Opening ceremony of the CACS
At 9.30 a.m, all the participants gathered at the chapel for the Eucharistic celebration which was celebrated by Father Nestor . Music and singing accompanied the participants throughout the whole celebration. At the beginning of the Mass, several members of the assembly entered in procession wearing traditional costumes. Different symbols were presented while an explanation was given to the assembly.
The first symbol carried by Sister Brigid Lawlor was the PASCHAL CANDLE, symbolizing the mystery of the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. When we see the Paschal Candle, we recognize the living Jesus who calls us daily to continue his redemptive mission in the Church.
The second symbol was The LOGO of the 2015 CONGREGATIONAL CHAPTER. “Energized by the Spirit, we risk together for mission”. The original intuition of St. Mary Euphrasia encourages us to be energized by the Spirit who comes forth from the Heart of God and flows continuously through all Creation.
The third symbol was the HOLY BIBLE which is a love letter that God has given us in order for us to be happy and saved. The Bible is a guide for our life. It truly is the most important book in which we find the instructions that always guide us towards the will of God.
During the great amen three sisters presented an arathi ( an offering with flowers and incense) to the Lord.
At the end of the mass the sisters were given a lighted candle, symbolizing themselves and their full-hearted presence at this Assembly. They then proceeded in silence to the gathering space and placed their candles near the icon of St.Mary Euphrasia and John Eudes .
Sister Clemencia Unit Leader of Ecuador then addressed the assembly with words of welcome recalling the importance of warm relationships for this congregational
meeting and the necessity of living in a climate of communion. This was followed by a celebration of drinks and delicious cakes prepared by the Sisters of Ecuador.
After the celebration the sisters proceeded to the Assembly hall to the tables assigned for different groups.
Sr Janice the facilitator introduced herself and reminded the participants that it was important to be relaxed and open so as to give of their best for this important meeting of the congregation. She presented the agenda for the meeting and after reflection called for approval.
The CACS Committee was presented to the assembly and appreciation was expressed for all the work they had done in preparation for this meeting. They gave some practical details for the smooth functioning of the assembly.
The afternoon opened with an exercise of Icebreaker to help sisters get to know each other better.
Then Sister Brigid Lawlor presented her message to the assembly in Spanish.
Excerpts of the message of Sister Brigid to the participants
Welcome to the Congregational Assembly of Contemplative Sisters!
My contemplative sisters, welcome! You are here because you have been elected by your sisters and Unit Leaders to enter into a process of evaluation of the directives from your 2008 Assembly document “Focus for Our Future”. Additionally, you are here to stretch your imagination and go beyond what was proclaimed in 2008 and build upon what has been lived over these past five years. You are here to create a new present and to creatively plan for the future of contemplative life in our Congregation. You are here to discern wisely and elect your delegates to the Congregational Chapter. You are here to consider more fully the role of your Congregational Council. Most importantly, you are here to make known to the whole Congregation, as well as more in depth to yourselves, the response to the question: What does it mean to be a contemplative sister in an apostolic Congregation? This is a unique challenge!
Unit Leaders, welcome! Why are you here? You are here to deepen your understanding of contemplative life in our Congregation, to assist by your support its development in the Congregation, as well as to be clear on your role as Unit Leaders with contemplative communities, on how to work with your Contemplative Council and, at times, with both your Apostolic and Contemplative Councils together. You are here to help clarify what pertains to the contemplative way of life and what pertains to the apostolic way of life. What an opportunity!
After Sister Brigid’s talk, sisters were invited to have table conversations on the message and afterwards offered feedback.
Then Sister Janice gave an input on the appreciative process and sacred space,She said that the Appreciative Process invites us to look for answers within ourselves. While it is helpful and important to benefit from the richness of external resources, it is equally important to respect and search out the wisdom of our own histories, our own experience.
Afterwards she led the sisters in a reflection and exercise on how to create sacred space.
Note: In February 2013, the Congregational Chapter Planning Committee sent out a booklet entitled “Creating Sacred Space” and invited the Congregation to “make a covenant with each other” in order to create a Sacred Space which would “support us, as we share our hopes and desires for Good Shepherd today.
Marie Françoise Mestry