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Passing on the Mantle of Congregational Leadership



L-R: Sisters Sharon Fagan, Julie Watson (Leader), Anne McDermott
Aurea Dias and Neneth Robledo

It was with mixed feelings of joy, gratitude and the sadness of ‘leaving the familiar’, that we, the members of the outgoing Congregational Leadership Team – Sisters Mary Deane (Leader), Frances Murphy, Anne O’Leary, Fatima Rodrigo and Julie Watson – began a nine-day handover process to the incoming Congregational Leadership Team – Sisters Julie Watson ( Leader), Aurea Dias, Sharon Fagan, Anne McDermott and Neneth Robledo. The process began on 14 August at the Mission House, Lucan, Co Dublin, where both teams gathered. It culminated with two days of further sharing at the Generalate, Monasterevin, Co Kildare, after the new team had moved there and had some time together. Sr Margaret Taylor, FMM, facilitated the entire handover process. 

We began with a Gathering Ritual on the evening on 14 August. On the following day, each of us from the outgoing team narrated our personal experience of the leadership journey using various symbols, for example the tree of life, a pilgrim bag and a conductor and orchestra. 

A shared symbol of leadership for us was that of a flowing river. Reflecting on this symbol, we shared on our pilgrim journey together as a team. This sharing was punctuated by times of conversation, stillness and prayer...

All things come from you, O God, and to you we return.

All things emerge in your great river of life

and into you we vanish again.

As we continue the ‘Nano Journey’

we wake not as separate streams

but as countless currents in a single flow

the flow of the journey’s delight

the flow of this journey’s struggles

your flow, O God,

In the twistings and turnings of this journey.

(Adapted from Praying With the Earth by John Philip Newell)

The Sisters at Monasterevin

During the following days, we told of the rich experiences we had of life in mission of the Congregational Community. We shared on the different aspects of the ministry and how we linked with the different Units and Mission Areas of the congregation in different parts of the world. We reflected on how, during our six-year term in leadership, we were often made aware that the story of each of us is part of the one great story. As time passed, we came to know the blessing and fruitfulness of the work of previous leadership teams. We also felt very tangibly that we were standing on the shoulders of those great Presentation women who had gone before us. As we remembered, we noted how the story of the past six years was marked by times of light and shadow, blessedness and brokenness, joy and sorrow. We shared how we, along with Unit Leadership Teams and communities, sought to engage with key questions for religious life in the 21st Century: What is dying? What is evolving? What is seeking to emerge for our shared future as we stand in the...

  • flow of life in Units, Mission Areas and in Communities that serve the wider Congregational Community
  • flow of life generated by the Friends of Nano movement and those inspired by Nano Nagle
  • flow of life that comes with being part of the International Presentation Association
  • flow of life within an evolving religious life...

As part of the Closing Ritual on 23 August, we stood together at the 240+ year old majestic oak tree that stands tall in the garden at the back of the house in Monasterevin. It has been a significant symbol for our term of leadership and of the journey of the life in mission of our Congregational Community. We remembered all our Sisters and all who bear the charism of Nano Nagle across the world and thanked God for their love, support and fidelity. We presented an oak sapling to the new team. We invited them to plant it together in the field at the front of the house that runs down to the river Barrow at the edge of our property – thus symbolizing the newness they bring to the ministry of congregational leadership, beginning in this special year which marks the Tercentenary of the birth of Nano Nagle. 

The oak sapling was grown from an acorn from the older tree and tended by Tom, our gardener. The planting of it reminds us that where roots grow deeper, branches grow wider. It reminds us that, as the sapling grows into a tree, so, too, our personal stories and our Presentation story grow into/out of the deep story shared by our ancestors and women of faith who have walked this path before us...

As we take our leave, we leave a blessing for the new leadership team:

May God bless and keep you always. May the words of Nano Nagle continue to inspire your discernment as you call us anew to live her vision today – ‘Love one another as you have hitherto done’ and ‘Spend yourselves for the poor’. May you nourish and nurture new life and fresh possibilities for our life in mission as a Congregation during the next six years. 

Submitted by: The Outgoing Congregational Leadership Team