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Weaving Cultures—Entrelazando Culturas

We, Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate
Heart of Mary, rooted in God and the
Gospel, search for prophetic ways to live
our vowed life in a world hungering for
justice and meaning.

IHM Direction Statement 2018–2022


Interculturality is a word which is often heard in circles of women religious today. In her presentation at the UISG Conference in 2019, Adriana Milmanda, SSpS, called intercultural living a “sign of prophetic hope” and “a countercultural movement.”  Milmanda expressed in words which were clear and challenging what it means to live interculturally within the world and in particular within a religious community. Her thoughts are paraphrased below:

Intercultural communities do not seek assimilation; that is, they do not want to erase differences nor do they “welcome” minority cultures into their space and expect them to adapt to the culture of the majority. In an intercultural community, the diverse cultures bring their values and lights to enrich the community, and they also face their respective shadows and blind spots. Living interculturally is an invitation to conversion and transformation.

In July 2018, we IHMs committed ourselves to “search[ing] for prophetic ways to live our vowed life” and to “re-envisioning how we can best serve the world both now and in the future, in ways true to our charism, deep story, and diverse gifts.” In response to the direction statement, our congregation sent four sisters to MACC (Mexican American Catholic College), San Antonio, Texas, in February 2019 to participate in Weaving Cultures– Entrelazando Culturas. The program is designed to mentor international communities of women religious, who see the importance of embracing interculturality as a response to the world’s hunger for justice and meaning.

In September 2019, Sisters Mary Ellen Higgins, Giovana Fuentes Bendivez, Elvia Mata Ortega and Mary Elaine Anderson returned to MACC for the second session of the program. On the first two and a half days of the workshop, the participants explored diverse perceptions of power and authority and how they impact living interculturally within a community. On the afternoon of the third day, the facilitators asked each congregational team to create a plan, specific for one’s religious community, to move forward the invitation to live interculturally.

The task set before the four IHMs participating in the program was daunting! The end result was not a plan with detailed steps but rather tears and the realization of how much work we need to do individually and collectively to embrace interculturality as a call to live prophetically in our world today. Living interculturally is hard and courageous work because it requires facing our shadows and blind spots. It is countercultural work in a world which distrusts and fears differences. And as IHMs, who believe that our work is loving the world, living interculturally is necessary work. It is our DNA to love unconditionally, welcome radically and include all!

Pictured above, L- R: Beatriz Herrera Agudelo (Teresian Sister), IHM Sisters Mary Elaine Anderson, Mary Ellen Higgins, Elvia Mata Ortega, Edis Yanis Reyes (Sister of Charity of the Incarnate Word)

Weaving Cultures 2Sister Elvia Mata Ortega weaves IHM threads into the common tapestry being created among women religious.

Weaving Cultures 1During prayer, Sister Mary Ellen Higgins, Giovana Fuentes Bendivez and sisters from other congregations plant seeds of hope for living interculturally in religious life.