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September 7, 2013


Gathering at the Bridge and Walking Toward the Future Together

decdirnuo 01Centerpieces of the Chapter Theme created by BrazilThe final week of the 14th General Chapter of the Franciscan Sisters of the Poor was busy indeed! When the Members entered the Chapter Room for morning prayer on Sunday, September 1, 2013, they could see that it was a new day: the Brazilian Area had created lovely centerpieces with the Chapter theme for each table. And they quickly noticed that their tables had been relocated so that those in the back were now in the front and those in the center were now on the sides – a physical change of position and perception!

These adjustments were followed by an International Liturgy, after which all Chapter participants were asked to gather at ‘the bridge’ for an official group photograph.
After the pictures were taken, it was time for lunch, and then we all returned to the Chapter room to work. Our facilitator, Ruby Cribbin, first asked us to respond to two questions: “What can we affirm about our time together?” And “What can we do better or what do we need to pay attention to?” There was time for reflection and sharing before table facilitators turned in the responses which were then given to the Chapter Planning Committee.  This feedback was to be shared with the Chapter Body the next morning.

Invoking the Holy Spirit and Direction Setting

After a short break, we all sang “Come, Holy Spirit” and Ruby led the Members into an Open Nominations session, which resulted in two new nominees. In turn, nominees also were offered an opportunity to withdraw their names by Monday morning if they had a good reason for doing so.
decdirnuo 02Associates share their visionOn Monday, the Writer’s group reported four alternative one line Direction statements – which the Chapter Body discerned, discussed and dissected until the vast majority of Members felt that the Direction Statement they agreed upon was both clear and inspirational. As a sign of unity and communal affirmation, all the Sisters stood and recited the Chapter Direction in her own language.

With the Direction set, it was then possible to adopt and prioritize the Chapter Calls: i.e., the action statements that translate the Direction into concrete reality.  The Sisters already had accepted two of the Calls, numbers 4 and 5. However there was a great deal of discussion and discernment about whether or not the Chapter should commit the Congregation to anything. Ruby reminded us several times that each Call would require tangible expression that not only commits resources, but also time and energy. Nonetheless the Chapter Body voted to adopt three Calls (4, 5 and 8) which will be officially shared within the Acts of the Chapter.

We then went on to determine the Chapter Members’ response to various proposals. Sr. Tiziana updated the Chapter Body about her discussions with the Congregation’s Canon lawyer, Sr. Sharon Holland, related to some of the content of the proposals. After considerable discussion, the Chapter voted to retain the current method of selecting Chapter Members (by a ratio of 1 member for every 3 Sisters).
Monday ended with Liturgy, and Tuesday was designated as a silent day of discernment and prayer in preparation for the election decisions for new Congregational Leadership in the following days.  However, at 4:00 pm, Chapter participants gathered to hear further discernment from the nominees, a few of whom decided to withdraw their names. The nominees gathered with the current leadership team for some mutual exchange to use as a part of their discernment process.
The day began with communal prayer and then personal and private prayer and discernment, and ended with liturgy.

Prayerful Selection of New Leadership

decdirnuo 03The new Leadership for the next five years

Wednesday began with a liturgy to the Holy Spirit, after which all Chapter Members, Auditors and Guests entered the Chapter Room and engaged in communal prayer before the nominees for Congregational Minister addressed the group. After each nominee shared their experiences, gifts, skills and needs, the facilitator provided time for silent reflection. When all the nominees were finished speaking, they left the room while Members formulated questions for them.
decdirnuo 07Bishop Madden celebrates Liturgy with usWhen the nominees were called back into the room, each answered the questions addressed to her. And then nominees, auditors and guests were excused, and Members discussed the various nominees’ strengths and gifts. When the Chapter Body concluded their discussions, all returned, and the voting took place. Sister Licia Mazzia was elected Congregational Minister – and a very happy group of Sisters took a well-deserved lunch break.

After lunch, they returned to the Chapter Room and entered the same process to elect First and Second Councilors. At the end of the day, Sr. Marvi Delrivo was elected First Councilor and Sr. Giannica Selmo, Second Councilor. At this point, a tired but jubilant Chapter Body retired to eat, rest and prepare for the elections to follow on Thursday.

Thursday morning, the day began bright and beautiful – and busy! – as the process used Wednesday was applied to the election of all the CCAs: Sr. Marilyn Trowbrige was elected CCA of the U.S. Area; Sr. Marina Triglia was elected CCA of the Italian Area; Sr. Maria Helena Carvalho, CCA of the Brazilian Area – and for the first time ever, a native Senegalese – Sr. Marie Augustine Ndione – was elected CCA of the Senegalese Area!

We were all still celebrating when Ruby reminded us that a special liturgy, celebrated by Bishop Dennis Madden, specifically for the new leadership, was about to begin!
It was an International Liturgy, so songs were sung in each of the languages, and the music included organ, guitar and drums. The Sisters were so joyful and full of life, that the Bishop actually joined them in a dancing procession around the Chapel.

decdirnuo 04Celebration of the richness of our Internationality

decdirnuo 05Sr. Tiziana and the tellers burning the ballotsSr. Tiziana and the tellers left to burn the ballots in a traditional ceremony as the majority went to a celebratory dinner. Bishop Madden enjoyed the Sisters’ joyful spirit so much that he stayed for the festive dinner afterwards. The New Leadership will be installed on December 1, 2013, but the joy-filled welcoming celebration was held on Thursday Evening, September 5th. The entertainment committee, ably assisted by members of the various Areas and Mission, presented dances and songs that were typical of their own cultures – and naturally, everyone joined them! The Brazilian Sisters led us in song and dance, followed by Sisters from Aachen who led us in song...then the Italian Sisters taught us how to perform a Maori dance of celebration in all four languages, and the Americans had great fun teaching the rest of the Sisters and Associates how the ‘Hokey Pokey’ ought to be done!

14th General Chapter Concludes

Friday morning, we participated in another International Liturgy, which we completed with small, colorful lights held in hand as we again danced in procession around the Chapel. The meeting reconvened at 9:30 am when Members approved the final Minutes with a few minor changes, and then the Communications Committee shared a video of a selection of the photos taken during the weeks of Chapter. Ruby asked each of us to spend a few quiet moments thinking about the things we are most grateful for and to share them with the people at our table. We were each asked to ritualize our commitment to the Chapter direction by finding a ‘partner’ and sharing our commitment with them. As part of the ritual, each participant was asked to burn incense and leave blessings on the land and on those who would visit the Retreat Center in the future.

decdirnuo 06Signing of the ActsSr. Tiziana shared some announcements, and then called Sr. Luciosa who thanked her and the Chapter Body for the external and internal experiences of the Healing Energy of Christ ...which she will bring back and share with the Sisters in Aachen. Sr. Tiziana thanked all those behind the scenes that had made the Chapter possible. Then Chapter Members thanked Sr. Tiziana for many years of dedicated vision, followed by a standing ovation. Then Sister Tiziana spoke of the transitional nature of this Chapter and the challenges inherent in times of transition. Each Chapter Member was called by name to sign the Acts of the Chapter, after which Sister Tiziana declared the 14th General Chapter of the Franciscan Sisters of the Poor closed.

The official Acts of the Chapter will be forthcoming following the needed translations. The Acts will include the Direction, Calls, Outcome of the Proposals and Recommendation.



Published: September 11, 2013