General Chapter Weekend

September 29 - October 1, 2017


Chapter, Day 1

Friday Afternoon, September 29, 2017

Stating that this is, "a sacred and blessed time for the Congregation and a time to seek insight and clarity about our future as well as an opportunity to have fun along the way," Rosemary Brennan, CSJ President, officially opened our 2017‐2018 General Chapter. She encouraged us to gather with a welcoming heart, open mind, and enthusiasm for God's Spirit among us.

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Barbara McHugh, CSJ, led us in our opening prayer as we sang, "With one voice we'll pass the word along; with one voice, bring justice to the world." Those present were invited to consider the disciples' encounter with Jesus by the seashore when he invited them to cast their net to the other side. This was followed by reflection on the gift that each is bringing to this sacred event, the formal roll call of voting participants.

Rosemary spoke of having a contemplative posture. She reminded us that "Casting our Nets" takes energy. What we bring from the deep is often unknown. We stand on the shoulders of some amazing women. In a recent LCWR address, Mary Pellegrino, CSJ, stated that we are in a "liminal space", the "diminishment narrative needs to pass." It is a time for a narrative of deeper communion to emerge. As we deepen communion, we become more generative. We must journey with others. To cast our nets into the mystery of the Chapter, we must let the plunge begin.

Chris Partisano, CSJ, our Chapter facilitator, then spoke of our charism noting that it belongs to the world and the church. It is imperative that we keep widening the nets. She asked "what does it mean to grow in wisdom, age and grace?" She gave us a perspective of the next few days and noted that this weekend is about what we are saying about our future. For this reason, the process for Chapter requires long periods of reflection. It is based on contemplation and contemplative dialogue.

Chris also noted that on Saturday, visitors will be joining us to discuss with us where we want to spend our precious resources – our time, our energy, and our lives in the coming years. We will then ask ourselves, "What am I hearing and what is stretching me." We may be surprised by our own wisdom.

After some reflection and discussion, Rosemary explained that we wanted to be able to provide two‐way connection with the sisters at St. Joseph Hall and Fontbonne Convent. They will be able to interact via Zoom video conferencing. Following some information for Saturday, this first session of Chapter was brought to a close and we proceeded to a relaxing social hour in the Motherhouse foyer.

Chapter, Day 2

Saturday Morning, September 30, 2017

Cathy Clifford, CSJ, began day 2 by welcoming approximately 42 guests and inviting us to introduce ourselves to each other. Carlotta Gilarde, CSJ, then led us in prayer which included the passage from our Constitution which states, “…from those to whom we minister we receive more than we give, indeed, in full measure and flowing over.” During the prayer, we engaged our guests in viewing the 2017 Living the Dream Video, One Foot Forward which features the ongoing ministries of Betty Cawley, CSJ, Denise Kelly, CSJ, and Ann Marie Grady, CSJ. The response to the psalm that followed, “Help us to widen our nets, God, we are one people, one Earth,” set the tone for the day.

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In her introduction, Cathy explained that we are in changing times. We care passionately about this world and its challenges and our guests are here to help show us the way. She repeated the overarching question of Chapter that the guests had received, “Given who we are, given our realities at this time, given our willingness to invest in a future we may never see‐where do we want to spend our precious resources ‐‐ our time, our energy, and our lives in the coming years?” and said to the guests, “You are here to call us to the future.”

For our table discussion, Chis again called us to a posture of reflection and deep listening wherein new insights can emerge. The rich discussion was followed by varied comments:

  • CSJs need more social media. Let the world know what we do. Develop a new awareness of communication.
  • Focus on the gifts we have
  • Who is on the other side of the net.
  • We need to become more visible – be out in the public eye
  • We are like the hidden Joseph. Be on twitter, and Facebook. Let us get the message out in an aggressive way.
  • Use social media to tell our beautiful story.
  • Join our social media channels. Go on our website and you will find lots of social media buttons. Follow our CSJ Facebook page and repost on Facebook to all.  If you haven't reposted, start now.
  • Do good works then post it in social media
  • We need to be out there
  • CSJs are leaders and unifiers. Lay people are carrying on the CSJ legacy
  • We need to promote who we are by marketing
  • The net that was cast on the other side…. Cast for everyone.
  • Our Charism is shared. Where are we at?
  • Responding to the need of the time: How do we meet millennials where they are? CSJs have planted the seed. Teach/show us how to cultivate it.
  • Lots of young people are looking for connection. Give young people invitations to show what we do
  • Imagine new ways to collaborate…to continue the Charism
  • We need to do it boldly now! Ignite! Take the courage  now!
  • Cast the net, reach out, to people who are not like us.

CSJs are the best kept secret in Boston. We need less humility and more of getting out there.

Chapter, Day 2

Saturday Afternoon, September 30, 2017

After an energizing morning with many of our invited guests responding to our Chapter overarching question:  “Given who we are as Sisters of St. Joseph…..where do you invite and encourage us to spend our precious resources, our time, our energies and our lives?” the afternoon session opened with Rosemary Brennan, CSJ, giving a PowerPoint presentation on the State of the House. This presentation centered on Mission, Membership, and Relationship. It provided another perspective on who we are. Handouts of the presentation were distributed to those present and will be available upon request. Quiet time and table discussion followed.

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At 2:45 p.m., we connected to our sisters in Framingham and Milton. These connections energized all. Our sisters in St. Joseph Hall and Fontbonne Convent spoke of how following the chapter sessions provided them with new excitement. St. Joseph Hall residents had shared earlier around the overarching question of the Chapter. They spoke of inclusivity, convictions, hope, and new energy.

After waving goodbye to residents of Milton and Framingham, Chapter participants returned to some table sharing hoping that this opportunity would further help us in our search for a new/ renewed direction.

The afternoon session opened with prayer written by Ann Marie Grady, CSJ, and closed with the chapter prayer written by Joanne Gallagher, CSJ. People left feeling a sense of hope and encouragement. 

Chapter, Day 3

Sunday Morning, October 1, 2017

Maureen Doherty, CSJ, opened the day with words of welcome and a brief and thoughtful summary of the two previous days’ meetings. Dorothea Masuret, CSJ, led the Call to Prayer which included invoking the Holy Spirit in song, and a candle ritual of lighting candles of our journey: past, present and future.

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After facilitator Chris Partisano, CSJ, provided an overview of how the day would proceed, Judy Costello, CSJ, introduced two panels with the title “From Where I Stand”. As with our guests on Saturday, each panelist was asked to reflect on the overarching question of the Chapter. Panelists were drawn from various age groups spanning the 50s to 90s and included both sisters and associates.

Panel 1: Anne Conway, CSJ, encouraged us to stay open and acknowledged that new things are hard. Geraldine Shea, CSJ, commended Bethany, our Congregation Ministries, and the Office of Justice and Peace for all they are doing. Mary Rita Weschler, CSJA, who has been an associate for 30 years, spoke of how our CSJ Core Values inform her life. Jeanmarie Gribaudo, CSJ, encouraged us to put our energies into the mission. In speaking of collaborative initiatives among younger CSSJs throughout the country, she concluded saying, “If we steward well what we have now and are open to new possibilities, we will, indeed, have a future and a hope. Marian Batho, CSJ, drew insightful connections between Pope Francis’ message and our CSJ charism. She also spoke of the Pope Francis’ “Synod 2018 On Young People, The Faith, And Vocational Discernment” in light of our overreaching Chapter question.

Panel 2: Rita McCarthy, CSJ, began panel 2 encouraging us to use our experience and hopes to pave the way for the future. She suggested Congregation‐wide prayer days to place ourselves in a contemplative stance that least to open sharing, decision making, and action.  Betsy Conway, CSJ, began by asking, “Where is God calling us now and how do we partner with people who are asking the same question?” She then asked, “Why is it that we matter differently — we don’t want to but we do. Why is it that the young people care about us? They are attracted to our life…they long for community. They feel they belong to us and therefore…belong to God.” Elise Cheverie, CSJA, spoke of unity, strengthening the relevancy of our charism, shared voting, and the love of our commitment that invites us to go beyond where we are. Ann Marie Grady, CSJ, used the image of the sower in Mark 4 and the Buddhist concept of emptiness that has fullness, movement, and openness to say, “We are part of something much larger than ourselves.” Mary Oates, CSJ, urged us to stay focused on the generous health care we offer for every sister and also proposed the formation of a trust for a foundation to carry our mission forward.

Following these presentations a brief period of reflection and table sharing on what we heard. And the larger question: “What is emerging from all that we have heard to now?” A lengthy period of quiet time for reflection followed.

Chapter, Day 3

Sunday Afternoon, October 1, 2017

The afternoon session of Chapter on October 1, 2017 began with prayer, the singing of Veni Sancte Spiritus by Carey Landry, with all our voices joining in. “What is emerging for you concerning the following overarching question that framed this weekend?” our facilitator asked, as she led us into table sharing.

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“Given who we are as Sisters of St. Joseph of Boston, given our Congregation and world realities at this time, given our desire to be impelled by God’s inclusive love and invest in the future we may never see, where do you invite and encourage us to spend our precious resources, our time, our energies, and our lives?”

Toward the conclusion of that very rich table sharing time, papers were distributed to each table and one person was invited to identify the issues shared at that table that might be voiced at the microphone for all to hear.  It was at this time that Sisters gathered at St. Joseph Hall in Framingham and others at Fontbonne Convent in Milton joined us in the chapel via ZOOM conference call.

Though voices were unclear at some times, Ginny Kelleher, CSJ, spoke for all from St. Joseph Hall as did Rita McCormack, CSJ, from Fontbonne Convent and shared the points that emerged from their group sharing. We heard the wisdom that spoke to throwing nets at the hearts of those who were more actively engaged in ministry in the past but needed to change and that the love and wisdom among us is sufficient to the current task we are facing.

Other issues that emerged from the table sharing were spoken and then all assembled were asked to show by hands if their tables had surfaced the same. Some of the matters that were identified were as follows: the need for formation of leaders of our congregation ministries; the desire to follow up with information being sent from this Chapter to our “guests” from yesterday; sharing our space with others; the need to communicate currently both who we are and how we are; establishment of a CSJ charitable trust; the outline of a process of discernment that promotes our connecting neighbor with neighbor; the development of a strategic plan for media that enables CSJ outreach; a reconsideration of sanctuary and possible identification of how we could match needs with the space we have; creation of an umbrella group and a center without walls for those offering spiritual direction; naming our fears and not being paralyzed by them; moving from the I to the we…

At the conclusion of this period, an evaluation form was distributed to all who had gathered in the chapel. This form asked us to rate from 1‐10 the weekend Chapter experience. It also requested information about what each individual appreciated this time, her hopes for the next Chapter weekend, any other pertinent comments and a signature.

Our President, Rosemary Brennan, CSJ, then announced the process for updating the CSJ photo directory. She also thanked everyone engaged in making the weekend successful. Dorothea Masuret, CSJ, invited us into the closing prayer by Tagore which was led for us by Carmela Abbruzzese, CSJ.

Writers  —  Kathleen Hagerty, CSJ, Rita Cormier, CSJA, Mary Gowern,  CSJ, Peggy Sullivan, CSJ, Lee Hogan, CSJ, and Joanne Gallagher, CSJ.

Photographers — Anne Marie Garrity, CSJ, Zita Fleming, CSJ, Ann Marie Grady, CSJ.

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