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 A Second Week of Prayerful Discernment and Decision

After a week of intensive meetings punctuated by joyful celebrations, we are preparing for a second week of prayerful discernment and decision. Major change circulated with the air – beginning with Sr. Tiziana’s address on Monday (August 26th) to the Body of the Chapter. Excerpts from her address include:
notedalcap 01Sr. Tiziana and the General Council giving the address

“Each of us has received a seed along with the commitment to sow, nourish, protect it and celebrate God together for God’s constant fidelity and promise...throughout these mysterious cycles of the seasons, life prevailed. We saw our little plants grow and...each seed turned out to be a very different plant from what we expected.

The roots are solid, thanks to many factors:

- The cultivation of our relationship with God through word, prayer/contemplation, and the sacraments;
- Reciprocal love among us as people bound by our Franciscan Third Order Rule and our Gospel Way of Life;
- Our loving service to poor and suffering humanity inspired by Mother Frances’ charism;
- The communion of saints, in particular Sisters and Associates, who have passed into the Hand of God in these years.

The trunk has grown stronger and more solid every day because of our faithfulness in every present moment to our vocation as Consecrated Women and lay people committed to our healing charism...There is a time to give thanks for the fruit – and this is the time – and a time to tend the new buds – and this is the time...Theologians and experts of spirituality today explore the connection between science and faith, Scripture, creation and evolution...I am convinced, along with many of you, that in the future we need to be more and more open to these dimensions and to integrate their evolutionary influence in our personal life and in our life together...Teilhard [de Chardin] sees the world as lighting up with a flame burning from within. What we would like to wish one another is to have eyes and hearts to recognize everywhere and in spite of everything the presence of God’s love.”

Evolutionary Change

On Tuesday, we began the day with a beautiful liturgy provided by the U.S. Area. Then Sr. Tiziana introduced a DVD of part of an impressive presentation given by Franciscan Sister Ilia Delio at the Leadership Council of Women Religious (LCWR) meeting held recently. Sr. Ilia’s presentation began with a discussion of a theology, based upon the new cosmology, that places Christ as the center of all life – and as the source of all evolutionary change. Creation is an ongoing process: the God of Creation never stops creating...and we are invited to be God’s  co-creators. We live in an unfinished universe: therefore; life is not behind us but ahead of us. This calls all for us to trust that God’s love is the power that transforms. She reminded us of how mechanistically we are oriented, even in our treatment of one another and urges us to embrace Christogenesis: gathering Life unto life.

notedalcap 02Brazilian Sisters conferring in the Chapter Room notedalcap 03Sr. Arleen and Sr. Jeanne exchanging ideas

Following the DVD, participants at each small table discussed the impact this presentation had on them, and also what connections there are between Sr. Ilia’s presentation and the content we will be discerning at Chapter. Thursday the Chapter Body began another day of exploring both the meanings and applications of Sr. Ilia’s call to embrace Christogenesis as it relates to the work of this Chapter. On Wednesday, we elected members of the ‘writer’s group’ whose task it was to synthesize the works of the Chapter Body – and  then went on to consider the risks and benefits of relocating the General House from Brooklyn, NY to Rome, Italy.

Discernment, Discussion and a Gospel Choir

notedalcap 04Sr. Tiziana Merletti and Ruby Cribbin, our facilitatorThe following morning, the writer’s group presented the results of the Chapter Body’s discussion of the risks and benefits of relocation. What ensued was a lively discussion, followed by a non-binding ‘vote’ to ascertain the inclination of the Chapter to support Leadership’s recommendation  – or not, as the case may be.

On Friday morning, everyone returned to the Chapter Room to begin working on the various ‘Calls’ put forward by members and associates for the Chapter’s consideration. Our facilitator explained that a ‘Call’ is really a broad Congregational strategy proposed by members, adopted by the Chapter and implemented by the leadership. First the Members of each table ranked the Chapter Calls according to their order of priority. The final vote on whether or not the 14th General Chapter will support the recommendation took place on Friday afternoon when the Chapter overwhelmingly endorsed the recommendation.

We then went on to discuss the various Proposals:

notedalcap 05Sr. Adelaide with Jairo José da SilvaA. recommends that the ratio of Chapter Members be raised from 1:3 to 1:5;

B. suggests a new process for selecting Sister Auditors, but was considered too vague in its wording to be voted upon;

C. recommends that the interim period between election and installation of leadership, now no more than two months, be no more than three months;

D. recommends that Article 100 of the Constitutions be modified to allow Congregational Leadership the authority to establish the modalities appropriate to the selection of Members to the General Chapter.

Chapter Members asked multiple questions and asked for clarification of several points. However, the vote on each eligible Proposal will not take place before Sr. Tiziana explores with the Congregation’s canon lawyer, Sr. Sharon Holland, the ramifications of making any change in the Constitutions.

notedalcap 06Dancing with the Gospel ChoirOn Thursday evening we celebrated liturgy at 4:30 pm, led in song by the Sisters from Senegal. Following dinner, all Chapter participants congregated in the chapel for a great treat: the New All Saints Catholic Gospel Choir both entertained and energized us. Each person present felt the Spirit of this choir – and responded enthusiastically to their call, their rhythm and their energy! Some of the Sisters actually danced in the aisles! We ended the day with refreshments – and an opportunity to share some time and conversation with the Choir members.

After this intense week, Chapter participants enjoyed and appreciated having a free day on Saturday before returning to their challenges on Sunday. Some stayed at the Center and swam in the pool, walked the grounds and prayed in the chapel. Some went to Annapolis to visit the museums and take a harbor cruise. But 32 Sisters and Associates took a bus to Washington.


notedalcap 07The Chapter Participants

Published: September 3, 2013