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How Big is Your Community?


Below is Mary Brady’s address during the St. Olaf Partnership Focus Weekend, May 16-17, 2015

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How Big is Your Community?

In 1982, Sr. Maria Augusta Neal, a Notre Dame de Mur nun out of Boston, and a guest professor at Seattle University, opened her class of theology and ministry students with this question. “How big is your community?”

I was in that class, and I remember the question very well – and I was squirming in my chair! I was uncomfortable with the question. I had no concept of what the answer may be. But I had an idea Sr. Marie Augusta Neal knew and she was prepared to tell us! After a long period of silence, she exclaimed, “It is a mere 4-½ billion people.” That was the world’s population in the early 1980’s. Wow! I was overwhelmed to say the least.

What do you do with a truth like that? Pretend you didn’t hear it? Deny the information is possible, eat comfort food, and/or become paralyzed? I did all these things.

Walking through the journey of life, I am no longer paralyzed. I am inspired and challenged. I am now able to articulate what I knew to be a truth when Sr. Marie spoke it. Our community is as big as we are able to imagine and that includes the world’s population. Are we cultivating God’s gift of imagination? God has entrusted us with the capacity to understand, long for, and receive the grace and sacrament of community. People and the communities in which they are drawn to and identify with, speak God’s truth to us all the time. Are we listening?

When we engage, encounter, mix, interact, affirm, support, share, and reach out to one another in the communities (big or small) that we participate in, we experience the grace and sacrament of community. We begin to live in God’s truth and the truth to the answer to Sr. Marie Augusta Neal’s question of “how big is your community?”

One day our eyes and hearts are opened and we realize we are participating and desire to belong to small and large communities, where people are the image of diversity, nurture, call forth, and reflect back to one another, the reality of God’s truth.

Today we celebrate our annual Partners in Faith focus weekend. St. Olaf donates 100% of your financial support to student scholarships in our Sister Parish regions of Kenya. Our partnership is with Uganda Martyrs Catholic Church in Busia, western Kenya, where Fr. Ben Oleket is Pastor and Kiamwangi High School, which is located north east of Nairobi. Through your donations we are able to send $5,000 to these regional schools for student’s tuition, lunches and uniforms. Brochures are in the pews and student letters have been published on our St. Olaf website.

How big is your community? Thank you for your generosity.

— Mary Brady, St Olaf African Partnership