By Regina Bechtle, SC
Though the Sisters of Charity of New York and our associates are justifiably proud of our New York roots, we, like Elizabeth Ann Seton, consider ourselves to be “citizens of the world.” Our sisters and associates in Guatemala and The Bahamas continually expand our vision to the wider world and planet and remind us of our vast and deep connections.
SCNY President Sr. Donna Dodge experienced the power of this worldwide interconnection at the Plenary Assembly of the International Union of Superiors General (UISG) in Rome, held May 2–6. Sr. Donna joined over 500 leaders of women’s congregations from 60 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, the Americas and Oceania. Simultaneous translation was provided in 12 different languages; members gathered in language groups for discussions.
The current topic, “Embracing Vulnerability on the Synodal Journey,” reflects the realities faced by many congregations: aging members, fewer new vocations, members and ministries affected by the pandemic, war, climate change and regional divisions. At the Assembly, speakers and leaders shared experiences of vulnerability and their response to it, in the spirit of “synodal communion” that Pope Francis is encouraging the whole Church to embrace.
The assembly’s theme points to the truth that “when you embrace vulnerability, when you listen deeply, when you walk beside others, you are called to change,” according to Sr. Patricia Murray, UISG executive secretary of UISG. Upon her return, Sr. Donna commented, “This was an amazing opportunity to listen to and interact with sisters from all over the world. The energy and hope in the room was palpable. There is little doubt that religious life is not coming to an end. I am grateful to have had this extraordinary experience.”
After the Assembly, which included an audience with Pope Francis, Sr. Donna and her travel companions—several other leaders of SC Federation congregations—took the opportunity to spend several days in Florence (a place visited in 1804 by Elizabeth Ann Seton, newly widowed, at a time of her own vulnerability).
Part of the Assembly, an event held every three years, were two online meetings in March and April and another to come in July. UISG has 1,903 members whose generalates are in 97 countries.