SHCJ Transforms Everyday Concerns into Mediations for Daily Life
ROSEMONT, PA---Just ask. Ask the student cramming for exams. Ask a parent balancing family, job and home. Ask the unemployed searching for work. Ask the soldier preparing for a tour of duty. Ask the elderly coping with declining health. Just ask. Our lives are hectic, fraught with punishing demands and high expectations. The Society of the Holy Child Jesus’ (SHCJ) Foundress, Cornelia Connelly, noted: “It is precisely because you are called to lead busy lives, that you must lead lives of prayer.” In December 2011, the SHCJ issued a survey to better understand the concerns that influence people to seek comfort and guidance in prayer. The results were recently compiled and provide the foundation for the SHCJ’s monthly meditation series.
Responding to the Needs of Today’s World
The Society’s monthly meditations were introduced in 2010. They are rooted in the Catholic faith tradition and designed as a source of comfort and inspiration to SHCJ website visitors. Initial meditations focused on topical issues and encouraged reflection, but SHCJ leaders believed the meditations could take on even greater significance if the topics reflected the issues occupying the headlines…war, unemployment, aging, and more.
To confirm the theory that the emotional, spiritual, and intellectual impact of world events and modern issues were driving people to examine these issues in a venue that encouraged prayerful contemplation, the SHCJ designed a survey. In December 2011, the survey was sent to all persons with e-mail addresses in the SHCJ database (2,583 people) and shared on the SHCJ blog, Facebook, and Twitter feed. Members of the Holy Child schools, ministries, and Rosemont College communities were also invited to complete it. More than 400 members of the extended Holy Child family, ranging in age from 19 to age 65 years and older, responded and shared their thoughts.
Reviewing the Results
The Holy Child community is wrestling with many of the issues that are gripping our nation. To determine whether personal or global issues created greater stress for respondents, the question was put to respondents who overwhelmingly selected personal concerns (70% vs. 30%). However, in the comment section of the survey, respondents indicated both issues were sources of stress, but did not concern with equal intensity.
The personal concerns that topped the list include: family issues, finances, jobs, and illnesses. Many respondents revealed that on a daily basis, the aforementioned issues occupy their thoughts, and many also are trying to reconcile with their faith by finding a deeper spiritual connection and growing in their beliefs.
Of the respondents whose primary source of concern is world issues, poverty (76%), world peace (58%), homelessness (53%), and the economy (47%) topped their lists.
Provided an opportunity to suggest additional themes as topics for the meditations, respondents identified the following: adapting to a changing church; responding to a crisis/lack of faith among Catholics; strengthening spiritual connections; addressing issues related to families and children; promoting respect for others; living a more peaceful life; and finding meaning in political issues. Respondents are also interested in meditations that contain some nugget of wisdom that encourages them to find peace in their lives, examine the challenges they are facing differently, and find God in their struggles.
Placing Concerns in the Hands of God
The surveys provided a wealth of insights for planning future meditations that will resonate with the SHCJ audience. According to Mary Ann Buckley, SHCJ, American Province Leader, “The SHCJ is grateful to all who provided their thoughtful insights. This information is guiding us as we develop meditations that will engage our visitors as they turn to the meditations to find comfort and understanding of modern issues. The meditations will encourage visitors to take their spirituality to a deeper level. While meaningful and focused on spirituality, the format of the meditations is such that all can relate to the message.”
Reflection questions have been added to the conclusion of each meditation to enhance the spiritual experience. The questions appear on the SHCJ blog, Facebook, and Twitter. Sister Anita Quigley will write the monthly reflection questions and will respond to postings as appropriate. “The questions allow visitors to engage in a dialogue and open up a deeper conversation about faith, spirituality or the issues that impact their daily lives,” noted Sister Mary Ann.
Looking Forward to the Year Ahead
The survey results have determined the topics that will be addressed in the SHCJ meditations in the coming months. General themes that were identified include:
Finding meaning and fulfillment within a church in flux
Learning to grow in faith and encouraging others to grow in challenging times
Learning the basics of prayer and growing closer to God
Coping with the issues of aging and illness
Responding to the challenges, joys, heartaches and triumphs of parenting
Tuning out the noise and tuning into God; nurturing peace, acceptance, and gratitude
Fostering respect for all and nurturing the characteristics that promote it
Putting politics aside; finding God’s will in issues, not political parties
Confronting and coping with economic realities
As the SHCJ works to respond to and address the issues raised by survey respondents and to help all believe that God lives and acts in them and in our world, the public is invited to view the meditations and reflection questions now posted on the SHCJ blog.
According to Sister Mary Ann, “The response to the meditations that were created with the insights of the survey has been positive. As people search for meaning and guidance, we hope that more of our friends will visit the SHCJ website and gain strength, experience joy, and become closer with God as they read and reflect upon the monthly meditations.”
About the SHCJ
SHCJ is an international community of Roman Catholic Sisters founded by Cornelia Connelly in 1846. The Society is composed of three provinces (American, African, and European). The SHCJ provides outreach to more than 8,500 individuals through education, as well as sponsored and collaborative ministries at various educational and social service organizations. For more information about the SHCJ, go to www.shcj.org/american or call 610.626.1400.