Guide for Participants

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1 MID-ATLANTIC COMMUNITY CONVERSATION CIRCLES MAY 13 JUNE 24, 2013 TOPIC: DELEGATES TO THE INSTITUTE CHAPTER Guide for Participants Conversation Circles is a process initiated by the Consultative Gathering Committee in response to the intent of the Governance Plan of the Mid-Atlantic Community for more meaningful conversation which at times prepares for or flows from our Consultative Gatherings; the desire of membership for engagement in on-going conversations and contemplative dialogue separate from our Consultative Gatherings Goals: 1. To recommend a process to nominate Institute Chapter delegates 2. To recommend a process to elect Institute Chapter delegates. Background This Conversation Circle is a next step based on the input from the recent Consultative Gathering. An analysis of the responses to the two questions posed at the Consultative Gathering is attached. To summarize some key points found in that analysis: Many sisters indicated that Paragraphs of the Constitutions described what has always been their understanding of the Institute Chapter. Others said that their previous understanding had been more provincial in that they thought that the delegates were selected to represent local concerns to the larger group. Many expressed a new understanding of the need of the Institute Chapter to address the good of the whole and to look at the big picture. A number of sisters expressed a deeper understanding of their personal responsibility in electing delegates including efforts to get to know nominees. Responses included a long list of qualities which respondents believed should be important considerations when nominating and electing delegates. Numerous responses called for diversity among the delegates. Many responses emphasized that delegates should appreciate the signs of the times and focus on the Institute rather than on their geographic area. PLEASE NOTE: 1. Issues regarding number of delegates and whether all Communities should use the same method to elect delegates to the Institute Chapter are Institute level questions and beyond the scope of the Mid-Atlantic Governance Committee. 2. Since age was mentioned in a number of responses, it might be helpful to note that the average age of Mid-Atlantic Community Delegates to the 2011 Institute Chapter was 64. 1

2 Currently, the average age of members in the Mid-Atlantic Community is 75. The median age of the 2011 delegates was 63 while the current median age of members of the Mid-Atlantic Community is 77. How to Prepare for the Conversation Circle In preparation for this Conversation Circle the Governance Committee asks you to: 1. Read and reflect on Constitutions, nos and 2. Read and reflect on the Analysis of Responses to the Governance Questionnaire from the March, 2013 Consultative Gatherings (pages 4-9 in this document) 3. Come to your Conversation Circle ready to discuss the above questions and to suggest: one process to nominate Institute Chapter delegates and one process to elect Institute Chapter delegates. N.B. If the Conversation Circle does not reach consensus, then an alternate process may be submitted as well. 4. The facilitator or scribe provides feedback to the Governance Committee regarding the nomination and election process via survey monkey by June 26,

3 MID ATLANTIC COMMUNITY CONVERSATION CIRCLES MAY 13 JUNE 24, 2013 MODE OF ELECTING DELEGATES Opening Prayer to the Holy Spirit Leader: All: Leader: Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and we shall be created, and You shall renew the face of the earth. As we gather for this Conversation Circle we unite with Christians throughout the world celebrating the feast of Pentecost. As we participate in these discussions, we pray that we will remain aware that the Spirit of God has been given us and has anointed us to bring good news to the poor, proclaim liberty to captives, freedom to the downtrodden and to the blind new sight. Read Acts 2: Five minutes of contemplative silence Then view this You Tube video or sing a Holy Spirit song of your choice. Let us Pray: Opening prayer of the Second Vatican Council (amended) We stand before you, Holy Spirit, conscious of our sinfulness, but aware that we gather in your name. Come to us, remain with us, and enlighten our hearts. Give us light and strength to know your will, to make it our own, and to live it in our lives. Guide us by your wisdom, support us by your power, for you are God. You desire justice for all: enable us to uphold the rights of others; Do not allow us to be misled by ignorance or corrupted by fear or favor. Unite us to yourself in the bond of love and keep us faithful to all that is true. As we gather in your name may we temper justice with love, so that all our decisions may be pleasing to you, and earn the reward promised to good and faithful servants. You live and reign with our Creator and Jesus Christ, one God, forever and ever. Amen. 3

4 Analysis of Response to the Governance Committee Questionnaire Question 1: What has been your understanding of an Institute Chapter in the past and how do paragraphs of the Constitutions influence your thinking? A. Although a few sisters stated that their understanding of an Institute Chapter in the past is the same as their understanding today, many responses to the first part of the above question indicate that there was a more provincial understanding of Institute Chapter than what the sisters now understand. 1. There is a continuity of understanding between past and present A number of sisters stated that their past understanding of an Institute Chapter is the same as their understanding today. They have always believed that #59 described what a Chapter is; they expressed continuity in their past and present understanding. (29 responses) 2. Delegates represented local concerns to the larger group Some sisters past understanding of Institute Chapter was that delegates represented the regional communities. Delegates brought grassroots concerns to the Institute Chapter. Individual groups influenced the Chapter. The Chapter was largely proposal driven. With regard to delegates, regional communities needed to design processes to get fair representations. Some sisters mentioned that popular sisters were elected as delegates, while others thought that being elected a delegate was considered an honor. (18 responses) 3. The Institute Chapter elected leadership, amended the Constitutions, passed rules, set direction, promoted the Mercy charism, and made binding decisions A group of responses mentioned rules and regulations, i.e., the practical things. The Chapter in the past was seen as the place for making rules. It was also seen as the place to promote and preserve the Mercy charism. Sisters viewed the Chapter primarily as a time to elect Institute leadership, amend Constitutions, and approve or disapprove of things. The sisters knew that the Chapter was the highest authority when in session. (59 responses) 4. The Institute Chapter was far removed from the sisters day to day living Some sisters felt that in the past the Institute Chapter was out there or beyond me. They looked upon the Institute as separate from their regional communities. Other sisters did not pay too much attention to the Institute Chapter; the Institute Chapter felt removed from lived experience on the local level. The Institute Chapter did not impact their day to day living. The Institute Chapter was not relevant. (21 responses) 5. Sisters have progressed in their understanding of Institute Chapter Some sisters understandings of Institute Chapter have progressed as they spent more time thinking about the question. They saw growth in their understanding from a proposalconsidering group to a reflective, discerning community. Sisters now see that delegates think in terms of vision, rather than merely electing leadership teams. One sister said she had trusted the delegates to do the work of chapter, but now she sees that her involvement is important even though she is not a delegate. (18 responses) 4

5 6. There was less clarity in the past A few sisters mentioned a general lack of clarity as to their previous understanding of an Institute Chapter. (5 responses) B. Responses which show the ways that paragraphs influence the sisters thinking are summarized below. 1. Paragraphs are congruent with the sisters current thinking A number of responses indicated that paragraphs state very well what the sisters believe to be the purpose of the Institute Chapter. What the Constitutions say is what an Institute Chapter is. The paragraphs confirm the sisters understanding of what an Institute Chapter is. A few responses mentioned the need for more clarity concerning the process for selecting delegates. (37 responses) 2. A new understanding of the qualities needed for Institute Chapter delegates A large number of responses mentioned that paragraphs influenced sisters thinking about the importance of selecting delegates who can fulfill the responsibilities of the Institute Chapter. With a clearer understanding of Institute Chapter, sisters now see that delegates are concerned with the Institute as a whole. Delegates must think beyond personal agendas. Being an Institute Chapter delegate is an awesome responsibility. Because paragraphs clearly state the purpose of the Institute Chapter, sisters can use them as a lens to consider delegates. Paragraphs help sisters to understand the importance of electing delegates who are open, competent, visionary and courageous. For a newer member who does not have a history of past Chapters, she can see that spell out the delegate s role in the context of Institute. A few sisters suggested that, in light of 57 59, we revise our process for selecting delegates. Similar to this is the response that sisters do not know those who are in nomination for selection of Institute Chapter delegates. (33 responses) 3. A new understanding of the Chapter s need to address the good of the whole A third group of responses related to the good of the whole. Delegates look to the needs of the Institute rather than to the needs of Communities. Sisters now see that the Institute Chapter acts on behalf of all the sisters who belong. They believe that it is an enormous task to work for the good of the whole. Institute Chapter delegates treat only major issues: charism, evaluation, and clarification of our role in Church and society. Sisters now realize that they must see themselves as members of the Institute. Some sisters realize that the past years have been spent creating the Mid Atlantic Community; now they must focus on Institute membership. (27 responses) 4. Clarity concerning the basic responsibilities of the Institute Chapter Some responses focused on the basic responsibilities of the Institute Chapter. These responsibilities include promoting the Mercy charism, carrying out our mission of Mercy, and evaluating the well being of the Institute. The Institute Chapter must ask how the spirit can be passed on to future generations. The Institute Chapter looks back in order to vision forward. (22 responses) 5

6 5. The Chapter s need to be visionary, have an outward thrust Some sisters saw in paragraphs an articulation of the broad responsibilities entrusted to the Institute Chapter. These responses used the word vision frequently. After forming the Institute, Chapters took on a whole new meaning. They address much more important issues. This includes Mercy presence on the national and international stages. The Institute Chapter clarifies our vision and our priorities. Chapters can be sources of conversion/transformation for all who participate. The Chapter is the voice of the entire Institute membership, stating for ourselves and the world why we are in the Institute and how we work together to alleviate injustice in all its forms. (32 responses) 6. Paragraphs changed understandings A number of responses, including a response from a newer member, indicated that the sisters now have a deeper understanding of what an Institute Chapter is. This deeper understanding will, hopefully, encourage future participation. This understanding will make sisters more conscious of what this important moment truly is for all Sisters of Mercy. (14 responses) 7. The Institute Chapter is the highest authority when in session Paragraphs clearly communicate that the Institute Chapter is the highest authority in the Institute. During the Chapter the Spirit is working in a most special way. The Institute Chapter represents the whole group, not a number of small groups. (27 responses) 8. The Institute Chapter looks at the big picture A group of responses mentioned the big picture. An Institute Chapter is bigger than the sum of its parts. The vision which emerges from the Chapter energizes the Communities. The vision promotes unity. The Institute Chapter thinks and acts outside the box. The Institute Chapter looks at both Church and world venues. It gives direction, focus, and vision, e.g., Direction Statement, Critical Concerns, and Chapter Declaration. (16 responses) 9. Paragraphs give greater clarity concerning the role of the Institute Chapter A few sisters mentioned that gave them clarity regarding the role of the Institute Chapter. One sister thought that she better understood communal discernment as an appropriate process. Another sister thought that the process for selecting Institute leadership needs to be reviewed (too few nominees at the last Chapter). (5 responses) 10. The Institute Chapter is a decision making body A few responses reflected an understanding of Institute Chapter as a decision making body that had tasks to complete: set goals, elect leadership, and evaluate past progress. One sister asked how the Institute Chapter could make decisions for mission countries whose needs and experiences are unlike our own in so many ways. (5 responses) 11. The Institute Chapter is far removed from my day to day living After reading paragraphs and listening to the discussion, two sisters still felt far removed from the Institute Chapter. They did not see the institute Chapter as connecting to their daily lived experience. (2 responses) 6

7 Question 2: How does this understanding influence the selection of delegates to the Institute Chapter? C. Responses to the second question fall into several categories. The largest group of responses listed the qualities that individual delegates to the Institute Chapter should possess. A second group of responses indicated that delegates needed a broad vision and needed to see the big picture. Some responses referred to the need for delegates to let go of local agendas in order to represent the whole group. A number of responses addressed the structure of an Institute Chapter, e.g., formulas for selecting delegates. Another category of responses mentioned the responsibilities of those who were selecting the delegates. 1. Qualities which delegates to the Institute Chapter should possess Many sisters listed qualities they thought were needed in a person who was a delegate. Understanding that our primary membership is in the Institute Articulate, prophetic, inspirational, open minded; able to take risks Broad based experience in ministry; care for our Critical Concerns Possessed of a contemplative and discerning nature Psychologically and spiritually healthy Knowledge of primary trends in the Church, society, and world Able to challenge the current understanding of the place of women in Church & society Open to the needs of all; non ideological Awareness of the place of the Holy Spirit in the process and open to inspiration Wisdom/courage to develop creative responses to needs of today Love of the Institute and eagerness to promote the charism of Mercy Physical energy/stamina; humor; flexibility Deep faith, prayerful, intelligent, dialogic, capable of discernment Knowledge of each Community s history, of religious life, and of our role in Church and society Visionary, ability to see the big picture Works for the good of the whole Can fulfill the purpose as stated in Paragraphs Will evaluate the spiritual well being of the Institute Collaborative; capable of working toward consensus; good listener Possessed of skill sets in addition to gifts and talents Willingness to commit to preparation for Chapter Comfortable with large and small group processes Have some Institute committee experience Intelligent and well read; can synthesize, compare, analyze Clarity of thought (116 responses) 2. Delegates need to be able to think WIDE rather than local A number of responses focused on the need for delegates who can go to the next level and appreciate the bigger picture. They must be able to read the signs of the times. They need to be global in vision. They must be forward thinking and see the whole. They must be creative thinkers and be able to think systemically. The word visionary was used many times. (37 responses) 7

8 3. Delegates must think INSTITUTE rather than their geographic areas A number of sisters mentioned the importance of delegates seeing the Institute as a unified whole. Delegates need to be responsible to the whole. They need to be involved in the life of the Institute. Delegates also must see themselves as representing the entire body of members. This is both a broader (include entire membership) and a narrower (see all members as a unified whole) concept of representation. A few sisters suggested that delegates must be open to dissolving Communities and becoming one Institute. Delegates bring truth from their local level to offer for the good of the whole. (31 responses) 4. Suggestions regarding structure Responses represented a variety of opinions. Selection of delegates should include diversity of age, ministry, culture, views, and theology. There is a need for clear and specific details about the role of a delegate. Some sisters suggested a system of proportionate representation from Communities based on number of sisters. One sister suggested selecting Chapter members rather than delegates. Other sisters would like to see a mechanism for getting to know the nominees. Several sisters suggested that all sisters under 50 years of age should be at the Chapter. There was a suggestion that ALL vowed members, not just active participants, be allowed to vote for delegates. It would be important to know ahead of time what process (contemplative, discernment, Robert s Rules) was going to be used at Chapter then, select delegates to fit the process. One sister suggested that the Institute provide criteria for the characteristics needed in a delegate. Delegates should be a mixture of wisdom figures and newer members. There should be a common process across Communities for selecting delegates. There is a need to explore the pros and cons of the recent Institute Chapter elections. (72 responses) 5. Responsibilities of those who select delegates After reading and participating in table discussion, a number of sisters realized more deeply their personal responsibility to choose delegates wisely. Competence refers to those who are voting as well as those who are chosen. Could each sister prepare for Chapter as if she herself were a delegate? Anything less leads to disengagement from the corporate identity. Sisters need to be more circumspect in voting for delegates. They need to enter into the voting process with prayer and reflection. Sisters need to know more about the nominees. Sisters themselves must think of the bigger picture when selecting delegates. They must also trust the processes, trust God, and trust the delegates. (47 responses) 6. Passing the spirit on to future generations Several responses indicated that they needed to choose delegates who are able to pass on to future generations the spirit of Mercy. Delegates would have a commitment to the issues of the poor and uneducated. The Institute Chapter continues the charism of Catherine McAuley. Delegates represent what it means to be Mercy today. Delegates would have a desire and passion for the spirit of Mercy. (15 responses) 8

9 7. Risk takers who know the consequences of decisions made at the Institute Chapter Five sisters mentioned the need for delegates to be aware of the consequences that sometimes follow Institute Chapter decisions. Delegates need to be risk takers and forward thinkers. (5 responses) 8. Informed choices require us to know one another We need to have ways of knowing one another better as we move toward choosing delegates for the 2017 Institute Chapter. Use technology. It is a challenge to get to know sisters from other Communities. We need to know our younger members, especially since they do not have name recognition. (23 responses) Prepared by Elizabeth M. O Hara, RSM March 19,

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