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Ever-widening Circles: Third Annual CSSJ High School Conference Meets in Boston
Born of the desire to connect, empower, and energize one another for mission and ministry, the third annual gathering of CSSJ High School Leaders met in Boston, MA from November 2-4, 2016. The conference was hosted by Fontbonne Academy and Saint Joseph Preparatory High School, both CSJ Boston sponsored ministries, with the support and presence of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Boston.
Ever-widening Circles, the theme for the gathering, focused the time together and emphasized the essential role of relationship. It also honored participants’ awareness of the importance of keeping the CSSJ charism and mission as that very center of the Conference and of all that happens in our CSSJ high schools.
Approximately 50 attendees representing 19 CSSJ High Schools from 10 CSSJ U.S. congregations came together. There were also representatives from two international schools: Ensemble Scolaire Saint Jacques de Compostelle, Le Puy-en-Velay, and Saint Joseph Joshi Gakuen, Tsu, Mie, Japan. In addition, representatives were present from the Association of Colleges of Sisters of St. Joseph [ACSSJ] and several CSSJ Sponsored Ministry Offices.
Day 1: Welcoming and Connecting
The conference began with liturgy at Fontbonne Academy where Rosemary Brennan, CSJ, president of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Boston, welcomed the group in the name of all leaders of the CSSJ Federation and thanked those gathered for their commitment to spreading the CSSJ mission. This was followed by a dinner reception, the opportunity to tour Fontbonne, and a student reflection about the experience of an education rooted in the charism of the Sisters of St. Joseph.
Day 2: Our Charism of Unity and How it Lives in Our Daily Work
On Thursday and Friday the conference continued at Saint Joseph Preparatory High School and the CSJ Boston Motherhouse. The first speaker, Ernie Collamati, Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Regis College, spoke on Witnessing to the Charism of Unity. His charismatic presence and joyful passion for the CSSJ mission and charism coupled with engaging and practical stories inspired, informed, enflamed, challenged, and transformed the group. Reflection/responders, Mary Ellen Fulton (Associate Dean, Lynch School of Education, Boston College, and Saint Joseph Prep Board Member), Gita Kupcinskas (Assistant Head of School, Fontbonne Academy), Kathy McCarvill (Assistant Head of School, Saint Joseph Prep), and Kelley Tuthill (Vice President for Communications, Regis College) then shared their experience of living the CSSJ mission and charism in their daily ministries. The morning ended with a shared, vibrant, and strategic conversation about living the charism in the context of CSSJ high schools.
Later in the day, Maryann Enright, CSJ, spoke about, Integrating Charism and Mission into Daily Work. By way of
introduction, Maryann remarked, “The energy that gets you up each morning – that’s the charism! This charism of unioning love, expansive love, is always moving toward deeper communion and the witness to wider community; always moving within and without. Mission is expressed in the ministry of presence. This includes all the activities that engage us. It’s the quality of our presence to these activities that holds our charism. If we do this, the charism will ooze.” Maryann shared several “best practices” of living the charism in a high school environment. One example focused on a Learning Community retreat developed when faculty and staff realized there would no longer be a sister as president of the school. As this retreat unfolded, it became clear that each and every person in that school community carries the charism.
The day concluded with liturgy in the CSJ Motherhouse chapel and a dinner at Saint Joseph Prep. The prayerfulness of the community at Mass—which included a number of Boston CSJs, the lively dinner conversation, and two student reflections from Saint Joseph Prep seniors on being immersed in the CSJ charism, revealed the spirit alive in this gathering.
Day 3: Our CSSJ Charism Moving Forward in Ever-Widening Circles
A further indication of how all persons in our CSSJ high schools carry the charism was clear when students from both Fontbonne and Saint Joseph Prep offered inspiring presentations on Friday morning, the former focusing on community service and social justice and the latter focusing on public speaking and leadership development.
In an effort to look forward and to work creatively and collegially with a broader range of partners, representatives from the Association of Colleges of Sisters of St. Joseph and the CSJ Institute at Mount St. Mary’s College shared their experience of connection, speaking on the importance of networking on a national scale and of strengthening relationships with CSSJ colleges, high schools, and sponsoring congregations.
As the time together drew to a close, questions that surfaced during Thursday’s “affinity groups” and Friday’s “strategic planning” included: What are the central questions we face? How do we stay connected? How can we share resources? When and where will we meet again? Does this group need a larger umbrella or a more established structure, i.e. in the context of the CSSJ Federation?
During the closing prayer and gathering of graces, words and phrases that emerged included: “the deepening dynamic of our shared charism,” “called by the future,” “strength to do the work,” “not strangers but friends,” and “the deepest motivation inside of us is something we share.” As the days together ended, participants left feeling energized, inspired, and connected to something larger than their particular schools. These days of being steeped and immersed in our CSSJ core values called forth the prayer of Jesus at the heart of our CSSJ charism, that all may be one, and uplifted participants to a future that keeps the CSSJ language and vision at the center of ongoing collaboration.