Oral Presentation of Treatise
Sister Ruth Harkins, IHM
for the degree of
Doctor of Ministry
Monday, July 8, 2013
10:00 a.m., Happel Room 100
“Crafting Authentic Community”
Director: Rev. Raymond Studzinski, OSB, Ph.D.
The treatise Crafting Authentic Community seeks to empower women religious with the knowledge and skills necessary to rediscover the true meaning of living authentic community, which is defined as the integration of effective communication, interdependence, and mutual commitment. Beginning with an examination of the scriptural and theological foundations which lie at the core of community, the writer also uses the basic principles of family systems theory to provide a backdrop for an understanding of the human tension between individuality and togetherness. Relying on a number of experts from the fields of behavioral science, psychology and business management, the treatise also addresses the areas of effective communication skills, conflict management techniques, and the concepts of mutuality and accountability.
In order to facilitate the overall goals of the project, the writer designed and implemented a one day workshop in which sisters who participated were provided with the opportunity to acquire the knowledge and skills vital for living community. The treatise presents an in-depth analysis of participants’ responses to both pre and post surveys, as well as a summary of the evaluations completed by each participant. Among the most significant findings were: a desire for a revitalization of participants’ present community life; an intellectual understanding of the meaning of authentic community from Scripture and post Vatican II Church documents; a limited knowledge of the impact of family systems theory on community as an emotional system; an increased awareness of the importance of practicing effective communication skills in community; a realization that a proficiency level in conflict management techniques is presently
lacking; an acknowledgement that the concepts of accountability and mutuality pose new and sometimes disconcerting challenges to religious community life.
In conclusion, the most profound contribution which the treatise Crafting Authentic Community makes to women religious is that authentic community is a lifelong, organic process in which members intentionally commit to the hard work of becoming their best selves together. This provides them with practical tools for the journey, while reaffirming the ongoing need for deeper exploration into the rich dimensions which lie at the heart of community.