Sr. Mary Ann's Remarks at Ravenhill Alumnae Reunion

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Good morning.

Some of you must be wondering what's going on. The invitation you all received had Sr. Diana as the guest speaker for this years Alumnae Day. Well, a funny thing happened on the way to the reunion. Sr. Diana was elected as our new Superior General -- an alumna of Ravenhill Academy, Class of 1960. She returned to the Mother House in Paris early last month and so is unable to be here. You get me instead. I hope you don't mind.

How Sr. Diana got to be Superior General and how I got to be Provincial is a long story, details of which I will spare you. The short version is that this past summer, for four weeks in July, we Assumption Sisters had our General Chapter -- a meeting where all the Provinces where Assumption Sisters are come together, through their delegates, to make decisions, establish direction and set priorities for the next six years.

It's a time that we set apart when we try to listen earnestly to the Lord and to search for his will; to see how we can respond to the many and serious needs of our world, faithful to the charism that Marie Eugenie handed down to us, and to do that as one body, as one Assumption, in the Church.

Our U.S. Province sent Sr. Diana as our delegate. Sr. Clare Teresa was there as our Provincial. Sr. Nuala was there as a translator and member of the secretariat. And I was home in Worcester, Massachusetts.

And that's the beauty of a General Chapter. Even if I spent this summer working at St. Peter's Church and vacationing just a little bit with my Sisters at Camp Joy --what happened at the Mother House this past July is something that will guide and inspire my life for the next six years, it will inform my ministry and color my choices and decisions, it will shape my prayer and contemplation, and if I live the directions and priorities that it marked out, it will bring me into communion with all my Sisters in the Province, in the Congregation, and with all the lay people who consider themselves part of the Assumption Family -- including all of you, our dear alumnae of Ravenhill Academy, and all of the alumnae of our school in Miami who just had a very successful reunion last weekend.

Because the truth is, the General Chapter is not something that happened over there, to them. It's something that can be lived right here, by us.

What is the way, then, that the General Chapter points us to?

For one thing, there was a great desire for communion: communion in the congregation as well as communion among peoples. This desire manifested itself in the strong interest and support the Chapter gave to the notion of solidarity, an issue raised by the previous Chapter of 2000. In 2000, solidarity was understood as a way of expressing the congregation's concern for peoples at risk. The development of a Solidarity Fund and its administration from the Mother House were concrete steps in inculturating this value into the Assumption as a whole. Now, six years later, the Chapter decided to add Solidarity to its Orientation for Justice, Peace, and the Care of Creation. This may sound as if it were simply a bureaucratic paper-shuffling, but in fact it indicates a growing awareness on the part of the congregation that solidarity, along with all the other work for Justice and Peace, is going to have to become part of the fabric of our life. You can see this throughout all the Chapter documents.

Another key point that this Chapter made had to do with transformation. Now, you've all heard the term 'transformation of society.' It's an Assumption phrase that dates from Mother Marie Eugenie's time. This Chapter renewed our commitment to social transformation through its emphasis on solidarity, Justice, Peace and the Care of Creation as well as through its continued commitment to education in all its forms. But the Chapter also recognized that the Assumption can do more if it forms itself more deeply for this kind of work. There was a strong accent on formation, both in terms of our apostolic projects and of our contemplative life. There was a humbling recognition that while Assumption does well already, it can do better.

At the same time, there was also a strong understanding that we Sisters are fewer than before. For the Assumption to continue its mission of transformation of society, it will have to continue to reach out to laypeople who share its desires, and it will have to learn more and more to accept help even to seek help -- from these people. In many countries in the Assumption world, laywomen and laymen who share a desire similar to that of the Sisters for positive, constructive change in their societies, and who base their decisions on the wisdom of the gospel and on the teaching of Marie Eugenie, are doing creative work that builds up the whole that builds up the communion in the Assumption. They are bringing their small stone, to use Mother Marie Eugenie's language, to the building up of the body. The face of the Assumption today is incomplete without our many lay friends and partners, and one of the tasks of the years ahead is to continue to explore purposefully how we can become more truly Assumption Together....lay and religious, living the fullness of our particular vocations, for a more just and humane world.

In the United States we see the occasion of the canonization of Mother Marie Eugenie as a rich opportunity to invite you and all our lay friends to come to know her better, to understand her thought and vision, to enter into her spirituality and passion. We're not quite sure when the canonization will happen, but there aren't too many steps left to go in the process, and we expect some good news soon.

When the Church proclaims her a saint, it will be affirming a reality that weve already come to know: that she offers women and men of today a way to God --a way that leads us to contemplate the world as a place of God's glory and each person as made in His image, with dignity and honor. This contemplation brings us to work to transform attitudes, values and structures that devalue the human person and desecrate creation. This vision, this project is what we want to live with all our lay friends especially with you, our alumnae, who have been formed by the values of the Assumption.

What the Assumption will look like in the next fifty years is not clear. But the urgent task the Chapter felt was to affirm the philosophy that orients and the passion that inspires us: that is, the mystery of the Incarnation. It is the mystery of the Incarnation that is the foundation of our life, of our spirituality and of our mission of transformative education. It is what is at the core of our commitment to Justice, Peace, Care of Creation and Solidarity. It is what impels us to try to live communion and inclusion so that the Kingdom may come.

As a Sister in Worcester, Massachusetts following the unfolding of the General Chapter from thousands of miles away, I was drawn into the conference rooms and meeting places of the Mother House through a tremendous Chapter website that kept me (and every other interested person) updated daily on the reports, discussions and decisions being made. There was a photo journal that showed the faces and expressions of all the capitulantsin both serious moments and occasions of great joy and celebration. Communion in the Assumption world was built up by this wise and skillful use of technology.

In fact, the General Chapter of 2006 is being called the PowerPoint Chapter for its extensive use of this medium for presenting Province and project reports. To see the faces of the people our Sisters work with and to gain entry even if only visually into the places where the Assumption is present, made the world seem so much smaller and its peoples so much closer. It made the Assumption feel so much more one, so much more together.

And so it seems appropriate to end this mornings sharing with a Powerpoint presentation. This is the report that our North American Province made to the General Chapter. It is the face of the Assumption in the United States today, and it reviews the path taken in the six years since the last Chapter.

It may be a face that is very familiar to some of you, and not so familiar to others. My hope in showing this today is that, like the Sisters at the General Chapter, your viewing it may make you feel so much more one with the Assumption, and so much more willing to go forward in the project and dream of being Assumption Together.

And yes, the other thing the General Chapter accomplished was to elect Sr. Diana as our new Superior General and to give the Congregation a new General Council: Sr. Marie Emmanuel from the Philippines, Sr. Katrin from Belgium, Sr. Brigitte from Mexico and Sr. Martine from Burkina-Faso.

So this is the short version of what happened at the General Chapter, how Sr. Diana got elected, and how I got to be your speaker today.

It was a pleasure to spend this time with you.

Thank you and God bless you.