During the early part of 2017, the American Province of the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ will hold its Provincial Chapter. Preparing for Chapter is a function unique to religious congregations. A Chapter may be held at a general, provincial or pro-regional level depending on the structure of the religious community; whatever the level, Chapters, have a long and respected history within vowed religious life.
Chapter, when in session, is the highest decision-making body within our Province. During a Chapter, decisions are made which creates a vision or focus for the next four years. After we have set directions, we then hold elections for the formal leadership of our Province, (the Provincial and her Council). Although these statements are true, it is also true that everything at Chapter is marked by the very spirit of our religious community. It is this spiritual mark that makes a Chapter far more than just a legislative or decision making body.
A Chapter should have the feel and quality of a communal retreat. Poor Handmaid Sisters are called to use our inner ear to listen deeply to both the movement of the Holy Spirit and to the apostolic restlessness of Blessed Catherine Kasper. We recall her courageous response to the promoting of the charismatic grace of the Holy Spirit which inspired her to become a “contemplative in action” for the sake of the Gospel and the world. And we are challenged to do likewise.
Each Chapter becomes a reflection of a particular moment in time, with its lights and shadows. We are compelled by our vows to be women faithful to the call of the Gospel. To take on the stance of a“contemplative in action” means being a discerning person, a discerning community - one who is in touch with God and out of that relationship make choices and decisions with one eye on the needs of our present time and the other on the future.
As we come to know ourselves better as a community, deepen our mutual relationship and commitment to God, the Earth and humanity, we can make wiser decisions and set clearer directions for the future. It is “Mind and Spirit,” study and prayer which are the two sides of any successful Chapter.
The American Province will hold its Chapter of Affairs during the week of January 22-29, 2017 followed by the Chapter of Elections in April. Below is a copy of the Chapter prayer written by Sister Pat Peters and Sister Linda Volk. Each PHJC Sister has been using this prayer during this year of preparation for Chapter. We are pleased to share it with you and ask you to pray with and for us during this important time for our Province.
Rooted like the Linden tree in the sacred waters of the Heilborn, we consecrate our lives to being a flourishing presence in the midst of all creation. We thank you, our loving God, who with boundless love, goodness and mercy calls us to be Poor Handmaids and showers each of us and all of us with the abundance of your grace.
Give all Poor Handmaids the grace of an attentive ear to recognize your word spoken through our dialogue and discernment. Grant us the grace of a courageous heart to follow you into these changing times filled with hope and the trusting awareness of your care for us.