My first experience at our General Chapter

Reflection by Sister Magdalene Umoh 
Sr Meg lighting the chapter candle

Arriving safely at Fiumicino International Airport, Rome, to see Sister Jean patiently waiting for me marked the beginning of my wonderful experience at the General Chapter. The warm reception and beautiful smiles on the faces of our Sisters at the Generalate made me feel that I was home. I said to myself, Meg, this is “us”–a community of joy. This sense of welcoming helped me to settle in for the business we had come to do.

The 25th General Chapter “Living into the Prophetic Witness of Universal Communion” was a “synodal journey” for me and the entire congregation as we dialogued, listened, prayed, and discerned together the future direction for the next six years. The experience was that of an “encounter and grace” for me, bringing together the realities of our congregation, church, and world to focus. As a first-timer at the Chapter, it opened me up to the richness of our diversity and our vulnerability at the same time. Our unity in diversity continues to remain a great sign of hope and unity for me. However, our diminishment calls for each sister to discern creatively and radically new ways of promoting and sustaining vocation for our future.

Sisters Oyin-oza, Dawida, Magdalene at the chapter

A few significant things I learned about myself were the call to be honest in my sharing, listen contemplatively without judgment, be patient with processes, and appreciate with empathy the language diversity we have within the congregation. It was also a moment of building relationships despite the age differences and language barriers. I learned that relationships are beyond language. What matters is the love and peace we express to each other, different languages yet one people.

I was particularly blessed as the youngest member to tap wealth of wisdom and experiences from our sisters who had served on the Chapter at different times. I value the level of dialogue that took place which was quite discerning and helped me to see the congregation in its broadest sense. In fact, the congregation was brought to my doorpost.

My experience at the Chapter can never be complete if I fail to mention the profound audience we had with the Holy Father, Pope Francis. It was indeed a “Holy Encounter” for me, and I suppose for all of us. His words to us and I quote “ I encourage you to continue to be courageous witnesses of evangelical solidarity at a time when many are experiencing fragmentation and disunity”. I have carried and pondered these words in my heart in light of our Directional Statement and the Acts, and I look forward to living the Directional Statement with enthusiasm and hope. Another opportunity I also appreciated was the trip we made to Assisi. Again, it was a spirit-filled one for me. I kind of hope that we shall make the tomb of our Foundress a holy ground where many could go to deepen their relationship with God.

I returned to my community re-energized for the mission, trusting that as a province, our ability to give witness to unity in a fragmented world concretely finds its expression in our vowed life in community and mission. Thus, we should continue to be present to one another in the community despite our busy life in ministry.


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