2024: A year for general chapter. What’s that?

Please join us in prayer for this important community gathering

“General Chapter” is one of those terms Catholic sisters use that makes almost no sense to anyone else. The Dominican Sisters of Springfield's general chapter is scheduled April 1-7, 2024, but preparations have been underway for about a year.

Why is it such an important time for us?

The dictionary defines chapter as a) a division of a book, b) a period of time in a person’s life, c) the local branch of a national or international organization—like the Elks or the Knights of Columbus—and finally d)—the governing body of a religious order.

We use the term in two senses. You might hear our sisters say they are unavailable for other meetings or social events at a certain time because they have “chapter.” Used this way, we mean a meeting of the sisters we live with. Then there is “general chapter”—often capitalized—which means the governing body of the entire Springfield Dominican congregation.

We have “small c” chapters often—about once a month. These meetings are opportunities to make space for the important, if sometimes mundane, concerns about our lives together.

“Big C” chapters occur currently every five years. It is a “Big C” chapter that begins April 1, the Monday after Easter, when most of our sisters will gather in Aquinas Center at Sacred Heart Convent, participate in a simple ritual prayer to formally open the general chapter—and go off to socialize before the real work begins. Though no schedule has been published yet, the day is likely to begin with a Mass to call upon the Holy Spirit's presence during deliberations.

2023 was full of celebration for our 150th anniversary. 2024 is focused on decision-making for the future.
2023 was full of celebration for our 150th anniversary. 2024 is focused on decision-making for the future.

What happens at a “Big C”—general chapter?

General Chapter is subdivided into two parts. The chapter of life and mission is a time for us to take stock of where we have been in our lives and ministry the previous five years and to look at where God is calling us to move forward in the coming five years. Chapter of elections is the time to decide what gifts are needed for leadership for the community going forward and then to vote for the sisters who will lead the congregation for the coming five years.

We consider this a graced, holy time. We approach general chapter with lots of prayer, study, conversation, and deliberation. The actual meeting takes place during a limited time; we’ll finish by April 7. But for more than a year we’ve been studying and praying in preparation. Carrying out the decisions of general chapter is the work of the rest of our lives.

Why is general chapter  important?

The Dominican Sisters of Springfield exist for mission and for the entire Church—the People of God. That’s what makes our general chapter an important event. When we make decisions about the focus ministry, the use of our buildings and other resources, even the way we will live together and share our lives with one another, we believe what we do is not for ourselves but “For the Life of the World.” We are committed—vowed—to be of service and to be good stewards of the gifts, talents, and resources God has given us.

What is my role in general chapter?

We welcome your daily prayer for the success of General Chapter. Here is the text of a prayer we've written for the occassion. Thank you for joining us as we journey toward—and beyond—general chapter!

Holy Mystery,
unfolding for the life of the world, we join in prayer
with the Dominican Sisters of Springfield
as they gather for General Chapter.

With hopeful minds and hearts
and deep awareness of our interconnectedness
with all creation, we journey with them
as they cross the threshold
of the unknown
carrying the wisdom
of the past 150 years.

Listening to the voices of the world,
may they contemplate
the living of the Gospel
as they reimagine the future.  Amen.

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