“Listen to the Holy Spirit’s promptings and press ahead towards what awaits you”. (GS 7/X/1878)
It is my great pleasure, on behalf of the Institute Leadership Team, Paré, Ana Luísa, Sipiwe, Monica, to welcome you to this EILC meeting of 2022. A very warm welcome to our Area Leaders: Coltrida, Cristina, Kate, Kathleen and Cathy, Maria Teresa, Rosamond and Valeria, and to our invited guests: Bernadette, representing the Unit of France, the EAA council members, Catherine and Susan, Rosemary, our Novitiate Directress. A special welcome to our facilitator, Sr. Brid Long, SSL, and to all who are here in a helping capacity: Mary Genino (communication), Margaret Hoyne (secretarial work), Maria do Rosario and Veronica (translation), Joanne (tecnology) and David Nicholls – son of Brett whom most of us know of Brett Nicholls Associates. Susan Kumnick coordinator of the Committee of the Global Network of RSHM Schools will join us on Saturday. As ILC we want to express our gratitude and appreciation to the EAA Council, Rosamond, Catherine and Susan, who have worked so hard – done everything possible – to accommodate us and collaborate with us in the planning of this meeting. Finally, I am sure I speak for all, when I express our gratitude to the resident team here at Cormaria: Anne, Martina and Scholastica, who have so graciously welcomed each and all of us to this beautiful place, Cormaria.
This is our third EILC since the 2019 General Chapter and the first one in person. How good it is to be together, to be able to go for a walk, have meaningful, heart-to-heart conversations, share our experiences of these past two years, and our hopes, dreams and desires for the future. We come together midway on our journey between Chapters, midway in this “period of experimentation” of moving “towards becoming one unit of governance….”. This is also a very significant time in our Church as it moves forward on the Synodal journey towards becoming a more collaborative and inclusive Church.
We come together against the background of a world still emerging from a global pandemic, a world caught in the turmoil of widespread political and civil unrest, war and violence, a world increasingly affected by natural disasters, a world in which hunger is reaching catastrophic levels and a world, too, that is increasingly multicultural, inter-connected and interdependent.
The theme we have chosen – “Listen to the Promptings of the Spirit and press ahead towards what awaits you”. (GS 7/X/1878) invites us to listen with our hearts and minds, to be attentive to God’s Spirit speaking to us in the events of our world, Church and Institute – and in one another gathered here. May our meeting be truly synodal, a time of active listening, encounter and discernment, as we reflect and make important decisions about our life and mission. During this time together, we want to deepen the bonds of unity and support among us, to strengthen our shared leadership, and to get to know more deeply the reality of each Area, as we continue to journey together toward becoming one unit of governance.
“Listening to the promptings of the Spirit” requires that we take sufficient time for silent prayer and reflection during our meeting. The speed with which things happen nowadays leads us to devalue the time we need to go into the depth of our reflections and decisions. Let us take time. Our last two EILC meetings, by zoom, meant there were constraints on time. Here let us take time. Taking time is not wasting time but allowing things to start, not from the top down, but from the bottom up, (from the heart and gut as well as the head). It means getting in touch with what is moving in each of us and in the group as a whole, as we listen, reflect and share together. What new invitations is God making to us at this time? What new horizons of mission are we being called to?
Our LOGO for this meeting expresses the theme of journeying from the past, represented by the green shoots that were sown at our 2019 General Chapter, when we set out on the journey of restructuring. The journey ahead looks steep but we are not alone. The cloud of bright light represents the Holy Spirit who is enlightening us, urging us forward, prompting us to choose God’s way. The Spirit, the Consoler, strengthens and unites our minds and hearts and brings them into harmony with the mind and heart of Christ (God’s way), makes them available to what God wants.
The journey of restructuring continues to involve all of us, the whole Institute, young and old. We must not forget that its purpose is mission: that we may carry out our mission effectively today and in the future – that, as numbers decrease and structures become simpler and lighter, we may be light and salt, small but making a difference wherever we are. At this stage in our journey of restructuring, we trust that God’s Spirit is opening up new horizons and inviting us – all of us – to new ways of living our life and mission in the 21stcentury.
As we discern God’s invitations to us today and how we can respond to them, we can be certain that we will be given the resources that we need for mission. This was the belief of Fr. Gailhac when he wrote: “I shall pray only that you may have what is necessary to accomplish the works to which God will call you.” We may no longer have large numbers of Sisters, but we have the strength of our unity, the richness of our diversity of gifts, languages and cultures, the wealth and inspiration of our charism which we want to live today ‘with resilience’ and in new ways. We continue to welcome new entrants in some of our Areas and we are blessed with a growing spirit of collaboration within the Institute and with lay people, a gift which enables and empowers us to respond to today’s urgent needs both locally and globally. And we have the advantage of today’s communication technology to deepen unity and lighten the burden of administration. Can we recognise that this time of restructuring, which is requiring us to reduce our works and our properties in the face of declining numbers, is also offering us the grace of opting for the essentials in our choices for mission. Can we see that we are indeed blessed.
We will open the Year of Jean Gailhac during this EILC meeting. May it be a year of abundant blessings for us and for all who are associated with us in mission. So, as we begin our meeting, let us ask with great trust, through the intercession of Fr. Gailhac, to have hearts and minds that are attentive to ‘the Holy Spirit’s promptings’ and let us ask with the same trust that in the year – and years – ahead we ‘may have what is necessary to accomplish the works to which God will call [us]’. Let us now ‘press ahead towards what awaits [us]’.