Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Presenting "faith journey" aka existential crisis

Every Sunday from now until January, I'm meeting with a group of Catholic women for personal formation, community discipleship, and event planning.  We will facilitate a women's spiritual retreat after our last meeting.  The dozen of us went through the same retreat last month, facilitated by women who had met together all of last year.

Event planning is well-rehearsed.  Community discipleship is new to me in terms of spirituality, but otherwise not that different from my experiences in other goal-oriented groups.  Alverno College prepared me well for both of these.

The primary way that personal formation is achieved through these meetings is through a half hour presentation, followed by "affirmations" from the rest of the group.  Most of the retreat consisted of these presentations, edited and refined throughout last year's meetings, and then reflections on them both alone and in small groups.  The two leaders of my group, seasoned facilitators, will give their presentations again and then give some light guidance while we dozen prepare our own.
These presentations will focus on each individual's personal "faith journey," how each person got to where we are now.  Guidelines are loose, though based on the presentations at the retreat most of these women speak almost exclusively about their relationships with their parents, their husbands, and their children.

It's only been a day and a half since the first meeting and I've already turned this into a full-on existential crisis!  Go me!  I'm such an overachiever!  I signed up to be one of the first presenters partly so I won't have to think about it for more than a month, and partly + selfishly so I can give a little lesson about good public speaking skills right away (if one more person clicks her tongue after every sentence, I'm going to scream).  The more I think about my journey the more I delve into gender and feminist theory, liberation theology, and nihilism vs. existentialism.  This sums up my progress thusfar ("ppl" = people):

Here is this unusual opportunity to talk about myself openly before a group for a half hour, and... this is very cheesy... if I talk about theory, then who am I?  If my developing plan to speak about my journey consists mostly of concepts that exist outside of me, then what does that say about me?  The debate and contemplation of these ideas will continue after me, the same can't be said about relationships (I wonder how many people identify through their relationships out of a fear of mortality?).  But if I end up impacting these studies through academia, does that reflect on the quality/value of my life?  If I don't, does that imply failure?
It's not that people, places, and events aren't important to me, I just can't imagine filling up more than 15 minutes with talking about only them as a reference to my self.  But these concepts, I could - and do! - go on and on and on.

At the first meeting the other day, each person summarized their personal goal as an individual in the group for the year.  Mine was "be an agent of change."  That tends to be my goal/role in Catholic communities altogether, and it's what I hope to achieve through grad school (next year???).  The retreat highlighted how alone I feel as a whole human being in these communities and I don't expect that to change as long as I aim to facilitate change.  I'm just not certain what it says about me as a whole human being presenting oneself through theory.

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