October 18 2014 marked a special moment in the Margaret Aylward Centre for Faith and Dialogue. Holy Faith Sisters, Associates, friends and colleagues gathered for the inaugural Margaret Aylward Lecture delivered by the Rev. Dr. Ruth Patterson entitled ‘Called to Friendship – The Challenge and the Gift of Encounter.
Ruth spoke about how rapidly the island of Ireland is changing by the presence among us of many different races, nationalities and cultures. She described the challenge this brings as the call to ‘extend the hand of friendship, to welcome the diversity that they bring and to find ways to facilitate integration.’ She later spoke of this as ‘the challenge to risk encounter’.
Through reference to the writer Brian Mc Laren, the poet Rumi, the inspirational community-builder Jean Vanier, Ruth led us along what she describes as ‘the highway of holiness’. She developed this image further: ‘Empowered by the Spirit, the way we journey is through dialogue, through responding to the call to friendship, a friendship that is willing to risk, to let go, to lay itself down for the beloved community, and through practising the sacrament of encounter.’ Her words offered us inspiration and challenge for the path of Faith and Dialogue which lies at the heart of all we do in our centre.
As we shared refreshments, the dialogue continued in an atmosphere of friendship, gratitude and a sense of excitement and hope for the way ahead.