Luminaries Associate Group
This past November marked the b
eginning of a new configuration of Presentation people when an associate group, known as “Living Lanterns,” and a Caritas group of sisters, known as “Frontier Women,” merged to become one group, the “Luminaries.” As their name suggests, the members of this new group see themselves as walking in Nano’s light, sharing light with one another and sharing light with those made poor.
The genesis of the new group is rooted in the Presentation directional statement. Sister Carla Popes reflects, “It was through prayer and community conversations that our new directional statement was created. ‘Ignited by the fire of God’s love and impelled by the legacy of Nano Nagle ...,’ the Spirit once again opened our Presentation community to foster relationships and partnering by widening our own tents. Joining our two groups is one way of doing that.”
For Associate Becky Searcy the idea of a possible merger of the two groups originated when she attended the community gathering in 2013. “When talk of widening the tent was buzzing, it seemed like the Spirit was nudging us to move forward. After prayer and discernment by members of both groups, we felt we were being stretched to push the boundaries, to combine the two groups into one. We can do so much more together than we can alone.”
Associate Janet Leonard also heard the desire of both sisters and associates to work more closely together to continue the work of Presentation foundress, Nano Nagle. “We are all daughters and sons of Nano striving to continue her mission of serving those in need. It is a joy to think that sisters and associates can work together more closely in this mission. It is an honor to think that our group may be a pioneer in this endeavor.”
Members of the newly formed group view the merger as a mutually supportive and enriching vehicle for spiritual growth and more effective ministry. Sister Sharon Kelchen reflects, “Working and praying together out of relationship, rather than from an institutional plan offers inspiration and energy. My relationship with our Luminaries group helps me to meet the future more freely as we continue to nurture, challenge and support each other. Together we can change and create anew through our individual background experiences as community members and associates.”
Associate Theresa Buss echoes her sentiment, “By being the kind of group that we are becoming, we are able to share aspects of our lives that are unique to our own chosen vocations. Everyone is enriched and that is reflected in our ministries.”
The new group gathers monthly to share hospitality, time in contemplative prayer and sharing of their own experiences using “Bridges to Contemplative Living” based on the works of Thomas Merton as a guide. All of this leads to outreach. Most recently the Luminaries were happy to contribute to the new St. Mary Parish Food Pantry of Strawberry Point in support of the people in the winding lanes of Northeast Iowa.
The Luminaries express hope for the future and a spirit of gratitude for their newly formed community. “My hopes for the Luminaries rest in the new stories, new ideas, new challenges and new ways of embracing the Gospel that our shared energies can engender,” says Associate Karen Bonfig.
“I have left each of our gatherings filled with renewed inspiration and a connection with these women I think of and experience as my sisters. I draw on and am fed by each person’s presence, open and honest sharing, goodness, spirit, faith, ideas and wealth of resources,” expresses Sister Irma Ries.
As women who walk in the light of Nano’s lantern and share the light of the Gospel, the Luminaries are committed to embodying their new name as they support one another, promote justice and work for peace in their communities, workplaces and homes.
Each time the Luminaries meet, members bring canned foods to be shared with local area food pantries. In this photo, Luminaries members present food items to the St. Mary Parish Food Pantry in Strawberry Point, Iowa. Pictured left to right: Associates Theresa Buss, Janet Leonard, Karen Bonfig, Becky Searcy; Delaine Gruman of St. Mary Parish Food Pantry; Sisters Suzanne Gallager, Irma Ries, Sheila Ann Dougherty and Carla Popes. Not pictured are Sister Sharon Kelchen, Associates Doris Bussan, Sandy Kahle and Nancy Schroeder.