Margins were front and center at the fourth national conference of Intentional Eucharistic Communities: Living the Gospel, Collective Voices, which took place near the Mary’s Pence office in St. Paul, MN this past weekend.
Intentional Eucharistic Communities are small communities, rooted in the Catholic tradition, that gather to celebrate Eucharist on a regular basis. While some communities exist within parishes, others were created completely independently from the church structure. Each community has a slightly different model based on what feeds the people who are gathered together. These models include a variety of leaders including women-priests and lay people, as well as alternative liturgies, dialogue homilies in which many voices respond to the lessons and gospel texts, and lots of singing. Despite the diversity of models, each community shares a spirit of inclusivity, love, and justice, and a desire to share the holy meal with each other as a reminder of who and how they want to be for the world.
No wonder we met so many Mary’s Pence supporters there!
The Friday night Keynote speaker was Jamie Manson, author of Grace on the Margins, a column that appears in National Catholic Reporter. She spoke of her own painful experiences living on the margins of the Catholic Church and of society. But there was hope in her statement that that “God experiences full solidarity, in the radical sense, with those on the margins.” As I think of all of the women Mary’s Pence works with, who truly live on the margins of their societies I am buoyed to know that God is with them, that God isn’t high up or away but instead in the midst of us.
Going further, Manson exclaimed that “God’s people are hungry now and their voices are God’s voice crying out from the margins.” It is so powerful to think of the women who participate in ESPERA and who work for justice through the Mary’s Pence Grants programs and know that their voices and God’s voice are the same. When we work to amplify women’s voices in their communities, we work to amplify God’s voice, speaking out for justice.
The other speakers at the event were Roger Haight, S.J. and Miriam Therese Winter as well as a number of breakout speakers including Diann Neu, a former Mary’s Pence Board member. We also enjoyed fabulous music by Sarah Thomsen throughout the weekend.
To all of the wonderful supporters of Mary’s Pence, both new and old, that we met at the Intentional Eucharistic Communities gathering, we are so happy to have had this chance to speak with you and to be in community with you.