- The custom of holding GC’s in religious congregations is an ancient and originally monastic practice. It can be traced back to the 6th century when St. Benedict gathered the monks in his monastery each week to read and discuss a chapter of the Benedictine Rule. It is interesting that Benedict held to the importance of each monk’s opinion being heard and especially that of the youngest monk.
- GC membership is composed of elected delegates as well as those who hold leadership roles. GC processes are not based on debate and vote, but rather on discernment, reflection and spiritual conversation.
- The implementation of the GC’s outcome is the responsibility of not just the Institute’s leaders, but of all members. These outcomes tend to be broad and general, based on Gospel values, rather than being solely a list of decrees. After the GC, the outcomes are considered in provincial and regional gatherings and decisions are made as to how to apply them in the local context. A GC has clearly defined tasks, responsibilities, membership and time-frame.
- Like the monks of old, the members of a congregation gather to discern the call of God to their congregation at that particular moment in its life and history, in the context of local and global church and world realities. This is a faith even in the life of a religious congregation. Discernment is the foundation of everything done by planning group members, and later, GC members: how they do it, and the processes offered by the facilitators. It is the key value underlying every aspect of a congregation
*Facts 1-4 above includes material taken from General Chapters: A Guide for Facilitators Planners and Participants by Dairne McHenry RSCJ in collaboration with Mary Harrington SUSC and Gabrielle Stuart RSM, County Down Northern Ireland, 2014.
- GC2014 was held at Loyola in Spain. The one previous to that was held in Lima, Peru in 2006. In 1998, the GC was held in Mauritius and in 1992, it was held in Manresa Spain. In 1980 the GC was in Rome and previous to that the GC was held in 1974 Loyola, Spain.
- General Congregations have often been called General Chapters.
- An extraordinary General Congregation was held in 2009, which concluded five years of reflection and sharing in the revision process of the IBVM Constitutions. The new Constitutions were accepted unanimously on October 28th 2009, with the whole of Volumes I and II as our particular law.
- Beginning with Mary Wright’s term as General Superior in 1998, the GC’s have been held every 8 years. Previously it was mostly 6 years.
- Invitations between IBVM and CJ’s to attend each other’s GC’s has been customary over many years.
- Live streaming liturgies took place in GC2014, where sisters and the wider circle of Mary Ward family could join in the liturgy from all around the world.
- GC 2022 could well be the last IBVM GC before reunion with the CJ branch.
- This GC will be held at the same time Saint Ignatius was in Manresa 500 years ago. It was a special time of spiritual conversion and transformation for Ignatius before he left Manresa in February the following year.
How will the GC elect new leaders?
Election of the Institute leader and Institute consultors
The General Congregation spends time in prayer and discernment before proceeding to the election of the Institute leader. Each one is obliged to vote for the member whom, before God, she considers suited to fulfil the role of the Institute leader, for the good of the Institute and of the Church. (IBVM Constitutions 6.19)
The member who receives the votes of an absolute majority of the electors present is elected, if not at the first, then at the second or third scrutiny. If the third scrutiny is inconclusive, a fourth scrutiny is taken between the two members with the highest number of votes, or, if there are more than two, between the two senior by first profession, or if equal by profession, senior by age. (IBVM Constitutions 6.22)
The separate elections of the four Institute consultors are held after that of the Institute leader. A separate election is held to choose one from among the Institute consultors as Institute vicar. the procedure at these elections is the same as for the Institute leader. (IBVM Constitutions 6.26)