The Dominican Sisters of St Catherine of Siena hosted their General Chapter at their Generalate in Barataria

A General Chapter is important in the life of each Religious Congregation it is a time of intense discussion and discernment on “matters which concern the welfare of the institution” (Constitution of the Dominican Sisters of St Catherine of Siena)

The Dominican Sisters of St Catherine of Siena hosted their General Chapter at their Generalate in Barataria – the first in Trinidad – during the period Saturday, August 4– Monday 13.
Chapter delegates and personnel
Chapter delegates and personnel
Three Prioresses General - Sr Moyra- Ann Roach (1988-2000), Sr Thérèse Antoine (newly elected) and SrJeannette Léger (2004-2012)
Three Prioresses General - Sr Moyra- Ann Roach (1988-2000), Sr Thérèse Antoine (newly elected) and SrJeannette Léger (2004-2012)
Sisters enjoy a light moment
Sisters enjoy a light moment
Present at the Chapter were Prioress General Sr Jeannette Léger and sister delegates from Guadeloupe, France and Trinidad. These delegates were charged with the responsibility of charting the way forward for the life and future of the Congregation. The sessions were guided by Sr Mary Ellen O’ Grady, OP (Sinsinawa) and Brother Daniel Cadrin, OP. The Canon Law expert present was Fr Francis Morrissey, OMI. The interpreters were Sr Phyllis Wharfe, SJC and Lisette Khan. Their presence allowed for greater ease in communication.
The actual deliberations of the General Chapter were preceded by two days of retreat guided by Sr María Fabiola Velásquez Maya, OP who is the coordinator of the Dominican Sisters International (DSI), an umbrella organisation that facilitates collaboration between 151 Dominican Congregations. This retreat allowed the sisters, associates and Br Daniel to reflect on the theme of the General Chapter – Fired by the Spirit let us dare to preach. Sr Fabiola explored the work of the Holy Spirit in the Old and New Testament, the work of the Holy Spirit in St Paul and in the Church. She also delved into the encounters that Jesus had with various women in the bible such as the Samaritan Woman and Mary Magdalene. It is Sr Fabiola’s passion and zeal for sharing the word of God that touched the sisters present and left a deep impression on them. Reminding them that the Holy Spirit is at work in each of our lives and that we are called every day to “contemplate and to share with other the fruit of our contemplation.”
At the end of the day one of the retreat Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Nicola Girasoli celebrated his first Mass with the sisters and associates. He expressed his gratitude to the sisters for the work they have done in the Archdiocese. This was also the first time that associates were invited to a General Chapter.
St Dominic feast day
The St Dominic’s feast day celebrations on Wednesday, August 8, had a very special flavour this year as the Chapter delegates took a break to celebrate the feast day with the Dominican friars, sisters and associates at the Holy Cross Chapel in Arima. Fr Urban Hudlin preached an inspirational homily that invited those present to become “courageous followers...who do not give up because they face criticism...or because success is slow. Courageous Followers know that the grace of God is present in our midst.” He urged his listeners to “recognise fragments of salvation wherever they show up. He ended his homily by stating that the “Dominican spirit never gives up – we re-organise, there is new power. We seek to catch a glimpse of becoming something better, courageous followers re-think, re-cognise and re-know who we are and whose we are.”
After Mass the sisters and their guests went across to the Novitiate house where they were treated to a sumptuous meal. Calvary Hill came alive with the sound of music as a number of versatile acts consisting of performances by Srs Paul Clarke and Marie Thérèse both doing calypso pieces. Srs Kathy, Astrid, Godeline and Elise performed several French pieces and Sr Kathy performed her piece for the AEC Youth Assembly along with Sr Carla and Lisette Khan. Talented instrumentalists Jeremey Chatoor on the flute and saxophone and Sr Aluna added a Caribbean flavour with their rendition of the timeless piece Bob Marley’s Redemption Song. The elderly sisters were not to be outdone as Srs Patrica and Bernadette sang and danced to Ole Lady Walk a Mile and a Half. This was such an infectious performance that the French sisters also joined in and grooved to the melody.
General Chapter
On Friday, Aug 10, the General Chapter held its first open session. During the first part of the session the sisters listened intently to summaries of the reports from the Prioress General and the councillors of the regions of Trinidad and France. The chapter was indeed fired by the Spirit as the participants worshipped together at daily Mass both in French and English. It was also a time of great fellowship as sisters had meals together and shared their life experiences in a less formal way.
As the days of the Chapter draw to a close the words of the prophet Habakkuk’s in the reading of Saturday, Aug 11, further confirmed the work of the Chapter: “write the vision down inscribe it on tablets to be easily read ” (Hab 2:2). Sr Mary Ellen also shared that the work of the Chapter was important in discerning one’s call to leadership in community and also as part of elected leadership. She reminded the Chapter delegates of the words of St Catherine – “discernment dissipates darkness”. In this light and in a spirit of deep prayer the Chapter delegates entered into a time of deep prayer and silence.
On Sunday 12, the entire community of sisters gathered for Mass, during which the Holy Spirit was invoked as the one who would guide the Election process. Fr Urban Hudlin presided. Shortly after Mass, in a closed session, the delegates elected a new Prioress General in the person of Sr Thérèse Antoine. She thanked the sisters for their vote of confidence. The election was followed by lunch and a time of fellowship amongst the sisters. The last day of the Chapter- Monday 13, allowed for the election of three General Councillors who will serve with Sr Thérèse Antoine. It was also a time of thanksgiving for all those whose hard work prior and during the Chapter made it a very fruitful and faith-filled experience. The challenge now is for each sister to continue to commit to the work that is at hand – the building up of God’s Kingdom. We pray that St Dominic and St Catherine will continue to intercede for all of us as we pray to be fired by the Spirit, daring to preach in our various spaces and in the many encounters we have as Dominican sisters. – Sr Renée K Hall, OP


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