NACAR Board Messages

NACAR Board Messages

Each month, the NACAR Board President or another member of the NACAR Board of Directors sends a brief message to all members of NACAR. You may read those messages here.

Pentecost dove over flamesOn June 4th, we celebrate the Feast of Pentecost, the birthday of our church. It is not the birth of Christ, the Crucifixion, nor the Resurrection that marks the birth of the Church. Pentecost is the day when the Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles in the form of tongues of fire, and Peter and others began to tell the story of Jesus to all those gathered.

In much the same way, religious congregations listened to the whisperings of the Holy Spirit and began inviting women and men to share in the charisms of their communities. Associates, affiliates or companions, were invited to join this new movement with vowed members. As time went on, leadership for this group was needed so directors were named to assist the growing numbers of associates, much the same way as the early church. More than 20 years ago it was realized that the associate movement needed to have guidance and leadership. Thus, the North American Conference of Associates and Religious (NACAR) was born. It can be said that the associate movement is the best kept secret in the Catholic Church!  Let's not keep it a secret any longer.  Invite and empower women and men by sharing your story as the apostles did on Pentecost.

Man with eyes closed being blessedSince April 7, I have traveled from my home in Illinois to Ohio, Wisconsin, Indiana, Kentucky, and Iowa. The travel included being with three regional groups of Associates and/or Directors of Associates ...Tri-State, Midwest Kindred Spirits, and CARMA.  Although these travels are not cross country or across continents, I can attest that with this area, the Associate call is Alive Today!

Doing something different always helps me “see with different eyes.” In my travels I noticed the degree to which spring had come and I was able to recognize God’s on-going creative work in the beauty of the budding trees and in the hearts of the people. In my native Illinois this same beauty is unfolding, but somehow it is easier to see when I am not in my familiar surroundings.

Sometimes I am surprised at how easy it is to be blind to what is “right in front of us,” from the beauty of springtime to the grace and gift of the people in our midst.  In a world filled with fear, anger, and destruction, it may be safer to stay in familiar surroundings, but is that our call?

Keith Payne wrote on June 11, 2013, in Scientific American:

We cannot get to know or learn from people if we look right through them. The modern world might magnify these effects ... because the power of the unconscious is greatest when our attention is under the heaviest demands.... It makes you wonder who you have looked at today and have not seen.

As Associates and Religious we are invited to take the time to see with new eyes what is right before us. How are we called to be co-creators of God’s dream for tomorrow? How are we called, each in our own way, to share our congregational charisms for the sake of our world? Who is right in front of us ready to be compassionate collaborators? Let’s take the time to see what it is good!

Increasing GraphHave you thought of yourself recently as God’s answer to prayer? NACAR knows you are and the 2015 – 16 CARA survey confirms it. It reports that the number of associates has doubled since the initial survey of 2000 – 2002. You are one way God is responding to our prayers for vocations. Apparently God is very serious about raising up women and men, calling them to deeper relationship with God’s self, connecting them to various religious institutes and asking them to leaven the world with the spirit, spirituality and charisms of these institutes that is alive in their hearts.

As a new Board member, I realize even more how much NACAR wants to honor the uniqueness of each group and at the same time resource, support and facilitate God’s dream and desire in calling this way of life into being at this time in our history. We have the CARA survey to serve as a compass guiding us in to an unknown future. We have the resource manual as a compilation of the best wisdom to provide a firm foundation as associates become more and more responsible for the future of associate life. We have a Board and its committees willing to facilitate the sharing of your wisdom, your questions and your challenges as we live together Associate Call: Alive Today, Co-Creating God’s Dream for Tomorrow.

Jesus walking on water and helping PeterMuch like the disciples and Jesus, your initial attraction and journey with your congregation has grown into more than you dared to dream ask or imagine. Like them, you are ordinary people filled with grace for the life of the world. NACAR wants to partner with you in this great adventure. May we respond with the faith-filled abandon of Mother Janet Stuart:

“You must let Him tempt you to walk on water and in your heart you must sing, for you belong to God.”

Forsythia SpringSpring is the season of hope. It brings us through the last days of Lent to the glorious Alleluia of Easter. In Toronto, the crocuses whisper of its coming until one morning the burst of bright yellow on the forsythia bushes gives full voice to spring’s arrival.

But this year, not only from the burden of late winter snow but from uncertainty about our future, spring somehow feels heavy rather than hopeful. Again the forsythia has something to tell us.

Gardeners know that the forsythia bush is sometimes propagated through layering. A weight is placed over a branch to keep it on the ground. As the branch touches the earth, it sends out new roots. This portion of the branch can then be separated from the main. When re-planted it will grow and bloom.

The 2017 NACAR theme: Associate Call: Alive Today, Co-Creating God’s Dream for Tomorrow challenges us to be like the forsythia. Alive today we are rooted in Christ and watered by the vision and mission of our founders and congregations. Yet sometimes we feel weighted down by the force of our present circumstances. Encumbered like this it is difficult to see how we can ever again flourish and flower.

The forsythia reminds us that the weight which brings us low contains within it an opportunity to connect once more with the holy ground that has rooted us. It is because we bend under pressure that we will once more flourish and flower; for as we bend to touch all that has sustained us, we reconnect with the deep richness of our charisms, the long history of our companions. We will send out new roots that allow us to live and grow even if we become separated from the main branch.

This Spring we are called to become co-creators of God’s dream for tomorrow. We are called to hope, called to respond to the pressures we feel by preparing ourselves to be re-planted. So that whenever and wherever we find ourselves, we will, like the forsythia, continue to grow and bloom.

CARA Special Report Cover PageWow!! I never suspected the many uses of the CARA Report!! I knew it was full of useful information; I believed it was a tool for moving the Associate-Religious relationship forward but I did not know how very important it could be in developing a vision and uniting leadership in congregations within themselves; unifying Associates to Associates; Associates to Religious and congregation to congregation.

I have had the privilege of studying and presenting the CARA Report document, commissioned by NACAR to three different gatherings. Each was to a different group of membership and to a different level of leadership.