Chapter Circle 5

Contemplative Dialogue
Our Evolving Experience of Ourselves since the last Chapter

Chapter Circle 5

Contemplative Dialogue

Contemplative dialogue is a practice that engages us in seeing not only the whole but also seeing from the whole. It is the recognition of our interdependence and engages us in the good and sometimes hard work of opening ourselves to other ways of seeing than our usual patterns allow. 

Download a copy of the Contemplative Dialogue explained

Song -- A Deer's Cry A Sacred Motet by Arvo Pärt
Reading -- Seeding and Cultivating the Future -- From Living a Reflective Life by Otto Scharmer

From our conversation what do we want to share with our sisters?

Chapter Circle 5 Responses

Chapter Circle 1

Due to aging and diminishing numbers we –individually and congregationally –can understand “breaking down” as similar to the society’s current reality; but we also see the seeds within that process. Those seeds show themselves in the shift that has occurred in our inner space—achieved chiefly through our contemplative dialogue practice. Further, these past years have seen us acting more collaboratively, not only within our own congregation but also within the broader community. Experiencing this pandemic most likely will also help us improve our awareness of the needs of our home, Earth, and will provide more readiness to see the worth of focusing on applying our charism there—as encouraged by “Laudato Si.”

Chapter Circle 2

As we shared our experiences and insights gained since our last chapter and especially during recent months, we sensed a contemplative spirit among us, an openness to the unfolding of the future. In many ways we have lived on the edge of something new our whole religious lives. Yet, we recognize this crisis time as a time of great potential. It is a time for patience, reflection and prayer. We are called to deep contemplative listening to our inner selves, one another and what’s happening in all creation. Acknowledging our limitations in what we can DO, we realize the great gift our prayer and our loving presence can be in our world. We want to support efforts for a more just and peaceful world whose seeds are even now being nurtured.

Chapter Circle 3

Chapter Circle 4

We found the article life-giving, prophetic, helpful and hopeful. The radical difference in our demographics since the last Chapter was noted. With COVID-19 everything has changed. 
Society itself is radically different – as we go forward the truly important must be the focus.
We will embrace the challenges of this historical moment just as we faced challenges of the past, knowing our lives will never be the same when this is over. We wonder what the financial implications of COVID-19 might be. The zoom calls help us know one another, appreciate the present moment, prepare for and engage in a totally unexpected virtual General Chapter. We felt the movement of the Spirit as each person was heard and affirmed.

Chapter Circle 5

Beginning with our shared experiences of living in a Covid-19 atmosphere be it in isolation, alone or with others, managing work from home, creatively sharing life together, we found that “We are in an age of uncertainty; our world is upside down”. Yet we are very blessed in many ways living simply, needing little and drawing on one another in community.

Some examples were shared of how small local efforts even by one person can grow into wider and more global reaches. Local builds on local and grows until we cannot hold it back. We noted too that environmental changes have happened. The visual reports of changes in the atmosphere are helping our planet. The earth is getting a rest. God has asked us all to slow down and pay attention to what is really important in our lives, locally and globally.

The article, Living a Reflective Life, Dr. Otto Scharmer, also gave us much to ponder in relation to who we are becoming as Sisters of Charity today. Given that many of us are seniors and more vulnerable to the Covid-19 virus, it changes our perspective about the world, the congregation and our history. 

We know our history, our Mission and one another; we have good and caring leadership, keeping a focus and direction at this time. We are learning anew that we are rooted in our Mission of Charity, the essence and be-ing of who we are, without some of the activity directed services we give as ministry. A great challenge for many is to serve without the ‘to-do’ list, calling us back to WHO I am called to be. How do I embody being a Sister of Charity now?

 This becoming is our strength as a congregation. We move ahead with openness and uncertainty. This may be a new phase for us now, but not a totally new process. We have moved through different expressions of our life and have met the impasse before. We have moved toward a new future before believing that God is already there, waiting for us.

We are becoming as Sisters of Charity more compassionate, able to listen to the cry of the new poor among us, supporting one another and learning new ways of being together.  We are developing closer relationships with the laity with whom we serve, worship and share life. We support them and have confidence in their witness to God’s love in their lives of faith and service.

We are learning that leadership belongs to all of us, involves all of us. In communion with elected leaders, we move into deep listening together with the Spirit, allowing the creative presence of God lead us. This is a new way to be together. We have no model to follow, no control panel, no idea for the future, but it’s alright. In this upside down time of uncertainty, we rely on God’s inner peace as Sisters called to love by be-ing love to each other and to all we are called to serve. The Mission will continue, however we choose to embody it. Whatever happens, God is there – “already”.

Chapter Circle 6

What is our radical response at this time of disruption, flowing out of our vulnerability and authenticity as Sisters of Charity?  How are we being pulled out of our comfort zones to be in mission today and tomorrow? We are all interconnected and called to reach out to embrace the spirit of hospitality and communion anew. 

Chapter Circle 7

What do we want to share with our sisters:

  • Listen to the feelings and to who we are; then we will KNOW our direction.
  • The Spirit is with us; even as we age, we are planting seeds.
  • Listening to our gut feelings to help know our direction is new for us.
  • Support, encourage, mentor upcoming leaders for 2026.=
  • Support and love for one another will help us through.
  • Gratitude for our heritage and leadership, past and present.

Feelings re changing from face-to-face Chapter to virtual:

  • Half the group expressed disappointment, because
  • Weston is the site of old train station where many entered; McNab’s can be seen in the distance.
  • The informal talking was almost as good as the formal sessions, sometimes as good.
  • Chance to revisit Halifax and people there.
  • The drive getting there was lovely.
  • Possibility of a band reunion.
  • Relief (no need to travel)
  • Gratitude that we have Zoom technology and people who know how to use it.
  • Ambiguity as to whether the much-appreciated common-mindedness that we are sometimes blessed with in face-to-face settings will be present via technology.
  • Acceptance: Zoom is the tool God has given us for the now reality; it is the best situation possible.

Chapter Circle 8

We are connecting more deeply with the source of stillness as we experience ourselves as part of a much larger reality living positively and with hope. We see the seeds of the new emerging as we deepen and embrace relationships of all kinds.  The Chapter Prayer was written for this time.

Chapter Circle 9

There was a deep sense of living in a very different time right now.  Systems are breaking down everywhere bringing light to what is broken and making ever more visible poverty, homelessness and oppression.  What is our response to those who live in poverty at this time continues to be a challenge for us.  We ourselves are challenged to a new way of being calling for a deeper quality of listening.  Contemplative prayer has been helpful to both see and move toward what is being called of us.  Contemplative prayer will continue to be an important part of delving into our collective knowing and being.

Chapter Circle 10

Our call is to model a way of being in the world.  We recognize that the Spirit of God is alive and well moving within us and helping us.  We have been in the midst of a long cycle of change which can be exciting, hopeful and transformative.  Through our process of deep listening, we touched upon our commonality as we move forward.  We are sensing a future wanting to begin.  We recognize that we carry the seeds of this future within us.    An integral and important part of our process is to plant and cultivate the seeds of the future.  How we do this and where we do this is the challenge. 

Chapter Circle 11

Our experience of ourselves since last Chapter.
We have an evolving sense of:
– oneness
– awareness
– inter-dependence
– collaboration
– the seeds of the future are among/within us, yet to be found.
– more appreciation of others (first responders etc.)

Chapter Circle 12

We began with Otto Scharmer’s article noting that his statement that he expected “the world to be changed in another year or two” might have seemed theoretical before our experience of the Covid crisis. Changes over the past couple of months have been monumental. And, some of them have been positive: cleaner environments around the world, families spending more time together, appreciation for frontline workers.

Who are we becoming as Sisters of Charity? The focus on contemplation, contemplative dialogue and deep listening over the past number of years has led to a growing respect for one another. Also, the four movements (globalization, forced migration, climate change and technology) identified at the last assembly have had an impact on us. We are becoming increasingly aware of globalization and climate change. Some of our Sisters are addressing issues of forced migration, and all of us are becoming more comfortable with electronic media.

Chapter Circle 13

In light of the current challenges in this pandemic as we prepare for our Chapter…. our circle reflected on and discussed walking into an unknown future with openness, hope, trust, faith and love, strengthening community connections personally and through technology, letting go of old structures, accepting the challenges of embracing “the emerging new” with continued awareness of local and global needs, and affirming the gifts for service seen in the youth of today, as we continue to cultivate and sow seeds and continue our connections with the Federation, LCWR , CRC, USIG, etc.

Chapter Circle 14

Together, we have individually and collectively changed.  This change is evidenced by:  our embracing our reality, listening more attentively, inclusion, collaboration, acceptance and learning from one another.
Our experience of the pandemic is causing us to see that what we experience particularly is also a universal experience.  This experience is also making more evident the plight of persons on the margins (eg homeless, incarcerated, refugees) and is calling us anew to right relationships.

Chapter Circle 15

We spent time sharing how our lives have been and will continue to be affected by the pandemic. We understood the need for a virtual chapter. Concerns were expressed about the technological issues that will arise during the chapter itself. Desire to stay connected in our new normal. Person meetings lead to better communication.

Experiences since last chapter that influenced us were the contemplative dialogue process around Laudate SI, with ourselves, parishes, and retreats led to much awareness, which impelled us to make changes in choices for locally-grown food and growing food ourselves as some examples.

We have cultivated community virtually, with other congregations , with other faiths, with the federation and with ourselves, around important issues.

We are frailer and fewer, but more flexible, closer with each other, more authentic, more open about our emotions and more resilient.

Chapter Circle 16

This moment has given us an opportunity to see and appreciate deeply so many aspects of living:

  • nurturing a relationship,
  • caring for someone,
  • doing simple things that we used to take for granted,
  • knowing the importance of simple gestures,
  • realizing that what we do, matters.

Chapter Circle 17

Sharing with the whole:

  • We experienced a deepening quality of listening. We affirm the need for stillness.
  • We were enveloped in wonder. “I wonder if… “ We wonder when..” (wonder as a verb.) The wonder of creation.. the wonder a child brings to the world.. (wonder as a noun)
  • We felt the value of interaction with each other, that stretches into interaction with the whole world
  • We heard a sense of hope and compassion; hope for the future and compassion for the suffering around us day in and day out.
  • We have an awareness of what is happening to us and to the world, which evokes trust and the need to trust that God is in all of it.

Chapter Circle 18

We all commented upon how insightful and timely the Scharmer article was in light of our experience in living through this pandemic. As we reflected upon our experience as a Congregation since our last Chapter, we are aware that we are smaller, more frail, more connected and more interdependent. Given the uncertainty of this moment in time, we do not know what the future will look like. However, we approach it by being reflective, embracing the quiet, valuing our relationships and rooted in the Pascal Mystery.

Chapter Circle 19

Circle 19 members agreed that we have sensed the movement of the Spirit among us in the following ways:

1. As we recognize that our identity comes from a deep place within;

2. As we grow in understanding of how our mission is nurtured by quiet contemplation;

3. As we appreciate the gift of openness, spontaneity and willingness to share that has grown among us over these past months together.

Chapter Circle 20

How do I/we respond with our own uniqueness, gifts to the challenges of our Universe, of our evolving world in the HERE and NOW?

How do I/ we strive to colour that LOVE that cannot be contained in my MIDST?

Chapter Circle 21

As human beings these days of the pandemic have given us a growing awareness of the needs of others. In our own vulnerabilities we are more sensitized to the cries of the poor around us.

In this turning point of churchlessness we are encouraged to rethink how the priesthood of the baptized must be actualized.

Chapter Circle 22

The article on “Reflective Living” offered insights to many in the group who not only read it themselves but saw it as valuable to share with others. Some words that were repeated by a group members were living simply and in the present moment, keeping a balance of being and doing, acting locally while keeping the needs of those around the globe in view, doing what we can where we are.

In the time of corona virus the hidden gifts have been having time to reflect,to meet people in the neighborhood as they are walking, and holding all others intentionally in thought and prayer.

Our evolving experience has been an appreciation of deep listening, trusting our own and others experience and an awakening of hope.

Caritas Chapter Circles

We are becoming
more aware of our connection with everything that is,
of connecting Earth with people, of being part of the whole world
more aware of the importance of small things in the big picture.
more accepting of differences, willing to let people be whoever they are
more prayerful, more thoughtful
better listeners – to each other, to our own hearts
more compassionate – to others, to ourselves
more really Christian
more hopeful of going forward
more open to other ways, to co-operation with other groups

And so, conversely, we are becoming
less judgmental
less rigid in our expectations of others and ourselves
less selfish
less competitive
less inclined to see our way, either personal or congregational, as the only way

Wellesley Chapter Circle A

Wellesley Chapter Circle B