Our 22nd General Chapter Ends ... Another Chapter Begins

The 22nd General Chapter of the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace has come to an end. For the past 10 days, we have been gathered outside of Seattle to break open our Chapter theme, "Deeper and Wider - The Challenge of Peace."

It is both humbling and amazing to realize that this was the 22nd time since our founding in 1884 that the community has come together to discern our future direction and elect new leadership. We certainly stand on the shoulders of incredible women of faith who trusted deeply in God's abiding love and took risks in order to serve God's people in need and meet the needs of the day.

The atmosphere during our gathering was buzzing with energy, love, and passion for our charism of peace through justice and a deep desire to move together, as community for mission, to meet the needs of today. One of my CSJP Sisters often speaks about the "sneaky Holy Spirit," and I think that is a good description for the ways the Spirit was nudging, even disturbing us, to embrace this new moment in our community history.

We celebrated the profession of vows of FOUR Sisters during the early days of our gathering. Sister Dorothy professed perpetual vows, while Sisters Juliana, Katrina, and Sheena professed their first vows as Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace.  This was the first time we have celebrated profession of vows during a congregation Chapter. The joyful hope was palpable.

Our Congregation Leader, Sister Margaret Byrne, invited us to seize this particular moment as a new opportunity to "begin again." She actually used the word "again" 23 times in her address, which was grounded in our rich community history as well as the present call of Pope Francis to move beyond "structures that give us a false sense of security" in order to witness to the Gospel with our lives and reach out to those on the periphery of society.  Fr. Anthony Gittins spoke to us of radial discipleship and Sr. Gail Worcelo reflected on living on the edge during this moment of grace.  We also heard the deep desires of the seven Sisters who have entered during the past decade (myself included) to move forward together as community for mission.

In many ways, it seemed as if the Holy Spirit was weaving together all of these threads in creative ways which culminated in our Chapter Call:

Disturbed by the Spirit, we recommit ourselves to Jesus' way of radical hospitality. 
We are called to a deeper and wider living of community for mission in company with poor and marginalized people. 
Our contemplative discernment pushes us, individually and as Congregation, to action; deeper mutual support enables us to take risks for justice, peace and the integrity of creation.
As disciples of Jesus, we respond anew to the call of Mother Clare to be "brave, noble, large-minded courageous souls."

We will be living into and out of this call during the next 6 years.  And starting in January, I will be living this call in a particular way as I respond to the call of the Chapter to serve in elected leadership as part of our Congregation Leadership Team. This will certainly be a new chapter in my own life!

But first, I am sitting now in the departures lounge at the Seattle Airport getting ready to head back to Chicago where I will spend the next 3 months finishing up my studies.

One benefit of moving into this new leadership role is that as I was saying goodbye to the CSJP Sisters and Associates I have spent the past weeks with, I know that I will have an opportunity to see them all again soon. And that, my friends, is a blessing.

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