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Preparing, Gathering, Greeting – and a Wonderful Surprise!

Our Sisters, Associates, Auditors, guests (the Sisters of the Poor of St. Francis) and  interpreters gathered at the Bon Secours Retreat and Conference Center in Marriottsville, Maryland  from as  far away as the Philippines and as nearby as Philadelphia, PA. They came by plane and automobile to attend the 14th General Chapter of the Franciscan Sisters of the Poor.
Some came early, but most arrived on Friday. All Committee members were busy planning, decorating, practicing and and preparing to ensure that all was ready for the opening ceremony on Sunday. A special two-hour orientation program was provided for new Chapter Members, 1/3 of whom had never before attended a General Chapter.

capcom 01The Environment Committee hard at work capcom 02The table decorations are colorful and elegant

Opening Moments and a Sacred Surprise 
Finally

All was ready, and at 9:00 am on Sunday, August 25, 2013, the participants convened, and Sr. Tiziana Merletti officially opened the Chapter. Each Member was called by name – and each answered individually, in her own language, “Here I am.” Blessings were read in all four languages of the Chapter, and our Guests, Srs. Luciosa Benz and Marie Ange Van Londersele, brought greetings from our Sister Congregation, the Sisters of the Poor of St. Francis in Aachen. Then they surprised us all with a precious gift. They had brought to Chapter a treasured artifact – Mother Frances Schervier’s Rosary, placed at the front of the General Chapter room. You could hear the gasps from throughout the room as they told us that each Chapter participant not only would be permitted to touch the Rosary, but also to hold it!

capcom 03Srs.Tiziana and Licia instruct the Members capcom 04Srs. Paola and Francesca with Mother Frances Schervier's Rosary

Invoking the Holy Spirit


Then with candles lit, everyone processed to the Chapel for the Liturgy, singing Veni Creator Spiritus. When we all arrived, Sr. Tiziana anointed each member of the Council – Sr. Licia, Sr. Marilyn, Sr. Joanne, Sr. Laura, Sr. Anna and Sr. Maria Helena – who, in turn, anointed all Chapter participants. This was followed by a truly international and inclusive Liturgy: a Senegalese sister -- Sr. Rose Ndong -- performed a processional dance down the center aisle bringing the Word of God to our celebrant. Although celebrated in English, songs were sung in each language – accompanied by guitar, drums and even an organ.

capcom 05With candles lit, Members process into the chapel capcom 6Sr. Tiziana and Council anoint each Chapter participant

capcom 07Srs. Paula and Madonna enjoy the crafts at the SFP gift shopWe had a short break after the Liturgy followed by a communal lunch, and then we all convened to begin Chapter with the pro forma work of approving the secretary, confirming the tellers and other matters. After the group discussions conducted for the tables, sr. Tiziana shared a video memorializing the Sisters who have died in the past 5 years as the Chapter participants spent a few moments in silent prayer. Then came the great privileges of the afternoon. After a brief time for reflection, we gathered for Exposition, and each Chapter participant was given an opportunity to reverence Mother Frances’ Rosary, which was placed on a small altar in front of the Blessed Sacrament. Beginning with Sr. Tiziana, each of us had an opportunity to hold the Rosary and to spend time in prayer and contemplation.

This was followed by a delicious meal. Then we attended the ‘grand opening’ of  the  SFP gift shop in which each Area and mission displayed hand-made items. All of this was topped off by a gala reception with celebration, dancing and music. So ended the first day of the 14th General Chapter!

 

Published: August 27, 2013