What's Significant about the
Dominican Sisters' Meeting This Week?
“General Chapter” is one of those terms Catholic sisters use that makes almost no sense to anyone else. This evening, Monday April 22, 2019, the Dominican Sisters of Springfield begin their “General Chapter.” Why is it such an important time for them?
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, they mean a meeting of the sisters they 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 this evening 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, full-steam-ahead, on Tuesday morning with the opening liturgy, a Mass to call upon the Holy Spirit.
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 on April 28. 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 so Important?
The Dominican Sisters of Springfield exist for mission and for the entire Church—the People of God. That’s what makes General Chapter an important event. When we make decisions about the focus ministry, the use of our buildings and other resources, even the way they will live together and share their 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 a version of the prayer we’ve been praying together every day for the past year. Please join us as we journey through the next six days of our meeting!
O God, Holy Mystery,
You call us into right relationship with you and with all creation.
Please be with my Springfield Dominican Sister-friends
as they strive to fulfill their Dominican life and mission,
by compassionately preaching your gospel to our Church and world.
Now, as they enter into General Chapter intent on discerning your mission
for the life of the world,
Be present to them and guide them.
Together, we have confidence in your ongoing revelation
and the promptings of your Spirit.
Accompany the sisters as they journey during this time of General Chapter.