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Keeping the RSHM’s Dream of Life for All

by Sarah ThomasCategory: Updates

group of men and women standing in front of Marymount International School in Rome.

In the first days of January 2024, colleagues from the Marymount schools of London, Rome, and Paris gathered for a three-day spiritual retreat led by Sister Luisa Almendra, RSHM, and graciously hosted by Marymount International School Rome.

The theme of the gathering was: Keeping the RSHM’s dream of life for all today: faith and zeal, unity and diversity, internationality…the challenges in the RSHM’s history and today’s world. Veteran colleagues of all four schools remembered how the retreat in Beziers, France, created a profound sense of shared purpose and a heightened commitment to the RSHM mission, and it was with this excellent model to follow that our schools embarked on the retreat.

I was not brought up Catholic, but I can’t not be impressed by the RSHM’s love and zeal for God and how this translated into their vision and commitment to serve those who are marginalized in our society, so that they may be seen as ‘human’ and have life. Over these retreat days, I found this very challenging in my own personal faith journey and quite emotional.

Marymount London participant

The program was expertly designed by Sister Luisa, and the route she traced for the three days was sequential:

On the first day, the retreat participants were invited to deepen their understanding of the spiritual and historical RSHM heritage with a particular focus on the work of the RSHM for women and children in need. This was then presented in an objective relationship with the participating schools. Sister Luisa drew the parallels between the founding vision of the RSHM and how it is reflected in the education of the whole person, including the social, physical, and spiritual in addition to the intellectual.

To build on this shared knowledge the next day, Sister Luisa worked with the retreat participants to reflect upon the theme of personal values: those of the Founders and the RSHM and those of the retreat participants. This allowed participants to develop an understanding of the effectiveness of the dynamism of the charism and spirit of the RSHM throughout the long and vibrant history into the present day.

The third and final day of the retreat provided the retreat participants with the opportunity to identify and discuss the priorities and challenges of the RSHM mission today. Participants deepened their knowledge of how the RSHM are maintaining the dream of bringing life to everyone today in a multitude of ways throughout the world: the JPIC (justice, peace, and integrity of creation) group and the RSHM-NGO presence among many others. As there was a wide array of staff members in attendance, some very new to an RSHM school, learning more about the full breadth of the activism, ethical leadership, and service of the RSHM around the world made a considerable impact.

The RSHM Leadership Retreat was an eye-opening opportunity for me, as I am new to the school and the mission of the RSHM sisters. I was glad to learn the mission of the RSHM is so well aligned with the UN sustainable development goals… The word ‘radical’ that Sister Luisa repeatedly used was so fitting and purposeful for us all that will carry the mission of the RSHM forward.

Marymount London participant

The retreat participants were a diverse group of people holding different roles in the schools, with varied areas of knowledge and experience. In this rich diversity developed a sense of unity as they were expertly guided by Sister Luisa in serious reflection, fruitful exchange and interaction, and enough free time to develop friendships across the individual schools. The Marymount staff members returned to their respective schools motivated to continue infusing their work with the life-giving mission of the RSHM in our whole child philosophy of education.

All four Marymount schools who were graced with the wonderful opportunity join together to share our gratitude to Sister Luisa for this meaningful experience! The heads of the four schools are hoping to run this retreat semi-annually to facilitate more staff having this opportunity.

As we come to this crossroads where the running of Marymount Schools is being transferred from the RSHM to lay leaders, we should follow their example of keeping one eye fixed on the past, taking stock of the present and looking to the future when we make decisions. The founding leaders were visionaries, and we should not forget this or be afraid to take risks. Test decisions against the yardstick of ‘what would the RSHM do?’

Marymount London participant

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