Reflecting back on the Irish Provincial Chapter gives us the opportunity to recall our experience and share it with the rest of the congregation. We gathered in Emmaus, Swords on Tuesday the 23rd April on a bright sunny afternoon and the Provincial Team greeted us as we arrived. 69 of us were present for the Chapter.
After settling in we had our Opening Ritual and we processed to the sacred space of the Chapter room. As we did so, we were asked to reflect silently on the question: “Where is God leading me this week?” A beautiful arrangement of cloths formed the ‘path’ to the sacred space where we were blessed with holy water, wrote our personal desires for the Chapter and asked God’s blessing on us in the days to come.
Sr. Una gave her opening address and completed the Chapter formalities. She then welcomed Cora Lambert and Ruth Barror as Facilitators and Deirdre Seaver as Liturgist.
Our Liturgies were very blest. On the first morning Fr. John Bennett MSC led us in an extended, reflective Eucharistic celebration. A keen gardener, Fr. John told us of his upset when he noticed a crack in a lovely ceramic pot he had which contained a beautiful African lily. Initially he was focussed on the crack that spoiled the pot but then he realized the crack was caused by the plant outgrowing the pot. This, he pointed out, could be a powerful metaphor for what goes on in our personal and Congregational lives. Instead of spending time looking at the crack and bemoaning it, we are invited to turn our attention instead to the realization that the crack is caused by the growth of the roots and the blooming of the plant.
On the following two days Fr. Paul Callan celebrated Mass for us in the Edmund Rice Chapel. His presence and his words were a blessing.
The days proceeded as planned in the timetable. We had the presentation of the Provincial Team Report for the past 6 years. The Report portrayed a rich tapestry of all in which we are engaged. This was followed by discussion on the following question: “From listening to the Provincial Leadership Team report and the conversations before lunch, what is important to record and bring forward into the work of the New Dawn?” After table discussion the following topics were identified for further exploration and action:
Expand the Vision, New and Emerging Ministries, Care of the Sisters, Care of the Earth, Human Trafficking, Letting go, Legacy, Communications, Sustainability, Collaboration, Laity.
Each Sister chose the theme that appealed most to her. Then working in small groups, we drafted our responses to the themes. As we move into the ‘new dawn’, our prayer is that we will have the courage to take the risks involved in our future Ministry journey.
During the Chapter we had some time for relaxation with a musical evening in the company of Simon Morgan and friends who entertained us with some lovely singing, which we all enjoyed. Each evening after supper we spent social time together and had a singalong for those who wanted it.
The evening before the election of the delegates to the General Chapter we had a session reminding us of the voting procedures and the Role of a Delegate. This was followed by a time of Prayer and Discernment during which we were invited to allow the Spirit to guide all in the decisions that would be taken the following day.
The Province Financial Report was presented by Sr. Colette Wills Provincial Bursar, Neil Morris Chief Financial Officer and our auditors from PwC. In her opening address Sr. Colette reminded us that we are contemplatives in action and she quoted words from Joan Chittister “contemplation is a sacred mindfulness of our holy obligation to care for the world we live in” and called on all of us to continue our Stewardship in the light of new laws and regulations required by the Charity Regulator. It was stated that transparency and the responsibility of the Trustees and of each Sister is very important. The Financial Report was very comprehensive and enlightening. This session finished with a very beautiful DVD, ‘Journey through Space’ accompanied by Karl Jenkins’ Benedictus. It reminded us that our Stewardship includes ‘Care of the Earth’. Sr. Úna thanked Sr. Colette and all who presented the Finance Report and all in the Bursar’s Office for the work they do on our behalf.
During the Chapter we considered and reflected on the ‘Bond of Union’ and the ‘Community, Care of Sisters’ in the light of the following question: ‘What would you like Leadership to keep in mind, as they continue the Rationalisation process in the next six years?’ We then had the opportunity to respond and our responses were collated for further discussion and implementation after the Chapter.
In the final session we were invited to move into a time of quiet and to reflect on Mary Aikenhead’s belief that “The Congregation will flourish when I am gone”. What does the word ‘flourish’ mean to us? Having reflected on the question, we shared in small groups and appreciated the diversity in which the word ‘flourish’ was understood.
In her Closing Address, Sr. Úna thanked the staff of Emmaus for their welcome and hospitality and for looking after us so well. She then thanked the facilitators Cora Lambert and Ruth Barror, who did an excellent job with such great appreciation for us as RSC’s; our Liturgist, Deirdre Seaver, for her creative work on the Liturgies which were so prayerful and meaningful; Sr. Mary Therese Meaney our Chapter Secretary, Sr. Jane Forde Holy Faith Sister, our Recording Secretary. She thanked all the Groups and those who helped with the preparatory work, the Delegates for their participation at the Chapter and all the Sisters at home for their prayerful support. ‘Pray, Reflect, Consult’ truly came to life.
Sr. Anne Kennedy, on behalf of the Delegates, thanked Sr. Úna and her Team for all they did to prepare for the Chapter, for their attention to detail, for the calm spirit of trust that permeated the work throughout our days in Emmaus and for the blessing they are to the Province. Needless to say, they received a standing ovation from the Delegates!
Our Closing Ritual, was a fitting end to the grace filled days of our Chapter. As we now move towards the General Chapter, we were commissioned in the words of the poet Rilke quoted during the Closing Ritual to ‘go and do heart work’, embrace the New Dawn and continue the journey in the spirit and faith of Mary Aikenhead.