Chapter Table 1

Contemplative Dialogue

Our Evolving Experience of Shared Leadership/Responsibility

Chapter Table 1

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

Essential Conversations for Chapter 2020 as expressed in Chapter Circle #6
Chapter Table 1 Guide

Guide — Chapter Table 1 

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

Chapter Table Responses

Chapter Table 1

Our table recognizes that leadership is exercised in many ways by all of us.  We have grown from having a hierarchical model of leadership toward a more circular model whereby in addition to the elected leaders, Sisters exercise initiative in responding to need, planning events or gatherings.  We see that there could be some experimentation with pushing the edges of shared leadership among all of us.                                        

For leadership to be effective, each of us is called to respond  in the best way she can.

It is important that those called to elected leadership be able to be open to the thoughts and ideas of others, that they are committed to contemplative listening and dialoguing, and that they have faith and trust in themselves and in the membership.

Listening to one another’s reasons for naming certain Sisters for elected leadership, we gained new insights and understanding.

Chapter Table 2

In our conversation on Shared Leadership we stated that we are all in this together.  The qualities needed for Leaders and for each of us at this time in our history include being good listeners, having patience, being willing to reach out to those in need, openness, and being team players.
We acknowledged that living during this time of pandemic is difficult, at times isolating, and filled with fear.  We do believe that God is with us, strengthening us on this journey.

Chapter Table 3

We articulated many facets and understandings of shared leadership, including the responsibilities incumbent on all sisters, how individual sisters relate to leadership, the mandate to recognize and utilize the gifts of sisters on the leadership team and within the congregation, the need to restructure as we move forward, and our belief that sisters in leadership will rise to the occasion and respond to the yet-unimagined situations they will deal with.  We all need to keep our focus on the needs of the congregation and of the world as we look at the next six years.   We need to continue to work toward right relationships in all aspects of our lives.

Chapter Table 4

As Sisters of Charity we all share the call and mission to give joyful witness to love, love of each other, our suffering humanity and our world.  Shared leadership highlights our interconnectedness, each part of a circle with co-responsibility, accountability and transparency.  Although our specific roles may differ, the core of leadership is the quality of the relationship, building on trust, deep listening and mutuality.  We are in this venture together, evolving into an unknown future.

Chapter Table 5

We are called to Shared Leadership according to the gifts of each member.

It is our responsibility to exercise our leadership in response to the needs we see around us, Assembly and Chapter planning, “Council of Elders” and through other resource groups assisting our response to the Mission of Charity.

Shared Leadership calls us out of our comfort zone of “letting others do” what needs to be done. Shared Leadership is ours to do.

We want to continue to support, empower and affirm Elected Leadership, and each other to maximize the gifts of all for mission.

Chapter Table 6

As we move into Chapter it is important that nominees for leadership be a part of and hear the conversations of the whole (congregation).

We need to move away from a hierarchical model toward a shared model of leadership.

We feel there is a distinction between “administration” and “leadership”.  Our leadership personnel can get overly tied into administrative tasks leaving little time for inspirational  and visionary leadership.

It may be more helpful to wrestle with our “essential” question or “leadership for what?” questions before selecting leadership.

Chapter Table 7

We see Leadership as abiding in each Sister in our Congregation since we believe that each of us is responsible for the whole Congregation. In addition, Leadership is also present in those whom we elect and affirm. Leadership is always about developing, implementing and sharing/living our vision. Listening is a core and essential quality of good leadership. We also see the virtue of humility reminding us that individual and personal openness to the group requires us to deepen our trust, not only in the elected Team, but in the general Congregation/each other as well.

Chapter Table 8

In our sharing we acknowledged our sense of hope for the future and our gratitude for the sisters who are willing to serve in a leadership role.  We were consistent in our sharing of the qualities that we look for in our leaders:  love of the community, ability to delegate, ongoing focus on our mission to serve the poor, being able to relate to people and good communicators.


That being said, we also acknowledge that shared leadership calls each of us to participate, willing to be called or to offer our gifts where needed as we are able.  We believe we all have gifts necessary to carry our mission forward.


We also hope that despite the restrictions that we all face due to the pandemic, we don’t lose our wonderful Canada/US connection. 


We know that the Spirit is with us, and whatever the outcome, we will be blessed.  God is with us. 


Chapter Table 9

Shared leadership

As membership in the congregation decreases, we have a growing sense that we are on this journey together and that all of us, not just those who are elected, share in leadership in various ways. This implies that sisters are called to on-going education in the matters that face us.

There is need for conversation so that our voices will be heard and so that collaboration can occur since we all have a piece of the story. Sharing information is a part of this conversation.
Technology can facilitate our sharing and assist us in building relationships.
We need to cultivate listening skills and a willingness to integrate new ideas. All of this is enhanced when we listen and share from a contemplative stance.

Team members may need time to get to know one another in order to work together. In this time of Pandemic, there will be challenges to those efforts.

Team members – and all of us- are called to put ego aside and to ask,
“What is God saying to me? What does God desire for me?”
We are called to attune ourselves to the Spirit and to ask, “What can God accomplish through us as we work together?”

Even as we speak about team membership, we are cognizant of the fact that the congregational leader carries great responsibility. Sisters in the group expressed gratitude for all that S. Joan has done, reaching out and connecting with the members.

It is important for us to share a vision as we move into the future because we are moving into a different reality.
The Constitutions remind us of why we are here: to give joyful witness to love. How are we to do that in 2020 and beyond?
If we have singleness of purpose, we won’t get lost in words. Attentiveness to God’s call and to the insights of one another is an important element in moving into our future together.

Chapter Table 10

There was a general agreement that shared leadership is part of our current congregational practice.  Over the years we have been encouraged and invited to take on leadership roles whether it be a personal project or being involved with various committees or teams.  At some point we are all leaders.  It is hoped that we will continue to evolve in our understanding of shared leadership.

We believe that shared leadership requires great responsibility on the part of each sister.  That entails continual education, learning, reading and sharing of resources on pertinent issues.

An aspect of shared leadership is our ability to listen deeply to one another.  It is important to recognize and appreciate our own and each other’s gifts – to name them and own them.

We see shared leadership as a horizontal/circular way of interacting.  We realize that we are all part of a team.  We need one another to make anything happen.

It is important for those discerning to share those beliefs in their interactions with the congregation and each other.  It is our hope that future leadership will be blessed with the gift of flexibility and will act out of a vision of the whole.

Chapter Table 11

Our hope would be…

  • That in our electing we bear in mind a complementarity of skills/gifts among CLT members, e.g. cultural backgrounds, emotional resonance as well as administrative gifts, the ability to work as a team player/member, etc.
  • That we own the degree/area of leadership that each of us has, and not deny or avoid when prompted or invited, knowing that participation is part of our responsibility.
  • That we trust the Spirit in our deliberations and even when She throws us a curveball.
  • That once we have elected people to the CLT we give them genuine and mature support in word and deed even when decisions seem unconsultative or hasty.

Chapter Table 12

How can a world turned upside down by racism, disease, climate catastrophe and economic injustice be turned right side up? 

What light does our charism of so great a Love bring to this mammoth moral crisis?

What has the shadow side of our charism brought to this moral crisis?

The more we understand and grow in awareness the more we can forgive, restore, atone. We have done our best and want to know better so we can do better.

Our hope is that in a spirit of shared leadership we stand openly and honestly in this huge threshold of suffering. Our hope is we will birth the will to live in right relationships that are rooted in mutuality and that reverence the gifts, potential and diversity among us.

Our charism will be part of the vaccine!

Chapter Table 13

Shared leadership, elected Leadership, new understanding or learning???
We began by talking about the particular gifts we saw as important at this time in our history. Two that were mentioned were Imagination and an Appreciation of Technology.  Imagination seemed especially important as we move into an unknown future. (If you can imagine it, it can happen) As the conversation continued there was a shift to “what if the gift that was most needed in elected leaders was whatever it takes to recognize and stir up the gifts”.
This understanding of shared leadership means that  among the team members and in the wider congregation the Mystery or Life unfolds because of the gifts of all accepted, released and overflowing.

Chapter Table 14

We agreed that shared leadership applies to all of us as well as the Congregational Leadership Team.  All of us are responsible to share our gifts of leadership with one another and with the congregation. 

Shared leadership involves both listening and communication. 

The Chapter Circles and the Chapter Table conversations are examples of shared leadership. 

Chapter Table 15

Reflections on shared leadership and its relationship to elected leadership

Shared leadership for us, Sisters of Charity, means that members of the congregation are open to receiving ideas and proposals from the elected leadership team while also being ready to offer ideas and proposals of their own. It means being ready to step up and take initiatives consistent with our charism and mission. Collaboration is central, with those in elected leadership and other members of the congregation, as well as the wider community of federation, Vincentian Family, other religious congregations and groups in civic society who share our goals. It implies reading the signs of the times, reflection and action.

Elected leadership is a call from the congregation to some of its members to serve for a period of time in formal leadership. This means acting in consultation and collaboration with members of the congregation to: promote commitment to and enthusiasm for our mission, provide for the spiritual and physical health, safety, and well-being of all members, and manage our financial resources – in line with our charism – for the ongoing support of our mission and care for our members. Qualities to be looked for in elected leaders include: love for the congregation and all of its members, ability to work as a team and in collaboration with the congregation as a whole, a variety of gifts and skills, a mix of introverts and extroverts, compassion, sensitivity to current issues and concerns, readiness to engage in strategic planning, inclusiveness, willingness to listen and openness to receive ideas and proposals from all members of the congregation not as a threat but as a possibility.

Power is best understood as right relationship; it is exercised in mutuality, never in domination or control of others.

Chapter Table 16

The group consensus was that shared leadership has been part of our Congregational structure for many years.  We identified “leadership” as a gift each one possesses, which has been and is exercised where the individual finds herself, i.e., in her ministry, in serving on committees, etc.  The gift is rooted in our charism of charity/love.  It manifests itself in all stages of our lives.

In looking to new elected leadership we would expect a continuation and encouragement of this shared leadership/collaboration.  

Chapter Table 17

We’re all in this together, not just the five members of the team.
Recruit members from outsi the team to expand participation.
Share leadership with members of the congregation, who have skills, experience and expertise in the topic or issue being addressed.
Do more mission effectiveness with the dedicated people we hire so they become part of our ministry and their gifts are recognized.
Provide inservice training for new employees with accountability to the congregation.
When including membership in shared leadership, stress the importance that it goes beyond serving on a committee and must reflect active participation in the congregation to the extent possible.
Broader team membership cannot be an afterthought. It’s more than that. We can be our best selves when we are engaged and take ownership as a congregation.
Use members of the congregation who can use their expertise for the congregation. Remove this one since is included in the #3 statement.
Collaborate with outside groups such as Vincentian Family, LCWR, and the Federation, etc.
Support a leader who is confident enough to share authority on the team.