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Whatever form our apostolic work takes, it keeps a fundamental unity.
It is always directed to awakening and deepening faith, whether it is expressed
in retreats, catechesis or other forms of spiritual apostolate.
From the early days of the Congregation, retreats, especially th ose according to the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius, have been central to our apostolate. Our formation for this ministry and our participation in giving retreats, whether to groups or individuals, contribute a distinctive character to our vocation.
The retreat, an experience of prayer and discernment, is a time of grace for the retreatants and for us who share it with them. As we witness the marvelous action of God, we are filled with wonder and reminded that we are servants of a work infinitely beyond our powers.
We may give the retreats ourselves, or we may share in various ways in retreats given by others. These may be in our own houses or wherever our services are requested outside the Cenacle.
We adapt the Exercises in duration or form or use other methods of retreat in order to respond to different needs and to make retreats available to a greater number of persons. Although we give retreats elsewhere, our houses are, as they have always been, one of the instruments of our apostolate. The community should be welcoming and hospitable, and the house sufficiently functional to accommodate individuals and groups comfortably.
All the community is involved in this retreat apostolate. lt requires the coordination of many tabors, and often hard work, to assure the well-being of the retreatants. All of us must have it at heart to create an atmosphere of prayer, charity, and peace which will set the tone for this special time with God.
Catechesis has been associated with the work of retreats since our foundation. It is an essential part of our apostolic service, and our formation must prepare us for it. This ministry has a special urgency today because rapid changes in the world provoke serious crises which have repercussions in the religious domain. Christians need to have their faith solidly grounded and nourished.
Our objective is to form the whole Christian. We seek to develop in each one a sense of prayer, attentiveness to the Spirit and involvement in the service of others as the person's knowledge of Christ progresses in the light of Scripture. To accomplish this we make every effort to present the message in its integrity, in a manner adapted to those receiving it, children, youth, adults, whether they are baptized or still catechumens. We must use the language and methods which can best help them to know Jesus Christ who is the way to the Father.
The doctrinal aspect is an integral part of catechesis. We must always be alert to opportunities for developing it not only in catechesis itself, but also in retreats, spiritual direction and our other apostolates. In all circumstances our teaching must follow the directives of the universal and local Church. We should also be careful to cooperate with other educators in the faith.
Our catechetical apostolate often makes great demands on us. The communities must have it at heart to support this important ministry with real understanding and assistance.
OTHER FORMS OF SPIRITUAL APOSTOLATE
Our mission can also take other forms of spiritual service of the neighbor. These are a response to requests of the Church arising from the needs of the contemporary world. They must be an expression of our spirit and related to the specific apostolate of the Congregation. T he Congregation has a mandate for a particular work, and our formation prepares us for it. Therefore, it is necessary to make choices.
We must be at the service of those in spiritual need, whatever their situation may be, and especially those whose needs are most urgent. These requests and the possibilities which are offered must be considered in the light of our charism and the criteria indicated in the Norms.
The appeals of the universal and local Church must be heard in the Cenacle. Therefore we should collaborate as far as possible in a spirit of openness with those responsible for the total pastoral ministry, and also with others who are working toward the same goal of evangelization and integral human development.
"Nothing gives me pleasure unless it may procure the glory of God, making him known and loved. "
Mother Therese Letter to Mother de Larochenegly, December 23, 1868