This is my tenth visit to Our Lady of Grace Monastery in Beech Grove Indiana. I came eight times as a Woman Touched by Grace, part of a Lilly Foundation Sustaining Pastoral Excellence grant which funded twice a year ten day visits to the monastery for a group of thirty women pastors. Each time we sang the Office with the sisters of Our Lady of Grace, had a different speaker which presented tools and tips for being healthy clergy (the Lilly Grants for SPE were given with the premise that healthy pastors make healthy congregations) and had time for massages, walks, field trips, play, and Covenant Groups.
My ninth visit was last fall. I came six days for the first session of three year preparation to become an Oblate of Our Lady of Grace Monastery.
This time I came to be one of the "speakers" for the second Women Touched by Grace group. This group of twenty women have gathered five times at the monastery. This is their last session under the Lilly grant.
This second Women Touched by Grace pastors have nicknamed themselves Women Touched by Grace Extraordinaire. It was better than being called WTBG Second Class.
However, after praying and playing and pondering and painting and being with these women, I'm not sure that second class is not a very good thing. After all, in the world of movies, the sequel is at times better than the original, or as good in its own way.
A few years ago, because of connections with a friend, I got to fly first class several times. I also used miles to upgrade on a couple of long trips (it's the only way to fly to Turkey!). I always say that no one appreciates first class more than I do. However, on a recent flight, a very unusual thing happened. There were many open seats--but all of them in coach. As I walked through the packed first class cabin, every seat was taken, but those of us in coach (ie second class) could each have our own row, and even empty seats behind us so that we could recline our seats without acting as if we were the center of the world. We had two flight attendants serving us (as opposed to the one in the packed first class). That day, no one appreciated it more than I did to be in the comfort of second class.
So to those twenty women pastors of Women Touched by Grace, the Sequel, Second Class, Extraordinaire: Susan, Patti, Janell, Karen, Kim, Miriam, Yolande, Janet, Mary, Haeran, Susan, Jane, Michelle, Deana, Nancy, Karen, Margaret, Susan, Laurie, Nancy, and Sister Mary Luke and Sister Betty, you are each gifted in extraordinary ways (and I speak from experience). More importantly, you are abundantly touched by God's grace. What could be any better than that?
Touched by Grace, you are women touched by Grace,
From the hand of God, from the heart of God,
Who sends you forth, who sends you forth to serve.