Sisters Loraine Delaney left and Eliza right from the design team presented this sessionWith an $830,000 grant from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, the Global Coordinating Group of the Sisters of St Joseph has commissioned the development and implementation of a dynamic, interactive, and international curriculum on cultural diversity and conflict management.  To date three classes serving 70 sisters who are in formation/vocation work have been held in Le Puy, France using the 10 day curriculum. 

These vocation ministers from around the world are better prepared to navigate cultural differencesThere are two more classes being held, one in September and one in May.  This time the participants are sisters who are temporarily professed or newly permanently professed.  When the five classes are complete the United States will have seven trainers to bring this curriculum to US congregations.

This is a “train the trainer” program.  One of the requirements built into the grant was that each person who attended the program would return to her own country or region and teach the class at least 3 times or to 75 sisters

The International Design Team, a group of 7 sisters, developed this adaptable curriculum that has demonstrated its relevance across cultures. Sisters Maria del Pilar, (Lyon, Egypt originally from Mexico), Eliza Zuannazzi, (Chambery, Brazil), Marie Louise Ralisoa, (Aoste, Madagascar and currently serving in Ivory Coast), Loraine Delaney, (Chambery, India), Gloria Philip, (Buenos Aires), Janet Gagnon, (Lyon, USA) and Bella Benedicte Sage, (Institute St Joseph, Ivory Coast, originally from Senegal) came together in 2015 to develop this curriculum and now are teaching it. 

Exercises allowed sisters to bond with each other quickly

Avila University was engaged to assist in evaluating the curriculum and assisting with curriculum improvement.  Avila University professor, Carol Coburn noted that the original framework that the international design team developed has worked well.  She shares, “We have a viable successful framework that is very adaptable.  The formal learning is good.  However the experiential component is more important and more powerful as a part of the learning process.”  Dr. Ken Parsons commented “Workshop pedagogy utilizes a variety of approaches (small and large group discussions, lecture, readings, films, music, dance, spiritual exercises, role playing, critical analysis, etc.). The design team created an interpersonal dynamic that allowed the sisters to experience unity.”  One Spanish-speaking sister wrote in her evaluation that she now had “new tools to live in diversity.”

The chosen curricular themes and topics of cultural diversity, non-violent communication, active listening, and non-judgmental approaches/strategies were often noted as a strength of the program. A Spanish-speaking sister wrote, “Learning that being right or not right is not the most important thing” and working in community means “limitations do not make you vulnerable.” To describe their reflections on the program the sisters used words like “self-awareness,” “holistic,” “feeling of oneness globally,” and “connecting to whole of humanity and the environment.”  Some work is done in language groups

Translation equipment allowed the participants to speak in five languagesInteraction with global Sisters of St. Joseph and their ten days together was a powerful experience and for many the feeling of “welcome” was a surprise that some did not expect to feel among the diverse sisters in Le Puy.  One sister wrote that this was the first time she felt like a “Global Sister of St. Joseph.”  The word “mission” was used often in the evaluations both as the reason that sisters joined the Sisters of St. Joseph and also seeing the workshop experience as a way to expand mission on a global level. One sister from Brazil described fondly the “intercultural relationships” she “lived” during the Le Puy workshop.  Dr. Ken Parsons from Avila University noted that “the selection of sisters bonded so quickly.  Within 24 hours they were doing deep group work even with the frustrations of language translations.”Nonverbal communication has been used to create helpful bridges among those who speak different languages

The sisters strongly believe that they are going home with a tool kit of skills that they want to share with their home communities.   One sister from India referred to her experience as “One cell” with potential to “birth more cells” in her home community.  While another sister felt engaged and energized by the “urgency of mission” in the global context.  A sister from Africa was grateful to return home with the content and pedagogy on cultural diversity, saying she now realized that “cultural diversity was possible” and she believed “could now help her diverse home community where six sisters from five African countries live in together in community.”