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What is a General Chapter?

For those who are not part of a religious congregation, an aura of mystery often surfaces when they hear that the sisters who minister with and among them are meeting for a “General Chapter.”

Sisters have done this for centuries but, as the needs of our world evolve, so does the process of General Chapters. During July and August, forty-five delegates (sisters from around the world) will gather for the Religious Sisters of Charity 31st General Chapter.

The entire General Chapter process is a time of communal discernment and decision making that emerges from community and personal prayer, contemplative listening, and conversation. We gather urged on by the Love of Christ and confident that the Holy Spirit breathes with and within us.

1906 Chapter LogoEach time we hold a General Chapter, we select a theme. Through prayer, discussion, and listening the theme that emerged for our 2019 Chapter is “Open our eyes to see the New Dawn and our hearts to our Common Call. Pray, Reflect, Consult.”

The Chapter is made up of three parts. The first part is an 8-day silent directed retreat for all the delegates, based on the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius of Loyola. The retreat creates an environment which helps the delegates to recognise and attend to where God is in their life. There are several key factors in the retreat which help them: personal prayer, reflection, silence, daily meeting with a director and participation in the Eucharist.

The second part is the “Chapter of Affairs.” This is a time for the delegates to be together discerning the needs of our times; and a time for evaluating the life of the Congregation in the light of these calls.

The third part is the “Chapter of Elections.” As the delegates consider what God is calling us to at this time in the life of our Congregation, our Church, and our world, we ask one another who among us might the Holy Spirit be inviting to lead us in implementing these calls. And so, the Chapter of Elections leads to identifying a new leadership team.

Sisters who cannot be present as delegates have committed to be supporting participants through prayer and then the implementation of Chapter decisions. As women of the Church and rooted in the Gospel, we realise we are part of an ever-widening circle of relationships. We count on the prayers of all sisters, associates, partners in ministry, family, friends and benefactors, near and far. As we enter into this Spirit-led event we invite you to pray for our Chapter and our Congregation.

 

Thank you to Sr Joanne Gallagher CSJ, Sisters of Saint Joseph of Boston, for permission to use some of her wise words and wisdom!

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