October 7, 2023
Early Morning Greetings! This before I leave this residence for the airport to catch the first of my 3 flights home.
Glory be! I find I have an hour to fill you in on the extraordinary 1 and 1/2 hour session that most of the CNWE group in Rome were enriched by on Thursday afternoon (Oct 5). In short, it was an encounter via Zoom with Sister Elizabeth Davies, one of the Canadians appointed by Pope Francis to be a delegate during the Synod process. To be true, I had never before heard of this Newfoundland Labradorian woman. Others quickly told me they hadn’t either but, by now, you and some of us have caught up because of her recent interview interview with Anthony Germain (I haven’t had the time to listen to it in its entirety but have read a bit of it and … wow!!!)
Fortunately, I for once set myself up so that I was not fumbling for the Zoom link at 2:15 on Thursday, and there in front of me, Elizabeth (“Please call me Elizabeth”) was on my screen and I was all alone with her for just more than 5 minutes. After our initial hellos and her news to me that she currently has mobility problems, given her recent hip replacement surgery (and is therefore using a walker), she asked me about myself. I’m happy to report to you that I edited myself; I did speak about my origins in western Canada with the Sisters of Saint Ann, and a bit about my work in health care at a teaching hospital, the Royal Ottawa Hospital, which she said knew of. Others arrived and saved me from going on too much. Soon enough, her delivery to us began. She first took the time to give details about her varied, interesting, amazing life which she believes – summed up – culminated in her appointment to the Synod as a voting delegate.
My notes include the following:
- Initial studies of the Old Testament at the age of nineteen led to her passion for it, “one that I’ve had ever since.”
- She entered her religious community, thee Sisters of Mercy of Newfoundland, and first taught in an elementary school.
- When the sister who had been heading her community’s health care initiative left the community, she was asked by her superior to take that sister’s place. Elizabeth paused to explain that she did not know if she could do it, but went about doing whatever she could to make good of her commitment to at least try.
- Eventually, she found herself being invited to give talks in other religious communities. Fast forward: she was elected to the office of president (Superior General) of her Mercy Congregation, and thus became involved in the International Union of Superiors General (UISG) and its 2,000 member Congregations counting over 600,000 women religious.
She explains that as she sees it, Pope Francis never lets go of his dreams for the Church. And then, Elizabeth returns to the subject of her own appointment as a voting delegate: “Taken all together” the elements of my life have led to this point.
Here, I and the others with me during this session pinch ourselves – we are hearing firsthand from one of the Synod’s female, non-clergy, delegates — and she’s so easily understood, as well as engaging in her delivery to us.
“I’ve often recommended when I’ve given talks about the Synod, to my audience to take a look at the Synod’s LOGO. We notice that it’s inclusive – people of all sizes and colours, starting with children, … with Pope Francis depicted in the middle, all holding hands and walking along together. This was not the work of a [hired design artist] but by a woman in France, Isabelle de Senilhes.”
Her points here have had me taking another look at the Synod’s LOGO – maybe, you’ll want to too.) And, that’s what a synod is, walking together, listening, and talking with one another.
A 3-day retreat “which all delegates attended” before the start of the actual Synod meetings, included the practice of ‘conversation in the Spirit’, (which is also being practiced in the Synod). Meeting in circles, the conversational process (as Elizabeth pointed out, very new to some delegates), is to pose three questions, which frame the conversation:
- What is your lived experience (of this event, text, etc)?
- What newness has come to your awareness through the other voices in this circle?
- What emerged from this conversation that we will carry forward?
For more on this practice, see:
”Pope Francis gave us Laudato si’, and on October 4, he gave us an updated document, on the environment, Laudate Deum … I do believe we are on the way to seeing that we can have a Church which is universal.”
There is more that I could tell you about our Zoom session; however, I will stop now but not before telling you that Elizabeth asked us to pray for her that she would be speaking with, among other things, daring. Okay, I will certainly do that and, if you are inclined, will you join me?
If that wasn’t enough on Thursday, in the evening, all 9 of us gathered at the Goose – along with a few others, including one of my favourite journalists / teachers, Michael Higgins, and none other than another Canadian female, voting delegate, Professor Catherine Clifford of Saint Paul University. Her honestly, ability to talk while laughing at the same time, for me, was remarkable. I loved getting to know this woman who lives, as I do, in Ottawa. (Of course, I invited her to come have dinner with Raymond and me.) In any case, I want to tell you that I wrote an email to Therese Kortobash to let her know that her suggestion of the Goose for our special dinner was fab. She replied brilliantly:
“The Holy Spirit is often portrayed as being gentle as a dove. I understand that early Christians though sometimes depicted her as a honking, unpredictable wild goose.”
Given our spirit-led grassroots work, it seems to me that the name of the restaurant is quite fitting. And besides that, the food is good!
God/de bless us, one and all.