The School Sisters of St. Francis’ new International Leadership Team (from left, Sr. Deborah Fumagalli, Sr. Tresa Abraham Kizhakerparambil, Sr. Mathilde Maravi and Sr. Jincy Vilayappully) at a Mass in their honor July 10 at the St. Joseph Chapel at their motherhouse. (Submitted photo)
Beginning Sept. 1, the School Sisters of St. Francis will have a new International Leadership Team. The sisters were elected during their recent General Assembly, which took place at Alverno College, and will serve a four-year term.
Comprising the new team is:
- President: Sr. Deborah Fumagalli, from the United States Province. Received into the community in 1977, she has most recently served as the Coordinator of Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation for the U.S. Province. She served on the provincial leadership team from 2011-19.
- First Vice President: Sr. Tresa Abraham Kizhakeparambil, from St. Francis Province, North India. She made her profession in 1982 and has served on the International Leadership Team as first vice president since 2018.
- Second Vice President: Sr. Matilde Maraví, from the Unión Latinoamericana de Franciscanas (Latin American Region). She was received into the community in 1998 and currently serves as a high school teacher at St. Clare School in Paita, Perú.
- Third Vice President: Sr. Jincy Vilayappilly, from St. Francis Province, North India. She made her profession in 1994 and most recently studied at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. She previously ministered as a formator and teacher, and served a term on her provincial leadership team.
According to Sr. Fumagalli, the International Leadership Team members are chosen from the sisters in the order who were asked to consider a leadership role.
“Those selected continue to discern their qualifications, gifts and talents through a contemplative approach at the General Assembly. This year, the assembly met from June 24-July 6 at Alverno College. Usually held in February and early March, this year’s gathering was delayed due to COVID-19 restrictions,” Sr. Fumagalli said. “After discerning with individuals and the body of those gathered for the assembly, a more refined process continues to identify those most appropriate to meet the direction of the congregation for the next four years.”
The theme of the 2022 General Assembly was “Be Witnesses to God’s Love in the World.” This theme helped to guide the delegates, particularly in the direction-setting process for the congregation.
The congregational direction developed by the assembly delegates states: “As School Sisters of St. Francis, we are witnesses to God’s love as a source of hope in the world, responding to the needs of the times wherever the Spirit leads us. We care for all of creation, for all those we encounter, and for ourselves as sisters. We partner with others to alleviate suffering in the world, change unjust systems and restore our ecosystem. We are aware of God’s presence within us and around us, which leads us to oneness.”
Developing the team is an extension of the aspirations of the original three women who founded the S.S.S.F. in Campbellsport in 1874.
“They were immigrants from Germany, and their dream was always that we would be an international community,” Sr. Fumagalli said. “Committed to collaborating with each other as individuals and geographic areas, our leadership team strives to best represent our diversity in cultures and countries. Our desire to become more unified is also witnessed through this representation.”
As the new president of the team, Sr. Fumagalli explained the challenge of the team is to model teamwork and to show that together they are stronger than as disparate and separate individuals.
“The role of our congregation’s president, along with the vice presidents, is to represent our congregation in the world and support its presence,” she said. “We work to ensure that our charism, the specific impetus from our foundresses, is brought to life through those we meet. We say that ‘Our charism is to discern the will of God in the needs of the times, responding wherever the Spirit leads us.’”
As the public face of the congregation, the International Leadership Team brings the Franciscan mission of Gospel living to the people and places they serve. Sr. Fumagalli explained the challenges and tasks they face are directed by their focus on “giving, healing and defending life” as they strive to bring God’s love into the present.
“The leadership team is important for many reasons,” she said. “We are women from Asia, North America, Europe and Latin America who are called to help our congregation navigate the challenge of being peacemakers in a turbulent world and challenging time. We model a corporate desire to move from ‘I’ to ‘we’ and illustrate how to respect cultural differences while becoming more unified as a congregation.”
The School Sisters of St. Francis are an international community of Catholic sisters who unite with others to build a just and peaceful world. Founded in 1874, the congregation’s sisters, associates, staff, donors and volunteers actively work to address the needs of those who are poor and marginalized by society. Their mission is thriving throughout the United States, Europe, Latin America, India and Tanzania.
“In our congregation and tradition, we commit to living the Franciscan values of forgiveness and love, compassion and healing, joy and liberation, and caring for all creation,” said Sr. Fumagalli. “It is in our giving that we receive, and these are traits our team will also strive to model for all our sisters and associates, as well as for everyone with whom we interact.”
For more information about the School Sisters of St. Francis, visit www.sssf.org.