Women religious discuss collaboration

MYRTLE BEACH – Women religious from around the state gathered in April for a meeting on religious collaboration sponsored by the Sisters of Charity Foundation of South Carolina. It was the second event of its kind held by the foundation, according to president Tom Keith.

Keith said representatives of all the women’s religious orders in the state attended, as well as representatives from some of the orders’ headquarters in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Iowa.

The goal of the meeting was to help women religious in South Carolina make contact with each other and learn about networking and ways to further goals of both spiritual and social ministry. Currently, there are 132 women religious serving in the Diocese of Charleston.

“It’s part of an ongoing process the foundation is working on, to help women religious to plan for the future and to form potential partnerships and opportunities for collaboration with each other,” Keith said.

One of the keynote speakers for the two-day gathering was Sister Miriam MacGillis, a Dominican sister who spoke about the future of women religious in the U.S. in light of a dwindling number of new vocations to the religious life.

Another featured speaker was Rick Krivanka of the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland, who led a session in “Appreciative Inquiry.” The session’s goal was to help those gathered to find a way to take a positive attitude in regarding issues facing the community of women religious both nationwide and statewide, and to use the strengths of communities of women religious to make positive plans for the future.

Mark Smith, a researcher from Clemson University, offered a presentation on the demographics of South Caro-lina, as well as the changing demographics of women religious in South Carolina and around the nation.

One of the main trends discussed was the increase in South Carolina’s Hispanic community, which some demographers predict will grow more than 200 percent between 2006 and the next census in 2010. Smith’s presentation and the discussions that followed offered the women a chance to look at ways to help this burgeoning community’s members – the majority of whom are Catholic – not only from a pastoral perspective, but also from legal, financial and health perspectives.

Those who attended also learned about the process for making grant requests for different ministry and social aid programs. The foundation is currently considering requests for this year’s programs and will make its decisions by the end of May.

The next major event planned by the Sisters of Charity Foundation is a September appearance by Dr. Ruby Payne, CEO of aha! Process Inc., a publishing company dedicated to helping educators understand issues faced by children who grow up in poverty and how to overcome those problems through teaching. The date is yet to be announced. Payne’s appearance will be part of the celebration of the foundation’s 10th anniversary in South Carolina.