The Congregational Chapter is a collegial assembly and the highest authority within the congregation. Representative of the congregation, it is a sign of the unity and an expression of the participation and interest of all the members in the progress of our mission. It is a spiritual event, a time of corporate reflection and conversion. By promoting renewal in the spirit of our charism, the chapter safeguards our heritage and is a source of life and inspiration for the entire congregation. Constitution 116
For the first time in Good Shepherd history, the Congregational Chapter has unfolded in two major segments over the course of nearly three months: September 16-22 and November 18-December 7.
Segment one of the Congregational Chapter
The meeting portion of the September segment began with an overview of congregation milestones since adopting the 2015 Direction Statement.
The first segment also centered on the mission, with two focused summary reports. Winifred Doherty, RGS, spoke about the International Justice and Peace Office, and Cristina Durante reported on the Good Shepherd International Foundation. Both reports addressed the relevant and vital nature of each office for the Good Shepherd mission.
A Life Seekers Report addressed restructuring governance of the congregation. Good Shepherd seeks to shift from its current structure of more than 30 provinces into possibly 10 or 12 regional units organized by continent. The topic is complex due to an array of issues such as languages, culture, ministries, legalities, personnel, and resources.
Of equal complexity were matters related to strengthening partners-in-mission, as there are many different levels of understanding and experiences across the congregation.
The Chapter’s first segment also focused on identifying potential members of the leadership team that will be responsible for implementing the Chapter decisions. Formal nominations will take place in December.
The complex natures of restructuring and strengthening partners-in-mission required both of these conversations to continue into the second segment of the Chapter that is currently underway.
Segment two of the Congregational Chapter
The second segment of the multicultural, multi-lingual global Congregational Chapter continues through December 7, 2021.
Prayer and reflection weave in and out of each day’s process. Ritual coordinators Monica Brown and Hilary Musgrave accompany Chapter participants with members of the ritual committee Zooming in from their parts of the world. Each session begins and ends with reflection, prayer, and song, all of which are available in Spanish, French, and English.
Chapter facilitators Donna Fyffe and Catherine Schneider call on Monica and Hilary throughout the sessions to guide participants in times of centering and discernment.
On day 2, November 19, prayer celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Good Shepherd NGO office at the United Nations. The Congregational Treasurer’s report on day 7 began with a reflection based on the miracle of abundance from scarcity. Faced with the hungry multitude and Jesus’ direction, “You feed them,” the disciples responded. “All we have are five loaves and two fish.”
In the Congregational Chapter, all we have …
The prayer guides continued:
“In the Good Shepherd family, all we have are almost 3,000 Sisters: 500 Sisters are under age 50, and some thousands of Partners-in-Mission are on five continents in 72 countries.
“All we have are three lifestyles: contemplative, apostolic, lay, Good Shepherd International Foundation supporters and donors, 25 years of presence and experience as an NGO at the United Nations, a host of professional mentors, and 1,200 properties.”
“This prayer prepared us to consider the human and material resources of the Congregation from a perspective of abundance,” said Sister Madeleine Munday, Province Leader for Mid-North America.
Day 8 included a report from the Motherhouse Commission about the Spirituality Center, Hostellerie (conference center), Museum, and the international community in Angers, France. Helen Anne Sand, RGS, serves on the Motherhouse Commission and was one of the presenters.
On day 9, (third in the UN 16 Days for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and Children), Chapter participants reflected on the life of Aguchita, Good Shepherd Sister murdered in the jungle village of La Florida, Peru. Sr. Susana Franco announced that the celebration of Aguchita’s beatification will be May 7, 2022, in La Florida, Peru.
Advancing the mission collaboratively
During the Chapter, the term “Partners-in-Mission” is being used for staff, volunteers, benefactors, board members, Associates, Companions, and others who choose to accept co-responsibility to work collaboratively with Sisters to forward the mission (from ZEAL CALLS US TO RESPOND, 2019 Report of the International Committee.) The term “Mission Partners” is being used as the collective term for Sisters and laypersons working together to advance the mission.
Lizzie Cody, Director, Office of Mission Effectiveness, said, “The most exciting part of the Congregational Chapter is the movement towards global unity in culture, structure, and strategy.
“St. Mary Euphrasia said, ‘Union is, in fact, your defense and your support, and by the strength it gives you, you will extend your branches far and wide. Look at the universe, there is only one sun that warms and unifies it. It is the same for you, your sun is a single heart.’
“We are seeing how to live into this reality in a new way for this time,” Lizzie said.
The prayer on November 28 for the beginning of Advent gave special focus to all those forced to migrate to seek new homes because of violence, economic injustice, climate change, and other inequities.
As the Congregational Chapter enters its final days, Sr. Madeleine said she wishes to thank all Mission Partners in Mid-North America for their service to the mission of Good Shepherd, and “for your prayers, support and gift of time so that our delegates and invited guests can remain fully present to the Congregational Chapter.”
In closing her update on the Chapter, Sr. Madeleine shared a refrain from English Afro-Rock band Osibisa that has come up more than once during prayer and deliberations: We are going, heaven knows where we are going, but we know we will – get there! Enjoy the full song at https://bit.ly/2ZBpcWx
The grace of transformation
Toni Ponder, Director of Province Administration/General Counsel, said she has many takeaways from her experience with the Congregational Chapter, among which are the visuals “that have been so intentional to the work and the grace of transformation occurring,” she said.
“Our work has been represented by the work a butterfly must go through to actually come into being the beautiful butterfly! It is constantly being called to something new: from caterpillar to the chrysalis that protects and holds the forming and shaping of the butterfly, to finally the emergence of the butterfly.
“What protects the chrysalis from the wind, rain, and other elements? It is something that cannot be seen with the naked eye and is called the cremaster. The cremaster is a small stem that keeps the chrysalis in place and protected. What faith and trust the butterfly must have in the cremaster to protect it,” Toni said.
“The butterfly reminds us all of the struggles of letting go of the known and the ways we are being called to change,” she said.