Weekend Explores Multiculturalism

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Community Weekend

Weekend Explores Multiculturalism 2008-10-30-commwk-icon

Preparing for Provincial Chapter is very important time for the Poor Handmaid Sisters. Our Chapter, which is an event that occurs once every four years, will be held in January 2009. It is a time when we discuss issues challenging the congregation and our future plans. We have been raising topics surrounding our life together that we would like to explore through prayer and discussion. Three topics that have surfaced and tat need furtherstudy and deeper discussion are: community living, internationality and the Spiritual Family of Catherine. During Community Weekend held June 12-15, we spent time discussing community living and internationality.

The theme for Community Weekend was “Kindling the Flame.” On Thursday evening, we began the weekend with a prayer that celebrated “coming home” and “community.” We contemplated the gift of community through the Scripture and our own PHJC community documents. We looked at five facets of community: presence, belonging, giftedness, companionship and service. A candle was lit for each of these facets of community and these candles became part of the environment for the entire weekend. The closing quote from Henri Nouwen set the tone for the following day’s discussion, “Community is first and foremost a gift of the Holy Spirit, not built upon mutual compatibility, shared affection, or common interests but upon having received the same divine breath, having been given a heart set aflame by the same divine fire, and having been embraced by the same divine love.”

Friday’s discussions surrounded various aspects of community living. We looked at our reality and for what do we long? Sister Virginia Kampwerth began the day with a humorous monologue about the foibles and reality of living together. Through the laughter we saw some of the aspects we wanted to strengthen and some we wanted to improve upon. Sisters Deborah Davis and Michele Dvorak led the group with discussion questions throughout the day. The feedback was gathered and will be studied by the Provincial Chapter Steering Committee for further plans in preparing for Chapter. The day ended with a special liturgy celebrated by Father Jerry Schweitzer.

Saturday, our speaker on internationality was Father Mark Schramm, SVD. Father Schramm just completed a doctorate at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. His dissertation looked at dynamic of different cultures and nationalities living together in community. We were challenged to be students of other cultures, to ask questions and to observe. Perhaps we need to consider our congregation as multicultural rather than international. Many of us have knowledge of different cultures on the surface by experiencing food, dress, music, visual arts language, celebrations, etc. This is similar to an iceberg where only one-tenth is above the water. Most of culture is below the surface; things such as body language, eye contact, concept of time, decision making, attitudes toward elders and authority, tolerance of physical pain, tempo of work, etc. The challenge is to develop a new culture unique to the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ, a workable mix and blending of cultures that is faithful to the charism.

In the afternoon we listened to our Sisters from other countries who shared with us their experiences of living in the United States and a little about their own cultures. We heard from Sisters whose native cultures are German, Indian, Mexican and Chinanteca an indigenous culture in Mexico. There was time for questions, discussion and trying to understand more deeply what it means to be a religious congregation of women who are multicultural.

Sunday morning we spent some quiet time reflecting on an article written by Barbara Valuckas, S.S.N.D., PhD. called “Discernment Chapters of Complex Affairs.” This article gave some suggestions on how to formulate questions around topics to be discussed at a Chapter. This time helped us to move deeper into the topics and to move us toward Chapter. We closed the weekend with a beautiful prayer of ritualizing our commitment to our individual participation in the preparation and the work of the Chapter. We ended the day with the unveiling of our Chapter theme and logo, “Igniting the Future.”