Society of Medical Mission Sisters
In 1925 the Society of Medical Mission Sisters has been founded and later it become an international, apostolic religious institute of pontifical right. We participate in the healing mission of Christ in the church and follow Christ in this mission by the profession of simple public vows of poverty, chastity and obedience for life.
A. Mission: Freeing the Potential of Healing and Wholeness
As persons we are committed to health, healing and wholeness. We express our healing presence in a variety of ways: we care for the Earth and tend to the wounds of its people with compassion. The obedience to the evolving charism of healing and wholeness, urges us to adapt our responses to the changing signs of the time in our life and mission. From the beginning, a pioneering spirit is guiding us based on missionary wisdom.In our quest for wholeness, we explore new areas of concern related to life, to suffering, to health and to death. We pursue justice in solidarity with those made poor, with the powerless, and with those who are oppressed. With them we struggle to transform unjust systems and structures.
Global mission is an invitation to free the potential of healing and wholeness in a time of major social and global changes. Today we see ourselves as global citizens in an international Society with a global mission in a world community beyond borders and boundaries and beyond North – South, East – and West paradigms. All contribute with their specific expressions of mission in different contexts to the same vision and goals. Human life, the Earth, the Universe is the common context for all.Global mission as MMS, together withAssociates and like-minded peoples, and with regional, national and international
organizations and networks, includes to witness to the integration of those who are marginalized and to the cry of the Earth. The General Chapter 2015 saw it as essential to integrate the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) from the UN in our mission goals and to weave our mission goals into the SDDGs. This enhanced our partnership and collaboration with others for solidarity.
We strive to be one across the Society, be one with people all over the world and with the whole of the Universe. And we acknowledge that it is a lifelong journey to realize our oneness among differences. Daily life tells us about ups and downs, but our desire and commitment is clear: We want to
live and promote the awareness: you are my brother, my sister. Being brothers and sisters of and in Christ stimulates us to live inclusively and encourages us to make the stranger feel at
home. Only together we are whole.
Internationality and Intercultural
Living“ Living in a global world with devastating divisions and separation we are called to be
inclusive of all people, all cultures, all religions and beliefs. By our way of being international we want to witness to the integrity of life and to build ‘one world’ on a transformative journey.“ (General Chapter 201) Based on the multiracial ethnicity of our Society today, our commitment to internationality and interculturality is a response to our communal call to embrace a global heart sense. We experience, the changing face of the Society with a general shift from the global north to global south and growing multi-ethnicity impacts all aspects of our life and mission.
Creating spaces for “intercultural living” and building ‘One World’ is in depth a ‘faith journey’. It challenges us to live with the paradoxes and the gray zones of the liminal spaces that open us to transformation and growth. Intercultural living holds the fragility and power of a “sign” of the Kingdom of God in today’s divided, fragmented, and conflictual world. Witnessing to the reign of God
includes honouring the uniqueness of each culture, building bridges across differences and learning from conflicts. The conscious appreciation of the potential in all experiences helps us to persevere and to foster growth. Our commitment to intercultural living is an opportunity for further development of global mission, mutual transformation and growth in communion.
B. Congregational Structures in the Service of Mission
Congregational structures witness to the integrity of life and mission. Freeing the potential of healing and wholeness in all people and all of creation, in processes, systems and structures is our interest in all aspects of our life and mission. Accordingly, the congregational structures need to organize and help to facilitate our life and mission. The Society creates and continuously adapts its own structures to achieve its purpose. The structures serve us in the way that they make it possible to activate our responsibility for both aims: our commitment to evangelical life and healing mission on a transformative journey. Our congregational structures need to serve our desire to increase ‘interdependence’ and to maintain effective functioning.
1. Three Tiers –Structures until 2015
From 1979 until 2015, the Society was governed in a system of three interlocking assemblies with decision-making power: District -, Sector – and the General Assembly.
The district was key in developing and furthering mission and responsible for the growth and well-being of its members. It had the capacity for self-governance, the ability to develop mission in a particular context as well as the ability to be responsible for the welfare of its members. The district coordinator with the elected representatives formed the district assembly. The assembly set goals and priorities of mission for the district. Through participation and shared leadership, the district conceptualized mission based on the analysis of the area and in relation to the whole.
Until 2015 the Society was structured in six sectors: Africa, Asia, East Asia, Europe, Latin America and North America. The sector was composed of districts, organized in such a way that they related to and were affirmed by the sector assembly and were represented on the assembly. The sector was governed by the sector coordinator with the district coordinators, and elected representatives. Together they formed the sector assembly. The sector coordinator was rooted in the reality of mission in the sector. She facilitated mission for one world within the sector and contributed to the Society-wide vision of one world.
The Society as a whole was governed by the Society coordinator with the assistant
Society coordinator and sector coordinators. Together, they formed the General Assembly.
2. Important Aspects
Since the 1967 Chapter, the principle of shared leadership has been a part of our government structures. Over the years we have developed our understanding of it and have explored its different aspects. We recognized that we no longer had exclusive control of many dimensions of our life. In community with others there was mutual influence, Therefore, we could not absolutize either the Society’s position or the position of the broader community. Shared leadership is the responsibility of all. Since 1991 elected leaders in the Society are known as coordinators. To “coordinate” means: to bring common action; harmonize; integrate; organize; relate. In shared leadership we, together, carry the roles, functions and responsibilities that keep our hope and vision alive and move us forward in mission.
Principle of Interdependence
Interdependence is the recognition that the whole is made up of parts which are interrelated and that each has an effect on the others. All parts are at the service of one another and of the whole strengthening relationships between one another at all levels and in sharing resources. Life and mission in the Society are functioning like the “community of life” on the planet. All is deeply interconnected and interdependent. In the Society, decisions or actions taken in one area impact the whole. We try to make deliberate efforts to consider our local reality and its needs in the context of the total Society. As an international Society our structures serve us in sharing information, influencing one another, and through our priorities making more interdependent use their own limited resources.
3. Congregational Life-Cycle
A congregational life-cycle describes a series of changes that the congregation undergoes from the beginning of a given developmental stage to the inception of that same developmental stage in a subsequent generation. Regularly the General Assembly checks the state of the global body of the MMS. Through these past years the face of our Society has been rapidly changing. Ninety-five years after our foundation many pioneers and stalwarts of our missions worldwide have passed on to eternal life. Our faith tells us that “Life is not ended but merely changed.” We grow to understand that in their dying, new life energy is released into the larger whole. “See, I am doing a new thing!” (Is 43:19). It helps us to find ourselves back in the three phases of the life-cycle.
– Growth: where energy builds up as it reaches out to people and community in mission
– Maintenance: where energy is consumed internally in maintaining the existing congregation and its ministries
– Decline: where energy dissipates as people, money energy bleeds out How to guarantee sustainability of mission when realities are changing? Today 32 percent are below 60 years and 68 percent are above 61 years.We know, sustainability requires: redefinition, re-development, re-birthing.
We re-define in deepening the evolving understanding of our mission and core aspects of spirituality in an ongoing Society-wide Renewal process.
We re-develop our structures in a continuous dialogue about viability and effectivity in view of the purpose and changing realities.
Re-birthing is happening in merging of units; collaborating of co-missions, sharing personnel and resources across the Society; intentional communities for intercultural living; pursuing the spiritual quest in the realities of today; finding new expressions of mission; networking with partners in mission and like-minded organizations, walking beyond boundaries.
4. Simplification of Congregational Structures
The 1997 Chapter based on the reflections from the membership made clear: We want to continue with a participative governance. Yet, we do not want the demands of government to take too much of our time and energy that is also needed for other aspects of our life and mission. Since 2003 communities, districts, sectors and the Society were challenged to adjust the internal functioning and structures to their specific realities. Questions of viability of administrative units played an important role as well as creative solutions for appropriate effective functioning. Finally, we were ready to detach ourselves, let go, being transformed into something new for the good of the whole.
Desires for New Congregational Structures
Reflections on experiences and proposals from the membership worldwide were the starting point for the General Chapter in 2015 to decide on new congregational structures. The purpose the new congregational structures was clear: to free the potential of healing and wholeness in our life and mission and to grow in the spirit of oneness as an intercultural and international Society, appreciating, respecting and honoring pluriformity and diversity. Members noted in their contribution to the Chapter: Congregational structures need to foster our vision of global mission in a unifying manner, with mutual trust, sensitivity, and accountability at all levels. Furthermore, the structures need to be nurturing, flexible and simple in order to respond to the needs of the times, taking into account our MMS realities. They also wanted the principles of shared leadership and interdependence be implemented in the new structures. Finally, the new governmental structures evolved in a relational and functional manner.
5. New Congregational Structures
The new congregational structures consists of three segments: two decisions-making bodies (Unit-Assembly and the General Assembly) and one recommending body (the Co-missions).
The Society Leadership Team
The Society Leadership Team has five members including the Society Coordinator. The current members are from India, USA, Peru, Ghana, and Indonesia. They are members of the General Assembly and regularly invite for expanded General Assemblies with Unit-Coordinators or delegates from the Co-missions.
Units are the former districts, countries, local groups and Sector (North America). The
Unit-Leadership Team builds the UnitAssembly that can also be expanded with experts on specific issues or delegates from communities etc. Currently we have 15 units in Africa, Asia, Europe, South- and NorthAmerica. A member of the Society Leadership Team links with each of the Units.
Currently we have five Co-missions: on Mission; Spirituality; Communication; Formation/Integration and on Finances and Fundraising. Co-missions are recommending bodies. The General Assembly delegates decision-making power for operational decisions. Co-missions are at the service of the mission of our Society. They touch all aspects of our life and mission and assist in facilitating reflection on topics that matter to us. The members contribute their expertise to deal
with some of the issues and provide the Society Leadership Team with information. Co-missions are an expression of our oneness and have a unifying role. The members don’t represent a particular unit as they work for the whole Society. Co missions also connect to the units for receiving information or for providing support to participate in the life of the whole. Co-missions support networking, collaboration and partnerships with others who can be resources for a wider view on topics. They are a body that carries a continuity for the General Assembly and for a new administration. The role of the SLT link to a co-mission is helping the Co-missions to be alert to what is happening with other comissions and in providing coordination of the work.
Experience after five Years
After five years we can already see that the change of the government structure from sectors/districts to units seems to foster more spontaneous interaction with other units, less formally and more rapidly. There is also an increasing effort to send messages of friendship and support and to participate in online events, celebrations, funerals and prayers across the Society. Obviously, the Spirit of Oneness is unfolding in creative ways. The new structure gives room for the newness that is emerging, for a new future that is more diverse, more colorful, more like God’s creation.
6. Congregational Structures in Earthen
Congregational structures for freeing the potential of healing and wholeness are in earthen vessels. However fragile the vessels are in the service of mission, in the Spirit of faith, hope and love we see that these vessels hold treasures of God’s healing and wholeness and potential for our global mission.
Taking our personal and communal finiteness in the Society, our cracks and hindrances, our vulnerabilities as vessels of God’s presence and love, we will be sisters and brothers, and beloved daughters and sons of God in earthen vessels together all those with whom we share life and mission.