Chapter Circle 6

Contemplative Dialogue

Our Evolving Experience of Our Place in the World

Chapter Circle 6

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

There is a Time -- Linnea Good

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

Chapter Circle 6 Responses

Chapter Circle 1

We listed many changes since last Chapter. When identifying what is essential for chapter we said that as we die, the seeds of the future are being sown for our legacy into the future. This process requires an internal conversion or transformation that will broaden and deepen our communion beyond our own congregation, beginning with Federation. We expect that these ZOOM chats will continue enabling us to engage in confronting and accepting our differences, and especially our dominance as a race. We want to continue focusing on justice but now as a re-generation by sharing our gifts and vulnerabilities. As we commit to further learning, we will grow in our understanding of the root cause of all current issues (racism, climate change etc) as interconnected.

Chapter Circle 2

We had a rich sharing about all that has impacted us since 2014: the pandemic, our growth in the use of technology, the Federation of the Whole, Laudato Si, watching the murder of George Floyd, worldwide demonstrations, the mass killing in Nova Scotia in May, global migrations, natural disasters, our aging and decreasing numbers, the shut down of churches and ministries.

It is clear to us now that our congregation won’t continue as it is. It is also clear that our Church needs to be different. The pandemic has taught us that it is possible to live a simpler life, with less travel, and fewer mindless trips to shop, with greater awareness of our interrelation with all people and all creation.

We think it’s essential that we rethink the living of our mission – given limitations of age and energy – in light of what we are learning about realities in our world. How will I/we respond to present reality? In lifestyle decisions? In simple kindness and outreach – where we are – as we are able? In educating ourselves?

Technology is a sign of hope that we can stay connected and have unity among us. We need to be willing to take risks and to trust our leaders.

Chapter Circle 3

Chapter Circle 4

As we move towards the October General Chapter we are well aware the backdrop for our on-going deliberations is the pandemic and racial crises facing the entire global community.

As the chapter prayer so succinctly states:
Love unfolding,
Gather us in communion.
Move us to wonder and gratitude
at the wide world and all people.
Open us to the blessings and challenges of encounter and diversity….

This outward mission focus is essential to our chapter conversations, as we address the structural adaptations our present and future congregational reality may call for. While we actively engage in this creative process we continue to entrust that future and ourselves to God – just as the concluding words of the chapter prayer remind us:

Encourage us as agents of hope to move fearlessly into tomorrow.
Be with us, Wisdom, Compassion, Love and Understanding.

Chapter Circle 5

1A. Between 2014 and now, we experienced:
• Covid-19 pandemic which opened up new areas of awareness:
o Crisis in health care with a disparity of available service and supplies, especially in health care facilities and nursing homes
o Sharper awareness of being part of a global community; sharing a common experience and responsibility
o Value of good education in new approaches
o Collapse of our economy; job loss; effects on families, ministries, the Church
• Awareness of cultural differences in current racism protests; a 400 year old sin among us
• Call to help the refugees at the US border; dire conditions of refugee camps worldwide
• Laudato Si document re seriousness of a holistic universal response to climate change for the sake of our planet
• Federation Assembly of the Whole inviting all of us to greater collaboration with the Vincentian Family
• Annual Assemblies, especially on the Time of the Troubles, rooting us again in our resiliency and faithfulness to our Mission
• Virtual meetings and Chapter

1B. What might we say now?
• Each of these areas call us to explore more deeply our Mission of Charity and what is our response today and into the future:
o To examine our part in systemic racism, our own unconscious or conscious racist tendencies. What is our level of tolerance, forgiveness?
o To offer our prayer and reflection as women of holiness, age and wisdom as we look to the immediate future
o To support and encourage actions for the life of our planet, the health of its people

1C. What is the essential conversation for Chapter?
• Given who we are now, some still in active ministry, others retired and volunteers with more time to reflect on our world and its issues, what wisdom can we bring to be engaged in these issues? What is a realistic response for us?
• The love of Christ still urges us to be realistic in what we can do, but we can do some things. The issues named are part of our world view now. We must respond and be voices of awareness and catalysts for change in many ways.
• What do we do with so great a Love? And how can we do it?

2. We experienced the movement of the Spirit during this whole Chapter Circle preparation in our easy sharing with one another, a common bond that we are all one. We are impelled by Love and desire to keep at it; we are still here and will do what we can for the sake of God’s people and creation.

Chapter Circle 6

1. What is this group naming as essential conversations for October meeting?

a. We need to explore how we can participate in the systemic change that needs to happen today in all areas of life eg. Health care for seniors, church structures and policies, racism, violence, policing in our cities, government and educational reform, climate change, immigration etc.

b. We need to examine our own white privilege and how we through our attitudes, belief systems and behaviors are contributing to the injustice in our world community? We are part of the problem and therefore need to be part of the solution.

c. We need to listen to the voices and stories of those in pain to let our hearts be moved to greater compassion and action to create a more just society.

d. We need to explore together how our Charism of Charity will live beyond us. How are we being called to be hospitable to those requesting to join us? Can we envision the future of Charity with newness, going beyond boundaries, collaborating with federation and others?

e. We need to affirm the gifts for service in our youth, listening to their hopes and dreams and encouraging them to be co-creators of a new world.

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

Our world is evolving yet our mission will not change. Yet, there needs to be newness in our expression of giving joyful witness to love. The future is now; and we want to be part of the unfolding as we live faithfully in the present.

We ask how willing are we to look at things differently? How will we to make the necessary radical changes that this pandemic is revealing to us? Are we ready to face our own racism and white privilege? Are we ready to live differently?

Are we open to reflect together and make the choice to change, to become less violent, to live with greater freedom, simplicity and integrity?

Can we be ‘big soul persons’ and co-creators of the new? A world of justice, peace and respect for all in the human and earth community?

Chapter Circle 7

We cannot see what the next 6 years will bring, but we know that we willcontinue to give joyful witness to love and respond to the needs of the time. We find support, inspiration and motivation in our connection to thespirit of Elizabeth Seton and the four sisters who began our congregation.

As our relationship to other Federation congregations evolves, we want tohold strongly to our unique and God-given identity as Halifax Charities, andbe vitally involved if and as that relationship is reshaped.

Chapter Circle 8

The quality of our relationships is one of the essentials related to:

  1. restoring the dignity of the “other” because it matters in relation to race, religion, sex, capability, etc
  2. the Church in our serious participation in its transformation from dominant and controlling to missionary servant
  3. our support for women especially younger women so we can take our rightful place as church
  4. Earth and the Earth Community as we move from destructive actions to building mutually enhancing relations
  5. God as our prayer life evolves and our understanding of God changes
  6. each other in deeper hospitality and encouragement because we need each other and are one community

Chapter Circle 9

Recognizing the many challenging issues we face today, namely racism, pandemic, climate collapse, poverty, violence, migration of peoples, etc. we want to explore the interconnectedness of these issues and how we are complicit in maintaining or worsening the status quo so we can consciously/intentionally change our actions can help to restore connectedness.   

Chapter Circle 10

The challenge for our chapter is to create an environment that will move us forward in our mission of charity to make the world a better place.
Today we are seeing through a lens that is wider. We are living within a very different context. We are in many respects an awakened people. Since 2014, several factors and events have brought us to where we are today:

1. Pope Francis and Laudato si with its teaching on the earth as our common home and its focus on climate change
2. Stronger Federation presence and collaboration – Assembly of the Whole
3. Process of contemplative dialogue helping us know and appreciate each other on a deeper level.
4. Our growing recognition of our profound connection and communion with all of life as evidenced in the new science.
5. Participation in Truth and Reconciliation healing process and bearing witness to the current racism crisis throughout the world
6. Zoom technology and the elimination of community, national and international borders
7. Living in a life-altering pandemic

In light of this context, we need a re-inspiration of why we are Sisters of Charity – a rededication of who we say we are. We need leadership that will facilitate the mission and our connection to it.
It is time to go back to the fire – because it matters

Chapter Circle 11

A)  How might we collectively articulate an inspirational and motivational response to the pain of the world at    this time ?
B)  How might we identify “a seed” that we can nurture that;
  • fits with our charism,
  • looks beyond our end,
  • and brings life to the world?

Chapter Circle 12

We began with a review of our Chapter 2014 statement, noting new developments that have led us to deepen and broaden our understanding of key points in each of the statement’s three paragraphs. 1) Home – Laudato Si and our congregational study of it has brought us to a clear awareness of the links between care of the earth and care of the poor; 2) Relationships – the Covid pandemic and black lives matter movement leave no doubt about our global interconnectedness; 3) Collaboration –
electronic media has heightened our appreciation for other groups and enhanced ability to work together. Overall, the practice of contemplative dialogue has enriched our respect for one another, and been a significant factor in our growing acceptance of who and where we, Sisters of Charity, are in today’s world.

This suggests an essential topic for conversation in October. How can we live fully now and into the future as Sisters of Charity committed to one another and caring for our common home? What practical steps do we need to take in light of the realities and changing situations we will continue to face?

Chapter Circle 13

After a lengthy, spirited and enjoyable discussion, these are some of the topics that came up for possible conversations at chapter.

1) Address issue of racism, white privilege and power…….personally within ourselves as a community and globally. How does racism impact poverty, our common home, public health, local and global finances, ect. What actions can we be about?

2) How do we feel about welcoming new members at this point in time in the congregation?

3) What does it mean for us now to be an organization within the institutional church?

4) Focus the roles of the leadership team as we look to the future

5) What are the needs of our sisters at Caritas and the Wellesley Campus?

Chapter Circle 14

Chapter Circle 15

We spoke about the topic of racism and felt the need at chapter to talk about how we might enable all to live in a dignified way, and truly welcome diversity. The purpose of chapter is to set a direction for the next 6 years. We hope it will be broad enough to engage all members of the congregation,framed in the reality of our demographics. We hope to create a sign that points us in a common direction, focusing on the power and gift our evolving charism.

We want to ask the ask; What are we noticing in terms of new seeds emerging related to the energy of our charism? and , are we open-as a congregation-to welcoming women who are attracted to joining us as vowed members?

We want to continue to collaborate and be highly engaged with the Federation and talk how to encourage this and be more involved. We want to have a conversation around involving our associates in our mission.

We believe that the Spirit will guide us through the new learning of these times. And that we will see a broader interpretation of our mission which involves both internal and external changes.

Chapter Circle 16

An essential conversation for our Chapter: What is our new reality, and how are we being called to be the love of God made visible in this new reality?

Chapter Circle 17

Having dwelt on “naming the essential conversation for October meeting” we named several issues and listened intently to each other. This is what we want to share with the Sisters:

– We have a great desire to remain connected to each other in love and hope.
– As we face the future we believe that dying is never separated from rising.
– We affirm in the words of Sister Thea Bowman, ”I want to live till I die.”
– We have the power to go forward. We have the will and the strength, drawing on the power of connection.
– We are enough for today’s society

Chapter Circle 18

As we reflected upon the passage of time since our last Chapter, we are acutely aware that the world we live in today is significantly different than it was in 2014. We are currently experiencing Covid 19 pandemic which is changing the way we live and gather together. Living through this health crisis has impacted our world, our country, our Church and our relationships within each. Serious social issues characterized by oppression, division, inequity, racism and violence, have emerged.As we move into our Chapter of 2020, where is our voice going to be spoken and heard as we respond to these social issues? Where will our charism of Love intersect with the events of our world and our Church? How will we re-imagine our mission in the service of life?

Chapter Circle 19

We agreed that the essential conversations at Chapter should include:
Our on-going mission of charity
Care of our sisters/ conversation re Mt St Vincent, Wellesley and Caritas

We saw several core issues calling for our attention at this time:
Climate change
all of which are issues of inclusion rather than separation.

We felt the movement of the Spirit as we saw that we were speaking from our present world context, with all the joy and anguish that entailed.

After chapter we plan to get together for another Zoom call “for old times sake” to reconnect and share our chapter experiences with one another.

Chapter Circle 20

Chapter Circle 21

Today we realize more than ever our need to stand with those in need in ways we are most able. As we seek to re-imagine our mission we know we need to have big conversations, such as:

Leadership: What does collaborative leadership look like? Are there canonical government structures we need to address?

Church: As women of the Church how do we model compassion and service?

Aging: How do we age well through fidelity to our charism of Charity?

Finances: How does the reality of our present and future finances -especially in light of the global economy – impact living simply?

Chapter Circle 22

Essential Conversations we should have at Chapter

  • Racism-Finding a way to have a conversation on white privilege. How do we widen the crack to let the light in(Leonard Cohen) around our personal prejudices, biases in white privilege that many of us struggle with? “Open us to the blessings of encounter and diversity.” Chapter Prayer
  • Conversation about a New Consciousness-that there are old ways of thinking that need to be let go of. We have a consciousness that is broader and deeper. We are more aware of our responsibility for climate and racial justice.
    We want to live out of the new consciousness in our decision making and in our reaching out.
  • Conversation: We are all one. How do we continue to network and hold each other accountable? How can we help each other grow?
    What borders need to be dismantled within me to embrace the oneness to which we are called?
  • Conversation around importance of prayer and presence. Think globally. Act locally. So many people doing good things seems like the world becomes a neighborhood.
  • Conversation around Unstoppable Charity-power of federation identity, charism, spirituality that is deepening and changing how we pray together and the deliberate action of welcome that is needed now.
  • Leadership- there is a need to have honest conversation around big concerns. Along with this is a need for deepening of trust and support for those people we call to leadership

Caritas Chapter Circles

Three smaller groups met at Caritas during the week of June 15, 2020.
This is a joint report from those meetings.

As we considered the changes since 2014, three were predominant in all groups – technology, the work on Laudato Si and climate change, and of course the Covid 19 pandemic. Also given an important place was the use of the contemplative dialogue in the process leading to Chapter 2020. We felt we could not have chosen these issues in 2014. Furthermore, while we have had widespread injustice in our world for many years, racism has now taken first place.

At the Chapter, we would hope to continue in the contemplative dialogue process, developing trust in each other and awareness of and trust in the presence of the Holy Spirit among us. As we have always done, we would expect to consider the injustices in our world, focussing on violence and injustice towards indigenous people and black people (particularly women of these groups), examining our own white privilege and our own racism and prejudices and considering where and how we might make a difference in the next years, in spite of the statistics of our congregation.

A suggestion was made that it would be useful to have a data base of the congregation, including the age data which we usually receive, but expanding it to include health and activity level, so as to give us a better basis for considering what might be done as a congregation.

There was a request for some conversation around the leadership structure in the congregation, given the current situation which sees a majority of sisters living in retirement homes.

Wellesley Chapter Circle A

Wellesley Chapter Circle B