Joined Together in the Mission of Charity

Reflecting on Charity Moving Forward

An energetic, inspirational, and forward-looking gathering of a segment of the federation was held in July. The “Charity Moving Forward: One Heart, One Spirit” gathering was held at Mariandale Retreat Center in Ossining New York, July 13-16, 2023. It was open to federation members who have entered since 1970 and was planned by Sisters Ellen Dauwer, SC (Saint Elizabeth), Michelle Grgurich, SCN, Carol Ann Lockwood, SC (Saint Elizabeth), Alice Ann O’Neill, SC (Cincinnati), and Amy Willcott, SCL.

The theme of the weekend centered on a profound and fitting quote from Saint Vincent de Paul:

God bestows a special blessing on this gathering, assembled to reflect on matters which affect our service. You must first of all examine the goal of all your actions, the glory of God. After that, you must consider the interests of this group and the good of those whose lives will be affected by your decisions. For although we are many, we must have but one heart and one spirit. Just as the Spirit proceeds from the total union of the Father and Son, so the works of Charity, attributed to the Spirit, will result from a union of hearts and minds. You see, God is Charity, you must, therefore, do all in your power to be formed in the image of God. What do we find in God? We see the dignity of persons and the unity of essence. Cherish the gifts and dispositions which God has given you. By God’s grace, you will be able to do whatever is asked of you. 

The program opened with a prayer ritual that included a celebratory roll call of the 10 congregations represented: Daughters of Charity and Sisters of Charity of New York, Sisters of Charity of Saint Elizabeth (New Jersey), Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill, Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati, Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth, Sisters of Charity Halifax, Sisters of St. Martha (Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada), and Les Religieuses de Notre-Dame-du-Sacré-Coeur (St. John, New Brunswick, Canada). The 60 sisters in attendance then reflected on what they hoped to give and receive on the weekend and recorded these reflections on heart-shaped sticky notes that were hung on the wall for all to reflect upon throughout their days together. Candles with the symbol of each congregation were interspersed in the prayer space that also contained a large, beautiful rendering of the quote of Vincent, designed by Sister Nancy Gerth, SCN.

On Friday, July 14, the group spent the day in reflection with Sister Regina Bechtle, SC (New York), as she broke open the quote of Vincent in four sections with a question to ponder on each. Reflection time included sitting together in silence, sharing with one other person, taking a contemplative walk and engaging in a World Café discussion, where sisters creatively expressed their thoughts in words and images on butcher paper that was placed across the tables to create a café-like atmosphere. Later in the afternoon, a process called “the 3 W’s” (What?, So What? and Now What?) was used to reflect on the experience of the day. As rain interfered with the evening pool party, the games and party moved inside.

Saturday morning after prayer, the group received an update from Sister Grace Hartzog, SC, executive director of the federation, and Jimmy Walters, federation NGO representative to the United Nations. Sister Grace offered some highlights of the recent leadership gathering, and Jimmy challenged the group to take action on homelessness and climate change. In the afternoon, many went into New York City for outings at either the 9-11 Memorial Museum, Circle Line boat tour or a walking tour of the Elizabeth Ann Seton sites in Lower Manhattan. The remainder of the group remained at Mariandale or went on outings local to the retreat center. All returned safely and enjoyed sharing the varied experiences of the day.

On Sunday, the group gathered to celebrate liturgy, presided by the Rev. Patrick Griffin, CM. His homily included quotes from Vincent, Louise, and Elizabeth related to the parable of the Sower and the Seed. The choir and musicians included: Sisters Tracy Kemme, SC (Cincinnati), Karina Montes, SC (Cincinnati) and Kelly O’Mahony, SCN (vocals); Celine Beliveau, NDSC (flute); Anita Maroun, SC (Cincinnati) (piano); Mary Powers, DC and Mary Jo Stein, DC (guitars); and Michelle Grgurich, SCN (conductor). The union of hearts and minds was palpable. After Mass, a closing discussion was held to discuss next steps and hopes for the future of Charity Moving Forward. The group decided to meet virtually in 2024 and to hold the next in-person gathering in 2025. Planning committees were formed for both. For the closing prayer, “By Breath” by Sara Thomsen was used. All formed a large circle, held hands and sang the lyrics: “By breath, by blood, by body, by spirit we are all one.” The emotions of the weekend and the bonds that were formed and deepened were celebrated as all offered each other fond farewells, hugs and wishes for safe travel.

Sister Ellen Dauwer, SC (Saint Elizabeth)

CMF planning committee. From left: Sister Ellen Dauwer, SC (Saint Elizabeth); Sister Carol Ann Lockwood, SC (Saint Elizabeth); Sister Alice Ann O’Neill, SC (Cincinnati); Sister Amy Willcott, SCL; Sister Michelle Grgurich, SCN.

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