BY VERONICA STIENBURG, ARCHIVIST
The Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul held their final Chapter recently. What is Chapter? Chapter is a collegial body representing the entire congregation and when in session constitutes the highest authority within the Congregation.
The Sisters of Providence have held 42 Chapters from 1869 to 2023. The first chapter and first set of elections were held on August 26, 1869. At that time there were only four sisters eligible to vote, so that same day three professed sisters were admitted to the community (a step later marked by Final Vows, but at that time professed sisters only took one set of vows) in order that they would be able to vote in the elections. The first seven Chapter delegates were Mother Mary Edward, Sister Mary Joseph, Sister Mary of the Seven Dolors, Sister Mary Jane de Chantal, Sister Mary John, Sister Mary of the Cross, and Sister Mary of the Sacred Heart. By the second chapter in 1872, one of these sisters had left the community, and another had died. The membership of chapter was kept at seven for 1872 and increased to twelve in 1875. The number of Chapter delegates changed over time depending on the size of the congregation and the number of professed sisters.
Since 1999 Chapters have occurred every four years, but technically Chapter is convened every three to six years by the General Superior. Historically Chapter was most often held at intervals of three years, but has also been held at intervals of four, five, and six years. On a handful of extra-ordinary occasions Chapter was held at intervals of two years.