This is the last of the six images used by Sr. Pat Murray at the annual assembly of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) this past August.  Image six is:  Listen for the Long Note.

Sister Pat recalled a seminar on leadership in which she participated some years ago.  At the end of one session, a fiddler played a piece with a long-extended note.  Sr. Pat said she realized that as leaders “we have to learn to hear and identify these long notes which play out in daily life, and which point us to what is happening at a deeper level, calling us to discern how to respond.”

She went on to quote St. Ignatius of Loyola about the Trinity and the work of transformation, saying: “let us work at the transformation of the whole human race; let us respond to the groaning of all creation.”  The question is “how can we be part of the divine plan for the redemption of the world?”  She tells us that the answer lies in “how we are open to engaging in simple acts of encounter and communion,” which really means that we need an openness to others wherever we meet them.  Can we truly listen to other people, without preconceived judgments about them?  Can we boldly take initiatives that welcome the stranger, the outcast, those who are different from us?  Can we be in communion with others who are near or far from us, so that presence is felt and connections are made?

The words of Sr. Pat’s presentation were both powerful and challenging.  She says:  “we are being invited to walk the journey of our lives tenderly holding each other’s hands (together with the hands of the least of our sisters and brothers) knowing all the while that it is Christ who is our veiled and shining companion.” 

It seems to me that each of us can do our part to hear the long-extended note of the cries of the poor and respond in some meaningful way.  There are those who do direct service in response to the daily struggles and needs of humanity.  There are those of us who try and support those service-givers by prayers, donations, writing letters to our legislators, and witnessing to others in word and deed.  Humanity is on this journey together.       

As Sr. Joan Chittister says:   “Ultimately, as leaders, [and that is all of us] you and I are being called to lead “communities of change…faithful to the ongoing and unending quest for God in this changing place and time.”  

Providence–God’s grace–will give us the hearts to listen for the long note!

Barbara McMullen, CDP


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