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Homily of Fr. Antonio de Castro SJ

The Function of Story Telling:

Points from a Homily by Fr. Tony de Castro, SJ

What is it that we are celebrating this afternoon?  It is rather simple: this celebration is just the beginning of a three-year period of telling stories, describing in brief narrative form what you, the Good Shepherd sisters, have been doing ever since your first group of sisters arrived almost 100 years ago.   During this three-year period, we hope to encourage one another then to tell stories, stories of the Good Shepherd sisters you have known, stories about how these sisters have collaborated in making the apostolic works of the Philippine Province what they are today, and to draw the appropriate lessons from them for the present and for the future. But why should we be sharing stories with each other?  What is the significance of engaging in this narrative activity?

In his study of Paul Ricoeur’s philosophy, Richard Kearney helpfully outlines four central tasks of “narrative.”

1) First, he says, we tell stories in order “to realize our debt to the historical past,” indeed to honor the memory of our dead, of those who have gone ahead of us...

2) Second, Kearney notes that we tell stories in order “to respect the rival claims of memory and forgetfulness.”  The stories we tell reflect decisions made about what is worth remembering and what is to be consigned to being forgotten.

3) Third, we tell stories in order “to cultivate a notion of self-identity.”  The stories we tell about ourselves nurture our sense of who we are, affirm and reaffirm it, inviting us to grow ever more profoundly into the persons we are called to be.

4) And fourth, we tell stories in order “to persuade and evaluate action.”  Implicit in this fourth task, I submit, is a profound engagement with the present and a proleptic concern for the future.

What then are the stories we tell each other as Good Shepherd sisters and lay partners?  What is the context of our story-telling today?  I am sure the stories we tell each other are stories that honor the memory of our dead, that are crucial to our understanding of who we are, that enable us to negotiate the rival claims of what demands to be remembered and what needs to be forgotten, and that allow us to gauge in some way how far we have come in our apostolic works and institutions and how far we still need to go, given the shifting frontiers of our changing times.  We are perhaps not conscious that these are in fact what we are doing when we engage in story-telling.  But the celebration of an anniversary such as the one we have in the arrival of the first Good Shepherd sisters in these islands 100 years ago very often awakens us to the significance of a basic human need and activity.

Unfortunately, I misplaced Kearney’s article when I was writing this paper and can no longer find it.  In any case, for a helpful account of the voluminous and diverse works of Richard Kearney , some of which are dedicated to the philosophy of Paul Ricoeur, one may profitably consult his page on the Boston College website: (accessed at 9:00 p.m., 29 September 2009).