This past week the RFM team brought together the new members for a series of activities and chats around congregational history and finance. We did a lot of reading about the historical context and origin of the Sinsinawas Dominicans and visited several sites of Fr. Mazzuchelli’s footprint in the area. Various groups of sisters graciously shared their experiences of the more recent history of the congregation and the different challenges that emerged. There was also a session with our Treasurer to discuss how we live the vow of poverty and how the congregation as a whole manages its resources. In Sister Mary Ellen Butcher’s remembrance she describes our kind of common life as one of “high-risk living” in which we lose control and “do not feather our own nest”. What a wonderful and true depiction of what I’ve seen in all the sisters I know.
The past couple of days I've been pondering it all and questioning what it means moving forward. I've found myself coming back to something said by a Maryknoll sister as she talked about her years in South Sudan at the peak of the war. Despite very real and constant threats to her life she chose to remain on mission in solidarity with the people in her community. In response to my look of disbelief she said, rather matter-of-factly "Prudence is the art of risk-taking." The words prudent and risk-taking at first seemed contradictory to me, but a deeper wisdom is sinking in.
Learning about the Sinsinawa Dominican history and finances gave me a glimpse into the past experiences of the congregation and how the organizational culture has evolved and changed. Just as the times have changed, our propensity for taking risks has looked different at various points during our history. The existence of the congregation today is the result of very risky decisions made by a few courageous individuals—hence their recognition as the “Cornerstones”. Since the our inception, we have demonstrated our willingness to take risks—often it was only in taking those risks that possibilities for leadership, personal growth and innovation opened up for us. Of course, there were also occasions when we took risks that ended badly (such is the nature of risk-taking!). In general, though, it’s clear that Providence has provided and continues to provide for the Sinsinawa Dominicans.
What can our history and our current reality reveal about our risk-taking patterns and what perceptions are rooted in the congregational history and experience?
To what degree are cultural injunctions encouraging or deterring us to take prudent risks?
As an organization, which of these age-old mottos do we espouse and when: "Nothing ventured, nothing gained" or "Better safe than sorry"?
Quincy Howard, Candidate