Congregational Chapter of Affairs
“The congregational chapter is a collegial assembly and the highest authority within the congregation. Representative of the congregation, it is a sign of the unity and an expression of the participation and interest of all the members in the progress of our mission. It is a spiritual event, a time of corporate reflection and conversion. By promoting renewal in the spirit of our charism, the chapter safeguards our heritage and is a source of life and inspiration for the entire congregation.” Constitution 116
The sacred experience of our Thirty First Congregational Chapter was officially opened by Sister Susana Franco on September 16, 2021 by welcoming the Delegates, invited Guests, Partners in Mission, the facilitators Donna Fyffe and Catherine Schneider and the Liturgy leaders Monica Brown and Hilary Musgrave.
For the first time in our history, the Congregational Chapter is being conducted virtually and held in two major segments, September 16-22 and November 18-December 5.
The Chapter Body includes 92 delegates with nine to be added following the Contemplatives Assembly in November, and a number of invited guests and Partners in Mission.
We had a beautiful and meaningful opening ritual conducted by the Liturgy team as one heart and one soul. To be prepared for this sacred work and reflection, quotes from John Eudes and Mary Euphrasia were read:
“Our wish, our object, our chief preoccupation must be to form Jesus in ourselves, to make his spirit, his devotion, his affections, his desire, and his disposition live and reign there.”
St. John Eudes
St Mary Euphrasia urges us to, “Be faithful in following the inner light which it pleases God to give each one of you. May it enlighten you, may it always go with you! "Let your love and zeal be universal”.
St. Mary Euphrasia, Conferences, p. 280
Following Sr Susana’s inspiring message, the 92 delegates completed required official tasks prior to approving and beginning to discuss the actual content. Members of our Leadership Team highlighted parts of their report that expressed the experience of the past six years in relation to our 2015 Direction Statement. With the topic of community being the focus of the day, participants’ discussions contributed to this issue as it applies to all aspects of life in our Congregation. The final item of the day was the Leadership Team sharing a tribute to Sister Ellen Kelly. Sr. Bridget Paily started with: Dearest Ellen, on behalf of the entire Congregation, we your Sisters and Partners in Mission want to express our sentiments of gratitude for your service of love over the past 6 years. She also included a quote from Marcel Proust: “Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” And on behalf of the Congregation, Sr. Debbie was invited to offer a big bouquet to honor Sr Ellen.
Sister Ellen thanked everybody as she said: Dear Sisters and Mission Partners, I cannot be more humbled! I always said I have received more than I was given! Yes, together we can do so much better, and I am sure we will continue to do that. If I did not have you, I was not able to accomplish what I had to do. I really appreciate the ongoing prayer for me because surely you will always have mine. We have great Sisters and Partners in our Congregation – that is why, despite our differences, we can continue to learn from each other. I encourage you to not be discouraged because I know how difficult this time is. We have to be confident that God will be with us. Mary Euphrasia will be there; she never gave up. Thanks again for everything.
Monday, September 20, opened a new week on the theme of mission. It centered mostly on two focused summary reports – one presented by Sr.Winifred Doherty regarding the International Justice and Peace Office and the other by Cristina Durante regarding the Good Shepherd International Foundation. Their full reports are included in the CLT Chapter report and both present the relevancy of the vital nature of each of these offices for our mission in today’s world. They also highlight that attention needs to be given to full staffing and resourcing of these offices, with immediate attention to Justice and Peace, to use them for full advantage and potential. The issue of how best to collaborate with the complementary and sometimes overlapping nature of the work of these offices requires discussion and direction. The new leadership team will definitely have tasks to do to ensure optimal functioning, as required by the needs of the world today.
On Tuesday the focus was on the Life Seekers Report that was presented by some members of the committee. This Report presents a proposal for restructuring within the governance of the Congregation as we seek to shift from our current structure having over 30 provinces and possibly reorganize into 10 or 12 regional units. Discussions for addressing this topic were organized by continent. It is an extremely complex situation when thinking of implementing a new structure particularly when considering the vastness of experiences in each country within continents, languages, cultural customs, various ministries, legalities, personnel and other resources. More work will be done by the Committee prior to the second segment of the Chapter in November.
Topics addressed on Wednesday, Sep 22, the final day of phase one, were: 1) Partners in Mission and 2) giving attention to illuminating qualities for leadership team members who will be implementing a new governmental structure. This included an initial surfacing of names of sisters who have skills to accomplish this.
Addressing the topic of partners in mission is another very complex reality as there are many different levels of understanding and experiences across the congregation. Although there seems a clear direction to continue the strengthening of partnership, HOW to do it is unclear.
The last task for participants in this segment of the Chapter was addressing the essential qualities needed within the leadership team and, limited to small group discussions, actually listing some possible names. Formal nominations will occur in the November Chapter session.
This first segment of the Chapter ended with remarks from Sister Susana and a prayerful ritual.
Participants were also reminded to participate in the upcoming cross-congregational zoom meetings where there will be further discussion regarding the restructuring proposal and adjustments that will be added following this Chapter segment. Content of these zoom meetings will be the same on each day, Oct, 4, 5, or 6.
Chapter Steering Committee