Religious sisters at the Catholic Sisters Initiative Convening 2024 in Lusaka, Zambia Religious sisters at the Catholic Sisters Initiative Convening 2024 in Lusaka, Zambia  #SistersProject

Catholic Sisters Initiative: Sisters collaborating in service of common good

Catholic sisters from more than 15 countries were brought together in Zambia by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. They are embracing a shared vision: impact, learning, and collaboration in the service of the common good.

By Sr. Michelle Njeri – Lusaka

More than 100 religious sisters from over 15 countries gathered in Lusaka, Zambia, from May 29 to May 31, for a convention organised by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation’s Catholic Sisters Initiative.

The aim of the event was to provide opportunities to deepen the understanding and practice of synodality and exchange ideas to advance a shared vision for mutual learning for strategic impact and growth, and continued collaboration for the common good.

“Coming together is an opportunity to allow space for new connections to be made and existing ones to be deepened, as we aspire to strengthen the quality and sustainability of our collective efforts,” said Sr. Jane Wakahiu, Associate Vice President of Program Operations and Head of Catholic Sisters Initiative at the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation.

During the convention, religious sisters discussed topics that included elevating the voices of people living in disadvantaged conditions, embracing evidence-informed approaches to foster thriving religious communities, and transforming deep-rooted cultural practices to serve the common good. One golden thread uniting the themes was synodality.


Dr. Paolo Ruffini, Sr. Alessandra Smerilli and Sr. Mumbi Kigutha discussing synodality at a panel
Dr. Paolo Ruffini, Sr. Alessandra Smerilli and Sr. Mumbi Kigutha discussing synodality at a panel

Religious sisters as protagonists of communication in the Church

During the panel on synodality, representatives from the Vatican engaged in a conversation on the mission and pastoral responsibilities of their Dicasteries, as well as the process of engagement with the local Churches. The panel was guided by Sr. Mumbi Kigutha, President of Friends in Solidarity, who highlighted Pope Francis’ encouragement of listening, collaboration, and communion.

Dr. Paolo Ruffini, the Prefect of the Dicastery for Communication, emphasised the importance of working together to give visibility to the work of the Catholic sisters in the world.

“Sister communicators should be the protagonists of communication in the Church by offering a Christian perspective,” he said. He added that they should be open to telling stories with a redemptive angle, “create a new way of communication that focuses on the good of society.”

The Prefect emphasised the need for communication to flow from the grassroots all the way to the Vatican, since the Dicastery is at the service of the local Church. “It’s about collaboration and networking for the common good in the spirit of synodality,” he said.

Dr. Ruffini showcased the Dicastery’s Pentecost Project, supported by the Hilton Foundation, as an example of synodality in building synergies and collaboration with the Catholic Sisters communicators. The Pentecost Project seeks to build a global network of sisters’ voices in Vatican Media.

Dr. Ruffini said the project offers opportunities for sisters ranging from online formation courses and webinars to hone the skills of the sisters in communication to in-person internships at Vatican News – Vatican Radio, which he said could lead to new chances for collaboration.

There have already been 13 sisters from 12 countries on internship at Vatican News – Vatican Radio, and currently a 2024 cohort of Catholic sisters are attending 12 weekly Zoom meetings from April to June, with the aim of receiving high-level, interactive formation.

The need to listen and collaborate

Discussing synodality, Sr. Carmen Ros Nortes, the Under-Secretary of the Dicastery for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, highlighted the Dicastery’s commitment to consecrated life. “The Dicastery can be seen as a laboratory where relationships are woven among the various charisms and ministries, and the beauty of the Church can be shown,” she said.

Sr. Nathalie Becquart, Under-Secretary of the Secretariat of the Synod, emphasised the need to listen and work together, valuing people and their contribution towards the common good. “Sisters have a very important role to play in the synodal process, because they have been involved right from the beginning, and they need to help the people of God embrace the synodal style, which is the style of Jesus,” she said.

Local Churches must engage with migration issues

The subject of migration was introduced to the panel by Sr. Alessandra Smerilli, Secretary of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.

She explained that one of the Dicastery’s roles is to help local Churches remove obstacles that provide fertile ground for migration.

“Forced migration is a challenge we are working on with the bishops and the local Churches; we are calling on the bishops to work with their governments to address this issue,” she said.  

Sr. Smerilli also stressed that regardless of their journey, migrants still belong to one Church and should be assisted wherever they are, and local Churches should accompany them with proper pastoral care.

Sr. Smerilli recalled this year’s theme for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees – “God walks with His people” – and highlighted that each person is called to recognise the face of God in those who are forced to migrate.

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01 June 2024, 12:13