The Challenge Of Making Decisions

By Sister Anne Carbon SSC

Columban Sister Anne Carbon of Cagayan de Oro took her final vows in 2003. She ministers to those suffering from the psychological effects of Peru’s years of political violence.

When I entered religious life in the mid-’90s, it was certainly different from the life the older Sisters had lived for years and years. Gone, in some congregations, were the days of superiors, the formality of wearing a religious habit and serving in institutions such as schools and hospitals.

It was at this time that the Columban Sisters were exploring the idea of ‘participative leadership,’ which is based on the understanding that all in a group can contribute to and share in decision-making.

During those early days, I can vividly remember the two points of view on this model of group participation.

Some wanted to explore this new leadership idea, while others sought to hold on to the tried-and-true methods they had known all their lives. Looking back, I can see the wisdom of the participative model and how it helps us younger Sisters prepare for our missionary challenges. Our formation as Sisters must be a formation for life.

The Sister responsible for my religious formation used to challenge me by saying, ‘You know your boundaries. You have to decide for yourself what is negotiable and what is not.’

I found her statement difficult and challenging. I longed for her to tell me what to do. But later I discovered her statement created a sense of freedom that allowed me to explore the wider aspects of decision-making. It gave me the capacity to reflect on my decisions and ask questions when things were not clear. Needless to say, I made mistakes along the way, and I learned how much harder it is to decide for yourself than be told what to do or to follow instructions without question.

Service In Ordinary Times

During this time we were also phasing out our service in schools and hospitals. We were challenged to look at our realities and see where we could best offer our lives for the service of humanity and the proclamation of God’s reign in our world.

During those years, my mission work here in Peru was mostly with lay people. From that, I was led to reflect upon and appreciate the essence of being a Religious — the total, life-long gift of oneself to God for the service of people lived out in the ordinariness of daily life.

I remember how some people would say to me, ‘You are different from other nuns we know. You are part of human reality, and for that reason we have no reservations about sharing with you the struggles of our lives.’

Not having a habit and wearing regular clothes was a challenge at the beginning. But my experience shows that people value how I relate to them, not my physical appearance or what I wear. I do believe that people see in us a profound commitment and a selfless desire to give ourselves to the full.

When people ask me why I decided to become a Religious Sister, I usually reply, ‘It is because I have found the greatest treasure.’

It is this treasure I am willing to share and give back to my loving God by serving others.