October/November 2013 - Vol. 70
“I Am My Beloved’s and He Is Mine”
An Update from
Members of the Bethany Association
Fifteen women from the Sword of the Spirit communities throughout the world gathered at Angels’ Hills Retreat Center in Tagaytay City, Philippines, from August 14 through August 18, 2013, for the Fifth International Bethany Association Conference. We were warmly hosted by Ang Ligaya ng Panginoon (Joy of the Lord) community (Manila, Philippines) whose members served us generously in many ways during the days of the conference.
This was the first time since the establishment of the Bethany Association in 2009 that the women with lifelong commitments to live single for the Lord were gathered together for the bi-annual conference without special guests and young women in discernment. This was a welcome opportunity for the committed sisters to strengthen the relationships and bonds of friendship among us all that have been growing and deepening over the past years despite the rare occasions we are able to be together because of the thousands of miles that lie between us. There was a profound openness in our sharing about the joys and blessings we have experienced in our personal lives as well as sorrows, wounds, and challenges that we face. The four committed sisters who were not able to attend were continually in our thoughts and prayers.
Bethany Association Council member Sherry Snyder (Word of Life Community, Ann Arbor, Michigan) was impressed that “God is intent on us being united in loving one another as sisters because of the work he wants to do, inviting others throughout the Sword of the Spirit to join us in this way of life.” Belen Paredes (Ligaya) described Bethany members being woven into a beautiful tapestry of colored threads, “our lives intertwined by the Creator to be a witness and a shield for a life of total self-giving to the Lord.” Bethany Association Council President Jeanne Kun (Word of Life Community, Ann Arbor, Michigan) shared a vision of a silver chain—each one of us a link—stretching across the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, from continent to continent, country to country.
Conference sessions included several inspirational meditations as springboards for times of personal and communal prayer—among them a superb and insightful reflection on contemplating the love of God by Jesuit priest Fr. Herb Schneider, one of the “founding” coordinators of Ligaya. The schedule also included teachings about our way of life as put forth in our Bethany Association Charter and discussions about how to advance the purposes, hopes, and goals of the association, as well as ample opportunities for sharing with one another about what the Lord has been doing in each of our personal lives. Our traditional celebration of the Lord’s Day culminated in an evening of Filipina dancing as the sisters donned colorful Filipina dress.
“I Am His”—Living
Singleheartedly for the lord
Jhola ended her sharing with her favorite quote from Benedict XVI, Pope Emeritus, whose words remind her of the joy of sacrificing all for the Lord: “Are we not perhaps all afraid in some way? If we let Christ enter fully into our lives, if we open ourselves totally to him, are we not afraid that He might take something away from us? Are we not perhaps afraid to give up something significant, something unique, something that makes life so beautiful? Do we not then risk ending up diminished and deprived of our freedom? . . . No! If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great. No! . . . Today, with great strength and great conviction, on the basis of long personal experience of life, I say to you: Do not be afraid of Christ! He takes nothing away, and he gives you everything. When we give ourselves to him, we receive a hundredfold in return. Yes, open, open wide the doors to Christ—and you will find true life. Amen.”
During the Ligaya community gathering Mags Tierney (Charis Community,
Belfast, Northern Ireland) also shared a moving testimony about how she
personally responded to God’s invitation to her to live single for the
Lord. “The richness, the delight, and the joy that it is for us who have
been called to live single for the Lord is so overwhelming to me,” Mags
added, “that I feel a burden to make sure that our younger members have
that chance to say, ‘Lord, do you want me, too?’ ” Her vibrant witness
and example moved all the Ligaya members—young and old alike, married couples
as well as children and single adults—to want to live out a more wholehearted
offering of their own state of life, and is already inspiring young women
to consider this way of life.
Fruits of the
While we sisters are very grateful for the support we experience in our local communities for our commitment and way of life, Bethany Association has become a real “family” and “home” for each of us. And the Lord also showed us how we are a “place of refuge,” a “resting place” for many in the Sword of the Spirit, a place for more women to come.
God is indeed calling us to love boldly and preparing us to welcome women who will join us in living single for the Lord in the future—more “links” added to the silver chain joining us together in Sword of the Sprit communities around the world.
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