Authentic communication fosters understanding

Sr. Beatrice Njaus, a Daughter of St. Paul and chairperson of the national conference of sisters in Zambia. (Helen Kasaka)

Global sisters report that GSR is awakening desire in them to be more effective communicators. As I traveled this past year to Nigeria, Zambia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Italy and Ireland, sisters excitedly affirmed how the inspiring stories they read make them proud to be part of women who share a global passion for the charism of religious life. They also want to learn to tell stories in powerful ways that wake the world to God’s loving presence. Sr. Helen Kasaka, LSMI, a radio journalist in Zambia, recently shared her experience of a meeting with the Zambia Sisters Association Communications’ team of 10 celebrating World Communications Day, May 17.

I must say I never heard of the World Communications Day before, so I did a bit of research and learned that it is celebrated each year on the Sunday before Pentecost, perfect timing to remind us of the Spirit’s tongues of fire empowering the disciples to communicate across many barriers of culture or diversity and even broken relationships. The theme of the day this year focused on the Vatican inspired theme: “Communicating the Family: A Privileged Place of Encounter with the Gift of Love.”

Sr. Beatrice Njaus, a Daughter of St. Paul and chairperson of the national conference of sisters in Zambia, addressed the communications team. She encouraged the sisters to learn new skills for lively, clear communication that necessarily includes space for listening. Authentic communication fosters understanding and learning as well as the expression of one’s own ideas. She told them not to be content with only generating and consuming information, but to focus on genuine, mutual exchange of thought.

Alluding to the theme of the family as the place of encounter, Sister Beatrice reminded the sisters of the challenges that technology brings to real encounter: “Modern media technology, an essential part of life for young people in particular, can be both a help and a hindrance to communication in and between families. It can be a hindrance if it becomes a way to avoid listening to others, evading physical contact and to fill up every moment of silence and rest with words or noise.”

Silence, she noted, is an integral element of communication; in its absence words rich in content will not find ways to be expressed.

Meeting of the Zambia Sisters Association Communications’ team on World Communications Day, May 17. (Helen Kasaka)

Sister Beatrice also challenged the sisters to bless their sisters in community and elsewhere through the manner and tone they use when they speak and through the words they use: “In a world where people often curse, use foul language, speak badly of others, sow discord and poison our human environment by gossip,” sisters can break spirals of dissension by their witness of positive, loving communication. She went further, saying that conflict in relationships is part of life and not something to fear. Rather it can be looked at as an invitation to learn skills to work constructively with differences and to promote understanding and forgiveness.

She ended her comments by reminding the sisters that the spiritual dimension of communication is love that needs constant practice. The majority of persons learn the religious dimension of communication in our families where we encountered the love of God, and as Christians, are called to bestow the same on others. Sister Beatrice added that it is this same love that draws many sisters around the world today to commit themselves to learning skills of non-violent communication for conflict resolution in their ministries promoting women’s rights, human rights, environmental protection and others.

I am grateful to Sister Helen for introducing me to this important day and I plan to watch for it next year.

[Joyce Meyer, PBVM, is international liaison to women religious outside of the United States for Global Sisters Report.]