Reflecting on a General Chapter with a Difference

11 April 2022

The 20th General Chapter (a meeting held every six years for the apostolic and contemplative Sisters) concluded on 20 December 2021. The original date was May 2020, but COVID 19 pandemic forced a postponement. The General Chapter was in two main parts 20 days in February/March and 16 days in November/ December via Zoom. A very different experience but one that allowed a level of connection and participation of all the Sisters never witnessed before. Since February 2021 we gathered each month for Prayer and Inter Unit Conversations on various topics related to living fully our charism of communion.

One topic that spoke loudly to me was that of Interculturality. Culture provides us with the sense of identity, cohesion, inclusion, and protection that all of us need as human beings. Culture also divides into “us” and “them”. Interculturality looks at our expression of walking alongside those who were not born into my native culture. Cultural differences should not separate us from each other, but rather cultural diversity brings a collective strength that can benefit all of humanity. It is how we “minister to the other person” regardless of the circumstances in which we meet them. Pope Francis speaks of the reaction in today’s world to those we meet who are different from us.

“No one will ever openly deny that they are human beings, yet in practice, by our decisions and the way we treat them, we can show that we consider them less worthy, less important, less human. For Christians, this way of thinking and acting is unacceptable, since it sets certain political preferences above deep convictions of our faith: the inalienable dignity of each human person regardless of origin, race or religion, and the supreme law of fraternal love.”

As members of the PBN Family we are called to share our gift of communion with the world where there can only be expressions of “we”. My reflections over the past few months have challenged me to examine the language I use or more importantly hide behind. I am aware of my own prejudices.

As a Holy Family Sister, I read the following phrases in our literature “Standing against discrimination among ourselves”, “Mission of Communion”, “Unity in Diversity”, “Interrelatedness”, “Interdependence”, “In solidarity and complementarity”, ‘Loving, seeking and desiring God alone in all things like Jesus, Mary and Joseph”, and “Being one with” What do these really mean for me in today’s world? If I dare to risk integrating some of the above into how I live surely this can make a difference for the whole earth community. It means that I must tackle head-on my biases otherwise I am living a life, counter to the one I committed to 28 years ago.

The term that has repeatedly come to mind recently is “zero tolerance on inequality”. This has taken me wider than the issue of interculturality. I am challenged to look at my responses within a society that provides us daily with a long list of inequalities. To see difference in a positive and constructive light. Pope Francis reminds us that “we must walk united with our differences: there is no other way to become one”.

It is a known fact that I may not remember what you did for me, but I will remember how you made me feel.
As the family of PBN, we take care of one another. The welfare of each one is the concern for all. Who is the other? In this family, we are all sisters and brothers, each with our specific vocation. We are different; to take care of the other who is different from me, with her/his needs and ways, means to be interested in what s/he feels, and to welcome strengths as well as imperfections. To accept each other with our own vulnerabilities. As a Charismatic Family, we are open to the whole community of life with whom we form one great family.

Each member of the PBN Family is called to promote communion through a quality of presence as Family within the Universe Family. I invite you to think about the phrase “zero tolerance on inequality” what would the impact be in your life and all those you meet daily if you considered adopting this attitude and created awareness.

Sr. Catherine Lavery, Unit Leader