By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
Sister Lynn Mousel, the youngest member of the Congregation of the Humility of Mary (CHM), moved from Montana to Davenport this year to accept her community’s call to a leadership position. Being in a new place, the 46-year-old felt out of her comfort zone at times, she reflected in the CHM blog, “A Nun’s Pocket.”
“Yet I am so grateful to be here and feel privileged to have many good options available to me in life. So many in this world, such as immigrants and refugees, do not have options and live in fear from situations beyond their control.”
Her participation in “Giving Voice” (giving-voice.org), a peer-led organization for younger women religious to give voice to their hopes, dreams and challenges in religious life, reinforces Sr. Lynn’s commitment to her vocation. Conversations with her “Giving Voice” friends — in-person or via zoom video conferences — give her hope for the future.
The CHM community she ministers with and shares life with, inspire her. “Surrounded by such wisdom,” she appreciates “these wonderful women who have lots of experience in living the life and experiencing and adapting to so much through the years.”
Sr. Lynn, a child psychiatrist from Omaha, Neb., made her life profession as a CHM on May 7, 2011. Earlier, while in medical training in Kentucky, she met Sister Mary Conrad, CHM, who was serving the people of Appalachia. After getting to know each other and becoming friends, the two women traveled to Davenport so Lynn could meet other CHM members. The community fed her spirit of contemplation.
For the past six years she practiced psychiatry in Montana until being elected to serve as a cabinet member for the CHM community beginning July 1. “We’re in a process, and have been for a while, of divesting ourselves as much as possible of administrative and management tasks. I think that will free us up to look more closely at what we are about as CHMs,” Sr. Lynn said. The community also seeks to “strengthen the bonds of those associated with us.” Among the ways to do so: collaborative efforts with secular and religious communities and seminars for staff and for associates about the CHM mission. Associates, adults of all faiths seeking to live the CHM mission, live within the context of their own lives and don’t take vows.
As the Humility sisters look to the future and how the Holy Spirit is calling them, Sr. Lynn gains additional insights from her participation in Giving Voice. In July, she participated in the national gathering in New Rochelle, N.Y., that drew around 70 women in their 20s through 40s. Highlights included getting together with a group of peers passionate about living religious life, she said. Her peer group included sisters originally from the Philippines and Kenya. “It was very engaging to hear about their experiences.”
Last year, she attended a Giving Voice retreat with about 15 women from across the country. It provided a “great sense of community and a real sense of commitment to religious life with sisters who are your own age and connections that extend beyond your own community…. It gives a wider perspective. It extends your circle and gives you a peer group,” she said.
During a Zoom video conference earlier this year with a small group of sisters from Giving Voice, the sisters discussed how to face their fears and move to a response of love and building bridges in today’s world. Sr. Lynn shared some of the insights in her reflection for “A Nun’s Pocket.”
“Dialogue can create a sacred space for people to listen to and hear one another. It can require patience and persistence. It is not always easy to speak the truth, but done well, it is the loving thing to do.
“We do not stand alone. We were reminded of how we are supported by both our individual religious communities and the Giving Voice community. In spite of loss due to aging communities and imperfect understanding of one another, we hold onto faith that this is the life God called us to. And as our CHM documents tell us, we ‘can accomplish what one alone cannot do in creating an environment of justice, love and peace.’”
Sr. Lynn acknowledges that it is hard to witness the suffering that her community’s members go through when they experience illness or memory loss. But the sisters can also be very inspiring as they move to Bishop Drumm Retirement Center in Johnston, Iowa, and discover a new opportunity for ministering.
“They find new ways to be so caring and present to one another,” she observed. “No matter where we’re at in terms of age or health, we strive to be a loving presence to each other and those around us.”
“As the youngest member of our community we certainly support Lynn and encourage her participation in Giving Voice,” said Sister Mary Ann Vogel, the CHM president. “We need to move away from the diminishment narrative of religious life. There will be a future and the women of Giving Voice will be among those leading us into the future.”