USA VICE-PROVINCIAL OPEN ASSEMBLY
Dighton (Massachusetts), 10/12/2023, Sr. Karen Champagne.-
A TIME TO CELEBRATE WHO WE ARE
A TIME TO LET GO
A TIME TO MAKE ROOM FOR OTHERS
With great joy we celebrated at the USA VICE-PROVINCIAL ASSEMBLY from September 29 to October 1, 2023. There were Sisters from all seven Communities present at the Assembly.
It was a time to pray together to share thoughts and feelings. This was also a time to thank God for all that He had done through each one, and together to make the USA Vice-Province what it is today. We were blessed to have the presence of Sr. Joanna Fernandes with us who coordinated and facilitated this weekend. Her gifts and knowledge of our Vice-Province and each sister helped us to fully enter into the experience of celebration and fraternal sharing. We thank Sr. Maria Escayola for sending Sr. Joanna to be with us for this important Assembly as we prepare to join with the Province of Guadalupe.
To mark this moment in our history, and before we become one with the Province of Guadalupe, we created a time capsule that represents all of us at this moment. The time capsule contains symbols which express the mission of each Community, as well as photos and lists of Sisters and Communities.
The Assembly began in the Chapel on Friday, September 29. During the opening prayer, the symbols from each Community were placed in the Chapel near the altar for everyone to see and at the end of the Assembly the items were put in the time capsule and buried near the well in front of the Vice-Provincial House; a replica of the well in Sainville, France. It will be unearthed in twenty-five years. There is a plaque on the well where the time capsule is buried explaining about this time capsule.
During the opening prayer and during the Morning and Evening prayers of the weekend, there was a blessing for each Sister by Sr. Joanna where she read and shared a little about each sister and her life in the Vice-Province, emphasizing her gifts. This was done in groups of six Sisters by Community order and when Sr. Joanna was finished with the sharing all the other Sisters raised their hands and offered a prayer of blessing for the sisters recognized.
After the opening prayer in the Chapel, we had a potluck supper in which we shared each other’s cooking. We especially experienced our internationally by the dishes and food that the Sisters prepared.
Saturday morning began with Morning Prayer and the celebration of the Eucharist. In the first reading of the day from the Prophet Zechariah, an Angel said, “Sing and rejoice, O daughter Zion! See, I am coming to dwell among you, says the Lord. Many nations shall join themselves to the Lord on that day, and they shall be His people and He will dwell among you.” Isn’t this what the Lord has been telling all of us during these months of preparation to join with the Province of Guadalupe?
We then celebrated and shared our history together through storytelling. Each Sister shared a story about her mission or people who may have touched her life or had influenced her during her time in the USA Vice-Province. We learned more about one another on a deeper level and were able to appreciate the gifts and life of each other. It was a real blessing. It was also a moment of gratitude and thanksgiving to the Lord for the many graces He has given us through the life of each other.
Saturday afternoon we celebrated the tangible and fun gifts we received from Sr. Joanna. We then broke into groups to share these gifts with one another while keeping one for ourselves. It was an entertaining time, and yet it was also a time of reflection to acknowledge how we experienced receiving and giving our gifts to one another.
We ended the day with Evening Prayer and a celebratory meal. For recreation we delighted in a pumpkin decorating contest. We each had a partner and decorated our pumpkins. The creativity of each Sister was revealed for all to appreciate.
Sunday morning began with Morning Prayer and the celebration of the Eucharist. The second reading from Philippians 2:1-11 emphasizes that our responsibility as Christians is for us to be an active force which stands together in unity to achieve the communal goal of proclaiming the Kingdom of God through a paradigm of humility which is exemplified by a form of servanthood demonstrated by Christ. For us this is a goal to work toward as we join with the Province of Guadalupe.
During our morning session we reflected on and shared how we were feeling during this time of restructuration to join with the Province of Guadalupe and how we felt as we came closer to this reality.
In the afternoon we met in groups and continued our sharing about how we can acknowledge and deal with our feelings and then we convened again with the entire group. It was also a time of healing. Sisters expressed that they experienced freedom to express without any judgement and an atmosphere of openness by all.
The closing prayer was a time of reconciliation, thanksgiving and sending forth. We had a reconciliation service which concluded with the sign of peace. A most significant ritual of the weekend was having the four Provincials, past and present, Sr. Joanna Fernandes, Sr. Marina Mejia, Sr. Vimala Vadakumpadan and Sr. Marta Inés Toro each pour a carafe of blessed water into the holy water font representing the symbol of our coming together, unity and blessing. At the end of the prayer each Sister came forth, blessed herself with the holy water from the font, and processed outside to the well to bury the time capsule singing “Companions on the Journey”.
Outside the Vice-Provincial House, we had a prayer to honor all those Sisters who had enabled us to arrive to this moment. Each one of us are human time capsules carrying the legacy of all of us and all our Sisters from the initial foundation in the USA forward through time. We hope to pass on to our future Sisters a prayerful, joyful and loving Community, willing to take risks and to continue living the Charism of Blessed Marie Poussepin wherever we are; a community of prayer which goes out to the poor, marginalized and needy. The time capsule was sealed and buried. To conclude this ritual, we blessed each other’s hands with the sign of the cross with oil from the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe to embrace our becoming one with the Province of Guadalupe to form the Province of Our Lady of the Americas.