by Cameron Walton
The Workers of the Vineyard, a society of common life in the Chaldean Rite, closed January 14th, 2019, due to the order’s lack of clarity and a singular vision. Rana, formerly Sister Tarbytha, said, “I put my heart and soul into this for twelve years. I did my best, and I think it is time for me to go if there is no future.”
The original mission when the Chaldean order was established twelve years ago was to build schools and provide a more formative education for the current time.
The Workers of the Vineyard was instituted as a Diocesan community rather than a community dedicated to one area of ministry. The order was overseen by Bishop Sarhad Yawsip Jammo, as opposed to the mediation of a Mother Superior. Sisters were elected yearly as administers, although they held no authority over the convent.
The community grew and began to take new shape as time passed, and since there was no one on the inside of the order with previous experience formation and growth was not furthered as it should have been. Over time the sisters rather than becoming a tightly nit order, formed together to serve a particular mission, gradually began to sense a fragmentation of their communal life without a deeper spiritual or intellectual formation. However, they continued living together, and working where their talents and passions provided them strengths.
The founding bishop retired and an administrator was sent in his place. During this period, the convent experienced a great amount of turmoil, especially in regards to what their future would be. The sisters could not reach a general consensus. Some sisters said “schools” others said “music,” each advocating for their own area of focus.
With such confusion between them, they reached out to the newly elected bishop, who replaced the administrator. The bishop’s response, according to Rana, was that he did not have a plan or mission for them, but was willing to allow them to continue and provide formation.
For Rana, formerly Sr. Tarbytha, his lack of clarification was what brought her discernment to a close. “I put my heart and soul into this for twelve years. I did my best, and I think it is time for me to go if there is no future. This is not just a job that I took on; It’s my life. If God is calling me to something and it’s not this convent, I’m still young enough to pursue this now. If I continue for five or ten more years then what more is there.”
Rana’s feelings were not shared by all in the convent; it was not a unanimous decision. The Bishop did not want to leave the convent open for less than four sisters, so the convent was dissolved and the sisters were relieved of their vows.
Though the Workers of the Vineyard is no longer a functioning community, the women who lived there have continued to serve the church. They ask for the continued prayers and support of the faithful whom they will continue to serve.
Former members Sr. Anahyd and Sr. Tarbytha, now Madlain and Rana, will continue in part-time roles as Assistant Campus Minister and Adjunct professor throughout the next two quarters.
Austin Schneider, Director of Campus Ministry, said, “I am thrilled that Rana is continuing in her role as Assistant Director of Campus Ministry. Her wisdom, humor, authenticity, and spiritual depth have made a big impact on all the students she has met, so it truly is a blessing to have her at JPCatholic.”