Women Religious Prepare for Challenges
Assembly of Superiors-General Nears Conclusion
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By Carmen Elena Villa
ROME, MAY 10, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Walking around the plenary assembly of the International Union of Superiors-General, one hears conversation and prayer in a variety of languages, and sees religious habits and dress of many styles and colors.
The event is being attended in Rome by some 800 superiors-general, who represent around 600,000 women religious across the globe. The assembly ends Tuesday. It has focused on a theme from a poem by St. John of the Cross: “I know the fountain well which flows and runs … though it is night."
The meeting began last Friday with three days called "illumination," featuring conferences on the topics of mysticism and prophecy. Today the stage of "discernment" and dialogue began, with the sisters separated into their respective language groups to speak about and assimilate what they've heard in the meetings.
ZENIT spoke with representatives of the five continents to see what fruits this event might bring communities back home.
For Sister Katherine of the Daughters of the Sacred Heart, the meeting has been interesting to discuss matters of the Church and increase awareness of the global community. The Maltese sister said: "When we look at God's plan, we will always be purified and converted, we will be prophets and mystics in the Church and in the world."
The nun also spoke about the fruits of Benedict XVI's recent visit to her country which, she said, made a "positive impact, especially because he spoke in our language." She added that the meeting with young people was "very enthusiastic," "very effusive," and asserted that the Maltese are still talking about the visit.
Sister Mercedes Leticia Casas, from Mexico, is the superior-general of the Daughters of the Holy Spirit. For her the meeting "revitalizes our religious life, makes us recover hope in our charisms and in the prophetic dimension of our mystical life."
"Sharing experiences with the sisters themselves confirms us in the calls that the Spirit is making to us, asking us for greater consistency of life, greater transparency, a more evangelical and significant religious life," she added.
Sister Mary is the superior of the community of Handmaids of Christ the Priest, present in South Africa and Lesotho. "We have something in common: the Eucharist. We have a common goal: to say yes to that which God wants from us," she said.
Her community's charism is to help priests by taking Communion to the sick, by teaching catechesis, and by working in parish schools. She said the purpose of her life is "to bring Christ to the people in many ways and in the various apostolates in which we are involved. Wherever we are we should proclaim Christ to the people," she said, adding that she saw this displayed in the various charisms brought together in this meeting.
The percentage of participants from Oceania was lower but equally significant. Among the representatives was Sister Ann, superior of the community of the Daughters of St. Joseph of the Sacred Heart. She told ZENIT: "This is a wonderful opportunity to meet superiors from all over the world, especially for Australia, which is so far away from everyone else."
"It is a great encouragement for each of us, to respond to our call," she added.
The founder of the Daughters of St. Joseph of the Sacred Heart is Blessed Mary McKillop, who will be canonized next October and will thus be the first Australian saint. For Sister Ann this event "will renew us, each sister in my community, because she lived the Gospel in our country helping and struggling for poor people."
Sister Evelin Aguilar was a representative from the Philippines. Superior of the Sisters of the Virgin Mary, founded in her country in 1964, she said she wanted to bring to the meeting the best of the faith in her country. "The Church is very dynamic, the youth are starting to get involved, the laity do a lot of volunteer work."
And she added that the meeting "somehow gives us a strategy to be able to meet the challenges in our countries and in the world."