Imagining Leadership in A Global Community

Imagining Leadership in A Global Community

Sr. Pat Murray, IBVM

Who are we as women religious in today’s world?

The face of Consecrated Life has changed dramatically. It has become culturally diverse in its members and in the charisms that the spirit gives.[1] I am privileged to have an overview because of the 2,000 congregational leaders who are members of UISG. We sisters number over 500,000. They say that not even the Holy Spirit knows how many we are! We belong to different charismatic families, have different spiritual roots and traditions. In these past years however we are discovering that beneath the diversity, we share what might be called “the charism” of vowed religious life, rooted in our passion for Christ and our passion for humanity. Pope Francis has expressed his hope “for a growth in communion between the members of different Institutes,” calling us “to step out more courageously from the confines of our respective Institutes and to work together, at the local and global levels.” This he says “would make for a more effective prophetic witness.”[2] He invites us to be “part of a true communion which is constantly open to encounter, dialogue, attentive listening and mutual assistance”[3] reaching out globally to people of other faiths and of no faith. Using new means of communication, religious life has become a transnational network with a global identity. We are pilgrims in a globalised world seeking new ways to express our life and our mission. The Irish poem TRASNA[4] meaning CROSSING expresses some aspects of the leadership journey that we are undertaking.

The pilgrims paused on the ancient stones,

In the mountain gap, Behind them stretched the roadway they had travelled,

Ahead mist hid the track.

Unspoken the question hovered:

Why go on? Is life not short enough?

Why seek to pierce its mystery?

Why venture further on strange paths risking all?

Surely that is a gamble for fools………or lovers?

Why not return quietly by the known road?

Why be a pilgrim still?

A voice they knew called to them, saying:

This is Trasna, the crossing place.

Choose. Go back if you must,

You will find your way easily by yesterday’s road,

You can pitch your tent by yesterday’s fires.

There may be fire in the embers yet.

If that is not your deep desire,

Stand still. Lay down your load.

Take your life in your two hands,

(,,,,you are trusted with something precious)

While you search your heart’s yearnings:

What am I seeking? What is my quest?

When your star rises within,

Trust yourself to its leading.

You will have light for your first steps.

This is TRASNA, the crossing place.


This is TRASNA, the crossing place.


How then to imagine leadership at this crossing place, as members of a global community? I would like to offer some images and reflections to spark your imagination because we know that we do not just see images “but we see through images.”[5] How then might these images speak to you today as leaders?

  1. Widen the tent of our hearts
  2. Be present at the borderlands
  3. Embrace vulnerability
  4. Celebrate our luxurious cultural diversity
  5. Engage in web-watching and web-weaving
  6. Listen to the long notes

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[1] Ibid., 27.

[2] Pope Francis, Apostolic Letter, Year of Consecrated Life, 21 November. 2014

[3] Ibid.,

[4] Sr. Raphael Consideine, Presentation Sister.

[5] John Shea, “Theological Assumptions and Ministerial Style” in Alternative Futures for Worship in Alternatives Futures for Worship, vol. 6 Leadership Ministry in Community, ed. M.A. Cowan (Collegeville, Minn: Liturgical Press, 1987), 105-28.

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