A few weeks ago, my grandniece asked my nephew: Hey dad, what’s in your wallet? The question likely came from hearing the ubiquitous ad on sports programming. He pulled out a lone debit/credit card from a pouch on the back of his phone and showed her. Now, my wallet is much messier than that! What a different generation, a different perspective.
As I drove to work the next morning, this question took on a new and equally persistent form: What’s outside your window? My vantage point has changed a lot lately, as we have moved our leadership offices out of our motherhouse in preparation for its sale and repurposing as senior affordable housing. What’s outside my new window enriches me in remarkably different ways. And it is not only what I see out my window – it includes what I hear and who I encounter.
My former view was mostly grass (or snow!) and trees. There was little traffic. Most visitors were expected vendors. I worked from a classic motherhouse post that allowed us to walk in beauty and invite others to a place of peace and quiet.
My new view from the center city takes in our local Catholic hospital, a healthcare center for persons of limited financial means, the cathedral, and a very busy corridor of service to people who are homeless and in need of assistance of many kinds. And there is a fire station a few blocks away which sends trucks out several times a day. My window looks east. This time of year, the sunrise is stunning and timed perfectly for my first cup of coffee. My gaze takes in homeless persons who await entrance into a breakfast kitchen. Soon, patients seeking healthcare arrive on foot, in wheelchairs, or by Go Bus or family car. Sometimes a gentleman who struggles with mental illness sings or cries out at passersby.
In a New York Times interview, short-story author Mavis Gallant said, “A short story is what you see when you look out of the window.” She went on, “You have to know more. Whether you put it all down, you must know it.” That is, the short story has a back story, which forms, and from which flows the story written about what is seen out the window.
I am aware of many new windows in my life, windows on Rome and the Vatican; the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops; service in the LCWR presidency; collaboration among conferences of women and men religious; and wisdom emerging from the Discerning our Emerging Future process.
As women religious, our windows are changing. We are witness to and teller of a story that flows from a rich past, reverberates in a lifegiving present, and will have a future we can’t see today. To all this we bring the context of the Gospel and centuries of church and centuries of religious life. Pray that we may be blessed with hearts as expansive as our view. And always know and reverently hold the back story that informs and empowers this moment in religious life. What’s outside your window? What’s Outside Your Window? As women religious, our windows are changing. We are witness to and teller of a story that flows from a rich past, reverberates in a lifegiving present, and will have a future we can’t see today.
This article was originally written and submitted by Sister Maureen Geary to Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) for publication in the December 2022 newsletter.