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La Salette Associate’s Journey

Editor: On Oct. 1, 2011, Tim O'Brien and Marci Madary gave a day of reflection for our U.S. La Salette Associates in Attleboro, MA. I have put their notes together into this article to retrieve their wonderful insights about the vocation of La Salette Associates.
Marci Madary leading the workshop
for La Salette Associates
Today we will give a general overview and understanding of the vocation to be a Lay Associates. Note that this is actually a vocation and not just an effort in volunteering. We will outline the mutuality of a Lay Associate community, and touch upon a new way of looking at the Christian vocation, based on a renewed understanding of vocation based on Baptism and Confirmation and not on the Priesthood or religious life. Also we will discuss the proper place of visioning and planning in the Association Community.

The Holy Spirit and the Lay Calling

Fr. Joe Bachand, M.S., the Provincial of the La Salette Missionaries in North America, commented that Vatican II stated that “you, the laity, find yourselves in the heart of the world. I think this puts you in an appropriate place for being aware of the injustice that binds people. This is why we need to listen to you. As La Salette Associates, you, like us La Salettes, are called to embody the message of reconciliation.”
We can certainly speak of the “vocation of Associates.” This idea of your calling or vocation is a relatively new concept in terms of laity in the Church. This vocation has always existed but often went unrecognized due to the limited view of the place and vocation of the laity as it was view in the Middle Ages.
At that time, a class system arose when the Roman hierarchical systems and structures were appropriated by the Church and used in our understanding of sacraments, vocations as well as people’s rights and obligations with the church.
Fr. Joseph backhand, M.S., past
Provincial of the La Salette’s
North American Province
The idea of “having a vocation or call” was strictly limited to clerics and religious; laity were seen as “non-clergy” and therefore were the lowest on the Church’s totem pole. However with the ministry of St. Francis de Sales, he taught that personal vocation and vocational discernment apply as much to lay people as to those called to priesthood or religious life. Both St. Francis de Sales and St. Ignatius of Loyola held that it is not God's intention that everyone should live by the evangelical counsels (vows) of poverty, chastity, and obedience. Laity had their own special vocation within the church! God wanted the laity to undertake the work of the Church within what was suitable to their state in life.
With the close of the Vatican II, the church absorbed these insights and stated clearly that the gift of a vocation is based on our common Baptism and Confirmation. This new appreciation expanded and amplified the original views of St. Francis de Sales and St. Ignatius of Loyola.
Gregg Levoy, writer and lecturer,
seminar-leader in the business,
educational and human-potential arenas
However this significant paradigm shift in our theology of vocation was just a point of departure. We also needed a clear direction for those who seeked a fuller Christian life within the lay state. From the early theological discussions of Fr. Yves Congar, O.P. (1904-1995, we began visioning the direction of lay spirituality within a proper biblical foundation. 
The dimensions of the lay vocation were further explored by Gregg Levoy in 1997 when he described the phenomenon of the lay calling as a gift from God requiring discernment, education, and development. Parker Palmer in 2000 described vocation not as a goal to be pursued but rather as a calling that is heard.

Charism and the Lay Vocation

If we consider that a charism is defined as a gift, then the question arises: what is the relationship between the gifts of vocation and that of a charism? 
First of all, vocation can be understood in a variety of ways. For our purposes, three meanings seem to be pertinent.
  1. The first meaning of vocation is the common vocation of all Christians. This comes from the Sacrament of Baptism and is strengthened in the Sacrament of Confirmation. Lay people share this call along with other members of the Church.
  2. The second meaning of vocation is the vocation to a certain state in life. These states in life are defined as clergy, religious, and lay. They are large, clearly defined frameworks within which different individuals carry out the common Christian vocation — to love and serve God and cooperate in the mission of the Church.
  3. U.S. Lay Associates Workshop participants
    in Attleboro, MA, on Oct. 1, 2011
    The third meaning of vocation is that of a unique personal vocation. This can be defined as a unique combination of commitments, relationships, obligations, strengths, and weaknesses that the individual uses as the material for living out the common Christian vocation and state in life.
Your association with your sponsoring congregation, the La Salette Missionaries, is a vocation. You are being called to share in the charism of the La Salette Missionaries (reconciliation) and to live it out in your own life-situation. Fr. Joe Bachand, M.S., stressed your connection with the ministry of the La Salette Missionaries when he said: "The whole world cries out for reconciliation; and that’s the place where you and us can be of service."
Your call to be La Salette Associates also brings you into a relationship with one another as a La Salette Community of Associates with a definite sense of mission.

Where Are We Going as La Salette Associates?

European Lay Associates Workshop
attendees in Salmata, Italy on Sept. 6-10, 2012
You as La Salette Associates should have your own La Salette Associates’ Mission Statement. It should be a succinct statement about why you La Salette Associates exist? Your Mission Statement should reflect the content of the North American La Salette Province’s mission own vision statement.
The process of forming your own Mission Statement provides an opportunity for developing a consensus and strengthening your group identity. This statement explains who you are and how you are related to the La Salette Missionaries, their mission and ministry.
A Mission Statement includes:
  1. your purpose: Why your group exists and what it seeks to accomplish;
  2. your activities: What are your ministries or activities through which your community works to fulfill your purpose;
  3. your values: your principles or beliefs that guide your membership in pursuit of your stated purpose.
Fr. Joe Bachand noted: “Our Province recently formed a Vision Statement. In the central part of this statement we stated that: ‘We unite our gifts and talents with those of the laity.’”

What is a Vision Statement vis-a-vis a Mission Statement?

A vision statement is a corollary to a mission statement but differs in that a vision statement presents an image in words of what success would look like. It is a mental model of a future state ...built upon plausible speculation and reasonable assumptions about the future. With is vision in mind, the Lay Associates can bring this vision into being through their commitment and actions.
Your vision statement should be developed through a process of conversation, dialogue and consensus. It can provide a common understanding, language and directional mindset to assist in forming your life and ministerial identity. Your vision statement can be a prime communications tool and answers who you are.

The Importance of Planning

Once you understand your mission and form a vision statement, you are able to plan more effectively. Once you’ve dreamed what you wish to become, you then need concrete steps that can take your community forward in the direction of that vision.
Lastly, as in any community, your Lay Associates need to meet regularly to review your vision statement and continue to take steps to:
  1. pray and share from the Word of God;
  2. cherish the time you spend together, strengthening the bonds and the vision that you share; 
  3. take time to prepare and organize your meetings, basing your decisions on your own Vision Statement; also continue to develop the leadership and teaching skills of your members;
  4. connect often with the La Salette Missionaries, sharing your faith and charism, your hopes and dreams, so that both groups can continue to understand better how to “make Mary’s message known.”
Always keep in mind that, as the Book of Proverbs reminds us: “Where there is no vision, the people perish. (Prov 29:18)”

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