Edges Gathering 2008, Port Huron, Michigan September 20-26


The sun was shining as Lake Huron’s blue waters sparkled like a jewel on the Saturday when thirteen SMRs arrived on its shores for the second Edges Gathering. The first Edges had taken place four years ago, an ocean’s distance away in Ros Muire, Co. Cork, Ireland in a Mercy Retreat House. This time we used a house in Port Huron, Michigan, loaned to us by the Fitzgerald family.As sisters entered the house for the first time, they were awed to see the Lake glistening before their eyes through a window-wall on the east side of the house.This was a view we were able to enjoy each time we met and each time we ate! Even if someone was in the tiny kitchen in the center of the first floor, a glance over the shoulder would refresh eyes and soul with this same incredible view. Because we arrived on a weekend, there were many sail boats on the water, as well as an occasional lake or ocean going tanker, a lovely sight to see.

Our sleeping quarters were crowded: one bedroom slept two, another five while two others accommodated three each. Six sisters used floor mattresses. Though it was anticipated that having only two bathrooms with showers could be challenging, we seemed to do fine with that. Personal space was almost non-existent, so it was truly a blessing to have good weather throughout all the time and to be on the Lake. We could go out every day if we chose, to pray, or to walk, to talk and to make discoveries along the beach. Rocks, shells, driftwood, wildflowers and even a big sequined Christmas star eventually joined us as we gathered to delve deeply into movements of the charism within and among us, members of the Earth community.

The rhythm of each day differed. Sometimes we had free time in the morning while at other times it was in the afternoon. On a couple days, a massage therapist offered head and neck massage in fifteen minute segments from 10:00 to noon. Mainly, however, we conversed often and long, usually three times a day for approximately two hours, in Spanish and English thanks those among us who could translate between the two languages. Twice, others joined us in conversation. On Monday, evening after pizza at 6pm, one man and six women, members of Companions in Reparation and Green Steps, offered us three challenges for our consideration in the light of what we had shared thus far:

  1. How will you respond to the worldeconomic crisis? Does it impact thecharism of the order?
  2. We think of SMR in terms of thereality of Port Huron. Are other SMR communitiesdeveloping/involving intentional groups in the charism? Is that an important part of what you doin other places? How will you continue to develop, sustain and nurture laypeople?
  3. How might these groups involve thebroader community? How would you define Reparation for those outside ofChristianity or for those without religion?

Later, as the discussion was coming to a close, it became evident that in many places in the SMR world there are lively groups, associates and others, who are linked with the Congregation in ongoing spiritual growth, development and service. The lone man among us said he liked what he was hearing. He expressed a spirited desire to be connected to the other groups and their members! Only one of those who posed these questions is a Catholic. One is a Unitarian, another goes to Unity Church while the others lead deeply spiritual lives without any religious affiliation. A member of another group who met with us later in the week is an Archdeacon in the Episcopal Church.

By Tuesday evening, after a morning conversation, a quick afternoon visit to Full Circle and spots of interest in the area followed by more dialogue, we were very ready to spend a quiet hour in contemplation and reflection soon after supper. Our hearts, minds and souls were full to the brim. In our sacred space there was a lovely statue of the virgin with an empty womb.It was to her that we entrusted the treasures of our hearts in written and creative form. They remained with her until we met again on Thursday after our break day.

Wednesday dawned as lovely as all the other days. In fact it was such a warm day that after being limbered up by massage some were able to take a swim. By September, the cold waters of Lake Huron have warmed to their maximum though any plunge remains a cool and stimulating one. Unlike the bottom of the ocean, the lake bottom is quite rocky and sand bars occur quite frequently so sometimes it is necessary to go a long way out to really be able to swim. Three did; one who had never swum in a lake before and another who went in fully clothed.Far out a tanker provided a large and dramatic backdrop to their antics.

By mid-afternoon, after a free morning, we set out for Wilson’s Centennial Farm. Jim and Rene Wilson welcomed us along with three women who with Rene are SpiritWomen, a group initiated by Full Circle that meets monthly over breakfast to converse about deep issues of the day, personal, local and global. Almost immediately we headed to the Chartres labyrinth for an eleven circuit walk. Soon after, Jim began the tour of the farm in his office!Today, much work on the 1800 acre farm, a conventional one which uses chemicals, genetically engineered seed and huge equipment, begins and ends on the computer. While Jim explained his methods and values, we sisters were conscious of the vastly different farming conditions in many other countries. We raised many questions with that in view which Jim responded to honestly from the perspective of his views and values. We were left with much to ponder. We learned that though large, a farm of this size is almost too small to support two families, Jim’s and his brother’s, according to the living standards of the USA. Many years they just break even, weather and commerce having much to do with that.Once office operations were explained to us, we visited three different parts of the farm: 2 equipment barns, the fields and silos. Wheels on the machinery are more than six feet tall; ladders built into the machines gives access. Many of us clambered up to get an American farmer’s view of the land, land which grows soybeans, corn and winter wheat. The fields were almost ready for harvest.

Soon after the tour, we enjoyed a barbecue supper in the garden. Jim grilled salmon which put the finishing touch on a delicious meal to which each of our SpiritWomen friends contributed. (This may be a good place to say that three other main meals we enjoyed during the week were prepared for us by friends who brought the food prepared directly to our table, a table at which they joined us. Other meals were cooked in advance by Edges planners, and friends.) Once we finished the meal we moved into the cozy house where the women met with us for conversation. After a brief Gathering update, we invited them to dialogue with us about living the charism vibrantly today. Instead of challenging us, they expressed with deep emotion, a desire to be part of us, to join us in living reparation! There were not many dry eyes among us after that. One after the other, we sisters expressed the conviction that they were indeed already part of us, an association that we wish to explore and enhance overtime not only locally but in some real way within our SMR world experience.

The original schedule for Thursday, our last full today together, changed completely in view of all we had listened to and shared among ourselves and with others. Randomly, the virgin’s statue gave up its treasures. We were delighted to discover tiny packages with hidden pearls of wisdom, spider webs manifesting our interconnection, tiny drawings and beautifully simple expressions of each individual’s sense of the calls of the charism heard during these days. After a full day of dialogue, a few sisters volunteered to write a statement for the group to critique. They did that the next day from 8:30am to 10:30 while the rest of us cleaned the house.Undoubtedly, a late Thursday evening picnic supper which used up most of our leftover food, relished out on the patio closer to the lake, refreshed all of us enough to have the energy and creativity to do those tasks on the next and last day. It was not only food that nourished us out near the water but joyous laughter, funny songs in all languages, a bit of dancing, gifts given and received and even some sparklers lighting the sky. All that went on until 10:00 pm when we noticed that the lights in our neighbor’s house to the south went out on the first floor and went on upstairs. It was time to call it a night, to call it a really, really good day.

The writing team did marvelously well with their task.All the things of importance that we had shared about the charism were clearly expressed in their composition.It required only a bit of tweaking for clarity, not surprisingly since the committee put it together in two hours!Once approved, it didn’t take long to get the statement posted on our newly created Edges blog.

Not long after eating a quick lunch, packing up and loading the cars, the bittersweet moment of parting came. Many were about to travel far, far away but the interconnections between us, some new, some renewed, were strong and rich. We left with hearts full of tremendous gratitude for the uncountable gifts received not least among them were the Gathering itself on the edge of a Great Lake! Body, mind and spirit had been refilled, refreshed and renewed. Earlier that day on the lakeshore, we gathered hands extended in blessing on each other by turn, and finally over the one world wide water that bathes every shore on Earth. As the Earth flag, which had flown high above the beach during our stay, came down with reverence and rejoicing, we felt profoundly connected with all who read this story and indeed with all the dwellers within this one wonderful Earth community.