Challenges and Perspectives on the 15th General Chapter
Picture: The Divine Master Retreat House in Ariccia is waiting for the Chapter Sisters.
We are very close to the 15th General Chapter and many thoughts are stirring in our minds and hearts. It is a time of expectation both for the sisters who will be participating in the chapter and for the majority who will accompany them with their prayers and through the news that will be published.
To better prepare us for this very important moment in the Congregation, SSpSWW has asked some questions about what you might want to know from the CLT about the preparation of the Chapter.
Because of the COVID-19 Pandemic, the 15th General Chapter (15GC), planned for 2020, was postponed several times and is now expected to take place from 12 to 31 January 2022. As the pandemic is still going on, what are the challenges for the 15GC?
For a valid and meaningful discernment, we want to ensure that each sector of our congregation is appropriately represented. However, the most important concern is protecting the health and wellbeing of each participant, both delegates and service personnel. This includes making sure all are vaccinated, tested, follow quarantine regulations, have sufficient rest, healthy food and a safe environment (social distancing, masks, handwashing, etc.).
We are currently arranging quarantine sites and asking all to follow safety procedures prior to and during the Chapter. If needed, we can arrange COVID testing, care and quarantine. Only a limited number of people will be allowed to visit the venue such as priests to celebrate Eucharist and a few invited guests. We have not planned a general outing to also limit any infectious contact. Overall, we are trusting the goodwill and responsible actions of each member.
Sr. Margaret Hansen, SSpS – General Councilor
If the new variant of the virus or the increasing pandemic situation interferes in the realization of the 15GC what is it possible to do?
At the moment we are preparing for the General Chapter in full swing and we trust and pray that the sisters will be able to arrive. We believe in a Chapter “of presence” and since we have discernment for the elections, it’s a very important step.
At the moment, here in Europe, Italy hasn’t closed the borders, so travelling is possible. We propose that our sisters be very careful and take all measures to arrive here safely and we will provide a safe space for quarantine and for the Chapter. We are very happy that nearly 100% are vaccinated and we are going to Ariccia in a good condition.
In case anything happens, we will need to adjust and we have to see from one moment to the next, from situation to situation… During this pandemic situation we have learnt that all our plans can turn upside down and we need to listen and see what is appropriate. But we strongly believe it is possible to have a Chapter with all present in January.
Sr. Miriam Altenhofen, SSpS – General Councilor
Besides the election of the new General Coordination Team that will lead the congregation for the next six years, what else is expected from this 15GC?
We expect to have an honest look at the reality of our Congregation, strengths and limitations, and how we have journeyed to the past six, now seven years, including the pandemic, and what we have learnt from it.
Of course, I also expect that we will enjoy meeting each other and celebrating our togetherness and interculturality, while still observing the regulations related to COVID-19.
At every General Chapter what is important is that we discern together and find an answer to the question: what does the Holy Spirit expect of us for the coming 6 years, for us specifically as SSpS. And also to go back to our origin, to our charism and ask how to live this out with enthusiasm, love and joy in the future. These are the main points for the chapter besides the elections.
Sr. Maria Theresia Hornermann, SSpS – Congregational Leader
This 15GC is being planned to be as paperless and to this end an investment in technology has been made. What innovations are expected and what methodology will be used?
During the Chapter each capitular will not carry a hard copy folder as it used to be, but will carry a device, a portable personal computer with a touch screen surface called a tablet. The tablet will provide access to the Internet, email, and other Chapter-related applications, especially the GSuite or Workspace. GSuite is a collaborative productivity application that offers professional email, shared calendars, online document editing, storage on cloud, video meetings and survey tool.
All reports from the provinces, regions and the General Administration are being saved in Google Drives. Each Capitular received a personal Google email account with the domain worldssps.org that gave them access to the Shared Drives for reading or studying the reports. During the chapter it will be the way to share and upload documents. We also can use Google form to do surveys and voting, except for the election of the congregational leader and the congregational councilors.
This chapter can really be considered a paperless chapter because it will use minimal office paper, our contribution as a congregation to the care of our common home, our Mother Earth.
Sr. Mikaelin Bupu, SSpS – General Councilor
From the beginning of the preparation of the 15GC until now, the world is undergoing profound and dramatic transformations that also affect our different mission fields. How does the 15GC intend to face the emerging challenges in view of the future of the mission and the Congregation?
We are facing a different world affected by the pandemic and we have to ask – how this new world’s scenery affects our life and future as a Congregation? In the General Chapter we have the directions setting. It’s a broad orientation in which direction we would like to go in the future. It is also a discerning process where the Spirit calls us, what is God asking us to do and how to respond to the emergent issues and needs of our world now.
Earlier, we had priorities or targets such as women, or formation, or HIV/AIDS, but in the last chapter, we had a broad direction setting that goes towards communion. For the 15th General Chapter I believe and I hope that the directions will give us the ways and the methods to face the challenges of the world, for example, how to respond to this pandemic; how it affects our future in terms of our structures, organization, administration, visitations planning, etc.
We need to discover and discern ways with the new leadership team to face the emergent issues. Hopefully we are praying and preparing ourselves, so the Congregation is ready with resources and personnel to respond adequately to the call of the Church and the word today.
Sr. Mary John Kudiyiruppil, SSpS – Assistant General
The SSpS missionaries around the world have prayed: “O Holy Spirit, what gift do you want to offer the world through us?” Can we expect any answers, insights or perspectives related to this question? Is there a theme that emerges from this search for the whole Congregation?
In the spirit of the synodal process that is communion, participation and discernment, I am sure that the General Chapter will discover what are the most relevant themes and gifts of the Spirit that we can offer to the world of today.
I can see so many gifts received from the Spirit in our SSpS identity, such as the joy of participating in the life and mission of Jesus and by the Spirit’s action and presence manifesting his consoling and compassionate love.
Our relationship with the Triune God makes our intercultural and intergenerational communities an enriching process of weaving unity in diversity and creating a culture of peace and solidarity.
We seek discernment and networking with others, sharing our hope and trust, and also the joys, pains, and dreams of our brothers and sisters, especially migrants, indigenous peoples, unprotected children, women in difficulty…
We are aware that everything is interrelated and we commit ourselves to respond to the cry of the earth. Embracing our fragility, limits, and vulnerability, we share the need for constant transformation. Yes, as Mother Maria Helena Stollenwerk, we can also offer the gifts of love and gratitude.
Sr. Maria Cristina Ávalos, SSpS – Admonitor General