The sisters’ synod

 Il sinodo delle suore  DCM-006
04 June 2022

“Our mission is to make vulnerability an opportunity to embrace wounded humanity, to welcome each other and walk together. This is what the Church asks of us and what the world wants to see from us religious”, said the new president of the International Union of Superiors General (UISG), in her first official statement. Nadia Coppa, of the Adorers of the Blood of Christ, was elected after the plenary session held in Rome from 2-6 May. She will remain in office until 2025 with the new vice-president, Mary Teresa Barron, of the Sisters of Our Lady of the Apostles, and the new board in which the many charisms and faces of the religious sisters are reunited. The board is composed of the following names: Roxanne Schares, School Sisters of Our Lady; Theodosia Baki, Tertiary Sisters of St Francis; Graciela Francovic, Hijas de Jesus; Theresa Purayidathil, Daughters of the Church; Sr. José Gay Miguel, Teresian Missionary Carmelites; Miriam Altenhofen, Missionary Servants of the Holy Spirit; Rita Calvo, Order of the Company of Mary Our Lady; Antonietta Papa, Daughters of Mary Missionaries; Dolores Lahr, Sisters of St Joseph of Chambéry; Patricia Villaroel, Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary; Anna Josephina D'Souza, Missionary Sisters of the Catholic Apostolate.

Sister Nadia’s first “programmatic” thought is also in line with the theme of the plenary, which is, Embracing vulnerability on the synodal path. There were approximately 700 present, from more than 70 Countries (520 in presence, the others online). Combined with prayers and songs they discussed the theme for five days, amidst a chorus of voices and experiences, suggestions, and hopes. As Gemma Simmonds of the Congregation of Jesus stated, “Our vulnerability is prophetic. We need to embrace it as a strength”.  In addition, as Patricia Murray, of the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary, also known as the Sisters of Loreto, executive secretary of the UISG, told Global Sister Report “We have reached a very profound point after these five days, it is a paradigm shift”.

The superiors started to work on the projects immediately after the plenary, and during the UISG constellation delegates’ meeting. Two of the major commitments that were launched include: the Global Initiative on Cognitive Impairment and Alzheimer’s; and, the Catholic Sisters' Initiative on Ageing.

As stated by Jane Wakahiu, of the Little Sisters of St Francis, associate vice president of program operations and head of the Catholic Sisters Initiative at the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation “Our older sisters are a blessing for us. This project intends to give them dignity until the last minute of their lives. Science and medicine allow us to live longer; to live well, in ageing we need inner strength, but also financial help and preparation to accompany the senior sisters and their communities in managing this part of life”. The Foundation that she heads is committing $5 million to both this initiative and the other aimed at helping congregations care for elderly sisters, which combined is called the Catholic Sisters Aging Initiative.

Continuing, Wakahiu said the two initiatives may eventually be merged, and all efforts will focus on ensuring that “no sister will leave this world without experiencing the deep compassion and accompaniment she deserves until the end of life”.