• 02/01/2020 10:00 AM | Fred Goddard (Administrator)

    Wholehearted living quote

    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.

  • 01/01/2020 10:00 AM | Fred Goddard (Administrator)

    The Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God
    World Day of Peace
    New Year’s Day
    January 1st a day of resolutions.

    Mary and Child JesusToday, 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.

  • 12/01/2019 10:00 AM | Fred Goddard (Administrator)

    John Henry Cardinal 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.

    To support you, NACAR continues to offer a picture of association across the country in The Associate.

    We also provide the opportunity to take online courses through our partnership with the University of Dayton at reduced cost through the VLCFF/NACAR Partnership.

    We hope these resources will enable you to respond with increasing confidence to the God’s emerging dream for associate life.

    May this Advent find us not only longing but ready and willing to say a heartfelt “yes” to God’s invitation to bring forth Associate life and commitment in the spirit of our Advent companions.

    Image of John Cardinal Newman is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1924.
    Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:John-Henry-Newman.gif


  • 11/01/2019 10:00 AM | Fred Goddard (Administrator)

    Two people walking on railroad tracks feet to knees visible"If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”—African Proverb

    Fr. Bryan Massingale, PhD shared this proverb during his keynote presentation, “Courage for an Interim Time That Does Not Yet Know Its Name” at the 2019 Religious Formation Conference (RFC) Congress last week. His presentation was powerful from beginning to end, but these words were like thunder in my ears.

    I wouldn’t have heard him speak had the Religious Formation Conference Board of Directors not welcomed NACAR members to join them in this 2019 Congress. RFC’s invitation was a blessing, a chance for us to go together, further.

    At this same meeting, FSPA Affiliate Marci Madary, DMin presented a valuable, two-part seminar on mutuality. I knew it was desirable; I now understand the dynamics of mutuality and why it is a worthy pursuit for collaborators.

    Marci Madary giving a PowerPoint presentation

    Marci Madary, DMin at the 2019 RFC Conference

    I can’t imagine being a director of Associates without NACAR. I thrive on the resource sharing, training, and networking; more importantly, NACAR reminds me to raise my eyes, prayers and heart to the “not yet”. Otherwise, I might be occupied with the comparatively easy ‘busy work’ on my desk—so much so—that I don’t have time to be the leader these times call us to be and to dream into the future. I can do this with NACAR’s rich membership, regional communities and encouragement.

    Let’s not take it for granted, okay? If you know others who care about associate way of life as a means to carry all manner of charisms to the very ends of the earth—encourage them to be members of NACAR. Who in your community could serve on a NACAR committee or on the Board? As all of us are experiencing crises of finance and human resources to continue our work—so is NACAR. Does it matter? If so, how will you step up?

    You can go faster alone. But together, we can go far …

    People photo created by pressfoto - www.freepik.com

  • 10/01/2019 10:00 AM | Fred Goddard (Administrator)

    The word together on a chalkboard with stick figures underneath It is an exciting time to be part of the Associate-Religious movement. In September, three regional groups of associates and religious hosted workshops. Midwest Kindred Spirits (MKS) celebrated its 35th anniversary with a workshop offered by Sr. Patricia Rogers, the Ohio Pennsylvania Associate Leaders (OPAL) hosted a workshop offered by LCWR President Sr. Jayne Helmlinger, and the Bay Area Conference of Associate and Religious (BACAR) hosted a day with Sr. Simone Campbell.  Later this month, NACAR will be present at the Religious Formation Conference (RFC) biannual congress and together we will explore “Being Signs of Courageous Hope.”

    Indeed, this is a busy and exciting time, but it is also a time of uncertainty and malaise. Individually, and perhaps collectively, we feel overwhelmed and overbooked. It is easier to shut down or turn away rather than embrace the uncertainty or address the malaise.

    Sr. Joan Chittister reminds us that we have a choice “about our own roles in shaping a future that fulfills God’s will for the world. …” We have a choice, she writes, “to go steadfastly on, even if we are not sure what we will find at the end.” We have a choice to walk on, stay open, love deeply, and serve God’s call for our world today  

    The North American Conference of Associates and Religious (NACAR) is a membership organization. We need your engagement to be of service to the whole of this committed gospel way of life.  We need you to share NACAR communications with your congregation. We need you to encourage your Associates to become part of NACAR. We encourage you to get to know NACAR benefits, to explore the broader world of the associate-religious relationship, and to share your time, talent and resources for the sake of the whole.  

    Together we can continue to share our charisms for the sake of our hurting world.

    The Time is Now: A Call to Uncommon Courage; © 2019 by Joan D. Chittister; Kindle Edition (p.13-14)

  • 09/01/2019 10:00 AM | Fred Goddard (Administrator)

    simple painting of yellow road through fieldsSummer seems to have somehow quietly slipped by. September is here!

    I am retired from teaching, but for those who work in education, for children and their parents, September heralds the beginning of a new school year. For them, from now until June 2020, the months will move predictably through scheduled activities with measurable outcomes. This school year, like those before it, will have a familiar rhythm, marked by a clear beginning and an identifiable conclusion.

    But the journey of my life is now much less certain. Beginnings are more about the unexpected and the unpredictable, and endings are mostly unplanned and unforeseen. I can only identify beginnings by looking back and it is only by moving forward that the future unfolds.

    Even more so in my spiritual life. I journey not knowing the path ahead nor where it will end. Along the way, I do not always recognize the milestones, and am often confused at the crossroads. How then do I find the confidence to take the next step?

    Associate Relationship reminds me very concretely that I do not travel alone, that I am part of a great procession, walking together, moving toward God. The spiritual awakenings that come to me so subtly and gradually that they are almost imperceptible, send ripples out into my community. Reinforced and strengthened, they return to me as waves. I am seen and am known as a fellow traveler and in turn, I give witness to the journeys of my companions. We each live in uncertainty but we do it together.

    In the same way, NACAR sees and witnesses the spiritual journeys of your congregations. And although we can neither pinpoint the precise beginning, nor foresee the conclusion of this great associate movement within the Church and for the world, together we pray in confidence that God is ever with us to lead us by the right road.

    So this September I wish success and fun to everyone who has started a new school year, and happy that I am not going back to school, give thanks for my spiritual companions on life’s journey. May the God of Surprises bless us all.

  • 08/01/2019 10:00 AM | Fred Goddard (Administrator)

    St. Elizabeth Ann Seton"We must pray without ceasing, in every occurrence and employment of our lives - that prayer which is rather a habit of lifting up the heart to God as in a constant communication with Him." - Elizabeth Ann Seton. 

    On August 28th, we celebrate the birthday of Elizabeth Ann Seton, the first American born saint and the founder of the first American congregation of religious sisters, the Sisters of Charity. As an associate of the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati, I often draw inspiration from the life of Elizabeth and her insightful quotes on life, faith and prayer.  Elizabeth was a wife, mother, widower, teacher, nurturer, and pioneer whose life was marked with tragedy which she faced with tremendous faith. Her unceasing prayer life is a wonderful model that I attempt to emulate in a small way.        

    After being widowed, Elizabeth established a school for the education of Catholic girls marking the beginning of the Catholic school system in America.  Mother Seton’s founding role in Catholic education has always been near to my heart.  As a Catholic school graduate and now as a parent of two children in Catholic education, I love Catholic schools and the communities they provide to families. I feel Mother Seton’s presence as I volunteer in the cafeteria and see all children included and no one eating alone.  I feel her presence in the cheerful school hallways and at all school mass hearing 900 children singing and praising God.

    Elizabeth Seton stands as a witness of a life filled with God’s love and grace because she asked to do God’s will each day.  She shows us that God has a wish for all of us and by praying “without ceasing” and by doing God’s will, we can find the wish God has for each of us.  

    As NACAR members, we can look to the charisms and founders of our communities as inspiration in our everyday life.

    Image source: https://msa.maryland.gov/msa/educ/exhibits/womenshall/html/seton.html

  • 07/01/2019 10:00 AM | Fred Goddard (Administrator)

    Old bootsLook down at your shoes. On her deathbed, Venerable Catherine McAuley made two requests. Her first directive, and best remembered by Mercy Associates and Sisters, was to be sure "the Sisters have a comfortable cup of tea." For her second directive, which sometimes gets forgotten in the retelling of her story, she asked that her worn and tattered boots be tossed into the fire and burned.

    Probably embarrassed by her ragged boots, their wear is easily explained in her writing, “Mercy is the principal path for those desirous of following Jesus Christ.” She knew this because she walked that path every day. In her shoes, she started a home (school, safe-space, hostile, half-way-house et cetera) on Baggot Street in Dublin, Ireland in 1827. Women who shared her vision ran the house. Eventually, this led to her founding the religious institute whose members would be called “the walking nuns.” Set by her example, they walk among the people carrying out her mission of Mercy by serving all, especially the poor, sick, and uneducated.

    Around the time of transition, departure, and hope (the Ascension) I was concluding my time as the director of Mercy Association for the Sisters of Mercy – West Midwest Community, and the 620 Associates we have from Detroit, MI to San Francisco, CA. After the Ascension, in those last few days as director, I did a lot of “shoe gazing” which is to say, self-reflection on what I did and didn’t do in that ministry, and where my own ragged and tattered shoes had taken me while in leadership with and on behalf of Mercy Associates.

    As an Associate or Vowed Person and a NACAR member, you understand that you are compelled to walk this path in your home, at your work, within your community/charism which includes Sisters, Associates, and friends. May we share, grow, and sustain one another as we, like Christ and his disciples at the Ascension face various changes, departures, and challenges with faith, hope, and love.

    May your walking this path include prayer, reflection, service, and action. May you share your gifts by being visible at events, service days, prayer groups, and memorials. It is my hope that all of us, regardless of particular congregations will continue to build community within Association and between Associates and Sisters.

    Now, look down at your shoes again. Association is a journey for which you’ll need good shoes. Although, if you live out your covenant well, I suspect much like Catherine you’ll need to toss them away after they have brought you to the people and places where you need to be present. As the catalyst for the Associate movement, NACAR is with you along the way, providing energy, hope, opportunities, and connections with other Associates. To that end, if you have ideas about how we can improve, enhance or add to those connections or opportunities -- tell us! In the interim, please review the notices below for current opportunities that will enable you to lace up your shoes and set out along the way.

  • 06/01/2019 10:00 AM | Fred Goddard (Administrator)

    Graphic of a road going into moutainsLike the first disciples, we are living in the “between time." The sweet and reassuring Easter appearances give way to the Ascension, another loss. The fire and breath of the Spirit has not yet descended upon them. Both sisters and associates are living in turbulent times with no clear road map. We no longer experience the familiar consolations of youth and numbers. Yet like those first disciples, we are all God has and exactly who God wants for these times.

    Transitional times are fraught with tensions that stir up our personal and communal insecurities and self-doubt. We tend to see only loss and our limits. The challenge is to immerse ourselves intentionally on the gifts we have been given, on the trustworthiness of the giver, on Jesus’ promise to remain with us and send the Spirit “who will teach you what I taught you.”

    Our God has recognized and affirmed that the charism is alive in each of us. Ours is the work of nurturing that charism within ourselves and others, of attending to the Spirit’s invitation to step up and become what we have revered. Like the perfectly imperfect first disciples and first founders, we have all the graces we need to live the charism in our day.

    NACAR has a clear set of beliefs about this moment in the unfolding journey of association.

    We believe that God desires to permeate our culture with the charisms and missions of our various congregations and that God is serious about the future of the associate way of life as a transformative presence in the Church and the world.

    This is what motivates us in our partnership with you. We collected lots of good ideas from the participants in the associate leadership retreat. We hope our partnership with the VLCFF at the University of Dayton will enable you to deepen your knowledge. We hope the Creative Conversations will foster the sharing of your expertise and experience. We hope the new software will facilitate even better communication. In all things we trust in the Holy Spirit to do infinitely more than we dared to dream, ask or imagine.

  • 05/01/2019 10:00 AM | Fred Goddard (Administrator)

    Graphic two women embracingThis Easter, the experiences of the first disciples resonated with me—the choices they faced after they had lost Jesus, their “heart and soul” leader.  Who could possibly lead them now?  Some were “going home”, others took to fishing … ready to throw in the towel when the inspirational leader disappeared.

    Many Associate communities are in the same boat, feeling afraid, unable to move forward and “not worthy” in the face of all kinds of changes within their vowed and associate communities.  Who could possibly have the gifts to inspire and lead?

    I feel this way during the twice-yearly NACAR Board meetings for which we meet in person.  I deeply admire my colleagues, but at some point wonder, “What gifts do I have that make this board better?”  I now feel a little poke in the ribs at these times—I suspect Mother Xavier Ross, the foundress of the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth.  She, like most founders, stubbornly clung to faith in Divine Providence—that placing ourselves in prayer and trusting in God’s goodness, we have and are exactly what we need at this moment.

    The current transitions are invitations to deepen our trust in Divine Providence and to discover that the very gifts we need are among us.  We are blessed every minute we are in the formative presence of our vowed members, particularly when they name our gifts, mentor and cheer us as we fledge at leadership.  We have exactly what we need if we have the courage to “live the charism in turbulent times” (Sr. Janet Mock’s NACAR leadership retreat in May, 2019).

    We know sharing leadership with other Associates will have its fits and starts.  It’s intimidating when there’s no Sister in the room, no sound of clacking rosary beads coming down the hall to keep all our ‘stuff’ in check.  But M. Scott Peck* says we are only “pseudocommunity”—playing nice and ignoring our differences—until we experience conflict.  It’s only when we work through that chaos with love and respect that we can be transformed into a real, life-giving community—the one God first dreamed at the generous issue of charism.

    *The Different Drum:  Community Making and Peace, M. Scott Peck, MD, 1987.

    Image: "The Embrace" by Pam Hinkle, SCL

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