Thursday, May 27, 2010

Companions on a Journey

As a sister at Saint Benedict's Monastery I have had the opportunity to walk with several students in a program at the College of Saint Benedict called "Companions on a Journey". This program began about eight years ago with a very generous grant from Lilly Endowment, Inc. Companions on a Journey is "vocation" project. We sometimes understand "vocation" as relating to a call to religious life but "Companions" is much more than that! It is about discerning during a woman's college years where she is being called to serve beyond college. Frederick Buechner describes vocation this way: "The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet." One of the arms of the program is the Journey group. About one tenth of the student body at the College of Saint Benedict is registered in a Journey group. The group is made up of 4-5 students and two co-facilitators. Students can sign up to be in a group beginning in their first year and they remain in the same group with the same co-facilitators for all four years.
The group of five students who I have journeyed with for the past 4 years graduated at the beginning of May. We met for two hours every month during the academic year. Our meetings always consisted of a small meal during which we would do a check-in . . . what is new, what is going on, what has changed since last month, etc.? Then we would have an opening prayer, followed by each woman sharing as much as she felt comfortable sharing on the topic of the month. The monthly topics are prepared for us by the Companions on a Journey office and they are geared to first year, sophomore, junior or senior students. After a student is finished sharing we take a moment of silence and then the other women can ask clarifying questions, reflect back something the student said or make a comment about what someone heard. We do not fix or take care of a woman who might be struggling with an issue. Rather we give her the opportunity to share as much as she wishes to share on the topic of the month.
Many of my sisters are co-facilitators and while I can't speak for them, I believe that many of them would agree that to have the privilege of walking with these young women during their college career is a gift and we learn so much about the beauty of their hearts and souls. I know I did.

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