WASHINGTON (CNS) — Giving Voice, a network for women religious under 50, encourages participants to form a community and share their gifts with the whole network and society at large.
Geared toward peer interaction and leadership development, their programming includes a national conference, a vigil at the border between the United States and Mexico and an annual retreat.
“We’re rare in religious life, and we’re different from many of our peers,” Benedictine Sister Belinda Monahan told Catholic News Service in a phone interview.
Their conference, the 2017 Giving Voice National Gathering, took place July 6 to 9 at Iona College in New Rochelle, New York. With participants from about 22 countries and simultaneous translation into Spanish available, the conference delved into the themes of building bridges, healing divisions and leading effectively in contemporary culture.
Sister Belinda attended the conference and enjoyed the open discussion about what it is like to be a young woman religious.
“It gave me an opportunity to kind of dream big about the future of religious life,” Sister Belinda said. “I was able to bring those dreams home and share them with my own community.”
Participants in Giving Voice, according to the group’s website, must be women under 50 years of age, who have started the formation stage that immediately precedes the novitiate in a Catholic congregation of vowed women religious. Giving Voice advertises itself as intercongregational, intercultural and intergenerational.
Sister Sarah Heger, a Sister of St. Joseph, currently serves as principal of Marian Middle School in St. Louis and as a Giving Voice leader on its Core Team. Leadership rotates among different members.
“It’s very peer led, peer run,” Sister Sarah told CNS in a phone interview.
Sister Sarah explained that Giving Voice is a network of peer support for young women religious. The programming that it provides, she said, arose naturally from the community that formed.
“Our time together is filled with very sacred, deep prayer and sharing, and always balanced with just hilarious laughter and a lot of fun,” Sister Sarah said.
Sister Sarah has been involved with Giving Voice for over a decade and was glad to note a recent grant from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. This grant allowed Giving Voice to explore more collaborative events, expand its network and reach non-English speakers.
In fall 2016, over a dozen sisters participated with Giving Voice in Encuentro at the Border, a presence at the U.S.-Mexico where participants prayed for action and continued dialogue on immigration. Sister Lupita Malvais, Guadalupan Missionary of the Holy Spirit, joined in the vigil along the border.
“The language of love breaks the language barrier,” Sister Lupita told CNS in a phone interview.
Sister Lupita, herself an immigrant who has become a U.S. citizen, described the connection she felt with those for whom she was praying.
“I felt the powerlessness, the pain and the frustration that they feel,” Sister Lupita said. “Also I can see a little bit of hope for a better future, because there was the support of many people, not only sisters there, many people of different religious backgrounds.”
Sister Belinda helped to organize and host a prayer service in her community in conjunction with the Encuentro border event.
“The more we talked to people, the more there was a felt need for the younger women religious to invite everybody into a dialogue,” Sister Belinda said.
Sister Belinda also was a part of an evolving discussion among Giving Voice members about the Women’s March this January.
“Many of us felt as though we wanted to march and to support women, but at the same time questioned some of the positions of some of the organizers,” Sister Belinda said.
Giving Voice sisters published a letter in response to the Women’s March, both sending it to the organizers as well as making it public.
“Thirty-three sisters signed on saying that we’re grateful for the march and the movement for solidarity, but that we felt that excluding pro-life groups and individuals from the march was maybe not appropriate,” Sister Belinda said. “We felt there was a need for dialogue among groups of women.”
Giving Voice has been one such platform for dialogue, a network of women religious that continues to grow, connecting communities of women religious across the country.
“Even though we come from different places or backgrounds, we have one heart, one faith working together to make this world a better place,” Sister Lupita said.
Join the CatholicPhilly.com family
CatholicPhilly.com works to strengthen the connections between people, families and communities every day by delivering the news people need to know about the Catholic Church, especially in the Philadelphia region, and the world in which we live.
By your donation in any amount, you and hundreds of other people become part of our mission to inform, form in the Catholic faith and inspire the thousands of readers who visit every month.
Here is how you can help:
- A $100 gift allows us to present award-winning photos of Catholic life in our neighborhoods.
- A $50 gift enables us to cover a news event in a local parish, school or Catholic institution.
- A $20 gift lets us obtain solid faith formation resources that can deepen your spirituality and knowledge of the faith.
- A small, automated monthly donation means you can support us continually and easily.
Won't you consider making a gift today?
Please join in the church's vital mission of communications by offering a gift in whatever amount that you can ― a single gift of $40, $50, $100, or more, or a monthly donation. Your gift will strengthen the fabric of our entire Catholic community and sustain CatholicPhilly.com as your trusted news source. Thank you in advance!
Make your donation by credit card here:
Or make your donation by check:
222 N. 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103
PREVIOUS: Erie bishop hops aboard a Harley adorned with Vatican flag for parade
NEXT: Ohio artist restores religious statues, stirs memories of closed parishes
Share this story