NACAR North American Conference of Associates and Religious

Region 11

Prophetic Hope – Transforming Us

Upper Midwest Conference


The Upper Midwest Gathering of Associates and Religious took place on April 8-9, 2005, at Carondelet Center, a host facility of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet located in the heart of St. Paul/ Minneapolis, MN.

 Titled, “Prophetic Hope – Transforming Us,” the conference opened with a powerful ritual, “Mothers of the Disappeared,” based on the Madres de Plaza de Mayo.  At times during the course of the ritual, everyone present was invited to call out names of prophets, both from the past and in the present, who have given, and continue to give, hope for the transformation of the world. The ritual demonstrated that there is potential for prophetic power in the “weak” who refuse to accept injustice, and channel their anger into action.  A new paradigm of transformative hope is created. It is hope in practice that brings about change.

 The conference keynoter, Joan Mitchell, CSJ, PhD, is a feminist theologian, publisher of Good Ground Press and member of the Province leadership with the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet.  She led the conference participants in exploring how associates and religious are prophets of hope to those at the margins of society.  Rather than laity and religious, Joan prefers to use term “the people of God.”

 Joan Mitchell reflected with us on the biblical passage of the Syrophoenician Woman in Matthew 15:21-28 and Mark 7:24-30.  She urged us to read scripture with “a bit of feminine suspicion.”  What might a woman writing about this event have said differently than the male evangelists?  Participants shared in small groups that they saw that Jesus, the teacher, is the one being taught by the Syrophoenician woman.  Because she spoke up, she effected a transformation.

 There has never been a more powerful transformation in human history than the transfiguration of Christ.  Mary Hasbrouck, CSJ, showed us the changes in artistic expression of Christ’s transformation through the centuries.  New understandings of Christ’s life and ministry have brought about new paradigms, described in new ways. The transformation of Christ inspires hope throughout the ages.

 The conference brochure instructed participants to prepare for the gathering by reading “Empowering Tomorrow’s Laity” by Dr. Catherine Harmer, MM. The article was published in The Associate, summer 1999.  Conference planners posted the article on, a website focusing on spirituality and justice.  In her article, Dr. Harmer points out that the great potential of associate programs lies in the empowerment of laity who, supported by religious and clergy, take informed action on social questions. Jesus’ great call to “Follow me!” is a call to all who are baptized, to reach out to the poor and the neglected, to proclaim, and to build up the Kingdom of God, i.e., to be voices of prophetic hope, transforming the world.

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Last modified: April 10, 2007