From the 1970s & Beyond

NAZARETH, KY. – “Women of Charity for a Global Age” was the theme of the 1970s & Beyond gathering drawing 75 members of the Sisters of Charity Federation to the Nazareth Retreat Center July 26-29.  The event was hosted by Sisters of Charity of Nazareth (SCN) during their 200th anniversary year.    
Participants came from across the United States as well as eastern and western Canada.  The gathering also included SCN from India, Nepal and Belize (Central America).  Enriching the international presence were South Korean Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill (Greensburg, Pa.) now based in the U.S.  
Federation executive director Julie Cutter, DC also participated in the gathering, offering a reflection during the eucharistic liturgy on the weekend.  “I believe we can be God’s abundance for and with those living in poverty today,” she said in St. Vincent de Paul Church at the SCN motherhouse.
Sisters who entered since 1970 are invited to the gatherings hosted every three years by different Federation member congregations. The Federation includes 11 congregations of Sisters of Charity and two provinces of Daughters of Charity.  With a common charism, members share the heritage and spirituality of Sts. Vincent de Paul, Louise de Marillac and Elizabeth Ann Seton. 
In Kentucky, presenter and facilitator Caroljean Willie said, “Our goal is to dream together” and revision religious vows for the 21st century.  “There is something new being born in religious life today,” added the Sister of Charity of Cincinnati who is the Federation’s non-governmental organization representative at the United Nations.  
With extensive international ministry experience, Sister Caroljean highlighted evolving social, ecclesial and global trends calling for awareness and response. Sharing a variety of PowerPoint presentations, she also invited participants to engage in musical and artistic expression as well as small group conversation.
Sister Caroljean explored the vision of church transformation called forth by the Second Vatican Council.  Quoting from the council’s teaching on religious life in the document “Lumen Gentium,” she said while religious life belongs to the life of the church, it is of “divine rather than ecclesiastical origin.”    
Challenges beckoning women religious today also include widespread social inequalities and environmental degradation, she noted. “Today we’re in a very different planetary consciousness.  At what point do we say ‘enough’?  We have to look at the social, environmental and economic consequences of our actions.”
Quoting Joan Chittister, OSB, she said “risk is the new asceticism of religious life.”  We are “called to be prophets in our time,” acting together to challenge the status quo and embrace personal, congregational, social and global transformation.  
Interdependence in the Federation extends further to include membership in the worldwide Vincentian Family, she noted.  Sisters Caroljean and Julie serve as Federation representatives to this multicultural, intergenerational family of women and men religious and lay leaders.  
Sister Caroljean also said growing cosmic awareness inspires new understanding about interdependence and divine creativity.  “We can no longer talk about religious life apart from the universe of which we are a part,” she added.  
“God is continually evolving in our consciousness . . . We recognize everything is connected to everything else . . . that everything is an expression of the divine.”
During the gathering, fun was also on the agenda with a choice of group outings in the area and a banquet served by SCN in their motherhouse dining room.  As the event drew to a close, Nazareth Sisters blessed each participant called forth as members of 11 congregations represented at the gathering. 
The 2012 gathering was planned by a committee chaired by Michelle Grgurich, SCN.  Other members were Jennifer Gordon, SCL (Leavenworth); Claire Regan, SC (New York); Jolaine States, SC (Halifax) and Mary Elizabeth Lawrence, SC (Seton Hill).  The prayer committee invited participants to serve in a wide variety of liturgical ministries, including music and movement.  During the eucharistic liturgy, readings and intentions were offered in various languages.
The Kentucky gathering was the seventh meeting of 1970s & Beyond.  Looking ahead to the 2015 gathering, Daughters of Charity offered their retreat center in Evansville, Ind., while a new inter-congregational committee volunteered to plan the event.
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