March 23, 2007

Speaker encourages women to listen to God, embrace life

Mercy Sister Mary Ruth Broz of Chicago holds a bowl of sage on March 3 as she discusses the wisdom that women gain from the experiences of aging. She was the keynote speaker for St. Christopher Parish’s fifth annual Catholic Women’s Conference in Indianapolis.

Mercy Sister Mary Ruth Broz of Chicago holds a bowl of sage on March 3 as she discusses the wisdom that women gain from the experiences of aging. She was the keynote speaker for St. Christopher Parish’s fifth annual Catholic Women’s Conference in Indianapolis.

By Mary Ann Wyand

Encouraging several hundred women to “listen to what God is asking of you at this time in your life,” Mercy Sister Mary Ruth Broz asked participants at St. Christopher Parish’s fifth annual Catholic Women’s Conference on March 3 to embrace the Lenten journey and the coming of spring.

Just as the flowers are spearing their way through the soil and preparing to bloom, she said, women need to trust that inner growth is also happening at this time in their own life and in their own family.

God has something to say to each of us, Sister Mary Ruth said, and it might happen during something as simple as drinking a cup of coffee in the morning.

“It’s important to pay attention and listen for that,” she said, and to reflect on the many challenges and obstacles in our paths over a lifetime that have made us who we are today.

The co-founder and co-director of Wellstreams, a center for feminine spirituality in Chicago, said Women’s History Month in March affirms the many diverse gifts that women bring to society.

Sister Mary Ruth serves on the leadership team for the Sisters of Mercy and recently co-authored Midwives of an Unnamed Future, a book on women’s spirituality. Her keynote address was titled “Sowing Seeds of Change: Awakening the Mystic and Prophet Within.”

“We’re surrounded by war and violence,” she said. “I think, for many of us, we’ve had enough. What do we do? What is God asking of us?”

We can learn from nature and the vernal equinox on March 21, Sister Mary Ruth said, when light and darkness try to find a balance.

“We need to go back to the light wherever we can find it,” she said. “We need to do that because we need to be more loving in this world.”

In the context of ordinary life, never underestimate the moments when you are called to make decisions, Sister Mary Ruth said. To do that better, take a few minutes every morning to reflect on your life and thank God for another day of waking up.

Women continue to usher in a new era in Western society, she said. “… I think this is a time when we need to take to heart the words of Isaiah to enlarge the space for your tent, … lengthen your ropes and make firm your space” (Is 54:2).

We need to focus on our gentle strength and take seriously our own work of transformation, Sister Mary Ruth said. “… We have to take seriously our own inner journey. How do we awaken the mystic and prophet inside of us? Because I think that’s the key to the future. Only then are we going to be able to reclaim our power and leave this world a better place.”

Remember the privilege it is to be alive in this time when our lives count for so much, she said, as we raise children and tend to our communities.

“If nothing else, these times are offering us a shining moment to become what God has called us to be,” Sister Mary Ruth said, “to call forth one another’s goodness and to help one another become who we are capable of being.”

While Michelangelo was sculpting the statue of David, she said, the story goes that he first saw David within the marble and he felt that his task as an artist was to chip away at the marble so that David could come forth.

“When I heard that story,” Sister Mary Ruth said, “I thought, ‘That’s how God has to be looking at each of us, seeing us in the marble and wanting so much for us to believe in the riches that are there and who we really can become, … inviting us to something more.’ ”

There is something within us that needs to get free, she said. “Corinthians tells us there is a treasure in this earthen vessel and its power comes from God and not from us (2 Cor 4:7). … Ephesians says … there is a Spirit working in us that can do infinitely more than we can ask or even imagine (Eph 3:20). Just think of that. There is a part of us that knows the way through whatever presents itself to us … as we are trying to find our way through life.”

We have a deep well of courage and creativity within us, Sister Mary Ruth said, that we don’t even know is there until we learn how to tap it through spiritual practices then slow down enough to reflect on it.

The mystic reminds us to stop taking our existence for granted, she said, and to stay connected to that part of ourselves that knows life is a gift.

“St. Teresa of Avila says … ‘I like to imagine that we are not hollow inside,’ ” Sister Mary Ruth said. “Let’s begin to imagine that Women’s History Month isn’t just meant to take us back in memory … to what went before us, but that each year we can use it … to remember again there are seeds that are sacred planted deep within each of us, that there’s a mystic and prophet inside of us.

“ … To awaken the mystic and prophet is to slow life down in the littlest ways we can,” she said. “ … Awakening the mystic within helps us to find our way back to the heart of the matter … to really be in touch with whatever you hear in your heart, whatever God is saying.”

Sister Mary Ruth also presented a workshop about the wisdom of aging, comparing it to sage, which intrigued Ruth Grugel of Kenosha, Wis.

Grugel attended the conference with her mother, St. Christopher parishioner Delores Sidor of Indianapolis, as well as her sister and sister-in-law.

“I really enjoyed the keynote speech and wanted to hear more about what she had to say about aging,” Grugel said. “I liked her message that aging only gets better because you have more experience and wisdom to share with others. … But sometimes we discount our own experience and don’t wear it as a badge of something accomplished, as a medal of valor.” †

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