The morning session of the 1st February 2016 International meeting for Consecrated Life in Communion consisted of the presentations of a seven-member panel representing several of the varied forms of Consecrated Life. Father Federico Lombardi, SJ chaired this session, which was opened with an intervention of H. E. Mgr. José Rodríquez Carballo, OFM, the Archbishop Secretary of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life. Archbishop Carballo briefly summarized the main elements of Consecrated Life in the Pontificate of Pope Francis as being joy, communion, prophecy (that requires courage and freedom), going to the peripheries (including the peripheries of thinking) and being questioned. Three other ideas expressed by Archbishop Carballo were: 1) There are more signs of life in Consecrated Life today than there are signs of death; 2) The different forms of Consecrated Life are like a mosaic: we are not copies of each other; rather, like the beauty of a mosaic, the different forms express the beauty of diversity in communion; and 3) We need to go forward together – in communion and not in confusion.
Sister Carmen Sammut, MSOLA (president of UISG) spoke about three essential elements in the life of Apostolic Religious: Exodus, Community Life and Mission. Sister Carmen said that the Exodus experience implies an exodus from my self – leaving aside my plans so as to embrace the path that leads to adoration and service where we encounter the Risen Christ. Having been disturbed by meeting Christ and left everything to follow Him, the source of Joy, we need to ask ourselves: Are we still in love with Christ? This love needs to be deepened constantly. She went on to stress the importance of Community Life for apostolic religious, where our love for one another needs to be manifested in tenderness for each other and respect for cultures (among us and those beyond us). Carmen noted that we are engaged in a structural shift today that requires true discernment to guide our decision-making. We are called to a simple lifestyle with an integral ecology. As we live our call to Mission, she reminded us that we must scrutinize the signs of the times and discern whether our present mission outreach is in line with today’s needs. We need to Listen – to God and to the voices of the people calling out to us (e.g. youth, families, victims of human trafficking, migrants…) and then we need to Respond.
Brother Emili Turu, FMS, also representing Institutes of Consecrated Life, supported the synthesis offered by Sister Carmen and offered some additional insights. With regards to Mission, Brother Emili stressed that apostolic religious must be a presence of the tenderness of God on the borders: on both the borders of society and the borders of the Church. Called to be prophets among the people, apostolic religious are not agents of institutions. As such, we have the ability to be a bridge between those who feel marginalized by the “institution” and the institution itself. This requires genuine dialogue – listening to learn. In making reference to the virus of clericalism, Brother Emili said that apostolic religious life offers a remedy to this in the stress that we place on the brotherhood and sisterhood of apostolic religious: we need to emphasize the horizontal relationships among all the people of God. In conclusion, Brother noted the fundamental challenge of Mysticism for apostolic religious today. The trend is towards superficiality; we need to find a new balance in our lives.
The four other members of the panel were: Sister Ester Stucchi, OSB who represented monastic life, Olga Krizova who represented Secular Institutes, Paola Pellicanó who represented the Order of Virgins and Sr. Anna Katharina Pollmeyer, Beat, who represented New Forms of Consecrated Life. Each of the presenters gave us very clear insights into the charism of their particular form of Consecrated Life, the strengths and challenges they confront today and the blessing that these charisms are for the Church and the world. This session was enlightening for all of the participants.
Sr. Georgeanne M. Donovan, smsm