February 2016: 5 Characteristics Sustaining Today’s Religious Communities

eNews Masthead - Transforming Challenges
In this Issue

Opening Remarks

The Reid Group Senior Consultant Maureen Gallagher has worked with many religious communities of women and men over the years.  In this edition of Transforming Challenges, she identifies five characteristics she has found necessary to sustain religious communities today.

At The Reid Group, we have a passion for helping leaders and organizations transform their challenges into opportunities to create a better world. One of the ways we do that is through this e-letter, Transforming Challenges. Is there someone you know who could benefit from receiving it? Forward this edition to them and encourage them to subscribe for themselves. They’ll thank you—and so do we!

The Reid Group News

  • Tom Reid facilitated an All-Ministry meeting for the California Catholic Conference the first week in February where 70+ ministry leaders from all 12 dioceses in California met to discuss the implications of three major issues for an election year and beyond: Caring Well Through the End of Life, Faithful Citizenship, and Marriage and Family Life 2016:   Viewing All Ministries Through the Lens of the Family.
  • Communities magazine, a publication of the Fellowship for Intentional Community, published an article by Maureen Gallagher in the Winter 2015 issue: Intentional Communities: Something Old, Something New. You can find this article on our web site, in the  Resources section.
  • John Reid is working with the Strategic Mission Plan committee of the Maryknoll Society of Fathers and Brothers on a strategic plan. This first-ever, Society-Wide plan will be finalized by July 2016.
  • Lucien Roy has been hired by the Archdiocese of St. Louis to work with the Department of Pastoral Planning on a project interpreting the data coming out of the Parish Planning and Viability Study and its implications for the archdiocese’s beOne ministry plan for 2016-2018.
  • Maureen Gallagher will facilitate the 43rd annual conference of the Conference for Pastoral Planning and Council Development in Chicago in April. The theme of the conference is “Compelled by a Ministry Impulse: Pastoral Planning for a Change of Era.”

So as you look at your individual or organizational future, what are your challenges? Could you benefit from skilled support? Give us a call at 206-432-3565 or send us an e-mail to start transforming those challenges into opportunities.

The Reid Group teleseminar series

It has been said that the only constant in life is change.  At this time in our collective life we could modify these words to say that the only constant in life is rapid change.

How can I better work with change as an individual? How can my team and I work with change, rather than reacting to or resisting change?

You are invited to The Reid Group Teleseminar on a contemplative approach to change for leaders and teams: Approaching Change from the Inside Out & a Process for Groups Working with Change

February 17, 2016
4pm ET / 3pm CT / 2pm MT / 1pm PT

The call will focus on contemplative attitudes and practices for leaders and organizations working with the reality of change.

To register for this teleseminar, simply click here.  Materials and resource information to be used on the call will be sent to all registrants.
If there is a topic you would like to see us explore, send your suggestions to info@thereidgroup.biz.

Feature Focus

5 Characteristics Sustaining Today’s Religious Communities

Maureen Gallagher, Senior Consultant

Maureen Gallagher, Senior Consultant

Intentional communities-people gathering to share life together, to discover meaning, and to have an impact beyond themselves-have been part of the human landscape for centuries. Catholic religious communities are one type of intentional community.

I have been a planning consultant for both men’s and women’s Catholic communities for the past 12 years. In that experience, I have found that there are five characteristics that prevail in effective intentional religious communities of both men and women:

#1:  A founding leader or leaders whose charism continues to inspire

A charism is a gift freely given by God. Catholic religious communities have unique charisms: some talk about the gentleness and kindness of the Savior; some about search for truth through contemplation; others are called to integrate the Gospel values into daily life.

I have been inspired by women and men religious who can articulate their founding charism as if the leader were still alive and walking the earth. The charisms of communities which attract people today are both broad and deep enough to continually inspire followers to meet the needs of a contemporary world.

#2:  A transcendental or spiritual element

Many charisms explicitly state a particular spiritual focus, acknowledging the presence of the transcendent. For instance, one articulation of the Franciscan charism is centered in the incarnational worldview (Spirit in the world), and in a life of penance or conversion. Contemplation, silence, and meditation have been an essential part of all the communities with whom I have worked.

#3:  A purpose or mission

Some communities exist to pray and be united in heart and mind with Jesus Christ through prayer for the world and the Church. Others have specific ministries and exist to “participate in the prophetic mission of Jesus to witness God’s love for all creation.” Articulating the community’s mission or purpose for existence in a compelling manner is critical for its survival.

#4:  Agreed-upon “ground rules,” boundaries, mutual expectations

Besides the formal Rule and Constitution by which canonical religious communities agree to live, communities need to have mutual understandings regarding “ground rules,” boundary issues, cultural mores, and shared expectations of each other. It is in this arena where conflicts or misunderstandings or tensions often arise based on age differences, cultural differences, or personality differences. As one sister said, this is where “all the theology goes out the window and the ‘rubber hits the road.'” Interpersonal struggles, unbridled egos, and pettiness-the human condition-take their toll on religious life as well as the life of all intentional communities.

#5:  A compelling vision

Vision points to what we want our world or our community to look like in the next five to 10 years. It needs to connect to the charism, mission, and values of a community and integrate them into a coherent whole.

Many of the men’s and women’s religious communities that I am working with have undertaken the concept of sustainability as a vital part of their vision. They are talking about ecological sustainability, evolving consciousness, and the sustainability of their legacy-to create a more just society and Church. In her book Green Sisters, Sarah McFarland Taylor describes her first-hand knowledge of the Sisters whose lives bring together “Catholicism and ecology, orthodoxy and activism, traditional theology and a passionate mission to save the planet.”

The five characteristics named above can be an impetus for intentional com­munities today. Just as both initial and ongoing formation are essential to vibrant religious com­munities, so too, other intentional communities might well benefit from the wisdom of those who have been contemporary pioneers in forming non-religious life-giving communities.

This feature is excerpted from Maureen’s article, Intentional Communities: Something Old, Something New, that appeared in the Winter 2015 issue of Communities magazine. You can read the entire article online here.


The Art of Change: Faith, Vision and Prophetic Planning

Think about what your organization could do if the process of planning met the inevitability of change head-on—and it resulted in significant success.

bookcoverweb2Organizations large and small, religious and secular, for-profit and not-for-profit, successful and unsuccessful, go through change. John Reid and Maureen Gallagher of the Reid Group have been instrumental in helping many groups discover the power of Prophetic Planning. This book presents a complete overview with detailed information that any organization will find useful in understanding how to plan for change.

The Art of Change: Faith, Vision and Prophetic Planning, and its companion CD are now available from Liguori Publications as well as from Amazon.com.

And that’s it for this month. Look for Transforming Challenges next month–and until then, have a good day and a great week.Kathy Johnson, Editor, Transforming Challenges
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