The Way

Of the Sisters of the Metolius

A Religious Community for the 21st Century

 
 

Introduction

The Sisters of the Metolius is a Private Association of the Faithful with its headwaters in the Metolius River Basin in the Diocese of Baker, Oregon. Founded on July 16, 2010, we embrace a refreshed vision of apostolic religious life seeking to live our vows of Obedience to God, Simplicity of Life, Celibate Chastity, and Service According to Our Gifts.


In forming a Private Association of the Faithful, we are responding in faith that the Holy Spirit has inspired this Way and will gather those whose spirits recognize their own vocation to this Way. We trust the Holy Spirit to guide us and, if it be God’s will, eventually to establish our community as a Public Association of the Faithful recognized by the Catholic Church through the Bishop of the Diocese of Baker, Oregon. We further trust the Holy Spirit, if it be the divine plan, to accomplish our establishment as a Religious Institute of Pontifical Right.


Thanks be to God and to generous benefactors, we have a Motherhouse in the heart of the Metolius River Basin. This simple, pleasing Camp Sherman dwelling with knotty-pine interior walls and a wood stove stands on half an acre of private land with ponderosa pine, tamarack, and a beautiful view of two mountain peaks. We’re at the end of a quiet lane with good neighbors. Since Sister Marie Ursula returned to the Metolius River Basin on July 1, 2012, we have been making necessary repairs and home improvements. We have one professed Member and two Associate Members who are planning next steps and making our presence known within the Diocese of Baker. Please continue to pray for us ~ and let us know how we can pray for you.



Mission

We join together as the reconciling Body of Christ Jesus

to respect and care for all of God’s creation

including the human person from conception until natural death.



Membership

Our vowed Members are Roman Catholic women who joyfully give our lives to Christ Jesus and embrace the Catholic tradition. We have been Baptized and Confirmed Catholics for at least three years, and we are free according to Canon Law to profess our vows.


Our Associate Members are women and men, married or single, who, while not called to profess our lifelong vows, embrace the mission and charism of the Sisters of the Metolius and participate actively in our extended community.


As disciples of Jesus, we desire and intend to love the whole Church. We cherish our relationships with all people of good will and welcome them as honored guests to our gatherings, respecting their personal choice of faith and vocation according to the movement of the Spirit within them.



We Pray

Our daily practice includes the Liturgy of the Hours in union with the universal Church; contemplative prayer in intimate communion with God; and Holy Eucharist when this greatest gift is available where we are called to serve. We gratefully pray the Rosary and other devotional prayers as we intercede on behalf of all creation. We pray communally whenever possible, and individually as circumstances require. We welcome our neighbors to our communal prayer gatherings. We normally participate in a nearby parish community, especially on Sunday, and we cultivate warm relationships within the local parish and diocesan communities.



We Play

We celebrate God’s gifts of life and creation in the ways we choose to recreate. We enjoy good company, conversations, and healthy simple meals. We love the variety of ways to enjoy nature without costly equipment. We choose wisely the kinds of books we read, media we view, and music we listen to for pleasure. We participate in creation through art, music, poetry and prose, sewing, gardening, photography, and other simple forms of creativity inspired by the Spirit.



We Work

“There are different gifts but the same Spirit;

there are different ministries but the same Lord;

there are different works but the same God

who accomplishes all of them in everyone.”

(1 Corinthians 12:4-6)


Rejoicing in our unique gifts, we form interconnected passion pods of ministry. Like the ecosystem of the Metolius River Basin, all of our ministries naturally interweave. We affirm that God breathes into each heart the fire necessary to discern and to persist in the ministries to which he calls us. No particular ministry identifies the community, and a Member is not assigned to one ministry or another; rather, the Members support one another in discerning each one’s unique call, which often leads to a gathering of those with shared passion for a given ministry. The ministries interconnect through the relationships and stories within the community.


Like the Western Tanager, Osprey, butterflies, salmon, cabin owners, campers, historic tribes, and other migrating creatures of the Metolius, we often serve in other lands for a time, yet we return to gather in our communal home for companionship, sustenance, and rejuvenation.


Our community supports itself through the pooled wages our Members receive from their ministries or “tent-making” jobs, and through ethical low-risk investments. Our vow of Simplicity of Life enables us to serve where the need is the greatest ~ often in ministries that lack generous funding to cover large salaries and so depend upon gifted people motivated by mission. Where we are truly called, we trust in Divine Providence to meet our needs.



We Learn

“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life.’” (John 14:6)


The Way of the Sisters of the Metolius is to emulate Christ Jesus who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Our daily growth in the ways of Jesus includes sharing our insights on scripture, especially the Sunday lectionary, with an open invitation to our neighbors to join us; choosing, reading/watching, and discussing together books and other media; inviting people to our gatherings who can share their own valuable insights; serving together in areas of need; attending workshops, retreats, and field trips. Together we practice lifelong learning, using the many resources available to us including the art of conversation. When necessary for a particular agreed-upon purpose, one or more of us might seek college or graduate degrees, but our value to the community and to our mission does not depend on formal education. We respect formal education, and we respect native intelligence and wisdom.


Through our prior or current ministry experiences, we all have learned valuable things about serving the people Christ Jesus loves. We can share this with one another. When one or more of us serve in a ministry for a time, we bring back what we have learned.



We Profess Four

Lifetime Communal Vows

We establish a true mutual covenant, not simply a business contract or an organizational membership. Because none of us is perfect yet all of us are good, we hold as an essential ideal the safety of mutual respect and fidelity. If God calls us, he calls us as who we are. God knows who we are, and God is the one who calls.


The Vow of Obedience to God

We believe that God lovingly and brilliantly creates each person for a unique purpose in his plan to save the world. The crying needs of the Twenty-First Century plead for each to fulfill her purpose according to God’s will. The root meaning of obedience is “to listen with the ear of the heart.” Sacred scripture and our own life experiences convince us that God can and does speak to a person in myriad ways, and that each willing person has the capacity to hear and to do what God is asking. To aid our discernment of God’s will individually and communally, we pray; we consult with wisdom figures including trained spiritual directors; we consider scripture, the teachings of the Church, responsibilities, common good, and other indicators including the inner sense of call.


In our community, we help one another to discern the will of God, not presuming that one Member can claim superior knowledge of God’s will for another and therefore direct her actions. For this reason, those elected or appointed to guide the community for a time must commit to aiding a person (if necessary) to discern the will of God in her own spirit. In this way, we take care not to usurp the place of God in another’s life.


The Vow of Simplicity of Life

Women called to our way of life experience or desire the freedom of simplicity in possessions, livelihood, daily logistics, food, clothing, and shelter. We live within our means as a community and avoid taking on debt. We may invest our community’s funds in ethical low-risk instruments. We tithe on all income: five percent to the church we attend, and five percent to charities that need our support. When possible, we shop at local thrift stores to support the charities they benefit.


We maintain one or more small community dwellings in or near the Metolius River Basin, the mystical center from which we go forth to serve the world using principles we cultivate in this place of miracles, grace, and restoration. When we go to serve in another place for a time, ideally we rent space in someone’s home.


We dress unobtrusively according to the settings in which we minister, country or city. For occasions and settings where our identity as Sisters of the Metolius is important, we wear distinctive habits befitting our nature as a religious community.


We value the dignity of labor according to our gifts, yet we maintain a healthy rhythm of life. Overwork for long periods fails to respect the Creator of our bodies and minds, as does abuse of Earth and her non-human creatures. We seek to keep the daily rhythm of contemplation and action. We nourish our bodies with healthy food, ideally supporting our local organic farmers. We maintain our health and help to care for Earth through non-polluting exercise like riding bikes or walking; ideally, if we must commute to work, we walk, ride a bike, carpool, or take public transportation.


The Vow of Celibate Chastity

Each of us has come to recognize within herself a completeness that unites a natural inclination to singlehood with an essential and enriching personal relationship with Christ Jesus. We celebrate the holy vocation of marriage without, ourselves, yearning for marriage. We further recognize in ourselves the attraction to living our celibate commitment in community. Through our Vow of Celibate Chastity, we establish a true mutual covenant of support and encouragement.


At the Last Supper, Jesus said to his disciples: “I call you not servants but friends.” Our Vow of Celibate Chastity attests to the value and joy of deep friendship and common purpose shared by a group of women who love and respect both men and women yet do not seek an exclusive relationship with anyone. Those of us who choose this life do so because we have already experienced it as enlivening to our unique selves. We see living this vow with truthful joy as a prophetic witness especially in a culture that exploits sexuality in every possible way.


We recognize that making any mutual life commitment requires maturity; enough compatibility; a necessary degree of spiritual, physical, psychological, and emotional health; sufficient time adequately to consider essential factors; and graceful time to finish anything else that needs to be finished first. These factors distinctly apply in this communal Vow of Celibate Chastity.


We practice hospitality. Guests are welcome at our tables and in our conversations. In our own dwellings, we keep a simple room for a guest who wishes to experience our way of life or who perhaps needs sheltering care for a time. Significantly, our community is not exclusive or enclosed. We cherish and nurture our existing friendships and family relationships outside the community, and we bring those relationships into the community. Ours is an expanding circle of love, following the pattern Christ Jesus established.


We recognize each person’s need for occasional solitude ~ “occasional” varying for each. Our daily life in community, for those who are living in the same home, offers the freedom of participation or solitude.


The Vow of Service According to Our Gifts

We offer our gifts in a post-institutional realm of world needs. Since our community does not seek to establish and maintain institutions, we can freely respond to need without fear of depleting institutional holdings or diminishing the community presence in sponsored works. When possible, we may serve together in a particular ministry, yet it need not belong to us. This vow enables a Member both to discover and develop new gifts, and also to nurture known gifts. We honor one another’s deeply, often mutually, discerned call to respond to a need. One or more of us may stay close to our Metolius headwaters, or we may go to serve for a time where our gifts are needed, traveling light like the disciples in Luke 10:1-9.



Becoming A Sister of the Metolius

If God calls us, he calls us as who we are.

God knows who we are, and God is the one who calls.


It has been said that, before Dominic, there were Dominicans; before Francis, Franciscans. We believe this holds true for the Sisters of the Metolius, and that when we articulate and live the charism as loving disciples of Christ Jesus, women will recognize their call to this Way.


To nurture our relationships and grow together in this Way, we will gather regularly in an appointed place ~ usually, though not necessarily, in the Metolius River Basin. These simple gatherings, to which Members and anyone in initial stages are invited, serve as schools of community, experience, and learning. Since our budding community lacks substantial financial resources, those who attend these gatherings provide their own transportation, share in the tasks, and contribute toward expenses.


Seeker

In the initial gathering of our community, one or more foundresses will meet and remain in contact with Seekers whose spirits have leapt within them upon learning of us.


A Seeker who, with professed Members, discerns more clearly a possible call to this life, must provide the necessary documentation of her freedom to make this commitment, according to Canon Law. She must provide evidence that her financial debts are paid and that her physical, emotional, and mental health allow her to make this commitment freely with adequate awareness of and capacity for the demands of this life.


Associate Member

Since our founding in 2010 and even before, the Lord has made clear that Associate Members are essential to our community and ministries. These are women and men who, at this time, do not feel called to the vowed life yet are drawn to the charism, mission, and ministry of the Sisters of the Metolius. The discernment process may help a person to decide to become an Associate Member while remaining open to the question of vowed life.


Postulant

A Seeker becomes more deeply connected with the community when she becomes a Postulant, in a simple ceremony to which she may invite friends and family. The period of Postulancy lasts for at least one year, during which time the woman may live with the community, share in ministry, contribute toward community expenses, yet retain her personal income and investments.


At the end of this year, or longer if necessary, the Postulant and the community will likely sense whether or not our Way corresponds to God’s personal call for the woman’s life. Should uncertainty remain, we mutually seek clarification from the Holy Spirit through prayer and conversation, in which the Postulant participates.


Novice

When the Postulant and the community have discerned, “in the unity of the Holy Spirit,” that she is called to this Way, the woman is formally received as a Novice. The year-long Canonical Novitiate engages both the Novice and Members in exploring and living more deeply our four vows of Obedience to God, Simplicity of Life, Celibate Chastity, and Service According to Our Gifts.


Once a woman has been received into our community as a Novice, the role of professed Members is to nurture and encourage. In this sense, she is like an infant in the womb, except we also regard her as a competent adult. A Novice before professing vows must never have cause to fear “termination,” because such fear inhibits her freedom to be real and to ask questions the community could benefit from considering.


A Novice’s personal gifts and life experience are as valuable as those of long-professed members. Such newness is, in fact, essential to prevent the stagnancy and diminishment of becoming “a settled system.” Our community is responsible to discover, together with the newer member, the gifts God brings through the new person.


At the end of the year-long Canonical Novitiate, the Novice and the Members together discern whether or not the Novice desires with her whole heart to embrace the Way of the Sisters of the Metolius as a Member of our community, and to profess her perpetual vows to God.


Between her time of decision and profession, the woman prayerfully chooses and helps design the variation of formal celebration habit that identifies her as a unique member of our community. She further makes customary financial arrangements in keeping with Canon Law. Most importantly, she helps to prepare the ceremony of vows in which she and possibly others profess their lifelong vows of Obedience to God, Simplicity of Life, Celibate Chastity, and Service According to Our Gifts, within the community of the Sisters of the Metolius.


Member and Elder

Once a Member of the community, the Sister becomes an elder helping to guide Seekers, Postulants, Novices, and other Members as together we seek to follow more truly the Way of Christ Jesus.



Let’s Talk

If the Way of the Sisters of the Metolius stirs your spirit, we would love to talk with you.


We live according to Deacon Bill Brennan’s wonderful insight on the pattern of salvation history, which applies equally to our own smaller communities and personal histories:


R ~ Revelation: God takes the initiative and reveals himself to a person

I ~ God invites the person to do something

R ~ God waits for a response: yes or no

G ~ God gathers the people he has invited who say “yes”

F ~ God continues to form those gathered together


The Sisters of the Metolius don’t need a five-year plan. We need “yes.”


Contact: BearUrsula2@gmail.com

The Vision ~

Partly Lived, Awaiting Fulfillment

Then the LORD answered me and said:

“Write down the vision clearly upon the tablets, so that one can read it readily.

For the vision still has its time, presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint;

if it delays, wait for it, it will surely come, it will not be late.”

(Habakkuk 2:2-3)