From 1st to 3rd December 2017, a Congress was held in Rome "Pastoral Vocations and Consecrated Life, Horizons and Hope".
Second part : More personal texts that testify on how this congress has reached us, touched us.
This congress was a great time, very nourishing, both for my personal religious life, my ministry with young people, and our community in Kremlin-Bicêtre sent in mission together towards the young, and our province. The international dimension of this meeting had also good taste to listen to what happens in youth and vocational pastoral in other regions of the world, to widen my heart, to let all this make an echo in me with our experience of local intercultural communities and our international congregation…
You may have noticed, in the 1st step of our sharing, how full these days were… too much according to me… But I give thanks for having been sent there and called to share what we experienced, because it enabled me to integrate slowly this experience and these areas of work J
One thing which struck me particularly was the echo of what we heard with Mother Therese’s look of Goodness and the call to the School of the Heart: love the young as they are and see what is nice and good in them; be careful to their desire for God; trust the Lord who continues to call and the young who are able to hear and reply to this call; be witness of the beauty and joy of giving one’s life to follow Christ; develop the “art of conversation” with the young (T. Radcliffe) with an attitude of listening and dialogue, in a movement of both reception and gift…
With regard to my ministry with the young, I was encouraged to always put Christ at the centre, “to give Christ” more than talk about Him (P. Chavez Villanueva), this is “to communicate Christ” more than to announce Him (cf. n°37 of our Constitutions), and to accompany the young in their vocation, to make a life choice, choices for life… My prayer for them got enlarged: for each of them to find his vocation, his own way of living “the joy of love” (Preliminary Document).
For us, as Cenacle sisters, I heard particularly two calls. On the one hand, to be more daring, more proposing, more inviting to open our communities, our table, our prayer, our charism, our activities to those who desire… On the other hand, to hear them telling me/us “come and see” (Jn 1,39), that is, to go out towards them, discuss and spend free time with them, in order to learn how to know them better and let me/us be touched in our identity of Cenacle sisters.
May the Holy Spirit give to each of you the grace to let her be renewed in her presence, active and praying, to the young of today!
A mission to the young and vocations for our province Europe-Togo
In his address to the participants of the Congress Pope Francis said, “The vocational dimension of the Mission to the young is not something which is proposed only at the end of a process or to a group which is particularly sensitive to a specific vocational calling, but it is to be constantly proposed throughout the process of evangelisation and education in the faith of adolescents and of the young”. The mission to the young must be vocational, enabling the young to make choices.
We have been warned of the dangers of keeping the young in groups without their path emerging towards a choice of life. This indication seems especially interesting to me because our province has recently given two communities the mission to be close to the young and to seek how they can live what is beginning to be born in “The Platform of YZ&Cenacle. I feel the words of the pope are a confirmation of the choices that we have made.
Listening to the Young
We have been invited to listen to the young and the questions they are posing to avoid responding to questions which no one is asking. This listening and this searching responds well to what we are: in the Cenacle we make suggestions from what we perceive as needs. This is also a precious indication, like a compass for the mission of the young and for vocation ministry for our province.
We have also been invited to listen, not only to the young in the world, but also to the young who are in our communities. The young often have a different experience from ourselves and this can be an enrichment. We have been invited to enter into a mutual exchange, listening to the young generations who have a lot to give to us. This seems to be an indication to follow: to listen to the younger sisters, work with them, and allow ourselves to be enriched by them.
A mission history from within our communities and beyond.
An aspect of mission to the young and vocational work, is the faith history. The young look to us to share with them our encounter with Christ when He first called us to follow Him and something of our relationship with Him We have been invited to a mission which is not only external but also internal, that is to say in our communities. This can perhaps be the means of taking care of our vocation. This reflection on my faith story ignited in me the desire that we should share the account of our vocation in our communities. It seems to me that sharing the moment which is the foundation of our life could be a special occasion for us understanding more and discovering the heart of our calling.
Changing works into presence: the breath of Mazille.
It has been said that religious life in certain parts of the world is considered as a service provider of social services: we are not philanthropists but apostles! I believe that for our specific apostolate we are not considered as service providers, but this reflection spoke to me. The invitation which has been made at the congress is “to change the works into presence”. This is in effect is what we are looking to live in the grace of the of Mazille when we do not think in terms of activities (retreats, catechisms, spiritual direction) but of presences to families and persons.
Culture and Vocation: moving from internationality to interculturality
Timothy Radcliffe shared with us his experience of the meeting between cultures and vocations to religious life. He presented religious life as a call to live, a call “to life in abundance”. Religious life is a way of saying “yes” to life in abundance. Radcliffe highlighted the challenge which crosses religious life when it meets other cultures. These “other cultures” are ethnic generational differences. The different cultures speak of life in different ways therefore it is necessary to communicate, speak and be understood and not to fall into incomprehension. I was touched when Radcliffe said that meeting with those who are different ma
ke us discover who we are. “Identity is not a choice but a discovery which we make when we become brothers and sisters of other cultures and generations”. He invited us to let fall the little identities. We are of Ch
rist! The challenge then is to seek to support in our pilgrimage the particular cultures and transcend them towards the Kingdom. These words which particularly joined the experience that I saw in the meeting between the French culture and the youth culture. I experienced meeting with different cultures than my own, allowed me to discover and become more aware of my own culture. Our province, in its richness and diversity is linked by this challenge. My hope is that we will be able to put together a school of the heart to live interculturally as the General Chapter invited us to do.
Before going to the congress, the simple idea that I was going to live this very time of the universal Church, was really lifegiving. From my place of sister involved in a community missioned to the young people, sent by the community itself, I enjoyed to live this time.
We were 4 Cenacle sisters and how many others, lay people, priests, religious brothers and sisters from all around the world meeting in Rome, to receive together inputs and to write proposals to fill the reflexion of this synod.
Another little gift, we were 7 to go together each morning to the congress’s place. The collaboration, the meeting was beginning since the departure from the house where 3 sisters were welcomed. Maybe it seems trivial, but I saw there a prophetical sign of the consecrated life: 7 sisters, 4 congregations, 3 spiritualities… The same God who calls, who send…
Arrived in the place of the congress (in the house of the Legionnaire’s of Christ) I was touched by the assembly that we formed. The entire world in its diversity : countries, language, people, … The question of vocations makes us going on, gathers, revitalizes.
Yes, each life is vocation.
And deep in me a question raises listening to the Pope Francis’s letter: On which vocation each one of these religious people are they thinking, participating to this meeting ?
What I am keeping as a conviction: We must not reduce the vocation, whatsoever, to a simple activity, something to do, even if it’s an activity with great benefit. The vocation is a human being, a journey step by step. It’s a real journey of happine
ss, a journey to an integral and vital achievement of the person. And we have to accompany the journey, step by step, walking ourselves on the path. We are not called to walk near to the path but on the path, with its stones, potholes, accidents and sweets… and to accompany the young people who will join us on that path. Walking ourselves on that way, we will be able to help this young people to find his own identity in a true relationship with Christ.
The dimension of testimony plays a great role. To witness of what I deeply am, not of what I am doing. So the young people will ask himself what he is called to be, to approach this happiness that God wants for him, for each one of us. So the question came naturally: In the Cenacle, what testimony am I giving? What am I (are we) telling about religious life in my (our) lifestyle, in my (our) prayerlife, in the community life, in the way of welcoming and being available? A lot of questions to look at together to testimony better of the One who is giving us life and spirit.
To witness encourage us to be true, not to fear showing the reality of our lives with its strengths, its saving fixing points, and all the roughness’s which make sometimes the life complicated or difficult. But if our happiness is without artifice, why not to testimony, dare to tell the joy which is given to us!
A second conviction that I welcome again: I answer my vocation if I let Jesus meet me. And I have to testimony about that. Because the Lord pass, sees, loves, calls. He is passing in the dailylife. He is not only in the great things, but in the simple hours of dailylife. And that’s crucial. Because it means that he is passing in every part of my life and I have not to wait to be perfect to enter the intimacy of Jesus and answer his call. He’s inviting me as I am. He’s loving me as I am. What happiness! And what joy to have to witness of that!
The answer to give to the Lord’s call can grow if I met myself, the « who I am », if I am in the truth with my own story. All the radicality of the call to follow Christ is there: the Lord doesn’t call for a fixed-term contract. He is calling totally, and the answer has to be a total gift, full, of myself. It’s the radicality of the gospel. He’s not calling to a « decaffeinated » life!
A third conviction: the meeting with Jesus happens in the meeting with the other, in this place where I let differences appear. I respect them, I like them and I receive from them. Our congregation adventure in the internationality helps us to live this meeting with Christ. The meeting with the other different allows me to find who I am. It becomes testimony for the young people who has often several identities and shows what he wants to show on the web.
These convictions are not new but I received them again in a strong way. And I rejoice !