Carlette Gentle, SCN, spoke to the leadership of the Charity Federation on three current realities important for moving into the future as the Federation and implications Sisters live into shared future for the next 10 years.

Sister Carlette articulated the vision for a shared future for the federation in the following:

“When asked to focus on these questions, I thought to myself. What can I say that you all don’t already know? And I still don’t quite know. But what I can state is that as a Federation we are stronger. Imagine our communities 10 years from now with no federation. What will be the implication of that? Where will we be? In our little siloes holding on to what we call our congregation? Or clinging on to the few sisters we have stating that, “We need them for our own ministries.” Will we be stuck in our own frame of mind thinking that we can continue to do things like we did back in the days saying, “It worked for us back then so it should work for us now.” Well I’m sorry to say that it is not working. We need to think beyond boundaries and the Federation is one way of doing that.

“For us to think long term, we have to evolve today. We call ourselves the Federation but are we truly a Federation? Yes, we come together for these meetings once or twice a year and we sit around and plan our collaboration. But when are we really going to start living it more deeply? Yes, we started with the House of Charity and the Future of Charity gatherings, the grassroots meetings and or Charity Moving Forward. Those are all good. But I believe we have to start living inter-congregationally. Yes, I said it. We have to move beyond all of our boundaries of community lines to see beyond our own congregations. We need to cross boundaries and move prophetically as a federation to set the trend of living intentionally, building inter congregational communities. We always talk about risking our lives and our resources. What better way to do this than to come out of our comfort zones and move towards something that will stretch us all? Until we do this, we will continue seeing ourselves as separate entities instead of a Federation. We are many yes but we are striving to become one in the Federation.

“The second important highlight that we need to focus on now is working with our sisters on how to live community life in todays’ world. And I am not just talking about newer members coming in, I am also talking about our older sisters. How do we develop support systems to live inter generationally? We, as community members, sometimes fail to realize that when someone new joins us, we become a whole new community. If we are inviting younger newer members to join us, we have to look at what we are inviting them into. We have to look at creative new ways of living community life. In this time and age there are so many different ways in which we can incorporate modern forms of prayer besides just doing the office and the rosary. How can we share the diverse ways of how we each individually pray to our God? Besides the prayer, I have noticed that it is so difficult to find a local community for newer members. I know there are sisters that have been living alone or have been living together for 10, 15, even 20 years that don’t want to disrupt their living arrangements. But if we are calling for new and creative ways of living community life, we have to break out of our comfort zone and start living inter congregationally. Therefore, we have to focus on having workshops that teach all of our sisters about how to live with each other in keeping with the characteristics of their specific generations in mind. Whether it be Baby Boomers (1943 – 1960), Generation X (1961 – 1981), Millennials (1982 – 2004), Homeland (2005) and whatever other name they have out there. To help our sisters in this process of seeing this new way of living together, we have to offer them new ways of seeing and thinking. As a federation, we have to see how we can strive to educate each other on different ways of living. Maybe we could develop teams to be available to form intentional communities.This leads me into my next important point which is Multiculturalism. Living in an intercultural community is another way we need to develop as a federation. We have to show support for the presence of several distinct cultural and ethnic groups within our communities. We are living in a society where races and cultures are being mixed every single day, but when we look at our communities, I hate to say but the diversity is not very evident. Look around this room right now. How can we start to invite and encourage our sisters of different cultures and races to take part more in activities? How can we as individuals make them feel more accepted? How can we make them feel that they are not being judged all the time? How can we incorporate their cultures into our daily lives? One friend back home in Belize asked me once, “How do you feel being around so many white people all the time?” I replied “What?” she said “Yes every time I see pictures of you, when you go to meetings, you are always around white people. So how do you feel being around them all the time?” Even though the question took me aback, I thought for a minute then replied “Well at first it was difficult feeling like I was the odd one out, and I also felt like I was being watched and judged at my every move, but the more I participated in things I got to know them and they got to know me, therefore, I started seeing them as an extension

“This leads me into my next important point which is Multiculturalism. Living in an intercultural community is another way we need to develop as a federation. We have to show support for the presence of several distinct cultural and ethnic groups within our communities. We are living in a society where races and cultures are being mixed every single day, but when we look at our communities, I hate to say but the diversity is not very evident. Look around this room right now. How can we start to invite and encourage our sisters of different cultures and races to take part more in activities? How can we as individuals make them feel more accepted? How can we make them feel that they are not being judged all the time? How can we incorporate their cultures into our daily lives? One friend back home in Belize asked me once, “How do you feel being around so many white people all the time?” I replied “What?” she said “Yes every time I see pictures of you, when you go to meetings, you are always around white people. So how do you feel being around them all the time?” Even though the question took me aback, I thought for a minute then replied “Well at first it was difficult feeling like I was the odd one out, and I also felt like I was being watched and judged at my every move, but the more I participated in things I got to know them and they got to know me, therefore, I started seeing them as an extension to my family, as equals.” But for our sisters of different cultures and backgrounds in our communities how do we include them? Do we embrace their cultures? Do we give them time to educate us about their culture, their food, their customs, their language, their ways of thinking, etc. as we teach them about ours? Are we willing and open to include their food, music and sense of time in our daily lives? How can we as a Federation share and educate each other about the cultures that are among us? How can we make it richer? How can we as communities of the Federation enhance our knowledge of what we have NOW; and how do we incorporate people of different races and cultures? We have IT! It is HERE! We just have to see this wealth of our federation to expand our mindset. If we think about it, we are 12 congregations located all over the USA and Canada but we also have members in our communities from Africa, Belize, Korea, India, Peru, Mexico, Nepal, this list can go on. But what we as a Federation need to realize is that we have a gift, a treasure that we need to enhance so that our Federation can continue to evolve?

“So in ten years, how do I see the Federation? I foresee that we will be smaller in numbers. We will be closer to each other because of the collaboration we are working on today. I see us living in smaller, intentional communities, living inter congregationally, with more multicultural diversity and varied age groups. We will share ministries of interest across congregations. With all the multiple ministries that we as a federation have, Sisters will have many options of coming together to respond to the needs of the world with the gifts women religious can bring. The Federation will be open to crossing borders of all kinds. Sisters’ gifts and resources will be able to be shared in the states as well as internationally where needed. We will speak up for injustices with one voice, and we will be one as we continue to create history together. We will respond to what is in front of us – as Vincent would say. We will go where God is calling us.”

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