Written on: March 3, 2023
Catholic religious communities ordinarily have a meeting they call a “Chapter” every several years. They elect representatives from the congregation to review the last few years of their lives, hear reports from their leadership about what has happened and been accomplished relative to their mission and charism. They also look toward the next several years and consider how the Holy Spirit is calling them to respond to the needs of the world in the context of their communal reality.
We Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart held the first session of our Chapter on February 9th and 10th. Forty Sisters represented the congregation. Sister Margaret O’Brien, OSU, an Ursuline Sister from Long Island, facilitated our meetings. Our Co-Executive Directors, Debbie Adams and Marianne Kitzmiller, as well as three Grey Nun observers, also attended the meeting.
The Laudato Si Committee of the community prepared centerpieces for the ten tables we used, focusing on our congregation’s commitment to care for Earth, her resources and her people. They also provided remembrance of the twenty-four Grey Nuns who have died since 2017, when we prepared for the last Chapter. At the beginning of our meeting, Sister Joan Elias provided us with an explanation of the symbolism of the elements making up the centerpieces. (See below)
This February meeting’s primary goal was to complete discussions we have been having with the whole congregation regarding governance changes. Such changes require approval from Rome since they will change our Constitutions and Directives, that is, our congregation’s official rulebook. Changes in our demographics have led us to recognize that we do not need as many Sisters in central leadership and that we should shift from the five-year term previously mandated to a three-year term. Delegates prayed together, and reflected silently as well as in small group discussion. Always the question was “What will best serve the mission God has called us to live?”
After voting to elect three rather than four leadership council members and to reduce the term of the president and leadership council members from five years to three, the delegates reviewed the process suggested by the Chapter Planning Committee for nominating and electing new leadership. Having made the additions and changes recommended by the delegates, they affirmed the process, which will culminate at our Chapter session in May. In May the current leaders will give a report on their five years of service to the congregation. Between now and then, each Sister is invited to review the last five years of her own living out of the mission and charism of the Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart and how God may be calling her as a member of this community in the future.
St. Francis reminds us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us. Earth sustains and governs us. The centerpieces on your tables serve as reminders of this to us:
The Globe – Mother Earth; Our People– black, white, yellow, indigenous; holding hands, in solidarity, protecting and caring for our common home and one another; Fruits, vegetables and legumes- the bounty of the earth, our daily sustenance; Grass, plants, flowers– bring beauty to our lives as they aerate soil, add organic matter, sequester carbon in roots which helps reduce carbon dioxide, capture and filter pollutants. Baskets – woven from wicker (made from broken branches and reeds), Pine needles and raffia (made from palm branches); Use your imagination to picture water and animals! Candles– represent Jesus, our Light! The sun, moon, and galaxy, lighting our way in the darkness. Finally, scattered around the centerpiece are small pieces of paper which bear the names of our dear Sisters who have died since 2018. Many of them sat at tables with us at Chapter 2018. VIEW PHOTOS HERE>>