Today was the feast of St. Cecilia, martyr. Fr. Martin inspired us with his homily on the poor widow and her gift, and we prayed for Sr. Cécilie Bimenyimana, who is supporting Sr. Alda Isa Paes in the secretariat of this Chapter, as well as for all others who are celebrating their feast day today.
After a restful Sunday, we all came back to the aula in the morning with renewed strength. Sr. Pat (Patricia) Murray, IBVM, Executive Secretary of the UISG, presented a conference on “The Challenges of Consecrated Life Today”.
She had tried to make out the central challenges for consecrated life today, and presented us with five areas of reflection: 1. Responding to the Needs of Today 2. Interculturality - how to deal with our differences and diversity 3. Hospitality 4. Wounds as a source of wisdom and mercy 5. Non-violence and peacebuilding.
In all these areas, Pope Francis is giving us inspiration and encouragement. Listening to the cries of the poor and of the earth makes us aware of our responsibility towards suffering and problems on the global as well as on the local level. Sr. Pat underlined, however, that the poor are not necessarily outside our convents; many of the social problems of our time exist inside our Congregation, our communities and ourselves, too. The pandemic has given everybody time to reflect and has raised our awareness for the need of synodality within the Church and solidarity within our societies. Sr. Pat gave us many examples from her own life and presented different networks of religious which have been created as an answer to the signs of the times.
The first step of dealing with the challenges of living together with different cultures (interculturality) and of being open to others, sharing our life with them (hospitality), is to look at ourselves, to tear down the walls which we have built to keep us safe, to come into close contact with others, and to listen to each other with respect, sharing also our wounds and failures. Sr. Pat explained that this will become a path to healing and wholeness, which will enable us to carry others with more love and compassion. She encouraged us to leave our comfort-zones and our institutions in order to reach out also to those we fear, and to touch the heart of complex questions; thus our consecrated life will become a prophetic journey of transformation, both inward and outward, and we will become true missionaries, guided by the Spirit.
We finished the morning with a personal sharing in groups. The afternoon was devoted to further sharing in groups on these complex issues and challenging questions, and to discussion with Sr. Pat in the plenary. Fr. Martin closed the session with an appreciation for our open sharing and our courage to include also sensitive matters on which there are several opinions. He encouraged the Capitulars to continue working in this way in the coming days. The afternoon ended with adoration, in which all the Sisters brought their intentions before God.