The experience of videoconferencing enabled the Sisters in the service of authority in the Congregation to meet as a Council of the Congregation from the 24th of August to the 4th of September 2021. Let us give thanks for this “visitation”, at once a rereading of life and a roadmap for the future.
(This text is an edited version of the “Message of the Council of the Congregation” already sent to the Sisters. We would simply like to share the “good news” with a wider audience.)
Despite the disruption to our plans caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, we were able to come together as the Council of the Congregation. Meeting in small groups across the four continents where we are present, the participants – members of the General Council, the General Bursar, five Provincials and Regionals, and 14 Councillors – met by videoconference. This was a “first” for the Daughters of Jesus.
What is a Council of the Congregation?
Sr Micheline Cormier, our Superior General, summed its purpose up well when she reminded the participants in her welcoming remarks that :
“It is together that we will do an
of our life in the Congregation
and set out on the road towards
the 2022 General Chapter.”
She then asked the Holy Spirit to come and “dispel our doubts and fears. May he allow us to live the limits and constraints of the situation with an interior freedom, to take advantage of the richness of our “being together”, of our sharing and searching.”
Already in the opening prayer, the General Council invited the participants to enter into a contemplation of a God who comes to meet us, as Mary visited Elizabeth. This called for a true encounter, an experience of “visitation“, one with one another, despite the physical distances that separated them.
A discernment in common
This call was echoed in the choice of animators, Mr Jacques Frémiot and Sister Marie-Andrée Huveke, who will accompany the Congregation throughout the journey towards the General Chapter.
Both are members of the group Esdac – Spiritual Exercises of Apostolic Discernment in Common. This international Christian association is at the service of communion and group discernment. It wants to be at the service of the gift of communion which has its source in the Trinity whose Spirit works in the world. At the same time, it draws its inspiration from the tradition of the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius of Loyola and draws on developments from the human sciences and group dynamics.
With this in mind, the facilitators presented the approach that we would follow. It was a question of :
- letting ourselves be guided by the Spirit.
- listening to Him and to each other.
Based on times of personal prayer, exchange in each Province/Region group and in assembly, our aim was to draw out our desires in coming to this Council of the Congregation and to seek together the attitudes conducive to sharing with and listening to each other in-depth.
This sharing included a session on what it means for us to make up a “Body“, our responsibility in the construction of this Body of Daughters of Jesus, and what unites us. From the exchange, it emerged that Christ is the foundation of our belonging to this Body. We are united by the charism received in order to serve the Church and the world.
A regard of lucidity
After looking at the way in which the Sisters have lived the charism since the last General Chapter, we noted that this spiritual gift deposited in us has not ceased to be present in the lives of our Sisters. It is a source of hope that turns us towards others, wherever we are or whatever our age.
But we are also aware that “we carry this treasure in the vessels of clay” that are our personal and community frailties.
Facing the challenge
Called to be attentive to the signs of the times, we are faced with the challenges of:
- entering into a spiritual experience.
- resituating ourselves before the call of Christ.
- living in a real fraternity.
- hearing the cry of the earth, and of the poor.
Setting out on a journey
After a well-deserved rest day, the time came to ask ourselves what the Lord is calling us to do today in order to set the Congregation on the road towards the General Chapter. We resumed work on concrete points in the life of the Congregation, addressing the following topics amongst others :
Integral ecology: We were invited to read the creation text in Genesis and be challenged by Pope Francis’ call to hear the cry of the earth and the poor.
The evolution of our governance structures: We spoke of the current structures put in place at the request of the General Chapter of 2016, and how to adapt them to the evolution of our realities and the new faces of the entities of the Congregation.
The future of the Mother House: It is a question of engaging in a reflection that will enable us, together, to look towards the future. Taking into account the needs of the time, how can we enable the charism of the Congregation to continue to be developed on this site?
After a time of reflection, we closed our assembly by giving thanks for the presence of the Lord who had accompanied us during these two weeks of communal reflection and discernment.
We also said “Thank you” to a whole list of people – the General Council team, the facilitators, the secretaries, the translators, our “technicians” Colette and Patricia, the Sisters of the Congregation who prayed for us.
All of them contributed to making this new experience of videoconferencing happen in a climate of listening, attention, trust, and good communication.
Sr Rhona Burns dj
for the General Council, Paris