On April 15-17, nine congregations gathered together for a Vivat North America workshop in Washington, DC. These congregations included: Holy Spirit Missionary Sisters, Divine Word Missionaries, Oblates of Mary Immaculate, Adorers of the Blood of Christ, Camboni Missionaries, Camboni Sisters, Holy Rosary Missionary Sisters, Spiritans, and the Little Sisters of the Assumption.
The first evening of the gathering included general introductions of participants and some simple sharing of JPIC issues from each congregation. For this opening session, the OMIs graciously hosted the group at their residence in Washington, DC. On Friday, April 16th, the day began with a history of VIVAT International by Br. Bernie Spitzley, SVD and Sr. Judy Vallimont, SSpS, who studied the possibilities of the starting a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO). This informative history was followed by a general overview presented by VIVAT Team/New York: how VIVAT operates, the issues that VIVAT works on, and the communities that are now involved with VIVAT.
Friday afternoon session, Fr. John Kilcrann, CSSp engaged the participants in a very interesting discussion on the spirituality of advocacy work. In light of our various charisms, it is important that we construct a spirituality that integrates the thinking of our founders/foundresses with our present work in peace and justice issues. The day ended with a presentation by VIVAT team members on how we can work together in our various communities. Since we are now a strong (and still growing) NGO, it is vital that we try to work together as a unified voice.
The discussion on Saturday was the most interesting and lively. We divided up into issue groups, based on the various JPIC projects of our communities; these issues were: immigration and migration, human trafficking (specifically, women’s issues), the environment, and integral human development. After a good, long discussion in our issue groups, there were presentations on some of the key points of each area. Some of the issue groups decided to continue their discussion and advocacy work by sharing e-mails and building a listserv. This illustrated one of the many ways that VIVAT communities can work together.
In reflecting back on our experience together, some good bonding occurred between participants and communities. This was a first step in working together as an NGO. Hopefully we will be able to get together again in a few years. The more we can work together, the stronger our voice for the poor and disenfranchised.