What occasioned SFCC?
Responding to Vatican II's call to the Church to return on every level to a participatory and mutual model of organization, the Sisters For Christian Community (SFCC) emerged as a distinct community of women religious in 1970 that was destined to give witness to collegial community in the form of the traditional vows of obedience, chastity and poverty freshly expressed as listening, loving and serving.
Members came from the East Coast and West, from the Great Lakes and the Deep South, from across the prairies, and soon from the Canadian Provinces. It would not be long before members spanned from the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. Africa, Australia, Guam, India, the Philippines, Western Europe, Ireland and England, as well as Mexico and Central America hailed women who committed themselves to the vision, the charism, and the work of SFCC. Indeed, SFCC were soon found in every kind of work and in every corner of the world.
Together these women resolved first to explore a wholly new structure of religious life; one that embodied the vision and challenge of Vatican II: solidarity and equality through self-determination and collegiality. Through this new structure, SFCC intended to give witness to Church as community bed rocked in their shared spirituality that found its source in the Christ prayer, "that all may be One." Over time SFCC understood themselves to be witnesses of hope and catalysts of change, as workers toward equality and solidarity not only within the institutional Church but outside it, as well.
Who is responsible for SFCC's first growth? Lillanna Kopp (Sister Audrey Kopp), a distinguished scholar of anthropology and sociology, in the years immediately following Vatican II traversed the US and Canada speaking at Chapters of Renewal and diocesan Sisters' Councils about the options of structural renewal within women's religious communities as mandated by the Vatican Council. Many congregations lamented to her they were losing large numbers, many of whom were among their most educated and spiritually mature.
Lillanna Kopp often wondered about these women who felt called to leave their congregations but not the vowed life of a religious. Called to WHAT, she asked herself repeatedly. Kopp believed they sought a structure and form of religious life that freed them from restrictive congregational organizations in order both to mature and to serve to their fullest capacity according to the Gospel premise. Lillanna Kopp envisioned these women around the world transcending geographical distances and brought into a network of communication and unity. So she penned in broad strokes a profile that delineated a new kind of religious community based on a common charism of unity in Christ and transcendence over stifling bureaucracies and repressive controls. In March 1970, this profile was published in TRANS-SISTER, a cross congregational, nun-to-nun newsletter on renewal. Among all who read it, the Profile sparked hope and enthusiasm as much as it generated discussion!
Only a few months later in August 1971, 38 women, inspired by Kopp's Profile, gathered in Dunrovin, MN to chart their future together. They refined and affirmed the Profile as their official document of identity and purpose, and affirmed simplicity, community and solidarity as their hallmarks. Since then SFCC have gathered every summer in general assembly to construct their network of communication, to affirm their unity and commitment and to explore ever widening parameters of ministry. In the 40 years that have passed since that first assembly Dunrovin, MN, over 1000 have committed themselves to the vision and charism outlined in the Profile.
By 1995 SFCC defined itself as a "prophetic-ecclesial community" driven to "speak the truth of love and grow in the maturity of Christ" (Eph 4:15). SFCC continued to understand itself to be a community of consecrated women who are self-determining, self-regulating and self-governing and hold a common goal: that all may be one-the Christ prayer for unity and collegiality. To SFCC it is clear that only the Christ-prayer of unity makes all independence and collegiality possible and productive. Thus it is this Gospel prayer that forms the heart of the SFCC common spirituality, while it challenges each SFCC to take the uncomfortable risk of being prophet in her home town. Founded originally to concern itself with the restructuring of a hierarchical institutional Church, SFCC moved progressively toward what it came to understand as a "ministry of presence." Individually and as a full membership worldwide, SFCC earnestly believed that myopic opinions can be turned to mutual understanding. Division can be turned to unity. Oppressive structures can be reformatted. These are simple but weighty assumptions that point to the very essence of SFCC's "ministry of presence" through listening, loving and serving. By its very nature, then, SFCC's "ministry of presence" is a prophetic action that takes them wherever their charism is needed.
So, it comes as no surprise to find SFCC worldwide living in free-form, contemporary units alone or with others. Community is maintained through personal contacts, regional and international gatherings and newsletters. SFCC is collegial in all decisions that affect the community. They live and work wherever the witness of collegial community is needed.
Therefore, SFCC are found in nearly every professional and non-professional field. Each member is self-supporting and dedicates her energies and talents to the service of building Christian community. SFCC are education professionals: professors, teachers, librarians, administrators and support staff. SFCC are found in counseling offices and social service centers. SFCC minister in parishes and the corporate world around the globe. SFCC advocate for the homeless, indigent, battered women, at risk youth and the political refugee. SFCC work with the elderly and are in healthcare professions in hospitals, health centers and neighborhood clinics. SFCC are retail clerks and shelf stockers; they are accountants, bankers, researchers, receptionists and authors. Wherever encountered, SFCC give witness to collegial community in the form of the traditional vows of obedience, chastity and poverty freshly expressed as listening, loving and serving.