UISG planning effort enters new phase

UISG executive secretary Sr. Pat Murray addresses delegates at meeting in Nemi, Italy. (Tom Fox)

The International Union of Superiors General (UISG), the world’s most representative women religious leadership organization, is moving into a new phase of drawing up a comprehensive strategic plan aimed at revitalizing the group and giving it direction in the coming years.

The UISG leadership has sent out a series of questions to women religious leaders around the world, culled during a Feb. 4 -11 gathering of top leadership in Nemi, Italy, just outside of Rome.

The UISG council of delegates, leaders from 39 constellations, divided up by geography, began an organizational strategic planning process when they met together.

Listening to reports from delegates, meeting in language prayer groups and in general sessions, some 70 women religious congregational order heads and UISG administrative staff discussed ways they could add energy to the global women religious organization, especially through the use of communication techniques made possible by the Internet.

Now, just weeks after the closing of that meeting, the UISG top leadership has sent to constellation leaders across the globe a series of questions the women have been asked to discuss with local congregations and organizations they work with and to respond to UISG leaders in Rome by mid-March.

Like the Nemi meeting itself, the questions are aimed to engage local women religious in assessments of how the UISG organization can better serve them and, in turn, the people they minister to globally.

Women religious leaders are being asked to respond to the following questions:

  • What is your current relationship with UISG?
  • What is your experience of working with UISG?
  • What has worked well in your relationship with UISG, and what has not worked well?
  • What do you feel is the future vision for UISG?
  • What resources have your congregation to offer to UISG – e.g. translation capacity, 
communications expertise etc.?

The UISG, which dates back to Vatican II, for decades has networked the top superiors of international women religious communities. The group, which gathers some 800 or more international religious leaders in Rome every three years, has been a platform for sharing and planning global initiatives.

However, as technology has advanced, increasing the possibilities for better communication among the sisters, the UISG says it wants to advance as well, becoming a more proactive organization.

Speaking at the Nemi gathering, UISG president, Maltese Sr. Carmen Sammut, the general superior of the Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Africa, spoke of the challenges facing women religious today. She was elected to head the UISG in May 2013. Said Sammut:

We are surrounded by wealth and masses go hungry; we are trying at all costs to prolong life, and destroying life in may ways; we advance in human dignity and freedom and enormous numbers are victims of modern slavery caused by unjust systems such as human trafficking; we know such medical advancement and are faced with new or old diseases, more resistant to known drugs; we are in an era of much social communication and of a lot of biased information; we are in an interconnected world, yet often do not notice those near to us; we are in an age of multiculturality, and at the same time an emergence of ultra-nationalistic ideologies.

 Her words appeared to resonate with the woman, most of whom head religious congregations working with the marginalized peoples of the planet.

The UISG underwent further change last April when Loreto Sr. Pat Murray took the post as the group’s new executive secretary. Addressing those gathered at Nemi, she said several factors had come together making it possible to inject radical new life into the organization, and, in turn, into the wider church.

“I said I would take this post, but not simply to sustain it,” she said. “I want to work collaboratively with the rest of the UISG leadership to make the organization grow. It's the right time. It's a different world, and we have a new pope.”

The new strategic planning effort comes in the wake of the Sammut election and Murray appointment.

The women are not wasting time. They have asked the delegates to study the questions in the UISG letter and return them by March 13.

[Tom Fox is director of Global Sisters Report.]