What is General Chapter?

Blog Published: February 7, 2012
By Sister Julie

General ChapterAt the end of January, Sister Maxine and I had the awesome privilege of attending our congregation‘s General Chapter. It was a week long and consisted of prayer, community, study, conversation, reflection, and decision-making. Our primary decisions were to embrace a specific direction for our congregation over the next 6 years and to elect a new leadership team.

Although Chapter is part and parcel of our life as Catholic sisters and nuns today, it might seem like a secret event veiled in mystery for those outside of religious life! So, here’s a bit more about what Chapter is. I am drawing here from my brother Redemptorists who provide a great intro on General Chapter.

The General Chapter is a visible expression of a fundamental sense of democracy that lies at the heart of religious life. This democracy is based on the radical equality of all the members by virtue of their baptism and their religious consecration, hence their common vocation to be prophets or spokespersons for God. In this sense, a General Chapter resembles more the gathering of Mary and the apostles at Pentecost than a modern parliament or congress. The participants in the General Chapter gather in the name of Jesus Christ, confident that his Spirit will help us to accomplish our work.

What are those tasks? The General Chapter must first take an honest look at the state of the Congregation… This examination should then lead the Chapter members to face honestly certain discomforting questions: are we faithful to our mission or have we slid into mediocrity? What is the Lord asking of us today? How are we being asked to change? The General Chapter will offer specific directives for the whole Congregation as it proposes a path to help [religious] live more authentically their … vocation. Finally, the delegates will elect the leadership of the Congregation for the next six years … (source: Redemptorist website)

For our IHM General Chapter, we had a gathering of over 150 IHM Sisters and were joined for some parts of Chapter by our IHM Associates and others who could be of great help in our discernment and decision-making. One of the best parts was that we come together from across the globe, across ministries, across generations, across cultures and gather under one roof. It was a visible expression of the community we experience with one another every day of our religious life no matter where we are.

What questions do you have about Chapter or related topics? Sister Maxine and I are going to tackle the subject on this week’s Ask Sister Podcast so let’s get the conversations started now!

Archived Comments

Christine42 February 7, 2012 at 10:33 am

Sounds like the democracy should work. As Cluny associates we are going through a transitional period. We are trying to see how we will function when the Cluny Sisters are no longer in this city with us. (A real probability as there are only 3 older Cluny’s here right now, the rest are in the USA). I think I will bring the quote from the Redemptorists to the next meeting. We are trying to decide on roles and responsibilities and how we see ourselves in the future without the sisters as our guide. We will still have associations with them, but not as close as it is now.

marla February 7, 2012 at 3:24 pm

the photo speaks volumes. the joy there is palpable even on the screen of my pc. i’m so glad for you that you get to have this experience, this life, this built-in support and community. seeing the love and joy in this one photo, plus hearing your experience, could draw many. let’s get it out there!

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