The Franciscan Missionaries of Mary
by Sr. Veronique Boucher, delegate to the General Chapter
ROME Monday November 17 2008 (ZENIT.org) A Franciscan Missionary of Mary is “dedicated to universal mission, ready to go anywhere and everywhere” confides Sr. Veronica Boucher to whom we asked on the occasion of the General Chapter of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary , to explain what a Chapter is as well as the charism of this community, rich in the experience of more than 7,000 sisters, in more than 850 communities and in 76 countries: they were able to follow the progress of the Chapter through the Internet! We publish below the first part of the interview.
ZENIT: Sister Veronica, the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, affectionately called the FMM, are just finishing their General Chapter in Grottaferrata, near Rome. What is a Chapter? Who participates? And what do you do during a Chapter?
Sr. Veronica Boucher – The term “chapter” is derived from monastic usage. The monks met every day as a community to listen to a reading of the rule. This meeting gradually began to include discussion and decisions regarding the application of the Rule. The place was eventually called the chapter room and the Assembly itself, a Chapter. In the 13th century, General Chapters had to be held by all religious Institutes. The General Chapter is a government body in a religious institute. It has the authority to assess the situation of the Institute, make decisions, define its direction for years to come and elect the Superior General and his/her Council. It is the only body of government in religious life that really acts in a spirit of collegiality, in the sense that all participants have equal votes. The official parts of a Chapter are the convening, the celebration and the affirmation. Beforehand, reflection papers communicated to all the communities around the world to cover the same ground and become attuned to the theme of the General Chapter which was, this time, “Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, called to live the kenosis of Christ, in creative fidelity and in solidarity with the suffering world.” During the months of September and October we have celebrated this Chapter which was concluded with the confirmation of the Proceedings of the Chapter. The participants of this Chapter were first of all the Superior General, her Council, the Secretary General, and the General Bursar. The Superior General, being the bond of unity in the Institute, makes spiritual animation in the spirit of St. Francis and Blessed Mary of the Passion, her concern encourages development and apostolic dynamism and remains in contact with the provinces and communities. And they are joined by all the Provincials – who govern and lead the Institute at the level of one or more countries combined – and the delegates representing the 50 Provinces around the world. In all we were 120 capitulars (Chapter members).
Sr. Veronica Boucher – The General Chapter is “the Institute in dialogue,” A time during which, in solidarity, we can become aware of ourselves and express in what our reality, our concerns, our expectations, consist, in order to look together towards the future, in discernment, without focusing exclusively on ourselves, but so as to discover where the Spirit wants to lead us to respond to the needs of the Church and the world. At the beginning of the Chapter, the Spirit led us out of our security, to move out of our comfort zone, so that, together, we might journey towards the future. This time of grace that God gave us invited us to make profound changes. It was lived as a Paschal experience and it can only strengthen us in the body of the Universal Church.
Sr. Veronica Boucher – This year the entire Congregation was able, thanks to the Internet, to enjoy the everyday experiences of the Chapter. Indeed a “web page” with news, pictures, on the main lines of work for each day was created daily by the communication team in the three official languages of the Institute: English, Spanish and French. Our site is http//www.fmm.org. To reach out to all our sisters in distant missions without the Internet, a press release was drafted and sent to the provincial secretaries to communicate it to all the sisters. A DVD and a newsletter were made to relive the highlights of this Chapter. A CD full of photos was also prepared. All this material will help each provincial and delegate to convey how the Chapter developed, its content and the lines of action chosen for implementation during the next six years of our Institute.
Sr. Veronica Boucher – From 81 nationalities, we are organized into 50 “provinces” within 76 countries in the world. We live in 856 communities. In this Chapter we were approximately 160 sisters from 44 different nationalities, the Chapter members, but also sisters who contributed to the proper functioning of the meeting: secretaries, translators, editors and the sisters who provided all the logistics.
Sr. Veronica Boucher – Yes, in our assembly, the exchanges were rich because of the diversity of cultures, and the realities to which we belong. But this dialogue is sometimes difficult because all are not totally fluent in one of the 3 official languages of the Institute, therefore we have to listen, explain and dialogue. For example, a sister from Asia must first accept the term generally in English, bring it to her own language and culture, and only then return to dialogue. And often a word does not have the same meaning for them.
Our multicultural and multilingual liturgies, also expressed our diversity within communion, a reflection of the universal Church.
Every night, we gathered together to discover a province with its special features, how our sisters live, the life of the Church, the lives of men and women in their country, thanks to a CD or a Power Point presentation prepared by our sisters.
Interviewed by Anita S. Bourdin for ZENIT.
© December 2008