Jeanne Connolly has been a Covenant Companion (or Associate) with the Wheaton Franciscans in Wheaton, Illinois, for more than 22 years, and has served as their director of charism and mission since 2007. Jeanne also offers consulting services and workshops through J.M. Connolly Consulting. Currently, she serves as vice-president of the board of directors for the North American Conference of Associates and Religious (NACAR) and as the president of the Siena Retreat Center board of directors in Racine, Wisconsin.
As I age and my role changes, I strive to remember that my influence remains. I may not be able to "do" what I used to do, but I can always be kind, understanding, loving and respectful of all living creatures and our hurting planet.
My dream for the associate-religious relationship is that we become compassionate collaborators living in respectful mutuality — that we become a "we and us" and not a "they and them." This dream is not only for the associate-religious relationship itself, it is for the witness "we" as carriers of our community's charisms provide to our hurting world. As Sr. Joan Chittister said, "Each of us — lay and religious — carries a piece of the truth — but only a piece."
How do we learn to engage in conversation if we are not at the same table? How do we learn to listen if we are not listened to? How do we learn and grow if we don't broaden our circles … at least on occasion?