The following is from the Spring 2021 issue of VISION.
By Regina Bechtle, SC
“People are hungry, and one good word is bread for a thousand.” As David Whyte reminds us in his poem, “Loaves and Fishes,” and as many events of recent months attest, words matter.
The Sisters of Charity of New York recently completed a three-year process of reviewing and revising our Constitution and Directory, the documents that describe our life and mission. [Note: Timothy Cardinal Dolan formally approved these documents in the name of the Church in December 2020.]
We took a fresh look at the last revision (1984) and the words we used to speak about God, humankind, creation and the scope of the Congregation’s mission in light of new needs. This and subsequent articles will highlight some new and revised emphases.
At a December 2020 video-conference meeting of the Congregation, President Sr. Donna Dodge asked, “What call are we hearing during this season of a global pandemic? How can we best respond in Charity to promote justice? What new partnerships are being called forth at this time? What structures can we put in the service of Charity through our Boards, institutions, investments, prayers, and actions?”
Her questions impel us to imagine new and creative ways of collaboration.
Our 1984 documents recognized the need for partnerships with lay colleagues in ministry and welcomed them. Our statements consciously reflected the teaching of Vatican Council II that the laity are the church; the decisions and circumstances of the intervening decades have propelled us to put flesh on those words.
Today, Pope Francis repeatedly urges us by his deeds and words (see his 2020 encyclical Fratelli Tutti) to create networks of relationship and to enlarge our understanding of “we/us.” Lay leadership is now the norm rather than the exception in all our ministries.
Our revised 2020 Constitution and Directory build on and extend the 1984 statements. Following are some examples that express our beliefs and hopes about collaboration:
… Our Christian living is to be shared with the larger community of Church and society; in the measure of our sharing, the vitality of our community life is strengthened and renewed. (Constitution, Life in Community, #3.8, 1984 & 2020)
Recognizing that every Christian has a vocation to ministry, we work together with others to develop new channels to further the reign of God.….We also work with others to identify new needs and to advocate for changes in social, economic and environmental systems to improve the lives of the most vulnerable. (Constitution, Ministries, #5.3 & 5.5, 2020)
As we witness to our belief in the principles of Christian stewardship, we are often called to deeper conversion by the example of persons in all walks of life who are committed to living these same principles. (Constitution, Stewardship, #7.6, 2020)
Through the Associate Relationship program, the Congregation offers women and men who are committed to another state in life the opportunity to share in our charism and mission and to enrich us with their vision of Christian life… (Directory, Membership, #5.6, 1984 & 2020)
In addition to collaborations with our colleagues in ministry, other forms of relationship are available to those who wish to share our mission and community life, such as Companions in Charity, temporary residence and volunteer opportunities. (Directory, Membership, #5.7, 2020)
Associates in the United States, the Bahamas, and Guatemala serve on committees and task forces and live the mission of Charity in countless ways. Companions witness to the strength of community through their prayer and service.
Trustees, administrators and staff in SC ministries give 150% of their energy, seeking to provide compassionate and competent service, ensure fiscal stability and maintain a just workplace, all in the name of the mission of Charity. We celebrate them, outstanding lay leaders who shepherd the ministries that serve as the hands and feet of Charity for thousands.
To our staff at the Sisters of Charity Center, Mount Saint Vincent Convent and all our retirement and care facilities, we say a heartfelt “thank you, gracias, merci!”
In theory and increasingly in practice, may we recognize and celebrate the many ways that the circle of “we” and “us” keeps expanding—truly a sign of God’s creative Spirit in our day.