Sisters of Charity from the US, Canada share insights

CHARLESTON—Collaboration was the key word when the Sisters of Charity Federation met at the Marriott in Charleston May 12-16.

The group, which is comprised of about 12 separate congregations, discussed ways to maximize their service by working with each other, said Sister Mary Ann Daly, a Sister of Charity of New York and executive director of the Federation.

Sister Mary Ann said they have devised a three-prong approach that includes direct collaboration, applying influence, and sharing their insights and best practices.

Women religious at the conference said as their communities grow smaller and older, they have to find effective ways to join forces.

“We have to maximize our time and energy to move forward,” said Sister Donna Geernaert, SC, from Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. She is the incoming federation president.

One goal they are working on is creating online discernment retreats for the congregations, said Sister Mary Ann. They would also like to expand their worldwide projects, which include a water program in Haiti, business scholarships for women in developing countries, and the continued rebuilding of New Orleans.

Federation members note they are part of a global Vincentian family that numbers in the millions.

“We can be a much more powerful force in spreading the Gospel,” said Sister Barbara Hagedorn, SC, the outgoing president from Cincinnati.

The Sisters of Charity Federation communities all trace their roots to St. Vincent de Paul and share a bond forged by St. Louise de Marillac and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton.

The diverse congregations take time at each gathering to talk about who they are and grow to know one another better.

The theme this year was “Weaving the Vision,” and each community brought a representative weaving and talked about their charism.

The group was welcomed by Mayor Joseph P. Riley, who was a classmate of Sister Mary Joseph Ritter, director of Our Lady of Mercy Outreach on Johns Island.

Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone celebrated Mass for the religious women on May 15.

Our Lady of Mercy Sister Carol Wentworth said they will continue to talk about collaboration at the Federation’s next meeting in Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada, in June 2012.