By Sister Judith Minear
As a little girl, I didn’t think much of geese. Their reputation suffered in expressions I heard, like “you silly goose” and “well, that was a wild-goose chase!” People around me had a million of those phrases, and I was the recipient of them a little too often.
Now I know what a wild-goose chase is!
Fast forward several years into my vowed life as a Sister of St. Joseph. People often asked me (and still do!) what it’s like to live in religious community as a sister. While I had a deep sense of what this community meant to me, I wasn’t always able to communicate it well. Then one day, at a Congregation of St. Joseph gathering, the sister giving the keynote address said she was going to speak about how much Sisters of St. Joseph are like geese. “Great,” I thought. “My goose is cooked!” But then, what she said hooked me. It gave me goosebumps. So let me share her wisdom, as well as my own thoughts on why it’s great to be a goose!
- Geese are not afraid to stick their necks out. When something or someone we love is in danger (and sisters and associates of St. Joseph love every kind of neighbor. No holds barred), we aren’t afraid to stick our necks out and engage in change. To honk loudly (and respectfully, out of Great Love) when necessary. We do not run away from difficult situations. Instead, we seek to be a loving presence and an agent for change, standing shoulder to shoulder in the midst of others.
We don’t hide from the tough stuff!
- A goose falling out of formation feels the resistance of the drag and falls back into formation to feel the lifting power of the birds around it. This is one of the best expressions of the gift of community life I have ever heard! From my earliest days in the community, I have watched sisters and associates reach out to one another to lend a helping hand when another is “feeling the drag.” For someone whose past pattern was to isolate when I most needed support, I am strengthened and sustained to know that support is always around me.
We lift each other up when we’re “feeling the drag”
- Honking in formation is used to spread important information and encouragement. As sisters and associates, we try to speak and act in ways that encourage those around us to lean into and lean on God’s Great Love. This doesn’t mean we always agree! The difference, though, is civil discourse. I have learned from my community to aspire always to put my best self forward…and my best self tries hard not to engage in pointless, hurtful honking!
We’re all in it together!
- Flying in V Formation allows geese to use less energy and cover more distance. This is another gift of community. Sharing and acting out of common values and a common mission builds our capacity to impact the world. I have witnessed and experienced internal and external collaborations whose outcomes transcend all original hopes and dreams.
The Flying V can be helpful in all walks of life,
whether you’re a goose, a peewee hockey player, or a sister!
- One goose leads the formation until it’s tired, and then another goose takes its place. Like geese, we share leadership at all levels throughout the congregation. Early in my formation I heard that “sisters of St. Joseph never do anything alone.” It’s true! From pitching in (without being asked) to clean up after a meeting, volunteering for committees and events, and leading projects and ministries on local and national stages, I watch my community naturally and seamlessly fill in the gaps to make incredible things happen.
We share the load as a family!
These days, I view geese in a much more positive and loving way, and laughingly think of myself as in touch with my “inner goose!” And when I see a beautiful V-formation of wild geese flying and honking in the air, I greet them as brothers and sisters of St. Joseph, joined in a common mission with all of creation.
About the Author
Sister Judith Minear currently serves as part of the 3-member team for CSJ Ministries as Coordinator for Mission Integration, working with our 26 sponsored ministries. In her free time, she loves drawing zentangles, stalking birds and savoring poetry.