The Sisters of Charity of New York, the Sisters of Charity of Saint Elizabeth, N.J., and their associates met at Mount Saint Vincent on Saturday, December 11 for a joyous day of prayer, reflection, and fellowship.
The sisters from New Jersey arrived by bus in the morning. Following greetings and coffee, the activity shifted to the opening celebration in Smith Hall. The meeting highlighted “Humility, Simplicity, and Charity,” the Vincentian virtues that were planted in the two congregations from the earliest days.
Sr. Donna Dodge welcomed all to the Mount, pointing out the beautiful setting on the Hudson River and views of New Jersey, the history of the campus, and specific locations such as the cemetery, the SCNY Center, and the convent.
S. Ellen Dauwer, SC-NJ, offered the opening prayer. Sr. Mary Mc Cormick, SC-NY, and S. Noreen Holly, SC-NJ, then told the story of the Vincentian virtues through the personae of Mother Elizabeth Boyle, the first Mother General of the Sisters of Charity of New York, and Mother Xavier, founder of the Sisters of Charity of Saint Elizabeth. Sr. Regina Bechtle, SC-NY, spoke about the power of creating new stories. She invited those assembled to first spend a few quiet moments reflecting on images of the virtues and then to share with those at their table about how the virtues are “alive” in their experience.
Over 180 attended the music-filled celebration of the Eucharist in the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception. Sr. Mary Ann Daly, SC-NY, delivered an inspiring reflection on the Annunciation, challenging those in attendance to understand the Spirit in new ways. She recalled the time when she was attending meetings with the New Jersey sisters when she saw a display of images of the Annunciation in their chapel. Most of the images were conventional, in a European way, she reflected, but she was struck by a “Yo, Mary!” depiction in one picture. The image portrayed an African woman sitting in her kitchen that was suddenly in disarray. Something had clearly surprised her. Sr. Mary Ann said she now sees this image as “the real Annunciation.”
The Spirit makes us bigger, Sr. Mary Ann said, and when we least expect us, the Spirit changes us. She continued, “Spirit breaks our illusion of control and leads us to a place where we can say ‘Yes.’” We always see things anew. “Though we renew our vows annually, we’re always different,” she reflected. What Mary teaches us is “that we can never definitely say who we are.” Sr. Mary Ann explained why Mary visited Elizabeth, whose life was also changed. We must find others, like Elizabeth, who understand our experiences.
After the reflection, S. Maureen Shaughnessy, General Superior, SC-NJ, invited the Sisters of Charity of Elizabeth to renew their vows. Sr. Donna Dodge, President, SCNY, invited her sisters to renew their vows. The Sisters then invited their respective associates to renew their commitments. Sisters and associates in Guatemala joined and renewed via Zoom. Rev. John Duffell presided.
Following Mass, the Sisters and Associates enjoyed a buffet lunch. Then, it was time to say goodbye, for now, to the sisters across the river. The two congregations will hold a joint assembly in 2023.
The charism of Charity of the two congregations was alive and well. Sr. Donna Dodge, said of the day, “The gathering of sisters and associates was truly a spectacular event from beginning to end. The energy in the room was palpable and it was the clear that not only the Holy Spirit was present but also Mother Elizabeth Boyle and Mother Xavier. They would be proud of us!”
S. Maureen Shaughnessy was equally enthusiastic, ““The day was superb! From beginning to end we were ‘at home.’ Thanks to all who made it possible. As Father John said, ‘East meets West’ — an historic event!”