“What does community life mean to me?”
Sr. Maria Grace Dateno, fsp USA
Of all the essential ingredients that go into my life as a Daughter of St. Paul, I think community life is the one I most tend to take for granted. I’m frequently in awe of the mission we have been given, and on fire for communicating Christ to the people of our world today. And I’m generally grateful for the opportunity to take time for prayer every day, whether my prayer is delightful or a struggle. But I find that occasionally I need to remind myself that community life is a great gift.
After all, life in community is not some utopian ideal consisting of a group of perfectly holy women living, praying, and working together. There are difficulties that come up—the natural result of a group of imperfect women from a variety of backgrounds living, praying, and working together. We see things differently; we have different ideas of the best way to go about things; we have different amounts of strength and energy, different thought processes, different temperaments. And (believe it or not!) sometimes our patience and charity runs a little low.
When I let these difficulties cloud my perception, I only see the effort involved in community life, and I forget the extraordinary blessing that it is, in so many ways:
-The grace and encouragement I receive in seeing the dedication and love of my sisters in community is incalculable. How much easier it is to grow in love of God and in prayer when surrounded by others who are also giving of themselves with love, in whatever way they can.
-Praying with my sisters is also a great blessing, and I know that their prayers for me have helped me in ways that I will never understand in this life. I especially count on the prayers of the older sisters in my community.
-Our mission is not something that can be done by a single person working alone. Nor by many individuals working alone. Only by working together, collaborating and combining our gifts and talents can we be Saint Paul living today, communicating Christ to everyone. The joy that comes from this is hard to describe.
-All the efforts made in community life, in communicating my ideas to my sisters, listening to them, having patience with their imperfections, seeing their patience with me, forgiving and being forgiven—all of this makes for wonderful opportunities to become a better person, to grow in virtue.
-The friendships that I have made, with women I most likely would never have met if I had not become a Daughter of St. Paul, have enriched my life a hundred-fold. There are so many ways they have encouraged me, supported me, loved me, challenged me, and brought joy to my life.
In a certain sense, everyone in this world lives “community life” of some kind—in the community of a family, a workplace, an apartment building, a parish, a neighborhood, a town, etc. But I’m convinced that nowhere else would I be able to live, work, pray, grow and become closer to God the way I can by living Pauline community life as a Daughter of St. Paul.