Ongoing Formation Session 1

Returning to Our Roots

Opening prayer: In her Prologue to the Rule, Saint Angela Merici said, “For it is not enough to begin, if one does not also persevere. That is why Truth says … the one who has persevered to the end, that one will be saved.” As we examine our roots this coming year, help us to keep our focus on bringing glory to God.

Leader: Those attending Associates and Sisters Day talked much about how each of us minister today, and perhaps where we will find our next place to serve. As we prepare to serve in a new decade, let us take the coming year to return to our roots and ask ourselves these questions: “Why did I become an Ursuline Associate?” “How am I called to the Ursuline mission and charism?”

Reader 1: “Be bound to one another by the bond of charity, esteeming each other, helping each other, bearing with each other in Jesus Christ. For if you strive to be like this, without any doubt, the Lord God will be in your midst.”

Saint Angela Merici, Ninth Counsel

Leader: At your table or among the whole group, discuss these questions:

  • Why did you become an Ursuline Associate?
  • Why is it important to you to continue being an Ursuline Associate?

Leader: Sister Carol Zinn, a Sister of St. Joseph from Chestnut Hill in Philadelphia, was president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious from 2012-15. This is what she had to say about associates and charism.

Reader 2: “There have always been associates. There were always people around Jesus, ministering to him. You’re called to the mission and the charism. The charism doesn’t belong to the congregation. It belongs to the Church, for the world. It is a call to prayer, to community, to ministry. It’s a relationship with a religious institute. And it’s a movement. It changes as the times change.”

Leader: The word “charism” is not used often outside religious communities. Sisters did not even start using the term until after Vatican II. Charism is a gift from the Holy Spirit that distinguishes one religious congregation from another. This is how the late Sister Annalita Lancaster described the Ursuline charism back in 1995.

Reader 3: “Charism is not communicable. You can find it, live it, be fortified by it, do wonders through it, but you cannot teach it. It is difficult to explain why this is so. It is sort of like a family trait – each member of the congregation personally embraces the charism. The difference is analogous to that between the families of Letnoskys and their neighbors the O’Briens; the O’Flynns and the Rubensteins. Each family follows the basic model of family, yet the characteristics create a distinctive personality recognizable by everyone and carried through generations as family personality.”   

Leader: Consider these questions at your table or with the whole group.

  • How does your relationship with the Ursuline Sisters call you to a sense of community?
  • How does your relationship with the Ursuline Sisters call you to ministry?

Reader 4: “And if, according to times and circumstances, the need arises to make new rules or do something differently, do it prudently and with good advice. And let your principal recourse be to gather at the feet of Jesus Christ, and there, all of you, with all your daughters, to offer most fervent prayers. For in this way, without doubt, Jesus Christ will be in your midst, and as a true and good master, he will enlighten and teach you what you have to do.”

Saint Angela Merici, Last Legacy

Reader 5: “One final trait that set Angela apart from others was her power to discern the signs of the time, in the Gospel sense. A woman without education, she nonetheless saw into the future and not only had no fear of innovation but understood and embraced as truth that renewal and reform of the Church were to be brought about. And from her stance of ‘womanly charity’ she advised, ‘follow the old way of the Church’s law but lead a new life,’ showing how clearly she reverenced the bond between loyalty and progress.” 

Sister Annalita Lancaster

Leader: Sister Carol Zinn said, “We’re not looking to create new ministries for our associates. We’re asking our associates to look inside their hearts and ask if they are living the life Angela calls them to live? Where are they going next?”

Among your group, discuss these questions.

  • Am I serving the “signs of the times” as an Associate?
  • As you discern the signs of the times today, what needs do you see in your community that could be served by utilizing the charism of the Ursuline Sisters?
  • What role can you serve to help meet these needs?

Leader: Perhaps you can reflect on any of these questions after you go home and the next time we meet, share your ideas with the group.

Closing prayer: Lord, your daughter Angela told her sisters, “Tell them that now I am more alive than I was when they saw me in the flesh, and that now I see them and know them better. And can and want to help them more.” Let us ask Saint Angela to intercede on our behalf and help us persevere in the task we have accepted. Amen.