"I don't doubt for an instant that if religious life disappeared, the world, humanity, would miss us," Sister María Victoria Castejón said in an interview with ZENIT.
Sister Castejón, of the Society of the Sacred Heart, lives and works in Rome, from an office full of light and air, a good metaphor for religious life, she says. Religious life is "an open life to let in air and light," she said.
Born in Vitoria, Spain, Sister Castejón has been on mission in several continents. She has dedicated herself above all to formation, retreats, and the stimulation of religious life.
More than numbers
"What must be clear is that religious life cannot be measured only numerically. I really believe that what was not so normal was the growth of vocations after the World Wars. Today the number is more reduced but, perhaps, it is somewhat more real," she said.
"Religious life is a sincere commitment to give one's life for the kingdom. I don't think it is about large numbers. Let's reflect on where the men and women religious are to be found: in the Tsunamis, in places of conflict, where the cause of the poor must be defended and, in this defense, more than one has suffered martyrdom," she said.
"Religious life is to be found with terminal patients, combating AIDS, in schools, in universities; it is found in many places," she said.
"The fact is that it lives, and is still conceived by some, from outside, relying to a degree on its past glory. Today, religious life cannot be the same as it was fifty years ago," she stated.
"Religious life is not about finding security, but about seeking with caution, accepting risks," said Sister Castejón.
Not a refuge
"And in this life, there is a bit of everything, of everything under the sun, as everywhere else, good and less good. Our following of Christ is and will be imperfect. The council asked us to change. The world had gone through a process and asked us to open the windows and let in the light," she continued.
"To live the mission, to be at the mercy of the elements, placing our security in Christ and the community, is what is proper to religious life. This requires maturity. There can be no room for infantilism. Religious life is not for those who seek protection," she stated.
In regard to initiatives promoted by different religious communities in Rome, the religious explained that the Pontifical Institute Regina Mundi, university center for nuns and women in Rome, is suspending its activities after fifty years.
"I think that the total suspension of academic life in the Regina Mundi Institute means that people have realized that what 50 years ago was a necessity, thank God, no longer is," she indicated.
"A woman can study peacefully in other universities and does not need her own place. In this sense, it is positive news. What is more, I think that the evolution that religious life has gone through at the level of formation and which makes institutes such as Regina Mundi no longer necessary, is a positive sign, as Archbishop Franc Rodé said, prefect of the Pontifical Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life," she said.
Sister Castejón continued: "Superiors general worldwide have understood the reason for the suspension of Regina Mundi, and I must say that I have found much cooperation and understanding. Instead, there is a desire to continue, perhaps with some changes, the non-academic courses for the formation of formators.
"We must reflect and study the possibility of keeping them, but it is a project that will depend, to a large extent, on the interest of superiors general," she said.
New Web page
Sister Castejón explained that, on the contrary, the suspension of the Vidimus Dominum home page, an Internet site promoted by several religious congregations, is not definitive.
"It had to close," she said, "but only to be reborn, with a renewed Web site, a new direction and a new technical platform. I don't think it is hazardous to say that before Christmas this news agency for religious news worldwide will again be online; it is the great wish of the two Unions of Superiors General, that of women religious and that of men religious.
"It is a nice project because it involves the International Union of Superiors General, who number some 2,000 members, and the Union of Superiors General, with more than 220 members."