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Visioning the Future Initiative

Dear Sisters,

In March 2014, our congregation launched "Visioning the Future," an initiative to prepare the congregation members for a future vastly different from the recent past. While our congregation was still in a place of relative strength in terms of demographics, finances, future leadership, and capacity to sustain ministry into the future, we felt beginning such a program was imperative.

Three elements comprise the work of this initiative: deep grounding in prayer, fostering strong relationships, and deepening our education and knowledge.

Our commitment as a congregation to prepare ourselves for this different future is evident by the more than 100 sisters who have committed to attending educational sessions and retreat weekends, as well as participating in contemplative dialogue groups. We now wish to give those who are younger in the congregation and who face the challenge of carrying forth the legacy of the community at a time of great change an opportunity to continue that preparation in a more intensive way. For this reason, we have created a new program for our sisters born after 1951 which we are calling Imagining the Way Forward.

Imagining the Way Forward aims to take the gifts, skills, and experiences of our younger sisters and help to maximize them for the life of the congregation and the wider world which we serve. The program, which will begin in February and will be facilitated by Janet Mock, CSJ, former executive director of both the Leadership Conference of Women Religious and the Religious Formation Conference, will be offered twice for any of our sisters born after 1951. Imagining the Way Forward will be an 18-month experience involving four weekend experiences, plus online education and corporate reflection in between weekends. We are very pleased that already we have 26 sisters who have committed to the program.

The hoped-for outcomes of Imagining the Way Forward participants include the following:

Greater understanding of the complexities facing religious life, as well as the IHM congregation today and into the near future

Increased capacity to live, minister, and lead individually and collectively in a contemplative manner

Increased confidence that collectively our younger members can face this future, not just as problem-solvers, but as creative and imaginative agents of changeWe are very fortunate that the Gerald A. and Henrietta Rauenhorst (GHR) Foundation awarded our congregation a $75,000 grant to cover the costs of Imagining the Way Forward. A requirement of the grant is that we share what our congregation learns through this program with the wider world of women religious so that our experience will benefit not only ourselves, but all women religious in this country and abroad.

We now know from our experience of collaborating with other religious communities that have offered similar experiences to their members in this age cohort that the success of these programs is highly dependent upon the support that the rest of the community offers the women who are part of these programs. For this reason, we are incorporating into our program ways in which our sisters participating in Imagining the Way Forward can share their experience with the whole congregation. We will also be looking at ways to encourage appropriate participation in some of the educational and reflective efforts in which these sisters are engaged. We ask that you give serious consideration to how you might personally support these efforts, stay informed, and be part of the learning community. More will be forthcoming on this, but for now we ask that you keep Imagining the Way Forward as well as the sincerity and desire of these women in your prayer. We especially invite all of our sisters who serve in prayer ministry to keep this effort foremost in your prayer since this program has the potential to have a significant and very positive impact on our community.

You may want to reach out to these sisters to express your support of them as they undertake this program, and your interest in what they are learning and experiencing.

Cohort One (beginning in February 2017)
Mary Elaine Anderson, Helene Cooke, Nancy DeCesare, Elizabeth deMerchant, Mary Kay Faliskie, Maryalice Jacquinot, Terri Jordan, Donna Korba, Denise Lyon, Joan McCusker, Kelly Quinn, Annmarie Sanders, Rachel Terry, Mindy Welding, Kieran Williams

Cohort Two (beginning in October 2017)
Kathy Burns, Kate Clancy, Amanda Del Valle, Fran Fasolka, Ruth Harkins, Mary Ann Lang, Elvia Mata Ortega, Beth McEneaney, Denise Montagne, Lisa Perkowski, Grace Surdovel
Let us together keep these sisters in our prayer and their efforts to imagine new ways forward for religious life and the IHM congregation.

Sincerely,
Ellen Maroney, Katie Clauss, Ellen Carney, Jean Louise Bachetti, and Rosemary Goulet