GC 2014

GC 14 Wed 17th Sept

Jesus said to the crowds…

Stillness filled the room during our faith sharing as it does every morning of our faith sharing. You could hear the rough mechanical working of the lawn machines. You could hear the building and outside activities waking up. Among us eyes closed and concentrating on whatever Jesus was saying to the crowds in our imagination, you could sense the rise and fall of group breathing and you could feel some holding on to their breathing. The breath of life…and before you know it the sharing begins.

Our discernment continues as we move into preparation the process of the election of the new leadership. Prayer, stillness and listening seemed to be at the centre of our deliberations.

Just before the morning Mass we learned of the death of Sr. Cathy Windle from the US Province. GC members grieve the loss of one of our own and we pray in faith that she is with Jesus in his promise of everlasting life.



GC 2014

GC Tuesday 16th September

16th September marked Brenda Eagan’s Birthday, “Landing Day” for our sisters in North America and the 11th Anniversary of our Re Union as we sang “Happy Birthday” to Brenda and then to “US”.


Our singing quickly turned a serious note as we spent another day moving deeper into discernment question one. The symbol of the chambered nautilus, a soft bodied sea creature that has survived for more than 400 million years was presented to us. Like the nautilus, that builds a new and larger chamber and vacates the previous one, we were asked to discern…. what do we need to sift out? …what do we need to hold? ….what seems to be emerging? …what is new? We were all engaged as we honestly and faithfully wrestled with what seems to be the newest chamber.


The election process was also presented to us by the facilitators for our comments. However, the process will only begin on the 19th with the Mass of the Holy Spirit which will be live streamed for all.

We thank you for the support of your prayers.


GC 2014

GC Update Mon 15th Sept

Today is the celebration of  Our Lady of Sorrows DSCF2096

and  is the feast day of Sr. Catherine Ryan, a Servite Sister and one of our facilitators.

We had the Liturgy celebrated in English today and that was a great gift to be able to hear the prayers, homily and acclamations in words we could easily understand and follow. Some how appreciating the pain of having to listen to translations all day and finding that it is a labour of love for some of our Sisters to come together in our predominant English language setting. We prayed with and for Sr. Catherine as she held her community close in prayer from a distance.

DSCF2098Taking the Luke 2:33-35 passage in our faith sharing today, we could imagine that Mary did not understand much about her son’s mission. Yet, she never questioned Jesus about the things that she did not understand. She gave Jesus space to grow into who he was called to be even though she did not understand. As a mother somehow she must have had a heavy heart. The priest spoke of Our Lady in this way and you might see how this could make sense.

 We continued to consider the discernment questions today. The process was slow and tedious but powerfully revealing when we experienced the commonalities in the responses that were shared. It was uncanny really how much deep honest listening that had to go on in everyone as we reached consensus about issues that will take the Institute into the future.

Let me say it this way using a quote from a Mary Oliver poem, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? Try to come up with an answer for yourself and  then let around fifty other women from all their various perspectives, generations and cultures come up with one single answer that everyone could fall in love with at the exact same level of commitment or agreement. And a line from our own Mary Ward, “Love and speak the truth at all times.”Let’s come up with what the consensus statement will say in love and truth. Discernment is good holy hard work and our days are about finding the kernel of truth and focus our attention on what we will convey to our next leaders and our Institute body and all the companions who believe in the value of our life and work.

So, at table we did just that, we poured over the “what”trying very hard to not get too far in to the “how”and the Spirit of truth and wisdom found a way into our labor; giving birth to something new. However, we have a long way to go before the work is done. Keep praying and one day soon it will be clear. (er)

 Our Lady…pray for us. St. Ignatius…pray for us. St. Francis Xavier…pray for us.

Venerable Mary Ward…pray for us. All you holy men and women, pray for us.




GC 2014

GC Update:Sunday 14th Sept

Yesterday we visited Javier, the birthplace of St. Francis Xavier. We toured the museum and his residence. Some attended Mass and others sat to pray in the chapel. All had time for a little peak in to history, some relaxation and at least one cup of tea.

Normal for us now, we reflected on the Gospel reading of the day, “For God so loved the world, that he gave only His son…” John 3:16 We humans are a stubborn lot and you’d think we would understand this love by now. This is love beyond our comprehension and so it takes making deliberate choices to hear those words and trust. We worked at that today.

 We worked at trusting the movement of the Spirit in the room today. There was intense listening and rearranging of our personal understanding. There was a lot of shifting and making attempts and succeeding at hearing one another. Picture it, seven tables of very different women in a relatively small space. We hunkered over material that we had studied over the last two years, the last months, weeks and days. We tried to get to the heart of the matter in our theological reflection around what is the most important direction for the Institute today.

We were hearing voices, not just of those sitting around the table in the moment but we were hearing the voices of the Institute and our companions sharing wisdom. Hearing voices, is that normal?

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Furthermore, there are no two faces alike in the room. There are no two identical perspectives. We are as diverse as you can get. Gathered like a little United Nations, we tried to speak the language of truth to build a future of hope in a reality that is lived in the love and the footsteps of Jesus. This work is easier said than done. So, we wrestled with the words, the feedback, the input to try to get to the heart of the  matter. I heard someone whisper, “this is like giving birth.” There is more of this to be done.

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GC 2014

GC14 Friday 12th Sept

A day of thanksgivings

The day began with the entire delegation of Chapter members and support staff gathered together in St. Ignatius Conversion Chapel for the celebration of the feast of the Most Holy Name of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Normally we have a choice to go to morning Mass or the evening Mass but because of the evening program the late option was not an option. All of us crammed into the sturdy wooden pews and the ancient wooden floor boards screamed under foot with the weight and presence of us. St. Ignatius had his moment in time five centuries ago.

We spent our usual time in faith-sharing around the words of the Gospel of Luke where we hear about the hypocrisy of finding the splinter in another person’s eye while not seeing the log in our own. So true to the human experience and yet Jesus calls us to be more human and more honest with ourselves. No doubt the sharing at table was powerful.

 Canada and Spain presented their Province Reports and it did not disappoint. The thing we recognized most about all these presentations was the sheer sameness of our gifts, challenges, and needs. The presentations today mixed humour, colour and animation in to the stark realities that face Religious women today. And we find ourselves in the thick of it. The same feedback format came by way of tweets.


The afternoon was intended for silent reflection on what we have seen and heard in the reports, presentations, input from the Institute wide consultation, the reflection questions and the insights stirring within each one after our time in faith-sharing and listening to one another in our Base and Consensus groups.

 The early evening session was the Ritual of Thanksgiving for the outgoing Institute Leaders Srs. Marian, Sandra, Barbara, Beatrice and Carmen. They stood in the midst of our meeting room while we showered them with blessings, prayers, songs, gifts and poems of thanks. The Irish Province coordinated the intensely moving ceremony of gratitude. A fly on the wall might say, “see how they love one another.”The celebration continued with a roof top social including all of our cultural antics: drumming, a little twist and shout, Irish jigging and a raised glass of red.

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Happy in Jesus: Blessed are the women who lead us with integrity, love and hope. Can’t ask for better than that!


GC 2014

GC14 – Thursday 11th Sept

Today’s Good News: “For if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? (Luke 6:32)

Faith-sharing around today’s Gospel reading gave us another chance to go deeper to examine our own faithfulness to the word of God. I had to admit, it is difficult to love people that hate you. Together we remembered September 11, 2001 when the domino of a hateful act began a series of other hateful acts. The Good News … love your enemies and do good to them… what would it have been like if we responded to the 9/11 terrorist attack with love, forgiveness, nonviolence? Sharing faith makes us stronger, even in our imagination.

Today’s input on the Chapter floor came by way of the Province Reports. It began with England’s presentation last night (September 10) and we were overwhelmed with the generous and creative demonstration of our Institute that is one body, one heart, one mind. The reports, which were scheduled to last 20 minutes each, stretched up to 30 minutes. The listeners were
wrapped in the facts, life, work, challenges, hopes and plans of our Institute around the world.
We heard of closures of our big institutions and ministries. We shared the struggles with church and state as each in our own way searched for ways to bring solutions to problems, and faith and fire to loss and fear. We heard of the richness and gifts of each person in developing new ways to serve even in our diminishment. We learned of the richness of our youth in the developing world and how our struggles are much the same. There was dancing, weaving, story-telling, singing and proclamations of great things to come.


During the reflection period the facilitators asked us to give our feedback in the form of “tweets”.
Oh, how modern we’ve become! So we tweeted our responses to the powerful presentations each Province offered. Many were moved to tears. Many found comfort in identifying with the struggles of sister Provinces. Here is an example of one of the tweets, “Hope in the heart. Grace on the face. Light on our feet. IBVM Women, unafraid, resilient and passionate.” (Of course the “tweets” were only in the form of speaking into the microphone.)

Today we heard from the following Provinces: Ireland, USA, India, Eastern Africa, South Africa Community, Mauritius and Australia—South East Asia.

That was not all. The evening session called, “Walking with our Cloud of Witnesses” planned by Mauritius Province, was a celebration of the members of the Institute who were called to eternal life since the last General Chapter eight years ago.


Two hundred thirteen names were read in the solemn ceremony of remembrance. We stand on the shoulders of these holy women. A snapshot of the service centered around light and paper clouds fashioned with the names of the dead. We sang in perfect harmony, “The Spirit lives to set us free. Walk, walk in the light. He binds us all in unity. Walk, walk in the light. Walk in the light (3) Walk in the light of the Lord.” The reading was from the book of Wisdom 2: 23, 3, 1-6, 9. We remembered not only our holy women but we were given stars to add unspoken names of those beloved who preceded us in death. So a silent procession of mourners added a small symbol of love on the make-shift altar of remembrance. Eyes leaked with quiet mourning, love, admiration and celebration.

Pray with us. It will make us stronger in our discernment, in our conversations and in our faith. We are in this together. Walk in the light of the Lord. Needless to say, it was an emotional day. God is with us.

There is a short video of the service on the website titled “Walking with our cloud of witness”.

Also we now have a flickr account, ibvmrome, which can be accessed by clicking on https://www.flickr.com/photos/127615906@N07/. This contains all the photos we collect from the GC.

GC 2014

GC14 – Wed 10th Sept report

Today’s Good News for faith sharing was, “Blessed are you who are poor, for the kingdom of God is yours.” Luke 6:20. We read the entire Gospel of the day for reflection.

A mighty hush came over the Chapter Room when the soft chime rang to signal the beginning.

 To give you a sense of the place, the room is decorated with the colours of the logo and is filled with an assortment of technical instruments to facilitate clear volume and sight lines for audio-visual support. Even more exciting and real are the Sisters representing a rainbow of nations in our Institute. From around the world we have come with our culture, language, music, rhythms, stories, worldviews and insights. There is an eagerness to get to know each other and a willingness to share that is generous and genuine.

Geraldine McAleer
Geraldine McAleer

During the morning session, Geraldine McAleer presented the Institute Finance Report. We had lively intense discussion around financial issues and realized that the material will become a backdrop for much of the work ahead.

Cecilia O’Dwyer
Cecilia O’Dwyer

During the afternoon, I believe for the first time in General Chapter history; we had live streaming session with Cecilia O’Dwyer from the United Nations. She reviewed the material in the written document entitled, “We the Peoples of the United Nations…” and was able to spell out some of the concerns and needs for our justice work going forward.

We concluded the afternoon with a creative presentation depicting life in the English Province and this was set in the context of a typical weather report in England. The three presenters dressed in weather appropriate gear (hats, rain coat, umbrella, and fog grey to tell their story. It was very informative, emotional and deeply real. The animators were Srs. Anne McEvoy, Una Coogan and Imelda Poole.

Imelda Poole enjoying sunshine
Imelda Poole enjoying sunshine
Anne enduring the rain
Anne enduring the rain

All the sessions were followed by quiet reflection time, table discussion and feedback to the larger assembly.


GC 2014

GC 14 Daily Report 9th Sept 2014

The day began with faith sharing in our “Consensus Groups” based on the gospel of the day.9

The highlight of the day was Fr. Jose Antonio Pagola’s input and sharing: “Back to Jesus, the Christ…” He talked about “renovating” our faith based on the Gospel and urged us to a “sustained conversion”. In the present context of our world with its unprecedented problems the heart of the church needs an unprecedented conversion. He showed us that the priority concern for Jesus was the poor, the captive and the oppressed. He challenged us not just to “imitate” Jesus but to follow and collaborate with him in building the “kingdom of God”. In a light hearted manner of presenting, Fr. Pagola asked us to use our “evangelical common sense” and grow in humility and understanding. We had professional translators for the sessions who did a brilliant job!

In the afternoon we returned to our “Base Groups” to take our discussion further on the Institute Report and share our feedback with the whole group.

The afternoon tea at 5:00 pm was followed by the presentation of the Institute Finance Report by Geraldine McAleer. Time was given for table discussions and questions at the end of the presentation.

We are getting used to the Spanish rhythm of life where dinner is at 9:00 pm and wine is served with every meal!


Monica Suchiang IBVM, Fr. Jose Antonio Pagola and Orla Treacy IBVM

GC 2014

GC14 Daily Report Sept 8, 2014

roomThe Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Our first full day of business began with faith sharing on the Gospel reading of theday, Matthew 1: 1-16, 18-23. We sat together in our “base groups” for the first timeprepared to share our reflections on the reading. During the period of silent reflection,you could feel the stillness in the room. Periodic noises from the life of the building crowded in on the silence with muffled sounds of the outdoors, cars, people movingand the occasional coughs from within. After the silence the room buzzed with sharing.

Time passed and after all had an opportunity to share; silence fell in to place again. We closed the sharing with the joyful noise of a gospel mantra, “For the glory of God we aregathered, alleluia forever more!” The room was filled with beautiful voices, drumming and clapping.

Down to business, the Institute Leadership shared “highlights and low-lights” of the Institute Report 2006-2014. The shared presentation involved each member of theLeadership presenting the important pieces of the document that they wanted to drawour attention to. The presentation was informative, interactive and interesting. We had an opportunity to discuss at table then present the Leadership group with questionsof clarification. This was followed by open forum discussion and clarification.

The afternoon session involved the election of the General Congregation Secretary alongwith assistant secretaries and confirmed various important roles for the running of the GC such as Steering committee members, scrutineers, communication committee, finance report committee members and social/hospitality committee. This was followed by formal announcement of our way of proceeding during these meetings. The afternoon session endedwith table discussion again around the Leadership report and other observations.

We could all sense the seriousness and privilege of this work. Stay tuned and keep praying.