The Amazon Synod: 6 to 27 October

The Sisters of Sion are following with great interest the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon Region called by Pope Francis between 6 and 27 October 2019.

The theme of the assembly is: new paths for the Church and for an integral ecology. It’s a meaningful moment for the Church in Latin America and in the world, because of the importance of the Amazon to the health of the planet.

Flooding in the Cacau area of the Amazon.

Some Sion sisters are already involved in itinerant ministry to parts of the Amazon and the congregation is researching the possibility of setting up a permanent presence there.

Earlier this year, during her visit to Amazonia, Sister Ivete Holthmam witnessed the thirst for more knowledge on the part of the Seminarians she met, as well as the daily reality of flooding in the missionary area of Cacau.

The congregation encourages everyone to follow the assembly’s progress on the Synod website.


Go to the Amazon Synod website

Celebration of final vows in the Philippines

Sister Beth Burgo.

Sister Beth Burgo pronounced her perpetual vows on Thursday 12 September at St. Raphael Parish in the Municipality of Real, Philippines, reaffirming her commitment to the Church in the presence of her family, other Sion Sisters, and members of Saint Raphael’s Parish.

Beth’s vows were received, on behalf of the Congregation, by Sister Denise Cusack, who said: “It was truly a privilege to be with Beth at this beautiful celebration”, which many people travelled long distances to attend.

Signing the commitment with Father Romeo Tena and Sister Denise.

Beth chose the event’s date to pay homage to the Sisters who founded the Philippine Sion community on 12 September 1990, and thank them for their response to the call of God for service in another cultural setting.


Beth’s journey

Already active as a professional catechist, Beth came into contact with the Congregation through a chance encounter and an invitation from a woman she didn’t know to a bible sharing session with the Sisters of Sion in Kiloloron. At that meeting, Beth was moved by a discussion around the theme “God is love”, which, she says, has nourished her life ever since.

Beth entered the congegation twelve years ago and made her first vows in 2011. Since then, she has furthered her studies completing a degree at the Institute for Religious Studies in Manila in 2018, and is now following a course at Manila University’s Centre for Family Ministries. While studying she has been involved in ministries related to the urban poor by serving on the board of Manila’s Task Force on Urban Conscientization and teaching catechetics in a nearby parish.

For her, last Thursday was: “the day when I was able to express my gratitude to God’s faithful love and promises.”

The presence of her parents, siblings, friends and other sisters gave Beth great joy and reminded her they have always been with her on the journey. Her wish for the future is to continue, together with the whole Family of Sion, to celebrate the joy, hope and love of Christ in everything they do.


Beth with her parents, the Sion Community, the Bishop and the priests.


Children have rights

An initiative supported by the NDS Congregation to celebrate the rights of the child.

November 20, 2019 marks the 30th anniversary of the International Convention on the Rights of the Child.

For the occasion, the association L’enfant et la Shoah – Yad Layeled France, approved by the French Ministry of Education, is offering the booklet “Les enfants ont des droits” (“Children have rights”).

The booklet, produced by the association’s Director, Galith Touati, and Sion Sister Isabelle Denis, aims to educate students about the history of their rights, and invites them to reflect on the experiences of Jewish children persecuted during the Second World War.

This educational resource showcases the life, the action and the writings of an exemplary figure, considered the inspirer of the International Convention on the Rights of the Child: the Polish Jewish pedagogue Janusz Korczak.

The tragedy of the Second World War, and in particular the Holocaust with the extermination of 1.5 million Jewish children, brought a need to defend human rights, including the rights of the child.


  • The booklet “Les enfants ont des droits” is referenced by the French independent administrative authority the Défenseur des droits (Defender of rights) and can be downloaded in French from the authority’s resource website, Educadroit.


Itinerant Ministry in Africa

Two Sisters are heading off to Harare, Zimbabwe, in the coming months, as a part of Sion’s Itinerant Ministry to teach Seminarians and other Religious men and women in countries where there is no Sion presence.

Holy Trinity College, Harare, - Jesus, Mathew and the Jewish World

Holy Trinity College, Harare, where the course on “Jesus, Mathew and the Jewish World” is being held.

Sister Celia Deutsch, a research scholar at Barnard College/Columbia University, New York, has already left for Harare to lead a course on “Jesus, Mathew and the Jewish World” at Holy Trinity College (HTC) until 28 September.

She will be joined on 12 September by Rabbi David Sandmel (Director of Interreligious Engagement at the Anti-Defamation League in New York) for some team-teaching at HTC and for some shared public lectures for Arrupe Jesuit University, Catholic University of Zimbabwe, Chishawasha Regional Seminary, and priests of the Diocese of Harare.

Celia and Rabbi Sandmel will also arrange to meet the Jewish communities in Harare, including the Lemba community in Bluffhill.

Rabbi Sandmel will be accompanied by his wife, Janet. She is a professional Community Developer and her gifts and presence will certainly be of great value to HTC.

The congregation feels blessed to learn so much from the presence of the Church and from the peoples in these diverse countries. Sister Lucy Thorson, one of Sion’s Itinerant Ministry Team co-ordinators, is delighted the initiative has taken off, and expressed gratitude, on behalf of the Team, to Celia and Rabbi Sandmel for their openness and readiness to respond to the call of the Sion Congregation to go forth to teach in Zimbabwe. “Let us hold them, and all the peoples of HTC and Harare, in our prayers during these weeks ahead,” she proposed.

The Sion congregation will return to Harare next January 2020 when Sister Mary Reaburn, who teaches at the University of Divinity, Australia, will travel to Zimbabwe to teach at HTC on the “The Psalms” and “Vatican Documents pertaining to Jewish-Christian Relations”.

Sion’s current English-language Itinerant Ministry destinations.

Other English language Itinerant Ministry destinations the congregation is currently focusing on include:

  • Kenya – where two sisters are planning to go after the success of the two-week biblical course conducted by Sisters Clare Jardine and Arlyne del Valle Casas in Nairobi last June.
  • Malta – where SistersMargaret Shepherd and Carmen Farrugia taught a course at the Pastoral Formation Institute on “The Church documents in relation to Judaism: from Vatican II to the present day” in February 2019.


30-year anniversary for CERJUC biblical study and Jewish-Christian relations centre in Costa Rica

An olive tree was planted to mark the anniversary.

This year the Centre for Biblical Studies and Jewish-Christian Relations (Centro de Estudios Bíblicos y Relaciones Judeocristianas – CERJUC) in Moravia, Costa Rica, sponsored and co-ordinated by the Sisters of Our Lady of Sion, celebrates 30 years of pastoral work.

To mark the anniversary, a mass was celebrated by Father Randall Villalobos and attended by the CERJUC staff, students, collaborators and friends. After the mass, an olive tree was planted, to a backdrop of live music, in the garden of the Colegio Nuestra Señora de Sion school.


CERJUC’s story

A mention of the intent to entrust a new centre for Jewish-Christian relations to the Sisters of Our Lady of Sion can be found in the V Archdiocesan Synod of 1984-1985.

Sister Yolanda Palfi.

However the CERJUC story really began four decades before the centre was actually opened when, in 1949, Hungarian Sion Sister Yolanda Palfi arrived in Costa Rica. Sister Yolanda set straight to work promoting harmonious relations between the local community and the many Jews who were immigrating to Costa Rica at that time, particularly from Poland.

Sister Margarita Jiménez Sáenz.

Local Sion Sister Margarita Jiménez Sáenz continued the work started by Sr. Yolanda and was, for many years, inexhaustible in her mission to promote biblical study within parishes and communities in even the most remote corners of the country.

Sister Soledad Haug Umaña.

Instrumental to finally founding the centre was Sion Sister Soledad Haug Umaña, a local theologian and biblical scholar who succeeded in bringing together theologians, Catholics and non-Catholics of national and international standing. She officially inaugurated the centre on April 4, 1989, and managed to establish it as a place of renown, both for the promotion of popular biblical study and for Jewish-Christian relations.


CERJUC today

CERJUC staff today

CERJUC staff today, from left to right: Seidy Chaves, David Castillo, Rocío Cano, Hernán Rodríguez.

Over the years many people and friends have given their work, collaboration and love to the centre. Mr. Hernán Rodríguez Castro, librarian, workshop instructor and member of the centre’s team of co-ordinators, recalls how many generations of people have experienced a transforming and liberating spirituality in CERJUC.

Mrs. Marjorie Salas Chacón is very grateful for the opportunity she has had to give her services as a volunteer in the centre’s library, and also to take part in workshops. “I am discovering a different God,” she said. “He is an ever-present God, respectful of my decisions, who teaches me service and compassion, and respect for the values of my neighbour.”

Today CERJUC operates in three main areas:

  • Education, through courses and workshops in Bible study and biblical Hebrew, conferences, gatherings and a library service.
  • Communication, through the publication of brochures and material for biblical study and formation, both printed and online.
  • Jewish-Christian dialogue and interreligious relations, through participation in institutional spaces, and invitations to non-Catholic people to events and joint projects of prayer and common celebration.

Plans for the future include extending the educational work of CERJUC to other parts of Central America, via both traditional and electronic means.

Environmental spirituality course in Bath, UK

The Earth is the Lord’s: Environmental Spirituality in Judaism and Christianity” is the title of a course to be led by Sion Sister Margaret Shepherd and Orthodox Jewish scholar Jonathan Gorsky at the Ammerdown Centre near Bath, UK, between 19 and 21 August.

The course will explore Laudato Si, Pope Francis’s encyclical on the environment in the light of Jewish and Christian spirituality. Topics include the Sabbath and Creation, the wilderness as an abiding presence, Franciscan spirituality and the vision of French philosopher and Jesuit priest Teilhard de Chardin.

The course is available on a residential or non-residential basis.

To book a place, visit the Ammerdown Centre website.

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