Joined Together in the Mission of Charity

International symposium resounds with Vincentian spirit

The Federation Family at the 400th Anniversary: Video & Photos

The Sisters of Charity Federation had 40 members present from our different congregations for the 400th anniversary celebration. See photos of the Federation family at the celebration.

Sisters of Charity Federation UNNGO representative, Sister Teresa Kotturan with the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, had the privilege of greeting Pope Francis – along with Sisters Joan Cook, Joan Repka, Donna Geernert, Sun He Kang and Eileen Haynes. See video below.

Six Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth attend International Symposium

Story written by Therese M. Horvat, Communications Director for the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth

Six Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth were among the 9,500 participants gathered in Rome October 13-15 for the exhilarating experience of the International Vincentian Family Symposium, celebrating the 400th anniversary of the Vincentian spirit/charism. The SCLs included Sisters Janet Cashman, Ramacca, Sicily, Italy; Katherine Franchett, Ashland, Mont.; Eileen Haynes, Leavenworth, Kan.; Bernadette Helfert, Ashland; and Mary Jane Schmitz and Elizabeth Skalicky, Leavenworth.


In describing the gathering, Sister Janet says that from the opening moments, registrants were greeting one another and finding ways to communicate despite the many different languages spoken. “It was being family,” she believes.

For Sister Eileen, a highlight was experiencing the passion for the Vincentian charism/spirit: serving those in need, and wanting to develop and strengthen relationships around the world. She found the Friday presentations and small group conversations thought provoking and enlivening. “Overall, we reflected on the anniversary year theme of ‘welcoming the stranger’ (refugees/migrants/homeless) whenever and wherever we can,” she explains, “recognizing that we are called to be conscious of the stranger within ourselves before stepping out to serve.”

“The entire experience was awesome!” Sister Mary Jane says. “I was like a kid in a candy shop. I couldn’t believe my good fortune of being there.” The symposium in its entirety was special for her along with the realization that “we are Vincentian, strong in our commitment, with strength in numbers, giving us the power to influence and to make a real difference.”

The Vincentian family includes religious congregations, charitable organizations and other groups that trace their roots and spirit to St. Vincent de Paul who lived and ministered in 17th century France. The 400th anniversary marks life transformations that turned Vincent toward service of the poor.

The symposium presentation by a Vincentian priest and an architect resonated with several of the SCLs. The two speakers dialogued about how to build a common “house” that is sustainable for everyone. They reminded participants of the need to honor traditions and to take action. “We need to be a movement, not an institution,” Sister Elizabeth recalls the speakers saying. The challenge from Vincent is to evangelize, liberate and serve – all action steps, Sister Eileen adds.

In another segment of the program, individuals gave testimony to living the Vincentian charism today. Sister Elizabeth gained a new perspective for watching world news from remarks shared by a Vincentian Marian Youth member from Syria. “She spoke of rising above the fear of war and continuing to serve,” Sister Elizabeth said. “Her message was that the person who loves does not let fear dominate him or her.”

The fact that Pope Francis had a special audience for the Vincentian family (all 9,500 of them!) was thrilling for Sister Bernadette. “We were only five rows away from where his popemobile passed,” she said. “It was also exciting to see our own Sister Eileen shaking the hands of Pope Francis as projected on one of the large screens.”


A spirit of great joy and enthusiasm during the symposium left a lasting impression with Sister Janet. “From the opening prayer to the presentations, to the encounter with Pope Francis to the Mass that closed the symposium, this joy and enthusiasm was apparent to me,” she said.

Collaboration was another key theme and message of the gathering. Members of the Vincentian family represented 99 countries. For Sunday’s closing Mass, individuals bearing 157 flags of nations and organizations processed into the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls.

“Imagine the power and wisdom we have when this family focuses on a particular issue,” Sister Katherine says. “One cannot help but be energized to become ever more Vincentian and explore what this means.”

Of the closing Mass, Sister Bernadette comments, “We SCLs agreed that it was the ‘highest’ Mass we had ever attended, singing Mass parts we learned in grade school with a magnificent choir singing ‘high Church’ interludes.” As a member of the Executive Committee for the Vincentian Family, Sister Eileen had a seat in the VIP section of the basilica during the Mass. Sister Janet read two of the petitions/intercessory prayers in Spanish.

As for the future, optimism prevails. Sister Janet says, “I hope that our joyful commitment to living the charism will ever more fill our world with the Spirit enough to end war, poverty, destruction of the environment, and all matter of ills.”

In addition to the current ways of being Vincentian, Sister Eileen believes that new forms continue to unfold as the next generation embraces their call. “Regardless of culture/country/language/branch of the family, we are living out the Vincentian journey together,” she concludes.

Another fringe benefit for the SCL participants was visiting Sister Janet in Ramacca, Sicily, where she ministers to refugees. Following their visit, Sister Janet joined the Sisters for the symposium.


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