I arrived in the Boston area on Saturday evening to participate in a congregational meeting called a "chapter." This is a form of government in religious life, a kind of congress, you could say. In monasteries, the "chapter" consists of al the members. The monastery will even have a special hall called a "chapter room." We just have a conference area at the retreat house that is set up with chairs and tables and a lectern, with a computer projector that was used last night for something decidedly not related to our work.
In our congregation, "chapters" are held on a regional or global level. The regional one is actually in anticipation of the global one, which is the highest level of government in the congregation. The chapter I am participating in is a "provincial" chapter, since we represent the sisters of the United States and English-speaking Canada, and this area has been established as a "province" of the Daughters of St. Paul. About one third of the chapter members (sometimes called "capitulars," but that might just be the anglicized form of the Italian word!) are "ex officio": the Provincial Superior and her council, the provincial secretary and treasurer, the novice director and the director of the temporary professed sisters. The rest of us were elected by the sisters of the province.
The chapter started with two days of retreat, led by Fr. Michael Goonan of the Society of St. Paul. (Father has been to Chicago several times this year, so I already had the privilege of meeting this true "Son of St. Paul.") Today the work begins! We haven't been assigned to our small groups or given our tasks, but among other things we will probably be hearing various reports and trying to formulate proposals both for our life here in North America and for the sisters to consider on a global level at the "General Chapter" in August. We will also have to formulate reports about the Pauline life and mission in North America and the situation of the area itself in terms of demographics, cultural trends, Church life and media (both as a culture and as technology). Then we have to elect the delegates who will attend the global meeting in our name. (The Provincial goes by default.)
It isn't all work, though. We have a three person recreation committee which already sprang into action last night, downloading and projecting the episode of "Downton Abbey" that we missed on Sunday night while on retreat. We are being treated to delicious home cooked meals by two women who come over after work to cook for us. (YUM!)
The flu epidemic has added its challenges: the provincial and one delegate are currently down, and at Mass the Sign of Peace has become a kind of ballet of pirouettes and nods to the sisters at one's side and back. Another sort of challenge is posed by the ... creatures who share the living space with us here. Last night we managed to coax a mouse to the relative security of the courtyard outside. And Sister Carmen, the novice director, offered to help me deal with the creeping things that I have the unfortunate gift of spotting in awkward places. (Note to self: check room for bugs before moving in!)