On Tuesday, July 11, Society of the Sacred Heart partners in mission, Associates, and Religious of the Sacred Heart (RSCJ) from across the United States – Canada (USC) Province, as well as from the Province of Mexico, met virtually for the 2023 USC Provincial Assembly.
This Assembly — a formal gathering of RSCJ and lay mission partners — took place ahead of the 2023 USC Provincial Chapter. A Chapter in the Society of the Sacred Heart is a gathering of RSCJ, in this case from across the Province, that involves consultation with the Provincial Team, election of delegates to the international General Chapter, and recommendations to the General Chapter concerning the Society's mission in the world. At its core, the Chapter promotes both communion and vitality in the Society of the Sacred Heart in view of its mission.
The theme of the 2023 Assembly was "Courage, Confidence, Transformation through the Power of the Spirit." It was a day-long gathering where participants reflected on the Society’s mission as articulated in our four apostolic priorities: Spirituality, Justice, Peace, and the Integrity of Creation (JPIC), Education, and Formation.
Presented with a design of these four priorities (shown right), participants were invited to reflect on the current that leads from one priority to the next. The work of the Assembly, then, was to explore the powerful interconnections among these priorities and to consider how communion with one another generates energy to act as ‘One Body’ for the sake of the Society’s mission — to discover and reveal God’s love in the heart of the world through the service of education.
Provincial Suzanne Cooke, RSCJ, welcomed over 175 participants by formally opening the USC Provincial Assembly and underscored its important consultative nature to the province and to the Society. She invited those gathered to consider the time as “an adventure in grace and hope.” She also shared that the time together offered context, perspective, and an opportunity for a common commitment to the mission amid a world in need.
Kristi Laughlin, an Associate of the Society of the Sacred Heart, and Mary Kay Hunyady, RSCJ, deftly facilitated the day’s conversations, prayers, and presentations. They shaped the Assembly’s process to deepen our understanding of the four priorities and how these emphases may take shape in a new provincial configuration of Canada, United States, Mexico, and the Antilles.
The warp and woof of the day consisted of a balanced mix of small group discussions of four or five people sharing reflections on personal experiences of the Society’s mission and the challenges ahead, prayers and contemplative pauses, and panel presentations.
The Provincial Team of the USC Province, Amanda Codina, director of student programs and special initiatives for the Network of Sacred Heart Schools, Jane O’Shaughnessy, RSCJ, and Michael Pera, assistant archivist of the USC Province Archives, each talked about how the priorities direct their lives and work. Michael also spoke about the through lines in the Society’s history that help us better understand our future.
Socorro Martinez, RSCJ, from the Province of Mexico, developed in striking detail the call to global kinship and the trials we face given border walls, wealth inequality, and the realities of migrants. Socorro invited participants to meet these realities together as gifts, for “global kinship is God’s dream.”
To conclude the day, Sheila Smith, RSCJ, and Chris Poch, a member of the Province's United States Finance Committee, presented reflections on the day. Chris reminded us that Church and faith are essential and that the courage manifested by Philippine Duchesne and her companions is a means to take heart and be unafraid of the dilemmas and sacrifices ahead. Sheila found power in three key words: love, relationship, and journey. Through the dynamic of love, relationships, and the power of story we accompany one another, find our voices, and use them to transform the world into a more blessed place.
The final small groups were tasked with considering the future, its difficulties and opportunities, as well as to articulate several modest steps we could take to advance our journey. Each group, then, recorded their insights on a Google Document, revealing themes of cultural competencies, the power of language and geographical mobility, the consequences of racism and colonization, and concerns about resources. To assist those gathered on this journey, and to help close the Assembly, Irma Dillard, RSCJ, presented a powerful and moving video and prayer tribute, celebrating the RSCJ who have gone before us in courage and confidence this past year, suggesting that they too are with us — the family of the Sacred Heart — every step of the way.