The intercultural challange withing Religious life
Conversations at UISG, Rome, October 24, 2017
Speaker: Sr. Maria Theresia Hörnemann, Congregational Leader of the Missionary Sisters, Servants of the Holy Spirit and UISG board member.
We thank God that we are diverse. However, we know that the differences are also a source of difficulties, not only in our communities and congregations but also in our multi-cultural world of today. Most of us here, if not all, belong to congregations with members from different nationalities and cultures. In our Congregation, we have now sisters from 50 nationalities. We live and work in 50 countries. Maybe that is the reason I have been invited to initiate and facilitate the conversation on the topic of today. This is not a formal presentation. I will begin with a sharing of some experiences of my Congregation. Then there will be time to share your experiences and questions in groups and in the plenum in order to enrich each other and learn from one another.
As a mission Congregation, we have been encouraged from the very beginning to live in and serve as international communities. One of the criteria of our vocation is being ready to be sent to another country.
Every one of us receives a permanent mission mandate during final vows, either for another province/ region or for our home country. Being sent to another country means that we belong to this mission country. Junior sisters or also sisters in final vows who have never been outside their countries of origin are also sent for Cross Cultural Mission Experience (3 – 6 years), in preparation for the mission in their own countries. After Vatican II new foundations started usually with members from different nationalities.
Even so, we have been living together as members from different nationalities and we have considered ourselves as an international community for a long time, the topic of interculturality has become more and more important during the last years. The word internationality has almost been replaced by interculturality because we know that even members of the same nationality have very different cultures (example Indonesia and India). One of the directions of our last General Chapter in 2014 titled: “Communion within the Congregation” states that: “Humankind is expanding its consciousness to global horizon. At the same time, people struggle to maintain their cultural identity and national sovereignty. Our interculturality as SSpS is an expression of the Spirit’s many faces. We experience both the richness and the struggles of intercultural community living. We become aware of and honestly own the lights and shadows of our intercultural living. We open ourselves to continue transformation as we befriend diversity and the unknown.” During these past three years, we have intensively worked on this direction, together with our SVD brothers. One of the main tasks was the training of intercultural resource persons (three workshops in Nemi, one of them for formators). Those trained are now the resource persons for the provinces and regions. In all our congregational events like assemblies for provincials, formators, and treasurers some days where set apart for the topic of interculturality.
Some of the main insights/ learnings are:
– we all have our prejudice regarding culture
– culture is not born, but learned
– we have to be aware of what culture is and what personality is
– differences should be considered as enriching and not as threatening
– living in and with other cultures need the awareness of one’s own culture
– there is no perfect culture, we have to look at culture in the light of the Gospel culture.
Interview to a Sister of Sr. Maria Theresia’s Congregation about her intercultural experience:
Possible questions for group sharing:
1. What are the blessings and difficulties you experience regarding Interculturality in your communities, teams, and congregation?
2. What has helped you in intercultural living?
3. How could UISG support intercultural life and mission as religious communities?