Sisters Speak

Finding Hope in Humility

After attending the National Religious Vocation Conference Convocation in 2020, Sr. Allison Masserano, ASCJ reflects on community living and what gives her hope.

An older and younger sister talking together

“I want to be more faithful to my spiritual reading. So I just started trying to do it every day at 4:00 p.m.” This would have been a rather unremarkable statement had I heard it from one of my peers, from a sister in my formation group. We were always trying out new routines and practices and looking to each other for accountability. But, I have to admit, when a seventy-year-old sister casually mentioned this to me at the end of a brief conversation in the hallway, I was surprised. Without realizing it I had fallen into the temptation of assuming that someone a few generations older than me must be set in her ways. Jaded. Complacent. An older sister actively trying to better herself? I’m embarrassed to say, it took me by surprise.

It is easy and convenient to characterize generations with broad strokes. The young are zealous; the old are weary. And it works both ways. The old are wise and strong; the young are clueless and soft. Off-handed remarks and subconscious attitudes show that these stereotypes are present, and pervasive, in religious life. However, that interaction in the hallway, with the still-striving seventy-year-old, was not a singular exception to the rule. I can think of so many times when the oldest sister in the room was the first to volunteer for a project out of her comfort zone. I’ve had stimulating conversations about culture, technology, and current events with sisters of all ages who are open-minded, curious, and eager to learn. They are beautiful examples for me, models of such virtuous qualities as docility and enthusiasm. I have had more than enough interactions to reveal the limits of generational stereotypes. So then, why do these experiences still surprise me?

For as we actively work to rise above the convenient generalizations and assumptions that can fracture our communities, we will be cultivating the very things that strengthen our lives together: humility and openness.

Perhaps we’ll never be able to totally eradicate stereotypes and metaphorical boxes from our day-to-day communal living. Perhaps these will always be potentially damaging temptations against which we must be on guard. This, however, does not discourage me. Instead, it gives me hope. For as we actively work to rise above the convenient generalizations and assumptions that can fracture our communities, we will be cultivating the very things that strengthen our lives together: humility and openness.

One of the overarching themes of the NRVC 2020 Convocation was the importance of storytelling. Sharing our stories helps us to feel known and listening to others’ stories increases our compassion. In community life, the more we share and learn about one another the more we’ll be able to see each other beyond generalizations, as unique individuals with burdens to carry and gifts to share. But telling our stories is not always easy. Sharing a part of ourselves is a risk, one that requires both humility and openness, and our community life is richer when we foster an environment that supports this kind of connection. One of the greatest gifts we can give to our sisters in community is the reassurance that their stories will be received with the same humility and openness with which they are shared. I witness and experience this giving and receiving all the time - in hallways and around the table, during times of shared prayer and times of recreation - and every time I am reminded of our God who favors nuances over broad strokes, particularity over generality; our God who cares to know and who loves us still. And as long as we continue to strive to love with this humble and open love, we will always have reason to hope.