The Sisters For Christian Community (SFCC) take the traditional evangelical vows of Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience, which, according to Vatican Council II, translate respectively into Serving, Loving, and Listening
The vow of Poverty traditionally enforces an often severe detachment from the world, as well as things in it, thus creating a total dependence on the religious congregation or others for personal and professional needs. However, when this vow is understood as Serving, the focus of Poverty shifts from material goods to people. The vow of Serving/Poverty assumes personal possessions because it demands that personal possessions, homes, talent, and time always be available to others according to their need. The vow of Serving/Poverty commits each SFCC to respond, as Jesus Christ did, to the cries of anguish rendered by people and events both nearby and throughout the world. The vow of Serving, then, assumes that each SFCC is responsible for her own personal finances and that she will witness simplicity of living. The vow further assumes that SFCC ministry will always reflect her vow of Serving.
The vow of Celibacy traditionally focuses on the avoidance of or total abstinence from exclusive intimacy and genital sexual expression. Yet, when this vow is translated as the vow of Loving, SFCC understand that the absence in her life of sexual intimacy becomes a freedom, rather than an absence in her life. The vow of Loving means she is not tied irrevocably to one person. Instead, celibacy becomes a vocation to love many with the freedom of Jesus Christ: personal and passionate. The vow challenges each SFCC to be present to others in close, enduring, and supportive relationships that aim to unify, restore, renew, and uphold humanity person by person, as well as person to person. It is the commitment of each SFCC to find in this vow the call to be fully human as Christ Jesus was.
The vow of Obedience traditionally inhibits the development of the mature individual. Obedience most often robs the individual from opportunity to assume adult responsibilities. Rather, the individual must act on the decision and will of another, the superior. When understood this way, the vow of Obedience has little to do with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, because the word used in the Gospels for obedience, “shemah” translates as “active listening.” SFCC understand, then, that the vow of Obedience is a commitment to an active listening to the Spirit of God in the Gospel, in daily life, and in communal collegial consensus. Active listening implies that the individual is engaged in every aspect of life as a mature, responsible adult, accountable for her thought, word, and action as she gives witness to the ideals and charism of SFCC. Canonical obedience is defined as submission to institutional authority, rules and constitutions, whereas, biblical obedience is defined as listening to the Holy Spirit speaking both through consensus and within us individually.
Each SFCC also takes a fourth Vow or Promise: to be financially responsible for herself in order not to be the financial responsibility of others. Each is expected to be self-supporting throughout all phases of life. This Promise is understood to be a natural expression of the three Evangelical Vows and to identify more closely with those whom we serve through our ministries.
Portland, Oregon 1995