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Quality novitiate experience with peers for novices from multiple congregations

InterCongregational Collaborative Novitiate - Chicago

The announcement about a grant from The Conrad H. Hilton Foundation to focus on forming the next generation of religious and to cultivate better ways to resource their formators was by the Religious Formation Conference (RFC) in Spring of 2020. This grant was geared towards two primary projects: (1) the creation of an inter-congregational/common novitiate for the preparation of newly entering women religious, and (2) the establishment of an online, searchable set (database) of resources for formators (curricula, articles, videos, websites, and other material) to support the initial and ongoing formative process. These two aims are focused on the preparation of the next generation of religious life and the support of initial and ongoing/lifelong formation of all religious. More broadly, the online database of formation resources will also benefit formators in areas beyond religious life.

With this grant and in view of this project, sisters from different religious congregations were invited to be on the committee for the planning and execution of the first goal – novitiate. This planning committee comprised of a creative, talented, experienced, diverse, and forward-looking group of women religious aiming to work collaboratively on this major initiative for religious formation. The group set up monthly zoom meetings due to the pandemic. Luckily, they were able to meet physically in Chicago early this Fall.

The committee decided on naming the novitiate project as: InterCongregational Collaborative Novitiate (ICCN) with its mission:

To provide a quality novitiate experience with peers for novices from multiple congregations. The program will facilitate ongoing discernment in a holistic and mentoring environment that fosters relational, spiritual, intellectual, and intercultural growth and development; nurtures individual charisms and the charism of religious life; and prepares novices to live vowed apostolic religious life.

The planning of this project has taken different phases such as planning the structure of the program, finding suitable housing located in the Chicago area, Hyde Park precisely and communicating with the different constituents and religious congregations about this project. It is intended that this project will break new ground in the area of religious formation in the United States and develop a new model for the next generation of religious women. The ultimate goal of the project is to develop well-formed newer religious who are grounded in the charism of their own congregation as well as the emerging charism of religious life. Their formation as well as the many other formative endeavors of religious and other related groups will be informed and strengthened through ready access to the quality resources available through the creation of the RFC online database.

The ICCN strives to create life in community which is respectful and promotes a sense of global sisterhood. The Novitiate Community make intentional and regular use of resources and practices that facilitate growth in communication and community living with a particular focus on diversity, including culture, age, and congregational charism. The ICCN will study resources and connect with sisters for input and dialogue from a range of countries and cultures. It is expected that novices will learn about various collaborative efforts of sisters at national and global levels.

The planning committee advertised, interviewed and hired two dynamic sisters as co-directors: Srs Nancy Gerth SCN and Corrina Thomas FSPA. The first group of novices who began their program in August 2021 were welcomed into the program. With this transition, the planning committee transitioned to an interim advisory board to guide the program. For more information, please contact the ICCN website: Thank you for your continued prayers and support.

Chioma Ahanihu, SLW

ICCN Interim Board Member

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