Thanksgiving, Blessing, Sending...

These three words formed the undercurrent of all that was done this morning,
an expression of the call to go out and be life, give life...
The Morning Prayer, through a series of movements, brought home to each one in the assembly
- the sense of her wholeness, uniqueness, her need to create her own space,
and, at the same time,
- her connectedness with the earth and sky, from which we draw energy and light for all we do.
Through gestures,
all that is negative is thrust away and all that we need – peace, joy, unity, goodness... – is brought in;
we connect with all humankind, in unity, so that God’s project can reign on earth;
we connect with the wisdom of all who have gone before us, from the first human beings
and all humankind of yesterday, today and tomorrow.
with hands on heart, all in the assembly gave thanks for life and love and the capacity to continue to announce God’s project.
Then, recognising the sacred dimension of each one, they greeted one another using the Indian term,

A short PowerPoint Presentation, composed by Sr. Ana Maria (Unit of Latin America - Argentina), in which she drew together in a creative way what she had experienced of the Chapter from outside.
In conclusion, the Capitulants were invited to express in a word what the Chapter had meant for them.
There was a light-hearted moment when, in humorous terms and affecting the tone of a radio news presenter, Tere gave an account of some of the amusing‘behind the scenes’ events that had happened during the Chapter. There were also some gentle references to inconveniences felt in the assemblies and the house amenities, all of which were accepted or tolerated with humour or endurance depending on each one’s temperament.

Formal Closure of the Chapter

It fell to Ana Maria, General Leader, to bring the Chapter to a close. In her address she said that the theme had been a challenge and one that is ongoing. Now, we are more conscious than ever of the call to Mission and the need to respond as an Institute. “We are coming to the end of a very rich stage that is calling us to be open to a new beginning.”
Ana Maria enumerated the strong calls she had picked up urging us to go on a process of transformation for life and Mission:

§ Exodus, walking as one with humanity on the move

§ A call to be rooted in the spirit of God Alone like Jesus, Mary and Joseph which is our raison d’etre as Holy Family Institute in the world

§ Live an integrated and prophetic leadership for the Mission

§ A call to think, discern and integrate at all levels Councils, Units and Continents

§ A call to delve deeply into our decree, Vowed for Mission.
An important step will be the transmission and implementation of the Chapter so that what we have decided together will not be idle words. Let us transmit with fidelity and freedom what has been truly significant in the experience of the General Chapter.
Let us hear again the words of our Founder: “Nothing henceforth can prevent your course”. NOTHING.
“Let us welcome again the words of Jesus, ‘as the Father sent me, I am sending you. Do not be afraid. I am with you until the end of time’.”


No one was forgotten in Ana Maria’s words of thanks to all who had been involved in the preparation, and ongoing process of the Chapter, including the members of the Institute who had committed themselves wholeheartedly to the preparation through their assemblies and Unit Chapters and continued to follow the process as it unfolded.
Ana Maria then asked the Capitulants to raise their green cards if they agreed to close the 19thGeneral Chapter. Agreement was unanimous.
Then the Capitulants signed the Minutes of the Chapter.
When that was done, they sang the Magnificat and went from the Chapter room to prepare for the Eucharist at 12 noon.
The Sisters of the Generalate as many of the sisters of the communities of Italy as were able to attend joined the Capitulants for the Eucharist and the festive meal that followed.

Fr. Louie Lougan, Superior General of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, presided at a joyful, intercultural celebration of communion in Christ with the whole universe.
His homily was brief and original. He gave a task to the congregation. In five minutes, say three words,

to one another.
It took more than five minutes!

The celebration continued in the dining room after which the goodbyes began. Those who were staying in Rome for a few days more moved to the Generalate. Departures from Enrico De Ossò begin early tomorrow, 5 June.

News Readers


Tailpiece:  "Change is always a risk. But it's also a risk not to change. Even a greater risk, I think." Cardinal Kasper


Drawing the final threads together

To the chanting of the Bajan in Tamil,
“Jesu, Jesu, Jesu Crista...”,

the Capitulants became present to the Spirit and one another as they heard this call...
“12 May we began our journey together...
Believing in our HOPES, asking QUESTIONS, and with our DREAMS and DESIRES for the FUTURE.

It was a sacred journey.
Today we are happy as we have come almost to the end.
Let us pause for a moment to treasure what is remaining deep within.”

Treasuring what remained deep with them was to be the main work of the day, but first a final vote, and Christine’s final task as facilitator.

Recommendations from the Chapter to the General Council

During the Chapter, a number of recommendations for the General Leadership Team, arising from the different conversations and reports, had been germinating in the minds of the Capitulants. They were gathered together and expressed concisely in three recommendations.
They were put to the Chapter this morning and passed unanimously.

Process of Farewell

One more process recommended by Christine...
This may be the last and indeed the only time some of those present will meet as a group. She recommended the Capitulants go into their discernment groups and talk together about what touched them during their time together, the graces they received, anything they would like to share, and continue to converse with one another in the passageways and stairways... And so it was.
Christine herself took leave of the Chapter as she was leaving immediately. She thanked the Capitulants for all they had done. Her special thanks went to the Steering Committee without whom it would have been difficult to keep things moving, and also to the translators and secretaries. She said how she had appreciated the morning prayers which had been very moving.
Malini Joseph, of the Nagoda Contemplative Monastery, gave an eloquent vote of thanks to Christine for the skills and gifts she brought to the task of facilitating the Chapter. She left the room to the resounding applause of all.


Then it was time for the usual photo op. All gathered outside the house and you can see the result below.

Ritual Presentation of the Crosses to the New Council of the Institute
This took place in the afternoon

“...because our lives and our Holy Family history are woven into the lives and history of those who have gone before us”, the Capitulants gathered once more in the afternoon to repeat what our Founder did when he returned from a journey to Rome in 1851. He presented each General Councillor of Mary with a cross blessed by Pope Pius IX.
These crosses are passed on from one Leadership Team to the next, a symbol of continuity, acknowledgement and gratitude to “our First Mothers and all the Sisters who have gone before us giving their lives for the common mission in the service of animation and leadership”.
In a ceremony of readings, music and blessing, the crosses were passed to the new General Leadership Team elected at the 2014 General Chapter. Although not present in person, Geni was symbolically represented. 

Final Blessing, as the whole assembly extended their hands over the Team

It expressed much of the aspirations of the Chapter on Leadership and Membership.
May your leadership be feminine, circular and shared.
May you be at the service of our mission of communion and discern responses which will bring newness and transformation to our Mission today.
May a shared Vision bring you wisdom and boldness to face challenges as a team for the good of the Mission.
May you be able to rely on the respect, trust and collaboration of the members of the Institute and of the Family.
May you have the freedom of spirit to listen to everyone’s voice, to accept reality in all its diversity and to dialogue with compassion.
May the Spirit be your light in darkness, your strength in weakness and a faithful companion on your journey.


Happy Birthday!

Breda GREHAN (South Africa)


Implementing the Chapter

Listen to the voice of the Lord;
lend the ear of your heart.
Whoever you are, your God is calling you;
whoever you are, God is your Father.

In this morning’s prayer, the Capitulants were invited to let the Good Father encourage them.

It is 28 May 1820, the eve of the Foundation.
The first three sisters are gathered.
The Founder is with them.
He encourages them and gives them, as it were, a roadmap.
The road has been traced out, it reaches us.
Let us listen; it concerns us.

The measured reading of the Founder’s words to the three young women struck a chord with everyone. (It is to be found in the Annals, Volume 1, p. 40)

In our end is our beginning

The Chapter is nearing its end but there is a sense in which it is only beginning.

The important work of transmitting what has been experienced by the delegates during the Chapter and how the key documents and recommendations emanating from it are to be implemented in the Units are ongoing tasks.

How is it to be done?

Christine provided the Capitulants with a Process of Implementation to help them in their reflection. They dispersed into Unit groups to discuss the best way to proceed.
They were invited to share their ideas together in the Chapter room and, perhaps, gleam ideas from one another. The ways were many and varied, as could be expected in such a multicultural gathering, but all held to the same content.
For the rest, all will have to wait and see.


Great Expectations

Christine put two questions.

·         What do the Units expect from the General Leadership Team and one another?

·         What does the General Leadership Team expect from the Units?
The feedback was rich and diverse with needs differing in the various Units. From both the Units and the GLT there was a desire for more openness, transparency, open communication, interaction between Units themselves and with the GLT. Less dependence on the members of the GLT to provide all the animation requested. We can draw from our own resources in both vocations for animation on many of the topics and for directing retreats.

The Corporate Commitment 2014


This document was ready to be voted on by the Chapter in the late afternoon. After giving time for all to read it, Christine asked if the Capitulants were ready to vote on it. They answered in the affirmative and the vote was taken and the new Corporate Commitment was unanimously accepted by the Chapter.

With a sense of achievement, all left the Chapter hall at 5,40 pm to prepare for the Eucharist at 6.15.


Conversations and privileged listening

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Communion within the Institute – between Apostolic and Contemplative Sisters

(Friday, 30 May)

As an Institute of two vocations, how do we relate to one another?  

Are we walking together, but on parallel paths, or is there a real relationship of communion between the two vocations?

Is there a genuine understanding of, and respect for, the contribution each one brings to building an Institute of two complementary vocations?

The Capitulants met in groups, each one of which included a Contemplative sister, to share experiences and feelings.   

Discussion in the groups was frank, wide-ranging, and fruitful for both vocations.

The importance of knowing each vocation in depth, particularly the contemplative vocation, was emphasised as a way of building respect and confidence.
They talked about the ways in which each vocation lives our Corporate Commitment and how common formation might be understood and practised.
They suggested members of each vocation could be invited to be resource persons for one another providing animation. This has already been done by the Vicar in the Congo.
In countries where there is a Holy Family monastery there is, in general, regular interaction between both vocations on the occasion of Family feasts and events that concern them. The other vocations where they exist are also included and they grow together in communion.
Where there are no Contemplatives, they and the Apostolic sisters can devise ways of promoting communion via their websites and speaking of both vocations when talking to others about the Family   
Many other matters such as the role of the Vicar on the General Council, visits by the General Leader, where and when the presence and participation of both vocations would be enriching..., were raised, all with the sincere desire to go deeper into what is a source of life and energy for us.    

Intercultural Communities

An unknown future

This was the apt title of an input Christine gave prior to the discussion on Intercultural Communities.

Both leaders and members need to be prepared for intercultural living in any defined context.

In this session, however, the stated aim was “to reflect on the urgent need to prepare leaders of different nationalities and contexts to take up the role of leadership of the entire Institute in the near future”.

Our Holy Family growth areas are Africa and Asia. We have some idea of the changes that are taking place in the North and South and of the profoundly changing contexts for which leaders will have to be prepared.

Christine dealt with the need to clarify and be explicit about tasks and roles by constantly “examining, interpreting, reflecting and making sense of their own and their members’ experiences”. The changing and complex contexts of the world today make new demands on leadership.
International teams see closely what is happening and appreciate diversity and interculturality. To deal with it they need to re-assess what is required of them or risk responding to tomorrow‘s needs with yesterday’s answers. This involves risks, taking responsibility and being accountable.

“It involves letting go and encouraging the south to develop their own models of apostolic religious life.”

Group reflection

Intercultural communities are not new in the Holy Family, nor is living in conflict areas, so the groups had much to share on

§  their experiences,

§  the risks and failures they had met

§  the steps to be taken now to renew enthusiasm for mission in intercultural communities

Some points that were raised:

There is a great sense of how enriching the experience can be and how it deepens, and is a sign of, the communion we so desire to build. This requires close listening to one another, great respect for each culture, letting go of fixed ideas, prejudices... awareness that it does not happen immediately.

There are many risks involved: one culture may tend to dominate; people from another might have feelings of inferiority; culture, not mission, could become the focus; members need to know themselves as they will bring their ‘baggage’ with them to any situation...

Steps that need to be taken include: strengthening the role of members; preparation in discernment by those being sent and those receiving,; awareness of the context of mission and a definite aim for being there to which the community returns frequently.

There were suggestions about mobile, rapid response communities in areas of conflict or other human disasters or urgent needs of any kind. The conversation is ongoing and will never end...   



Taking up the threads again

Holy Mystery, Sacred presence,
All embracing, Creator God,
Gracious Spirit, Womb of all life
Ever gracing, Most wondrous God
In this moment, In our being
We are one, We are one.

The Morning Prayer was rich in allusions to our communion with the One who is and with all that is.

The time of deep discernment during the elections, when other business was suspended, is over.  

Refreshed after a day of rest, the Capitulants are returning to the task of putting form on all that has been germinating over the past weeks.

Christine outlined a ‘big agenda’ for the day.

·        The two key Chapter documents, Vowed for Mission and the Document emanating from the reflections, conversations and discussions in the Chapter, fuelled also by the contributions from the wider Institute, together with suggested amendments, had to be finalised. They were accepted by the Capitulants on the undeerstanding that the French and Spanish translations need to be refined.

The title Corporate Commitment was retained for the Document.

·         The Martillac project, for which the Capitulants had indicated their support, was given formal approval to continue in a show of ‘green cards’.

·         Evaluations

Christine pointed out that there were three evaluations to be done: one on the election process, one on the whole Chapter process and one for the house. She asked that they be done individually.

·         Marian had some items of interest for the Chapter

i.                The Pierre Bienvenu Noailles Foundation: This is a Foundation set up in France to finance Holy Family development projects. Not too many people know very much about it. Marian filled in some details and answered questions. We will leave it to the leaders and bursars to inform the members in their Units.

ii.               Another very interesting, even exciting, piece of information is that the General Administration is in the process of arranging to have its own Internet Server. At present, they (and we) are using different servers for our emails, websites and social media and this makes us more vulnerable to hacking.

The purpose is to provide greater security and privacy for everything regarding the Family. Each Unit will have an address with this Server and all information will be transmitted in this way, so that it becomes a sort of Intranet. Every Unit that so wishes can also use this Server for its own websites, emails, social media, blogs...

·         Chapter Recommendations

All the recommendations from the Chapter that need to be given to the General Leadership Team for implementation are being gathered by a group of three – Ana Maria, Adela and Eithne. Anyone who wishes to make a serious recommendation for the future may give it to the group before tomorrow’s deadline.

Other Conversations requested by the Chapter

The relationship between the Contemplative and Apostolic Sisters and Intercultural Communities were two topics  dealt with at some length and will form the subject matter of our next blog post.