During 2008-2009, I engaged in a process called Engaging Impasse: Circles of Contemplation and Dialogue®. I participated in the Engaging Impasse Circle that met at three gatherings in White Plains, New York. I went to the sessions because of my own sense of impasse when I left Lesbian and Gay Ministry. I would like to share with you some of my impressions of having been involved in this process.
The first sessions helped me to tell my story of impasse and listen attentively as others told theirs. I began to see that no matter what the circumstances of our lives, others tended to feel and experience what I did-fear, rejection, being alone and isolated, anger, criticism, oppression, vulnerability, loss and grief. After sharing with one another, we engaged in other exercises together: contemplative prayer, liturgy and artistic expression. I found support and healing in being with the group. I also had time between sessions to live into the learning and healing that I experienced there.
When we met again, I examined my own complicity in oppression. Through our discussions and prayer together I started to realize that there is a place where I can meet others beyond impasse. I discovered that it is possible to move even beyond compromise and beyond consensus to enter into true dialogue-to meet the other with whom I am experiencing the impasse at a new place, where all things are connected. I began to see also that in situations when dialogue is not possible, I can continue to strive for it and find a means of support for myself as I do that.
Finally in the last session, rather than focusing further on my individual healing, the process led me to see that I live in a time of impasse and that I can trust my own inner strength to engage with it. With the power of personal and communal prayer, and the support of others in my life, I do not have to live in fear; I do not have to avoid impasse. I can be true to myself and how I feel called to serve my Church even though it may be difficult to continue moving in this direction. I can do it with integrity and not let it intimidate me.
As I reflect now on how things are for us as women religious in the American Church, I see that impasse is something we are facing together. What seemed personal or to be a situation that only those engaged in certain types of ministries experienced is now where we collectively find ourselves in these times.
During the 2009 Apostolic Visitation and the Doctrinal Investigation of LCWR, I was encouraged by how as a congregation we utilized some of the same skills I learned when I attended the Engaging Impasse process. We shared how we felt, we listened to each others’ stories and we sat in contemplative prayer together. We reflected on our mission and engaged in discernment; we envisioned the future we want to have together and we moved toward making that vision real, always remaining faithful to our call together as Gospel women.
All of this gives me hope in times of impasse. I think that we as women religious have reached a critical mass in dealing with impasse. I feel confident that we can journey together as itinerants in these uncertain times and that we can find that new place to form a new Church and society as we move through the impasse.
Written by Margaret O’Gorman, FSM
© 2009-2012 Institute for Communal Contemplation and Dialogue
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