LIFE AT UISG: NEWS
From the desk of the Executive Secretary
These have been busy months but it has been a very fruitful time. The Executive Board met on May 18-19 and began planning for the meeting of Delegates which will take place in Manila from November 5-11, 2017. The theme of the meeting will be: Building Community in an Intercultural World. We are very grateful for all the preparatory work being undertaken by the Constellation in the Philippines led by Sr. Cecilia Bayona, amp. The members of USG have been reflecting on a parallel theme at their May Assembly: The Discernment of Vocation in an Intercultural World. The papers from this gathering will eventually be made available on the Vidimus Dominum website.
Meetings at the Vatican Dicasteries
Superiors General representing UISG have had their regular May meetings involving the Vatican Dicasteries and representatives of UISG/USG. Members of the Council of 18 met with the Council for the Evangelisation of Peoples to discuss the important topic: “The challenges and opportunities that the Church in Mission Territories will have to face in promoting and discerning vocations to consecrated life.” The Council of 16 which meets with the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life considered “How Superiors General can foster and encourage faithfulness in religious life?” This topic was seen to be very important in the light of the significant numbers of female and male religious who ask to be dispensed from vows each year.
The UISG President Sr. Carmen Sammut, msola and Executive Secretary Sr. Pat Murray, ibvm met with Cardinal Braz de Aviz and Mons. José Carballo on two occasions in May 2017 to share on a variety of important matters. These opportunities to share openly and exchange views about issues of interest and concern to UISG members are greatly appreciated. Sr. Pat met with Cardinal Turkson together with Srs. Elisabetta Flick, sa and Florence de la Villeon, rscj to learn how the new Dicastery for Integral Human Development will function and to explore how UISG can collaborate especially in areas related to migrants, refugees and human trafficking. Because of the commitment of religious to Care of the Environment and Climate Change this is another important area where UISG can collaborate with the new Dicastery. The section of the new Dicastery focusing on Migrants and Refugees has a new website-www.migrants-refugees.va
Canon Law Initiatives
There have been several significant initiatives during these past few months. In January at UISG Sr. Tiziana Merletti, sfp led a workshop with Sr. Elisabetta Flick, sa on Restructuring and Discernment. In February the UISG held two workshops in Nairobi, one in conjunction with ACWECA for Superiors General and the other in collaboration with AOSK for Major Superiors, Counsellors and Formators. Over 150 participants benefitted from these two workshops which were led by the members of the UISG Canon Law Council (Sr. Mary Wright, ibvm, Sr. Mary Gerard Nwagwu, dmmm, Sr. Licia Puthumparambil, smi and Sr. Tiziana Merletti, sfp). Srs. Noelina Nakato, dmm and Marren Akoth Awiti, ibvm also presented at the workshop. Fifteen religious sisters who are currently studying canon law at CUEA (Catholic University of Eastern Africa) also attended the workshop with the Superiors General. Great appreciation was expressed by all the participants and hopefully in the near future there will be sufficient women religious canonists to meet the needs of many Africa countries.
Commission for Child Safeguarding
There have been several meetings held in Rome hosted by the Gregorian University on this important area. The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors held an event on March 23 entitled “Safeguarding in Homes and Schools: Learning from Worldwide Experience”. Guest speakers came from Argentina, Colombia, Mexico, Italy and Australia to share their experience of promoting a culture of safeguarding in Catholic schools, institutions and communities. It is a reminder of the importance for every congregation to make sure that it has safeguarding policies in place for its institutions which should be updated regularly.
Sr. Pat attended the 17th Asia-Oceania Meeting of Religious (AMOR XVII) which met in Yangon, Myanmar from February 27 – March 3, 2017 with the theme: Call for Global Ecological Conversion. There were 132 participants representing National Religious Conferences from 21 countries. The participants reflected on the environmental situations in the countries of Asia-Oceania where they live, work and do mission. They produced a very challenging final statement which calls us all to a change of heart and a simpler and more intentional way of living.
With the last Bulletin you received a copy of Sowing Bountifully – a useful reflection tool produced from a longer research study which was undertaken in Zambia on the relationship between formation, education and ministry. The full report is available through the following link bit.ly/2bwpzaw. The study was sponsored by the GHR foundation and it was translated into four languages. We hope that you will find it useful for your reflection and decision-making no matter where you live. We are all facing similar questions and challenges.
In the ‘News’ section of our website www.uisg.org you will find amplified versions of the following pieces of news, and also some materials which can be downloaded. For any other information you can write to the following email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
The monthly UISG Newsletter is aimed at all the Superiors General who are members of UISG. If you do not receive this, please let us know (email@example.com). When sending out the Newsletter we use a specific programme. If you do not open the UISG Newsletter on a regular basis, it may be that when we send it out again, it could go automatically into your ‘spam’ box. We also have a Newsletter that is for those who are not Superiors General.
Online Formation: Webinar 2017
Since March 2017 we have been putting on a series of online seminars (Webinars) on different topics, with the aim of trying out the platform of online formation from UISG in order to extend this to our members who do not live in Rome and who, for this reason, are unable to participate in the initiatives that take place at our headquarters.
There has been a good response from sisters and this is encouraging for us. As a result, following an evaluation, we will continue this next year, offering a more intensive programme.
The topics that have been covered up to now include: Fund Raising for Religious Life; vocation ministry in preparation for the Synod on youth in 2018; the ethics of communication; and communication for Consecrated Life.
Meeting on the Synod of Bishops on Youth, in the year 2018
On 28 March 2017, Sister Carmen Sammut, President of UISG, invited Superiors General and their Counsellors, together with those responsible for formation and for vocation ministry, from the Constellations of Rome and of Italy, to reflect and to respond together to the questions that Pope Francis had sent to the various continents in his preparatory document for the Synod of Bishops on young people in October 2018. The replies should reach the Secretariat of the Synod by October 2017. More than 80 sisters replied to this invitation, and were divided into groups according to language and continent in order to dialogue on the questions and elaborate common responses to the challenges of youth ministry in today’s world. UISG will also invite other Constellations to take part in this process, and will ask them to send their replies to the Secretariat within the proposed time frame.
2017 Award for Women of Courage
Last March, the Secretary of State for the United States Government awarded the 2017 Women of Courage Award 2017 to a dozen women from all over the world who had distinguished themselves in their work for peace. For the first time a religious sister has received this award, thanks to the collaboration of the United States Embassy at the Holy See and UISG. The Superiors General had presented several candidates and the one who was finally chosen was Sister Carolin Tahhan Fackakh, a Daughter of Mary Help of Christians. Sister Carolin was born in Aleppo and lives and works in Damascus, in a hospital and in a school.
UISG, in collaboration with the Embassy and the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, organised a meeting of witness with Sister Carolin in Rome, on 28 March, 2017. Sister Carolin talked to us about her experience and her concerns for Syria and for the Middle East: ‘My dream is that the Syrian children should be able to live a normal life, like that of other children in the world’.
Seminar on Communication and Interculturality
In collaboration with the International Multimedia Association, UISG sponsored a two-day seminar in Rome on “Communication and Interculturality: a challenge for Religious Life”. There were around seventy participants, drawn from the world of communication and from the governing bodies of religious congregations. The seminar was led by Dr. Diana de Vallescar P., a Spanish professor who teaches in Portugal.
The following topics were discussed: the building of efficient intercultural communication; the elements and the process of intercultural communication; the effects of new information technologies and communication in intercultural relations. The evaluation undertaken by the participants demonstrates that they want to deepen the discussion around interculturality in religious life.
May: month of communication
On the occasion of the 51st World Day of Social Communications (28/05/2017) the Communications office of UISG put on a series of activities called ‘May: month of communication’. These focussed on formation and on the updating of Communication for Religious Life: some were online and others delivered to a live audience. The theme chosen by Pope Francis for the year 2017 is ‘Communicating hope and trust in our time’.
There is an increasing demand for formation and updating of those responsible (both religious and lay people) for communication within Religious Life, with the aim of developing basic proficiency in managing communication within an Institute, whether internal or external. This requires technical expertise in setting up a web page or in using a particular platform and also qualitative skill in searching for an appropriate style in which to present digital communication as religious, without prejudice but with a solid training.
Meeting with one of the Conferences of Religious in the United States
On 1st May 2017 there was a meeting at UISG between some of the UISG staff and the Executive Council of LCWR. The five sisters from LCWR asked about current and future projects of UISG: the challenges regarding the Project against Human Trafficking (Talitha Kum) and the Project for Migrants (Sicily and the International Desk), and regarding Communication and the Council for Canon Law. During the dialogue it became clear that UISG exercises an important role as a bridge and as a network that enables conferences of religious to build up solidarity among religious around the world.
A workshop on formation regarding pastoral, compassionate and spiritual responses to victims of sexual abuse in situations of conflict.
From 2nd till 9th April 2017, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a formation course was developed for religious men and women who are working in Congo, Ruanda and Burundi, on how to offer legal and pastoral accompaniment to victims of abuse in situations of war. The contribution made by staff from Great Britain was particularly valuable because it explained the International Protocol regarding the documentation and investigation of sexual crimes committed during conflicts. Around 33 male and female religious participated, of whom at least 20 are already regularly working with male and female survivors.
UISG meeting with Voices of Faith
Voices of Faith is an organisation which has, for several years, been promoting the Vatican initiative Voci di donne (Voices of Women), on 8 March each year, as part of Women’s Day. Several members of UISG took part in the 2017 event: two ‘voices of faith’ were contributed by religious sisters. All the voices are of women who, in their own countries, succeed in transforming a situation that has involved pain and injustice, into an opportunity for freedom and for life.
On 17 May there was a meeting at UISG between the presidents of the two organisations, Sister Carmen Sammut and Chantal Gotz, and those responsible for communication in their respective organisations, in order to identify a style of communication that might give greater visibility to the commitment of religious women to issues of Peace and Human Rights.
Presentation of the study on International Sisters in USA
With the support of the GHR Foundation, a group of researchers, led by the sociologist Sister May Johnson, SND of Namur, undertook a study of religious sisters born outside of USA and who at present are studying, working or carrying out their ministry in USA. On 4th May 2017 a detailed synthesis of the study was presented in Rome, at the headquarters of UISG: around 70 participants took part, representing the world of male and female religious, various Vatican Dicasteries, and Catholic organisations.
Almost 4000 international women religious live in USA, coming from more than 83 countries in all five continents. The continent that ‘sends’ most religious women is Asia, closely followed by Europe. The ‘international sisters’ are at the younger end of the spectrum, with an average age of 58, compared with North American religious, whose average age is 70. Most of them have higher education qualifications.
In order to download this study and to see the video presentation that accompanies it, go to the following web page: www.uisg.org