Characteristics of Social Ministries Sisters of Notre Dame

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1 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives, sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim a year of favor from the Lord. (Lk.4: 18-19) 1

2 The sisters who engage in social service ministry are sensitive to the dignity of every human person entrusted to them. They recognize the face of Jesus in those they serve. The sisters show preference for those services that promote the empowerment of women and the care of children. Wherever possible, they commit themselves to change unjust social structures. Const. Dir

3 Foreword As Sisters of Notre Dame we are compelled by a passion for Christ and compassion for humanity to engage in social ministries that contribute to the transformation of the world. The Gospels are filled with stories of how Jesus reached out to the outcasts and those on the margins. In the Mission Statement of Jesus in Luke 4:18-19, in the Beatitudes, in the Last Judgment and the Good Samaritan, we find a summary of the importance of Christian commitment to those who are poor and marginalized. Action for justice, reconciliation and peace is a Gospel imperative and therefore integral to our discipleship. The Church at the time of the foundation of our congregation was faced with the poverty and suffering of the masses. As a result, from the very beginning, the care of neglected and poor children belonged to the congregation s apostolic tasks. The preferential option for the poor was in the heart of St. Julie, Sister Maria Aloysia and all those who had a significant role in the foundational years of our congregation. In the 1960s with Vatican Council II, there was an eruption of a new consciousness in the Church regarding option for the poor. It was indeed a new grace of God for the renewal of the Christian commitment to the Gospel. This new consciousness of the Church has had a strong impact on religious life. Since 1980 all our General Chapters have increasingly emphasized the importance of the option for those who are poor and marginalized. In fidelity to the obvious social dimension of the mission of Jesus, we Sisters of Notre Dame approach all our ministries with a commitment to justice, peace and integrity of creation. Consequently, the focus of our social ministries continues to be the dignity and basic human rights of those who are most vulnerable, especially women and children at risk. As consecrated women, we are called to lead a life that serves as a living memory of the lifestyle embraced by Jesus. We are called and sent to make Jesus visible and experience-able! Our credibility and effectiveness as ministers among the poor lie in the quality of our life. Genuine Christian witness is needed especially now because people are persuaded by the witness of a life of 3

4 holiness and genuine commitment rather than intellectual arguments. People today put more trust in witnesses than in teachers, in experience than in teaching, and in life and action than in theories. (Ecclesia in Asia) May we be attuned to the creative disturbances of the Spirit beckoning us to take the less traveled and even unfamiliar roads in living our charism with creative fidelity as we carry out the mission of Jesus. God s blessing be upon all those who risk prophetic involvement in the transforming mission of Jesus. Let us move forward trusting in the Divine Providence that sends us to the poor and marginalized of God as bearers of hope. There is hope for (y)our future. (Jer. 31, 17) Sister Mary Sujita Kallupurakkathu, SND Superior General "The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the [people] of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these too are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ." (Gaudium et Spes, 1) 4

5 Characteristics of Social Ministries Sisters of Notre Dame As Sisters of Notre Dame in Social Ministries we are called to be contemplatives in action. We respond to the prophetic mission of Jesus by being God s Good News to the poor especially to women and children through our commitment to justice, peace and integrity of creation. Rooted in Christ and Sent in His Mission 1. Deepened by an incarnational spirituality, we recognize the face of Jesus who dwells among us in those who experience poverty in all its forms and we commit ourselves to their empowerment and transformation. 2. Centered in the Eucharist and in the Word of God, we approach our ministry with a contemplative stance. In our consistent option for the poor we make every effort to become a reconciling and healing presence of hope. 3. Like Mary, woman of integral liberation, we commit ourselves to be prophetic witnesses and courageous risk-takers who persevere in the daily struggle for justice and peace. We look to Mary, Queen of Apostles, for support and direction in our efforts to integrate contemplation and action. (Const. 69) 4. Missioned by the Church through our Congregation, we go forth to proclaim God s goodness and provident care through our compassionate service, prophetic commitment, solidarity and genuine witness to Jesus. 5. We recognize and value the Social Teachings of the Church which emphasize the life, dignity and human rights of every person, the preferential option for the poor and the spirit of solidarity. 5

6 Solidarity is not a feeling of vague compassion or shallow distress at the misfortunes of so many people, both near and far. On the contrary, it is a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good; that is to say to the good of all and of each individual, because we are e all really responsible for all. (Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, 1987 No. 38) JM* 6

7 Gifted and Transformed by our Congregational Charism 6. We have inherited from our spiritual mother St. Julie, from our foundress Sister Maria Aloysia and our first Coesfeld sisters, a preferential love for those who are most needy and vulnerable. In fidelity to our charism, we seek out poor and marginalized people, help them recognize their human dignity and give them hope and courage in their struggle for justice and life. (Const. 67) 7. Our charism calls us to educate and conscientize ourselves about the needs of the times, especially about the new forms of poverty and the impact of globalization. We walk in solidarity with those who are poor and marginalized as a compassionate and mutually empowering presence. 8. We are energized by our life in community. In creative fidelity to our charism, we respond together to issues affecting justice, peace and integrity of creation. We are sent and supported by the community and our shared commitment sustains us in our social ministries. In the love we experience in community, we find a necessary help in our following of Jesus and for our ministry. (Const. 55) 9. Through inter-ministerial collaboration we enrich and challenge one another in our community life and ministry. 10. We choose a simple lifestyle, to live with limits and to share from our need. Serve the poor by being poor. (St. Julie) 11. We work for ongoing conversion on a personal and community level. We go to those who live in poverty and exclusion and let them touch us for our conversion and transformation. 7

8 We exist only for the poor, only for the poor, absolutely only for the poor. St. Julie 86 For food, clothing and so on, the dear God must often provide, for we have comparatively many children who can pay nothing we accept the little ones so much more lovingly the poorer and more abandoned they are. (Sister Maria Aloysia, Letter VI, October 25, 1886) 8

9 Responding to the Signs of the Times 12. We listen to the cry of those who are oppressed and poor with the heart of Jesus and, like him, we raise our voices on their behalf. In solidarity with them we join in their struggle for basic human rights and dignity. 13. We commit ourselves especially to the empowerment of those who are the most vulnerable and at risk in society: women and children, especially girls. 14. We promote structures and policies that bring about systemic change in our society through education, awareness building, empowerment, rights-based advocacy and leadership formation. 15. We mediate reconciliation, non-violence and peacemaking. 16. We respect and nurture all of God s creation and live in harmony and right relationship with Mother Earth. 17. We model sustainable use of the goods of creation personally and congregationally for the healing and balance of our Planet Earth. 18. We enter into dialogue with diverse cultures and religions with an attitude of respect and listening and promote communal harmony. 19. We use social analysis to comprehend the contemporary economic, cultural, political and religious realities in our world. We respond to these local and global realities in the spirit of the Gospel and our charism. 20. We choose, whenever possible, to live and work with and for those who are poor and marginalized. All those involved in social ministries immerse themselves on a regular basis in the lived reality of those whom they serve in order to develop sensitivity to their life struggles. 9

10 Respect for life and for the dignity of the human person extends to all creation, which we view as a sign of God s presence. We are challenged to make responsible use of the earth s resources so that all may share in God s gifts and live in peace and dignity. Const. 30 JM* 10

11 21. We value mutual enrichment and support in our ministry and promote interdependence and interconnectedness within our congregation, including our associates and our collaborators. 22. We follow a participative approach to ministry and model team work and collaboration among ourselves and among those with whom we serve. We recognize in the poor and marginalized the potential for their own liberation and empowerment. 23. We communicate the insights and experiences of our ministry involvements at the grass-root level with our governments and our UN-NGO representatives in order to influence policies and decisions in favor of those who are most vulnerable and needy. 24. We network among ourselves and with other like-minded organizations, groups and volunteers to help bring about systemic change and global transformation. 25. We use media and technology as instruments of creating a culture of peace, solidarity and social responsibility. 26. We follow a process of listening and ongoing discernment along with regular planning and evaluation in all our ministry involvements. JM* 11

12 Statement of the 2004 General Chapter of the Sisters of Notre Dame We are women disciples of Jesus sent as an international congregation into our One World Our love for Jesus and His mission compels us: To nurture communities of reconciliation and nonviolence To choose to live with less in solidarity with our sisters and brothers who struggle for life and dignity To renew our missionary spirit and outreach, empowering persons who are poor and marginalized, especially women and children To network among ourselves and with others for justice and peace To reverence creation and to work to restore its balance and beauty. We go forward in creative fidelity to our charism, trusting in God who makes all things new. 12

13 In our times and in varied circumstances, we concretize Hilligonde Wolbring s love l for the poor as we address issues of oppression, violence and injustice, and minister to people in many kinds of need, especially women and children. Compassion impels us to work for peace, justice, environmental responsibility and the transformation of the world. (SND Spirituality Commission 2000) This booklet is the outcome of the intense moments of prayer, reflection and sharing of lived experiences of social ministries by the participants in the International Conference of Sisters of Notre Dame Ministering among those who are Poor and Marginalized. (Rome, May 6, 2009) 13

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