill our year? And though it may add one more cold day in winter, how lucky are we to have the blessings of an extra day to achieve our promise and potential this year!

At the beginning of the holiday season, we received a note from NACAR Board Chair Jeanne Connolly sharing the paradox in which NACAR found itself in 2019. We have kept promises by enhancing and expanding services like the popular Creative Conversations and The Associate newsletter, while continuing our relationships with the University of Dayton – Virtual Learning Community for Faith Formation (VLCFF), to provide tools for Associate leaders.

In collaboration with Catholics on Call, the Religious Formation Conference, and our regional partners like Ohio and Pennsylvania Associate Leadership (OPAL), Bay Area Conference of Associates and Religious (BACAR), and Midwest Kindred Spirits (MKS), we are able to realize the potential of the Associate movement, to enliven our various charisms for God’s people.

As any organization worth its salt, we also have commitments, including fiduciary commitments which we have been able to make (through your support, and I’m sure the assistance of God’s providence) thus far.

So, at the start of this New Year, we know it’s an important one for NACAR as we move about, discerning our commitments, promises, and potential in a landscape, like the seasons that is ever changing. We hope this is a year of discernment and dialogue, so that with integrity we can assert what promises, potential, and commitments NACAR can make this year and beyond.

We’ve one extra day, and one singular focus: to answer the question, who is NACAR? Let’s start answering that question together. May this year be filled with blessings for each of us in our individual ministries and together as NACAR.

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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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John Cardinal Henry NewmanThe recent canonization of John Henry Cardinal Newman has me pondering his famous quotation, “In a higher world it is otherwise, but here below to live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often.”

Those of us who have been immersed in the unfolding journey of association are keenly aware that we are in a season of change. As God resizes some of our congregations and calls others of them to conscious fulfillment, we find ourselves entrusted with their mission and charisms claiming them as our own in a world desperately in need of them.

What is the change God is inviting us to? At this Advent season, we are reminded that God is about new life. We are to bring to the world the presence of the Christ. Like Mary, we listen to God invitation and trust in God’s promise. Like Elizabeth, we need to be open to the unexpected despite our age. Like Joseph, we need to be attentive to dreams that lure us beyond the law to extravagant love and fidelity.

We have been called at this moment in history to bear the lives of our congregations in new places and new ways. They may be as ordinary as our family and work relationships or as surprising and new as assuming leadership roles in our local groups or inviting and orienting new members. They may invite us to collaborate with associates of other congregations. May we prepare our hearts and minds to welcome the changes has God in store for us and respond generously.

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