We enter into the mystery of this place.
We awaken to the mystery of this time.
We claim the mystery of ourselves.
We delight in the mystery of each other.
We dwell in the mystery of our God.
In her presidential report, Sister Joan Elizabeth Cook, SC (Cincinnati) referred to the reflective song above, written by the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati, asking all to come together in song.
Sister Joan focused her report on the Futuring 2017 and Beyond document, saying it represents our evolving shared reality. She put a particular emphasis on the Federation Call:
“Energized by our mission and vision, our call as a federation is rooted in our commitment that we never do alone what we can do better together. Our desire is to deepen our relationships and inter-connectedness among federation congregations and within the Vincentian family and beyond. We, in our individual congregations, embrace this call as a frame of reference as we engage in our direction-setting. Acting as a whole, we celebrate our call to live into our shared future in a spirit of contemplation and prophetic action.”
Sister Joan called this the heart of the matter and the reason for our gathering. She went on to name the call’s two goals: deepening and widening our relationships among the federation and beyond, and to effect systemic change by addressing issues of social and ecological justice, particularly for those living in poverty and on the margins. She concluded by asking each participant to ask themselves: What invites me to go deeper?
Sister Peggy O’Neill, SC (Convent Station), brought her energy and lived experience to the keynote address, entitled “Love is the Answer.” She noted if she could have a subtitle to this address, she would have added: “These times beguile us with more questions than answers. We sisters know the answer is love, one life circulating in all.” Sister Peggy stated we are standing at the edge as congregations, open to new forms of incarnation. The Sisters of Charity have evolved to never stop evolving. She stressed everything is connected. We have the DNA of our creator. We live in each other and love passes through each other. We come from love and are moving toward a more inclusive love. Sister Peggy suggested the Family of Charity will continue to widen as we give ourselves away so that we can connect with others and God.
The morning concluded with table discussion focusing on Sister Peggy’s remarks. What lingers with me? What energized or challenged me? What do I wonder about that I want to explore with others?
Following lunch, attendees came together for an energetic, informative exercise: “Who’s in the room?” Assembly of the Whole attendees include representatives from nine different countries speaking 11 different languages. Participants traveled a total of nearly half a million miles to attend the assembly. The Sisters of Charity Federation is comprised of 2,650 sisters, with 1,900 Associates and affiliates from 14 congregations in 24 countries.
Next, a panel of reflectors came to the stage to share their observations from the morning session. Sisters Lisa Laguna, DC, (Los Altos), Vivien Linkhauer, SC (Seton Hill), and Rejane Cytacki, SCL, served as panelists. Sister Pat Kozak, CSJ, facilitated the conversation.
Sister Lisa, a vocation director, shared that two words resonated with her from Sister Peggy O’Neill’s talk: ”deeper and wider.” She notes that she has heard these words from two other speakers as well. She offered challenging insights regarding inclusion of those who are different and letting go of expectations that all assimilate into the dominant culture of our congregations.
Sister Vivien reflected that the imagery of the midwife led her to the realization that we must sometimes be patient just as an expectant mother is–that all things happen or come together in due time. Furthermore, we need to be attentive to God’s work and timing.
Sister Rejane commented on Sister Peggy’s remarks about evolution and change. She also agrees that love is a verb, that it is an action, and that women religious are all looking to find the common ground in the love of God.
Sister Pat encouraged panelists to share what they feel the federation is “on the edge of.” Responses included:
- The freedom to let go so that something else can come along
- The need to be able to step back and let someone else lead, including the intergenerational and associates
- The importance of being able to embrace otherness
Next participants engaged in small group discussions and some large group sharing.
Through the use of technology, Sister Sujita Kallupurakkathu gave a reflection on the day. She ended her reflection by sharing, “The center is God and the other, God and all of creation.” After citing the scripture, “love one another as I have loved you,” she reflected, “Look at the beautiful roots of your unstoppable charity.”
The day closed with liturgy. The beautiful Mass included a reflection led by Sister Adeline Fehribach, SCN.
Links to livestream videorecordings from the Assembly of the Whole:
Announcements and Opening Prayer
Friday President’s Report and Keynote Presentation
Celebrating Global Presence, Panel
Open Mic Sharing, Reflector Response
Link to more photos from the assembly: https://photos.app.goo.gl/A1RxostfPAxWw6pB8
Compiled by Sisters of Charity Federation Communicators