Formation at St Hilda’s
Life at St Hilda’s is directed towards meeting needs present in the here and now. It is also, however, orientated towards the future, by giving interns the means to discern their calling in the best way they can. This means different things to different people: for some it means figuring out what they wish to do next, for others it means figuring how to grow as a person before setting out on an already settled path, and for many it is a combination of the two.
The program at St Hilda’s works to achieve this by helping interns form and grow through their emotions, through their intellect, and through their service, so attempting to ensure that each aspect of personhood is nurtured and developed throughout the year. In truth, every aspect of life at St Hilda’s is set up with this in mind, so one way to learn about formation at St Hilda’s is to read through our pages on community life, service, and worship. However, it is hoped that each concrete activity will help nurture certain general practices which will allow interns to better know themselves and the path they are being called upon.
Learning to listen lies right at the heart of formation at St. Hilda’s. If, when we pray, we are only speaking, then how are we to hear what God has to say for us? If, when we live in community, we only speak, then how are we to hear the needs of our neighbors in particular and our community in general? If, when we serve, we spend our whole time saying what needs to be done, how are we to hear what those we are trying to serve are actually saying?
To truly listen is to do more than simply hear words: it is to allow those words to speak by not forcing them to cohere with our pre-existing assumptions; it is to learn to respond as we are asked to as well as how we think we should. Above all, it is to love and respect others (whether God or neighbor) enough to try to see and hear them as they are, rather than trying to force them into being what we think they should be. This skill of listening is developed each day, whether around the table for a community meal, at house meetings, at work, or at prayer.
In many ways, to honestly hear something is to know how to respond to it. By learning to listen to others, Hildans also learn how to respond to others through the love we are called to by Jesus Christ. This means finding the words to support another after an emotionally draining day at work; it means knowing what small gesture can light up a neighbor’s day; it means knowing when to share in joy and when to share in difficulty. It also means taking what we hear in prayer and communion (with God and each other) out into the world so that we can do the best we can in our worksites and wider lives.
Among the many reasons why listening and responding are important is that they allows us to discern our calling. St Hilda’s tries to aid interns’ discernment by helping each individual to better understand and love themselves and each other, by providing them with opportunities to serve others (for one of the best ways of learning whether or not we are called to do something is by doing it), and by deliberately providing space for prayer and reflection, both corporate and individual.
Perhaps the most important aspects of discernment is community itself: by living in community Hildans can help each other discern their call through conversation, through counsel, and through supporting each other day to day, month to month. As such, formation at St. Hilda’s is actually carried out by the Hildans themselves, as they learn to listen to each other and then respond in love to what is said. By learning how to both listen and respond, Hildans can thus learn how to aid each other through spiritual discernment.
It’s common knowledge that Jesus Christ commanded us to love God and neighbor. What’s not so well publicized is an awareness of just how hard it can be to follow these commandments. As such, strong emphasis is placed throughout the year on the need to learn how best to love, and so forgive not just others when they fail in this, but also ourselves. Living a Christian life is difficult, but through learning how to listen, through learning how respond, and through learning how to discern and help others in their discernment, it is hoped that Hildans overall learn to better live lives of Christian love.
There is no set way of living a Christian life, so this will mean different things to different individuals: for some, it will cause them to change their chosen path entirely, for others it will mean walking the same path a different way. The only universal hope is that however Hildans are formed and whatever paths they choose, they shall find themselves at peace with God through love and feel confident in walking the path to which they are called.