Associate Reflections

We hope you enjoy these thoughtful reflections from members of our Associate community.


Reflections on the 2015 Carmel Retreat

By Associate Kai Marks

As one might well imagine, creating a wondrous and grace-filled retreat begins long before the first gathering on Friday evening at Villa Angelica in Carmel.

A few months ago, members of the Associate Board read Dan Ebener’s book, Blessings for Leaders. This book provoked discussions both about the many manifestations of leadership and the many ways in which a person can lead—as well as the need for leaders to cultivate emotional intelligence.

These discussions led us to select the theme: “God’s Gift to You: Leadership.”

We were fortunate to have facilitator Eileen Healy with us, who is an expert in the field of emotional intelligence. Ms. Healy is a marriage and family therapist, life coach, speaker, author, mother, grandmother, and she is also the co-founder and CEO of the Emotional Intelligence Training Institute.

Ms. Healy defines emotional intelligence as, “The ability to recognize one’s own emotions and the emotions of others and to respond to those emotions in a healthy way.”

Marilyn McElhaney & Dede Waters-Masters

Associates Marilyn McElhaney & Dede Waters-Masters at the retreat.

Many of those who attended the retreat appreciated the way Ms. Healy customized the presentation to the particular interests of SND Associates, acknowledging that our leadership as Associates can take a variety of forms—from providing hospitality at a meeting to organizing a soup kitchen. Having a high degree of emotional intelligence is an essential part of our ministry and helps us ensure that our hearts are indeed as wide as the world. Like the size of our hearts, emotional intelligence can be increased over the course of a lifetime. As we continue to live out the truth that God is good, cultivating our emotional intelligence will only enhance our work.

In addition to a fine retreat program, we were blessed to be able to enjoy each other’s company and the incredible food that was lovingly and expertly prepared by Associate Aulani Cler and Loretta Gilder.

As we reflect on our 2015 Memorial Day Weekend Retreat, we know we have much to be grateful for. The blessings of friendship and the tools for deepening our ministry will serve us for a lifetime.


Celebrating Together

By Kai Marks, Associate

Like Julie Billiart, we have many reasons to celebrate the Congregational Feast Day on February 2: the Sisters renew their vows, the Associates renew their commitments, and the Associate candidates begin their journey as Associates—all of us understanding from God that we have been called to an experience of holiness.

renewing commitment

Renewing their commitment…

There is something uniquely special about renewing vows and commitments together in the glow of candlelight, surrounded by one another, by friends and family, by beautiful music, and by the presence of God and Julie.

Each year, the candidates’ personal stories draw us closer together because the words they share not only allow us to know them and connect to them more deeply—their stories also illuminate for us what is and has been sacred in our own journeys as Associates. We see and feel, in a palpable way, what it means to be a “light in the world,” and we reflect the light we see in one another.

It is a joy to welcome new members to our Associate community. No matter how disparate our life experiences may be, each of us knows what it is to have been called by the holy spirit. While we may not have the words to adequately describe it—such experiences are beyond language—we know beyond a shadow of a doubt when we have been called.

And yet another experience we share is the challenge of balancing the interior call of the Holy Spirit with the demands of the outside world.

No doubt Julie knew this experience, too. In one of her letters, she wrote, “I am all yours, while running all over the place.”

I suspect many Associates find themselves running every day. Our fast-paced culture gives us little time to reflect or to be still in the presence of the good God. But blessed by the warmth of community and the fire of commitment, we come together for one evening to be faithful to what we have been called to do. We set aside time. We enter into the timeless tradition of all who came before us. We cast aside our busy schedules to witness the divine in ourselves and in each other.

Our Feast Day Celebration is a night unlike any other in the calendar year. I wouldn’t miss it for the world—literally or figuratively.

What a wonder. What a joy.