In an important moment for the Church, five women religious representing the International Union of Superiors General (UISG) are gearing up to take part in the First Session of the Synod 2021-2024, themed “For a Synodal Church: communion, participation, and mission,” scheduled to take place in Rome in October. With over 2,000 member Congregations and a collective force of over 600,000 women Religious, UISG’s presence at the Synod marks a significant milestone.
In their press release dated 28 September 2023, the UISG expressed gratitude to Pope Francis for the invitation to participate as auditors in the Synod of the Family back in 2014. Since then, UISG members have been part of each subsequent Synod as auditors However, this year holds a special significance as UISG representatives will be fully integrated into the Synodal process, actively engaging in discussions, providing feedback for written documentation, and participating in the voting process.
The five UISG participants in the upcoming General Assembly of the Synod are:
Sister Mary Barron, OLA – UISG President
Sr. Mary Barron comes from Ireland and serves as the Congregational Leader of the Sisters of Our Lady of Apostles, a missionary congregation founded in France in 1876. She has dedicated her life to evangelization, particularly in Africa.
Sr. Barron gained missionary experience in Nigeria and Tanzania, engaging in diverse pastoral activities, youth work, women’s empowerment, and coordinating HIV and AIDS projects.
With fifteen years of leadership experience within her congregation, she is passionate about inter-congregational initiatives.
Sr. Mary has served as a joint coordinator of a mission animation project in Ireland and held positions of responsibility in SEDOS (Service of Documentation and Study on Global Mission) in Rome, where she currently serves as President. She was elected to the Executive Board of the International Union of Superiors General (UISG) in 2019 and became its President in September 2023.
Sister Patricia Murray, IBVM – UISG Executive Secretary
Sr. Pat Murray IBVM, is a member of the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Loreto Sisters) from Ireland. Having taught in several schools, she served as Peace Education Officer and as President of the Irish Episcopal Commission for Justice and Peace.
While principal of an inner-city school in Dublin, she served as Vice President of the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment – a government appointment. She was the first Director of the Loreto Schools Network in Ireland. She was a member of the General Council of her congregation from 1998- 2006.
Over many years she has worked with others to initiate creative inter-congregational pastoral responses to today’s needs.These include establishing inter-congregational communities in South Sudan and Sicily/Lampedusa; developing networks against human trafficking and connecting sisters working with migrants and refugees.
She was the first Executive Director of Solidarity with South Sudan and is currently the Executive Secretary of the International Union of Superiors General (UISG). She has a Master’s Degree in Education (Trinity College: Dublin) and in Theology (CTU:Chicago) where she also received a Doctorate in Practical Theology.
Sister Elizabeth Mary Davis, RSM
Sr. Elizabeth Davis, a Canadian citizen, is a member of the Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy of Newfoundland and Labrador. Her extensive ministry experience spans seven areas, including education, health care administration, public policy, scripture studies, facilitation, governance, and religious life. She spent 13 years as a high school teacher and has held leadership positions in Catholic hospitals and regional health authorities.
Sr Davis has made significant contributions to public policy through her involvement in commissions and studies. She holds a Doctorate in Theology with a focus on biblical studies from the University of Toronto, as well as Master’s Degrees from the University of Notre Dame and the University of Toronto.
Recognized with national and provincial honours, including the Order of Canada and the Order of Newfoundland and Labrador, she has also received three honorary doctorates.
Sr. Davis is also a prolific presenter on various topics, including health care transformation, leadership in changing times, scripture, religious life, and women in leadership.
Sister Elysée Izerimana, Op. S.D.N.
Sr. Izerimana Elysée was born in Burundi in 1976. She comes from a Christian family actively involved in the local Catholic Church.
After completing her higher education, she joined the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth and made her religious profession in 2002.
Sr. Izerimana has served in various roles within the Congregation and the Church, including parish pastoral work, catechesis, and vocational formation and animation, both in Burundi and Italy. She has received specialized training in religious sciences from the Pontifical Lateran University, formation for trainers from the Institute of Trainers affiliated with the Gregorian University, and ongoing formation for trainers at the Salesian Pontifical University.
Since 2015, she has been a member of the delegation council of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth in the Great Lakes region, and since 2020, she has been part of the general council of her congregation. Sr. Izerimana brings valuable intercultural experiences from her congregation and its general council, given the presence of different cultures within the communities and the council itself.
Sister Maria Nirmalini, A.C.
Sr. Maria Nirmalini, an esteemed religious figure and educator from India, has dedicated her life to religious service and education. She completed her education with a B.Com degree, followed by an M.Com in Cost Accounting, a B.Ed., and an M.A. in Education.
Sr. Nirmalini entered the Apostolic Carmel Order in 1986, taking her first vows in 1990, and final vows in 1996. Her professional journey led her to significant positions, including Vice-Principal and School Principal at Carmel Convent, Delhi.
She has been actively involved in educational and religious organizations, such as the CRI – Educational Cell and the Education Commission – Delhi Archdiocese. Sr. Nirmalini served as the Regional Secretary of the Education Commission North India and as Provincial Superior of her congregation’s Western Province in India.
She has received numerous awards for her contributions, including the World Human Rights Award, Best Principal Award, and World Disaster Education Award. She was elected General Superior of her Congregation in February 2020, and in November 2021, was elected President of the Conference of Religious, India (CRI)
sSister Mary Barron, in a broader statement on UISG’s participation in the Synod, conveyed her enthusiasm, stating, ““We respond with joy to Pope Francis’ call to participate in the Synod of Bishops and to commit ourselves to the ecclesial journey of the Synod on communion, participation and mission. We are convinced that religious life, with its experience of community life and discernment, can help the Church achieve this synodal conversion.“
Sister Maria Nirmalini, also shared her surprise and delight, saying, “The news of being selected to participate in the Synod on Synodality came as a total surprise to me, though a pleasant one at that. “I take it as an invitation to join in the incredible journey of walking together in communion, participation and mission with all His people.”.”
UISG’s presence at the Synod carries with it the hope of bringing a prophetic voice to the discussions. UISG has been actively listening to the voices of its members, who are witnesses to the challenges and opportunities in today’s world. Through the Synod responses they have gathered, and in collaboration with their male counterparts in the Union of Superiors General (USG), UISG aims to confidently represent an essential aspect of ecclesial life that deeply resonates with people worldwide.
In an era where the Catholic Church is striving for a more inclusive approach, UISG’s active role in the Synod brings the hope for a commitment to fostering greater unity, participation, and shared mission within the Church.. As these committed women religious join the conversation at the Synod, we hold them in prayer, recognising that their presence and contributions will play a crucial role in shaping the Church’s path towards a more synodal and inclusive future, where the voices and experiences of all believers are valued and embraced.