Dear Sisters and Associates,
Attached you will find the Accountability Reports from the Provinces, the Botswana Mission, and the Central Leadership Team that were shared at the last Executive Committee meeting. This format differs from what we have shared in previous reports. This time, instead of simply listing all that had been accomplished under each Directive, those reporting were asked to take a few activities and answer the following questions:
What? (describe the activity)
So What? (explain the impact of the activity)
Now What? (determine what next steps you might take)
Each group approached the questions a little differently. The reports paint a rich picture of how the Congregation is bringing about the reign of God in diverse and creative ways.
Try it yourself!
The Executive Committee members encourage you to take an activity in which you are engaged and use the questions (What? So what? Now what?) to reflect on the impact of what you are doing and see where else the Spirit might be leading you.
Directive: Promote the leadership and equality of all in the Church, especially women, through education, dialogue, networking, advocacy, and the use of inclusive language.
What? The Province has taken particular interest in monitoring the implementation of this Directive throughout the Province. Actions taken were as follows:
The leadership has made conscious efforts to empower the members of the Province for leadership by giving them a number of opportunities:
- Enhancement of their qualifications: a number of Sisters in the Province are getting Master’s degrees or PhDs. Others are enhancing the education they already have in their field.
- During the Province Assembly of 2014, young Sisters were given ample opportunities to express their leadership; for the first time in India, we had the temporary professed Sisters becoming delegates at an Assembly.
- The leadership has called attention to the need for equal participation of girls in various activities in the schools. As a result:
- Banakal now has an equal number of girls inducted into the Band of 30 students.
- Anakkampoil has changed its practice of having only boys as the top leaders of the Student Council.
- All schools are asked to give preferential option for girls in their admission process.
- Leadership takes particular interest in the activities done in the various missions with the women and girls of those areas. Through phone calls, personal visits to the missions, and other encouraging forms, they appreciate the work done by the Sisters, especially in the Social Action milieu.
- During the CRI Convention in May 2015, Ann Palatty, SCN, spoke to the group she was a part of about the need to recognize the Sisters as equal partners in the Church. Her point was appreciated, and recorded in the minutes.
- The Prayer Book “Contemplate the Heart of God” was published with inclusive language. The Sisters in the Province are encouraged to use the book in their daily community prayer.
So what? There is a growing awareness in the hearts and minds of everyone to keep pursuing our efforts to claim our space in Church and Society. It is a slow growth, but a definite step in the right direction.
DIRECTIVE 1: Deepen our spirituality through contemplation, dialogue and theological development across cultures and from different perspectives.
The following is being continued:
- Practice of half an hour prayer in silence (contemplation) before the community prayer.
Impact: The communities that are following this practice regularly are experiencing inward growth. The members have developed forgiving attitudes and have grown in acceptance of self and others.
Suggestion: The communities who are not regular in practicing this are reminded /encouraged to do it.
- Yoga and 5-10 minutes of meditation are being carried out in all the schools administered by the SCNs:
Impact: The discipline in the schools has improved. Students have better concentration in their studies, which has shown in their academic performance.
Suggestion: Continue the practice of Yoga and meditation in the schools. The schools which are irregular in the practice need to be encouraged to do it.
DIRECTIVE 2: Create vibrant community life and deepen relationships to further the mission.
- All communities have made goals after the community retreat in which creating vibrant community is one of the objectives, with a few concrete activities. During the Province Leadership Team visit to the communities, an evaluation was conducted.
Impact: The communities which have taken personal goals and community goals seriously have become truly vibrant.
Suggestions: The communities have been encouraged to keep striving towards their goals. Individuals are being identified and are being given ample opportunities to pursue personal growth. Sisters are encouraged to attend seminars/workshops during the Year of Consecrated Life.
DIRECTIVE 3: Promote the leadership and equality of all in the Church, especially women, through education, dialogue, networking, advocacy, and the use of inclusive language.
- Six tertians have been enrolled in Mater Dei Goa for the study of theology and study related to religious life. This Institute is established and administered by women CRI.
Impact: Those who have completed the program at Mater Dei Goa have grown in maturity, spirituality, and knowledge of theology. They have gained the confidence to take up responsibility
and to take up leadership. They are able to speak up during CRI and other parish/diocese-related meetings.
Suggestion: We should further explore options on this matter, as we have a long way to go as a community in India on issues of gender equality in the Church.
- Conscious efforts are being made to use inclusive language in our prayers. All the local communities are using the Prayer Book ‘Contemplate the Heart of God.’
Impact: There has been a slight attitudinal change in the Sisters with the use of our own prayer book which has other materials for integrated prayers.
Suggestion: We need to make conscious efforts for the use of inclusive language.
DIRECTIVE 4: Focus on bringing about systemic change as we are present to people in all aspects of our mission.
- Empowerment of women is taking place through income generating activities and educational opportunities.
Impact: Girls who are domestic helpers in most of the SCN communities are tutored to become literate. If they have are drop outs, they are assisted with completing their studies.When they
begin to get money as a salary, many of them spend this for educating their brothers and sisters.
Suggestions: Provide opportunity for all the domestic helpers in our local communities to become literate. Ensure completion of matriculation for those who are drop outs. Generate some local funds that might be used to assist domestic helpers who are financially assisting their own siblings in getting an education.
- Awareness programs on the care and protection of the environment is being conducted through our Social and Health Centers.
Impact: People in the villages around Sale (Mahuadarn) did not provide care for the trees planted
by the government. After the awareness program, they began planting fruit trees and caring for them. Earlier, the villagers used Mahua flowers only for making alcohol. Now they have learned to make different types of snacks using dried Mahua flowers, which are very nutritious. This is becoming a source of income too. People of two model villages have started organic farming
Suggestions: Continue to promote the various uses of Mahua and organic farming.
The activities for the formation of model villages must continue.
The Activity on which the Western Province Leadership Team chose to focus with regard to fulfilling the 2013 General Assembly Directive is: The Western Province Gathering.
The Gathering certainly helped to “create vibrant community life and deepen relationships to further the Mission” (Directive 2). We maintained a sense of unity even as we addressed the hard questions surrounding the relationship of Women Religious in the Church. The calm and gentle nature of the presenter, Janet Mock, CSJ (recent Executive Director of LCWR), helped Sisters and Associates to accept the hard reality she was sharing, and created a safe climate for contemplative dialogue among ourselves. The socials during the Gathering also helped to create vibrant community life, as participants lingered with each other over food, fun, and good conversation.
The speaker’s feminine approach to conflict and witness to patient, faith-filled endurance, led some participants to state that they felt they were on retreat (Directive 1). Her use of the Rules for a Dialogical Community by Bernard Lee, SM, with us also deepened our own ability to utilize contemplative dialogue with one another on this difficult issue (Directive 1).
The Gathering also promoted the leadership and equality of women in the Church (Directive 3), by broadening our view of the issue on women in the Church. Of special note was the speaker’s emphasis on the importance of dealing with male hierarchy as peers, and her own witness to this leadership approach, our own use of inclusive language in our prayers, the Initiatives Committee’s display on inclusive language, and the Bread-Breaking Service led by women to close the Gathering.
Finally, we spent half a day of the Gathering focusing on the use of Systemic Change in
Mission (Directive 4), as the Justice Committee, Human Trafficking Prevention Committee, Breaking the Cycle of Poverty and Violence Committee, and National Farm Worker Ministry Representative held breakout sessions on how each group was utilizing Systemic Change.
Although we only had to comment on one Directive for our one activity, we were so pleased to notice that our Gathering had indeed addressed all four Directives, that we just couldn’t help commenting on all four.
- Use of the Rules for a Dialogical Community (Bernard Lee, SM).
- Follow-up Area Meetings on the hard questions regarding Church.
- Justice News and Action Section for our Western Province Newsletter, beginning with a list of companies we should support for their efforts at Systemic Change.
- Reinforce the concept of relating with male hierarchy as peers.
- Preparations for the Western Province Assembly focusing on the Initiatives.
- Encourage participation in the Vincentian Gathering that is focusing on: Building Community and Collaboration for Systemic Change around Homelessness.
Assembly Directive: Create vibrant community life and deepen relationships to further the mission.
What? Describe the activity.
We have come together as the Botswana Community as often as possible, at least once a month for:
- prayer and faith sharing
- sharing of ministries
- celebrations (e.g., birthdays, national festivals, and other occasions)
- sharing of struggles and disappointments
- fun and folly
So What? Explain the impact it had.
- Brought us closer to each other.
- Created a support system among us.
- Gave us strength in crisis situations.
- We became more reflective.
- Became more aware of the need to know more about culture and practices.
- Helped unite us, made us more understanding, and appreciative of each other, and of our collective and individual ministries.
- Brought meaning to our own ministries and others.
- We have been a witness to Church leaders, priests, religious and lay people.
Now What? Is there any follow-up you can foresee?
- Coming together more often, not only for business matters, but for fun and relaxation (e.g., a trip to Victoria Falls and a game reserve).
- For spiritual enrichment (e.g., a day of recollection every three months).
- For sharing of ministries (every three months).
- To show care and concern for each other through phone calls.
- To express interest and support for one another’s ministries.
The Central Leadership Team is focusing on “bringing about systemic change as we are present to people in all aspects of our mission.”
What? Describe the activity.
Collaborating with Habitat for Humanity, men and women Religious in the Archdiocese of Louisville, and others to build the Wake Up the World House for Bisharo Hussein and family. Bisharo is a working, single mother of seven children and is originally from Somalia by way of Kenya. She is part of the Muslim community in Louisville, Kentucky. Some of the Central Leadership Team went to the ground blessing of Bisharo’s house (May 30th) as well as her next door neighbor’s, Ahmed and Iisho Hansan and family (April 25th). Besides putting in hours of construction on Bisharo’s house, we provided lunch twice for the workers (50 and 25).
So What? Explain the impact it had.
Home ownership and the classes Bisharo receives for home upkeep and budgeting will bring about systemic change as she acquires these new skills. There are five Habitat houses being built on this court next to each other. This provides a great support to Bisharo because they are all learning and in this process together. She and her family are learning skills from putting in 400 sweat equity hours into her house and other homes. Hopefully these Muslim families will have a good experience and appreciation of U.S. Christian people. This project falls within the Year of Consecrated Life, the Year of Vincentian Collaboration, and the Year of Mercy. This project gave Religious in the area the opportunity to know each other better, and to have a stronger sense of unity as we collaborated and worked side-by-side in raising funds and helping in the construction of the home.
Now What? Is there any follow-up you can foresee?
We hope to be part of a house warming when Bisharo is ready to move in. We are confident her Habitat mentor will follow-up, and she will have the support she needs. This opens the question, are there other projects that the men and women Religious in the area could work on together? This is a new moment for us.