SC Federation Temporary Professed
“And you know you can’t go back again,
to the world that you were living in,
‘cause you’re dreaming with your eyes wide open.
So, come alive!”
“Come Alive”, from The Greatest Showman
words by Justin Paul and Benj Pasek
Sister Tracy and I pulled out of the Crowne Plaza Hotel parking lot in Chicago, making our way back home to Cincinnati. For the first couple hours of the ride, we recounted favorite moments and memories of the first ever Sisters of Charity Federation Assembly of the Whole. After a couple hours of sharing, we put on some tunes and sang along to the soundtrack of the The Greatest Showman for the remainder of our ride. As I listened to the above lyrics of the song “Come Alive”, I felt like it was an appropriate description of how many of us felt leaving the Assembly of the Whole. From June 13-16, over 500 Sisters of Charity, Daughters of Charity, Charity Associates and collaborators gathered together in Chicago; while hundreds more joined us via livestream and in our hearts. Together we prayed, listened, shared deeply, dreamed, danced, sang, cried and laughed. We each returned to our home congregations, but in a new and transformed way. After experiencing a richer taste of our Federation, we cannot go back to living the way we were before. We spent four days together as a Federation dreaming, not only with our eyes wide open, but I would add with our hearts wide open. Hearts open to each other and open to the new possibilities of the Charity charism in our world.
Two insights stay with me from the Assembly. First, our attentiveness to the ever-unfolding Charity story. In her keynote address, Sister Peggy O’Neill stated, “God is evolving. God is becoming and God becomes what God loves. We too, individually and communally, are evolving, we become what we love.” None of us has a clear view of what lies ahead, but what I heard over and over again this past weekend is that we are ready for this moment of change. This sentiment is well-expressed by our founder St. Vincent de Paul in a quote used during our opening ceremony, “And that, my Daughters, was the beginning of your Company; as it was not then what it is now, there is reason to think that it is not now yet what it will be later on…” Charity is evolving.
The second insight that stays with me is our commitment to stay at the table. It can feel so hopeful and optimistic as we set out on this new part of our journey together as a Federation, and at the same time none of us are naïve to the hardships and conflict that will come. Some of the panelists at the Assembly concretely named some of the things we will have to confront within ourselves: unconscious biases, white privilege, inter-cultural and inter-generational tensions. I even experienced moments of conflict and discomfort during the Assembly when some of our differences surfaced. But through it all, I felt a sense of commitment of the whole to stay at the table with one another.
Because the world and the Church need the Charity charism, and we have been bequeathed with this heritage of love to carry forward. The world needs us now, just as it needed Vincent de Paul and Louise de Marillac to open the doors for vowed women to directly minister to those in poverty. And we are as much needed now as when the Catholic Church in the United States was in its infancy and Elizabeth Seton infused the boldness of Charity. And the same can be said for all the places where our charism has spread: Korea, India, Botswana, Belize, Ecuador, Peru and beyond. Now, we are dreaming with our hearts wide open, the next chapter of our Charity story. And we should never dream alone what we can dream better together.