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The Hope-Esperanza Conference: A Journey of Interdependence for Younger Religious Women

IHM sister Tuyen Nguyen(l.), BVMs Mary Ann Zollmann, Paulette Skiba, Luann Brown, (with Saskia Alquinga joining via Zoom), and IHM sisters Tram Thi Thu Tran, Diem Ngo, and Liem Nguyen attended the inspiring Hope-Esperanza Conference in Chicago.

The transformative Hope-Esperanza Conference, hosted by the Leadership Collaborative, unfolded both in person and virtually, uniting approximately 250 women religious, all under 65. Held in Chicago from Jan. 25-28, insightful discussions on the future of religious life took place, fostering a unique sense of unity among the attendees. A group selfie captured the spirit of the event, showing the sense of community and shared mission among the women.

BVM Influence in Shaping Event
Mary Ann (Clement Mary) Zollmann, BVM played a pivotal role in shaping the event, actively participating in its organization. Her journey with the Leadership Collaborative began in 2015 when she facilitated a summer gathering in Chicago. Over the years, she engaged in various events within the collaborative. This year, her involvement reached a new level when she received a special invitation to join the planning committee.

A Bridge of Hope
Following the initial meeting, Mary Ann questioned the necessity of her assistance. However, committee members had a different perspective and convinced her to stay aboard. She agreed, with the unique condition of collaborating with someone under 65 from another part of the world. This condition led to a partnership between Mary Ann and St. Joseph Sister Griselda Martinez Morales. Their intercultural and intergenerational sharing in the gathering gave living witness to a “Bridge of Hope.”

Deep Reflections and Shared Challenges
BVMs Luann Brown, Paulette Skiba, Saskia Alquinga, and IHM sisters joined Mary Ann at the event, celebrating a global sisterhood among younger members, delving into shared challenges, including hierarchical structures and the evolving nature of religious life. It served as a catalyst for deep reflections on embracing vulnerability, navigating leadership, and reshaping communal language for a more inclusive, dynamic, and connected religious experience.

Luann shares, “The event was full of life, energy, and connection. I was thrilled to be at the older end of the age spectrum as I am used to being among the youngest in community . . . I learned that the future of religious life is about interconnectedness and diversity, with many voices contributing to its richness.”

Paulette agrees, “It was very energizing and hopeful . . . what the conference was about for me it is “connection” . . . the greatest gift was the cultural diversity. I left with great hope for religious life today and the impact religious women have today.

The Essense of Transformation
Mary Ann’s poignant words encapsulate the essence of this transformative journey, providing hope and inspiration for the ongoing evolution of religious life. “Perhaps religious life is moving into a new stage of maturation as it has evolved in its members over time from dependence through a more recent independence to the spirit of interdependence visible in this gathering. I felt a deep kinship, a profound bond of sisterhood with these women. Despite our age difference, our yearnings are similar.”

* This impactful event was made possible with the generous support of the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation and the GHR Foundation, both renowned for addressing global challenges.

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