LETTER CONVOKING THE XXI GENERAL CHAPTER
To each Sister in the Congregation
Through this letter I am addressing you personally - and the entire Congregation- to convoke you to the celebration of the 21st ordinary General Chapter that will be celebrated from July 11 to the August 8, in our house of Pedregalejo in Malaga.
1. Solemnity of the Heart of Jesus
We have decided to convoke the Chapter on June 11, 2021, solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which is a day of deep congregational roots, in which we celebrate the personal Love of Jesus Christ, symbolized by his Heart. The experience of his love is the origin of our vocation, which has been shaping the history of the Congregation that we are urged to continue by writing a new page of its history, responding thus to the needs of humankind today.
The experience of the personal Love of Jesus Christ - which we desire to renew in community at the beginning of each day with the Act of Consecration, -invites us to be grateful for so much good received; to discern and embrace the present in which we are living, and to dream with hope of the future that God might have in store for us.
Gratitude is the first sentiment that comes from our hearts when we recall the experience of being love unconditionally by the Lord, whenever we acknowledged what He is doing in us and through us. To be grateful makes us better persons; it helps us to confess that we are small in the eyes of the Lord and indebted for the tradition of a cloud of Handmaids who have preceded us; they were witnesses who have given their life for the sake of God and the neighbor with that familial spirit that characterizes our Congregation. Their good works are an expression of the goodness and compassion of God who, in spite of our limitations and weaknesses, always accompanies us.
To contemplate and to be grateful for the past, invites us by, all means, to discern the present moment, and do it at the light of the Holy Spirit. To discern is to admit objectively and with charity the present moment and to confront it with the Foundational charism. Our Father founder and Mother Foundress, in their time, were innovative in the field of education and of women’s rights. We, for our part, are invited to embrace this moment of ours and to respond generously to the calls we are receiving.
In the measure that we embrace the present, we will be opened to the future that God is dreaming for us, for the Congregation, and for the entire humanity. Our society needs today solid persons in their principles who can be witnessing to what they believe and thus, build a better world for all.
The Heart of Jesus counts on his Handmaids; He counts on you to keep on announcing and spreading the experience of his personal Love. Let us thank God for each one of the 227 Handmaids who today, feeling the call of the Lord to live the radical following of Jesus Christ in community, according to the spirit and the vocation to be a Handmaid are saying YES as Mary did; and also, for more than 500 Sisters that since the foundation of the Congregation have preceded us to the House of the Father.
Along this path, we will be guided by the experience of feeling ourselves loved by the Lord, and the trust of knowing that we are in his hands, and that what He has done in us, He is going to continue doing. The future that God desires and dreams for us, is not only an daydream; it is built day to day as we say “yes” to the will of God, with the inner assurance that He, as a good Father, will not disappoint our hope.
2. Date and place
The place and time in which the Chapter will be celebrated has a symbolic value because of what the place means for us, Handmaids.
The next General Chapter will be celebrated from July 11 to August 8, 2022 in Pedregalejo, Malaga.
Since we have received a call to a “new congregational birth”, we are going to begin the Chapter making a pilgrimage to the three places that configure our origins: Coria, Malaga and Seville. This itinerant beginning of the Chapter aims to express the attitude with which we would like to dispose ourselves to live the Chapter since the very beginning: We start journeying, going from one place to another and vivifying our charismatic origins in order to search for the evangelical response to the urgencies of the present moment.
The opening Session of the Chapter will be in Coria. It was there that the Congregation was born on July 26, 1885. It is the place where our Charismatic Family started her pilgrimage; the place where the first Handmaids dedicated their lives announcing the personal Love of Jesus Christ by means of education, founding small school for 19 girls; and also, a place that, sadly, they had to leave soon. Therefore, we will go to Coria in search of inspiration and courage.
From Coria we will go Seville; the place where the lives of Father Founder and Mo. Celia met; and where they started a long path of searching, self-giving and efforts in order to respond to the will of God and from which they started to dream of a Foundation. And it was in Seville too, where they end their lives. In Seville we will place ourselves in an attitude of listening and we will take off our shoes in the places that are symbolic for us, and a sacrament for our lives.
From Seville we will proceed to Malaga, a place that for the Handmaids and for Bishop Spínola was like Mount Tabor; a land where milk and honey flow out; it was a moment of growth and of ample horizons for the new Congregation. Malaga is inviting us to look at the future and keep on walking with trust and hope in our hearts.
In a certain sense, each General Chapter is a new beginning, since we ask ourselves as a Congregation, what is it that God wants from us in this concrete historical moment; doing our best to use the necessary means to respond to the Chapter calls.
The Congregation was not born, once and for all, in 1885, but rather she keeps on existing; and she needs to be reborn in the 21st Century when a new world is emerging.
Maria Zambrano, the philosopher from Malaga said that “man has an incomplete birth; he has not been born neither has he grown totally for this world since he does not fit in it; neither it seems that there is something in it prepared to accommodate him; his birth is not complete neither the world which come to him. That is why he has to be born again; and he needs also to build his own world; he has to be always in labor-pains of himself and of the reality that would shelter him”.
What a wonderful task for every Handmaid to be born again and to collaborate in the rebirth of the Congregation, always incomplete!
3. We are all convoked
You, and each one, are convoked to live this congregational event and to participate actively in the preparation and celebration of the Chapter
“Preparation for holding the Chapter shall start a year before, so as to heighten the awareness and the commitment of all the Sisters to actively participate in the same. (D. 57)
A way of making a reality the participation all has made us divide the preparation of the Chapter in three phases:
- The phase of raising awareness that we started on May 23 and will end on September 12. In this time, we want to place ourselves on the wavelength of the Holy Spirit and to listen to the calls He makes us, as we visualize the Chapter we want in order to search and to find what God wants from us and what our world needs. With the contribution of all, in the General Conference in August 2021, we will prepare the next phase.
- The pre-chapter phase will be from September 12, 2021 to July 11, 2022, in which we will tackle the thematic at personal level, in community, with the Affiliated Lays and the apostolic works of the Congregation through different kind of encounters; in this way we will arrive to the next phase.
- The Chapter phase will be from July 8, 2022 to August 8, 2022; that is, the celebration of the Chapter proper.
On convoking the Chapter, we are invited to talk and to dialogue about the issues which are really important for all of us. The quality of our dialogues, among other things, would depend on our capacity to listen and to pose the questions so that what we have deep in our hearts will surface, and we will be able to get the best from each one of us for the good of the community and of humankind.
I am sure that many of us have experienced transforming dialogues. It is interesting to find out that generally we are not dealing with dialogues about how to change ourselves or others, but rather we are dealing with the process itself of talking with others that produces changes in us. A given sentence, said or heard, an experience in life that touched our hearts, a sentence that got us out of our habitual way of thinking… were seeds for later transformations. Yes, the process itself is frequently a transforming one.
Personal transformation is a key aspect of human life; social transformation happens when the community assumes cooperatively the responsibility of its change and progress. The congregational vitality grows when we, Handmaids, assume the responsibility of the life and mission of the Congregation. For that, it is important the quality of our relationships in community.
Let us open our hearts to weave the unity within our diversity; to weave the common vision within the different perspectives; to weave the discerned decisions within the different options. The principles that must guide our communities are freedom, responsibility, listening, true information and transparency,
4. Chapter Sisters
We are all committed in the preparation of the Chapter, even if not all of us are participating with our presence.
“The Chapter is attended by members by proper right and by those who have been elected in their own Delegations, according to what is indicated in the C # 106.
“On convoking the General Chapter. the number of members who will participate in it will be announced. The following are the ones who will participate:
- By proper right: the General Government
- By election: the delegates of each country elected in the proportion of 1 to 10 sisters – 1 delegate, from 11 to 20 sisters, - 2 delegates, etc.” (D. 58)
As of June 11, 2021, the date in which we convoke the Chapter, the number of sisters in each country are as follows:
Nº OF PROFESSED SISTERS
The Chapter assembly will be composed of 33 Handmaids, 7 of them by proper right and 26 by election according to the following distribution:
- 2 delegates from Angola
- 2 delegates from Argentina
- 2 delegates from Brazil
- 2 delegates from Ecuador
- 13 delegates from Spain
- 2 delegates from the Philippines
- 2 delegates from Japan
- 1 delegate from Venezuela
The election of delegates to the General Chapter will be done in the Local Chapters.
- The date for the celebration of the Local Chapter will be:
1St Local Chapter March 27, 2022
2nd Local Chapter April 24, 2022, Resurrection Sunday
- The Sisters in Perpetual Vows in each country have passive voice, except those who are with permit of absence and exclaustration.
- The Sisters in Perpetual vows in each community have active voice, except those who are with permit of absence and exclaustration.
- Each Sister in perpetual wows will have active and passive voice in the country where they are working at the moment of the celebration of the Local Chapter.
The General Government will be counted and will exercise her right to vote in the country where she comes from at the moment of the election (D.82).
Venezuela is going to have a different treatment. At the time in which the chapter is convoked, there is one community in Venezuela; therefore there will be one delegate for Venezuela. Since we are not sure where the Sisters are going to be when the Local Chapters take place, the election of the Delegate will be done with a list of those who are in Venezuela during the convocation of the General Chapter. Those Sisters will have active and passive voice according to the list.
The functions of the Chapter Sisters are defined in our Constitutions and the Directory “The General Chapter is a collegial assembly which - within the limits fixed by the Church and according to the Constitutions- exerts the normative authority in the Congregation.
- It carries out the union of responsibilities within the Congregation and searches its constant renewal and adjustments being attentive to the needs of the Church and of the world, in fidelity to the Gospel and to the charism of the Congregation.
- … It pertains to it, the election of the General Government…” (C. 105)
- “… It is its duty to study the situation of the Institute in its different aspects in order to take make the necessary decisions for the revitalization of its spirit and its apostolic activities” (D. 54)
The Sisters attending the Chapter hope to count on your experience, your reflections, your prayer and your support.
Let us make out of this itinerary of preparation for the 21st General Chapter, a new rebirth of the Congregation. We entrust to Mary Immaculate our Chapter; her unconditional openness to God made possible the impossible, we entrust to her our new conception.
A sisterly embrace,
Rosario Fernández Martos, adc
Madrid, June 11, 2021
Solemnity of the Sacred Hear