3 May 2012
Seventy Sisters, including our Leadership Team, gathered at High Leigh Conference Centre on Thursday afternoon, April 19, to continue the Chapter process. This was the first of two Pre-Chapter Gatherings. Ably and sensitively facilitated by Sr. Raymunda Jordan OP and assisted by Fr. Gabriel Zsidi, we were a good mix of Sisters representing every cluster which brought much wisdom to our discussions and deliberations.
Raymunda opened the proceedings reminding us of what we were about and called on Sr. Patricia to address the gathering. Patricia gave a heartfelt talk based on the theme of HOPE and this underpinned much of our thinking and deliberations over the next two days. We were recalled to this theme on a number of occasions and strengthened by it.
Our first evening ended with a reflective night prayer and all prayer times were truly inspiring with obvious thought and care having gone into the music, selected prayers etc which was aided by everything being displayed on two interactive white boards. The Liturgy team had met prior to the gathering and their thoughts and efforts reflected their serious preparation, while central to our gathering was the celebration of the Eucharist by Father Gabriel with a splendid reflection by Sr. Bernadette Duggan on Friday and homily by Fr. Gabriel on Saturday evening.
Both days were full with Raymunda reminding us of the main purpose of a Chapter as stated in our constitutions, as well as putting to us some tough questions such as ‘If Catherine were alive to-day would she found/refound the Mercy Order?’ ‘What are we doing with our smallness or continuing to do with our increasing smallness?’
‘Are we each a “fully paid up” member’?
Colette led us through the Chapter journey so far which began after the Chapter of 2008. Back at the podium Raymunda stated the two fundamental questions which had emerged from our responses submitted to her back in February: our mercy call and our response to it and our desire to move towards a fuller understanding of leadership at all levels and, in particular, participative leadership. Individual thought and prayer as well as group discussion and feed back were an integral part of our time together while Raymunda nudged us towards trying to create a back drop for the Chapter, asking us not to repeat what ‘we need to do’ but to consider the following:
What do we need now to move Mercy forward in the next five/ten years?
How do we need to move the thinking on for the next stage?
What kind of journey do we need to make over the next five/ten years in a changing Church/world so that we can remain authentic and relevant?
What is it Institute is asking a new Leadership team to be, to do?
What risks does the membership need to take on the journey over the next five years?
Our role model in terms of massive risk taking is Catherine McAuley and for the Dominicans Catherine of Siena – both of whom took massive risks.
Our Leadership team spoke of their experience of leadership in an honest, open and in some instances, moving manner which, though perhaps difficult for them, was immensely helpful to the gathering. Patricia and Anne took us back to the Constitutions and shared with us the helpful advice of a canon lawyer who reminded them, and in turn us, that our 1998 Constitutions hold the ‘patrimony’ and ways of making changes were explained which spurred us on to take out all copies, dust them, read them and send to the Leadership Team any suggestions/comments we might wish to make.
Experiences of the last Chapter were shared and provoked useful dialogue and food for thought as to how we might call people to leadership in 2013. Discussion took place regarding the number of delegates and throughout there was a reminder to consider/suggest a Chapter theme and symbol with some very interesting ones being submitted.
With much to think about and reflect upon, we returned to our respective communities on Sunday trying to hold all that was said or unsaid and trying to do so in the context of the words of Isaiah, ‘The Lord has given me a disciple’s tongue. So that I may know how to reply to the wearied he provides me with speech. Each morning he wakes me to hear, to listen like a disciple. The Lord has opened my ear.’ (Isaiah 50:4-5)
Sister Monica, Highfields, Derby