Sixty-nine leaders of the Sisters of Charity Federation of North America gathered from June 1-5, 2017 in Tarrytown, NY for their annual meeting. They represented two provinces of the Daughters of Charity and eleven congregations of Sisters of Charity in the United States and Canada.
The theme for this year was “Hazard yet Forward: Futuring Charity Together,” which comes from the 12th century Seton family coat of arms which reads: In adversity, patience; in prosperity, benevolence; hazard yet forward. Today we might say: At whatever risk, yet go forward! We believe it is a powerful reminder of the challenges we face as we move into our shared future.
Here is a brief overview of each day from the Sisters of Charity Federation News page:
- The Federation meeting opened on Thursday evening with greetings from Sister Jane Iannucelli, President of the Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul of New York. Sister Jane spoke of the theme “Hazard Yet Forward: Futuring Charity Together” as an invitation to “cross over the bridge to the future we are creating together.”
- In a candle-lit opening prayer ritual, congregational leaders entered with a lamp of charity. Each delegation stood, acknowledged their members and staff in attendance, and shared a prayer for a particular need of the congregation to carry the charism into the future. Each prayer was met with the response of “hazard yet forward” from the audience.
- The evening concluded with a talk by Sister Mary McCormick, SCNY, who shared the stories of the first three Sisters of Charity who came to New York from Emmitsburg, MD in 1817. In 2017 the Sisters of Charity of New York are celebrating 200 years of presence in New York.
- Jaime Carrera, Westchester Marriott, spoke of the corporate initiative to train staff in identifying human trafficking.
- Sister Kathy introduced three intentions for the gathering: to identify and honor the diversity among us, recognize the current realities of the Federation, and articulate the implications as we live into our shared future.
- Sister Teresa Kotturan, SCN, NGO representative to the United Nations, spoke about migrants, refugees, and internally displaced persons, with a focus on women and children. Sister Teresa shared that negotiations are in process for the adoption of the Global Compact for Migration and that the Global Compact on Refugees will be proposed by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
- During the NGO liaison panel, Sister Helene Allain, NDSC spoke about the work by some Canadian congregations and groups to urge the Canadian government to suspend or revise the Safe Third Country Agreement and increase the refugee resettlement targets.
- Sister Eileen Haynes, SCL and Sister Carol DeAngelo, SCNY outlined strategies to aid migrants, refugees, and internally displaced persons in the United States.
- Five congregations shared examples of systemic change projects in their ministries that address affordable housing, education, human trafficking and skill training services in Canada, the United States, and India.
- Sister Joan Cook, SC-Cincinnati, President of the Federation, commemorated several significant anniversaries celebrated in 2017, including the 400th anniversary of the Vincentian charism, the 200th anniversary of the arrival of the Sisters of Charity in New York, and the 70th anniversary of the first conference of Mother Seton’s Daughters.
- Sister Joan presented the Futuring 2017 and Beyond document, which calls Federation members to be in solidarity with those that are poor and marginalized, committing to “never do alone what we can do better together.” Each congregation stood and affirmed their commitment to the Futuring document to move the Federation forward.
- Sister Julie Cutter, DC, Federation Executive Director, recognized the Federation Board for their service, as well as the work of the grassroots and collaborative groups within the Federation communities. Sister Grace Hartzog, Sister of Charity of Seton Hill, shared her gratitude for the opportunity to assume the role of Federation Executive Director in September 2017.
- The Finance Committee shared their report, including the review of the third quarter report and an explanation of the proposed Budget for FY 2018.
- A celebratory dinner followed that included a cake and champagne to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Federation.
- Sister Mary started the first session of the day with a reminder of the three intentions for the meeting: to identify and honor the diversity among us, recognize the current realities of the Federation, and articulate the implications as we live into our shared future. Four Sisters highlighted current realities and implications as they considered the future of the Federation for the next 10 years.
- Sister Salvatrice Murphy, DC-St. Louise offered that in everything there is truth but also brokenness in our history as Federation.
- Sister Melissa Camardo, SCL shared her hope that the Federation can be a creative force, a gathering and creating space. She cites that collaboration is surging in new ways and is urgent for the future where the wisdom of each is welcomed.
- Sister Joanne O’Regan, CSM shared her experience as a member of an Atlantic Canadian Religious Formation Conference and the joint effort amongst the Canadian Federation members to collaborate in ministries and use their diverse gifts, rather than duplicate efforts. She encouraged action now rather than “eventually we will have to act.”
- Sister Carlette Gentle, SCN rounded out the session by giving examples of barriers to inclusion and diversity in congregations. She challenged us to live inter-congregationally, inter-generationally, and multi-culturally.
- The table discussions focused on two questions: “what 3 realities would you highlight as important for moving into the future as the Federation?” and “what implications would you name as we live into our shared future for the next 10 years?”
- The Sisters, speakers, and staff then boarded buses for the Sheen Center to see an afternoon performance of the Turlough McConnell play How the Nuns of NY Tamed the Gangs of NY. The play traced the history of the Sisters of Charity of New York, from the origins of St. Elizabeth Seton to the arrival of the Sisters in NY, concluding with a tribute to the present-day Sisters.
- Mass was celebrated at St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral in Manhattan followed by dinner at Hughes Center before travelling back to Tarrytown.
- In the first session of the morning, Seton Heritage Ministries Board Chair Sister Jane Iannucelli, SCNY shared an update of their work. Sister Jane also explained the 5-year road to shared governance of Seton Shrine and announced that Sister Donna Geernaert, SC-H will assume the role of Seton Heritage Ministries Board Chair.
- A slideshow of photographs from House of Charity in New Orleans highlighted the work of Sisters and volunteers over the past year. During the session on ministry opportunities, the Daughters of Charity described the needs in Mississippi and the Sisters of Charity of Saint Elizabeth described needs in Haiti.
- The Assembly of the Whole planning committee solicited feedback from the Sisters regarding the meeting budget, marketing and engaging Sisters and Associates, and facilitating participation and translation.
With the aid of the Federation Archivists, Seton Shrine has created a booklet highlighting the 13 community histories. The next printing of the booklet will include the history of the Sisters of St. Martha of PEI.
- Throughout the day videotaped messages from grassroots Sisters were viewed. These Sisters joined in on the ongoing conversation on current realities of the Federation, suggesting intergenerational mentoring, more collaborative ministries, a shared Federation formation and novitiate, and inter-congregational living may be beneficial for the future of the Federation.
- In the last session of the day, tables groups prioritized current realities and actions for moving into the future and what the implications are for the next 10 years.
- The Sisters boarded a bus to visit the campus of Mount St. Vincent for a tour of the SCNY archives and cemetery, a Pentecost Prayer service, and a dinner with a recognition of service and choral music.