I am very happy to be able to meet you. Let us thank the Lord who offered us this possibility. Let us also thank the Sisters who at this moment are in the Province, helping in the ministries you have left temporarily. Even this tells us what it really is to be Family and what is fraternal collaboration.
Today. I would like to recall the importance of the moment that prepares us to live together the realization of one Resolution of the General Chapter proposed in 2014 in which the Institute was asked to reflect on the New Evangelization and Missionary Spirit. The Institute feels the need to re-read the charism in the light of the challenge to serve the “peripheries and new poverty” so that we can reflect on our presence as evangelizers, verify our significance and our response to the real needs of the Countries where we find ourselves.
We have asked your Provincial Superiors and Delegate Superiors to send to this meeting, you, Sisters, who are in the second Ministry, so you can share your experiences, suggestions and questions. This sharing is important.
We are here to see where we are at this point, to increase our knowledge of the actual journey and orientation of the Church, how this is realized in the diverse Nations from where you come from, to respond to the new needs of evangelization in your culture. It is necessary to consider together these aspects, to reinvigorate our presence as evangelizers that in some places is losing its strength and quality, even while the Church spurs us to intensify it. Let us think of the Documents of Pope Francis, of the Episcopal Conferences which, in different ways, reaffirm “the urgency of the mission in the context of the New Evangelization and Mission ‘ad Gentes.’”
The General Chapter felt strongly the necessity to “revitalize the missionary spirit and to promote the missionary vocations ad Gentes”. This is the point that I would like to bring out this morning. Vocation ‘ad Gentes’ is in the heart of the Church and to promote vocation ‘ad Gentes’ is to participate in the mission of the entire Church, to respond to the mandate of Jesus: “Go out into the whole world and preach the Gospel to every creature…” (Mt. 16:9), “bring the good news to all humanity.” (EN 18) The mission ‘ad Gentes’ is an integral part of our spirituality that is why in the General Chapter we asked and still we ask ourselves:
“What can we do to keep the mission ‘ad Gentes’ alive again in each one of us, in the communities and in the whole Institute?”
We no longer speak of “mission lands”; instead, we speak of local Churches that are more or less young. But this does not mean that the “Mission ad Gentes” has ended. The missionary dynamism continues to be. It is a constitutive reality of the Church and the need for evangelization is even more urgent.
In this encounter, 16 Provinces, 4 Delegations and 21 Countries are represented. Your presence is the fruit of the “vocation ad Gentes” of the Sisters who have come before us and have transformed in life the call that the Spirit has placed in the heart of Magdalene and in their hearts: “Oh …If we could only go to the whole world…”
“Mission ad Gentes” is part of our Canossian vocation. Its weakening leaves an emptiness in the realization of our spirituality, of our “being Daughters of Magdalene”. The diminishment of missionary zeal, its waning, is a warning bell. It is important to discover the causes, not to undervalue them, to see how to overcome this moment in order to be able to take up again with enthusiasm and renewed courage the missionary mandate we have received as heritage.
A Historical reference
In 158 years of “Mission ad Gentes”, our Sisters have settled in 32 Countries. This has marked a great task in which fidelity to their life of consecration, their courage, creativity, initiative, spirit of sacrifice, motivated by faith and love, have been the support of their missionary thrust.
Pavia, Vimercate, the Mother House, the First Houses have formed the first missionaries, who have come from Italy and for a century, have sustained the missions. From the House of Formation of Vimercate, opened in 1914, within 100 years, 900 Sisters left for the mission. Then slowly while the foundations continued in various Countries, even other Provinces of the Institute, outside Italy, have contributed to support the opening of communities and Ministries in the young Churches with the help of missionaries and material means.
Successively, there was a consolidation of the first Missions, who have now become Provinces of many years. Let us think of Hong Kong: 158 years, Timor: 139, India: 129.
There was the passage from the missionaries to the local Sisters. The commitment of consolidation of each Province required energies and the need to look within its own reality. This passage has brought a major development of the Provinces but in certain cases, it has lessen the attention outside, towards other Provinces more poor in person and means.
We should not be surprised because this growth process is really about people but also about Institutions. This path took place in every Organism at different times. Many Provinces have reached adulthood and are able to give; in fact today the “vocations ad Gentes” spring up outside the European Countries.
A further step forward
This brief and descriptive summary of our journey offers a point to start a common reflection about the situation of our Institute at this moment.
Some years ago, in the records of the General Curia there were no longer the names of Sisters ‘ad Gentes’. What happened? I asked myself: “What has determined the apparent putting off, the waning of this expression of our identity?”
This has motivated the sending to all Sisters of the Institute of the Letter where you were invited to offer yourselves for a service “ad Gentes”, if in your hearts there was this desire. The responses were many, more than a hundred, and I was really glad. I recognized in every response that the identity of the Institute was alive and not drowsy.
Our journey began 210 years ago but the realization of the “Mission ad Gentes” was in the heart of Magdalene always and continues also in many Sisters.
Let us ask ourselves:
- How do we reinvigorate the gift received?
- Are we aware that we cannot renounce “Mission ad Gentes” because it is part of our identity?
- How do we overcome the risk of closing ourselves within our Organism?
- What aspects of our missionary spirit should we give renewed significance?
The world, the society are in constant change. We know that the Church develops her mission in history that constantly evolves. It is necessary to rekindle our being Apostles Missionaries underlining our “Mission ad Gentes”.
Dear Sisters, our Institute is a living body that from 1808 has been giving responses in this evolving history. To question ourselves, to show doubt is beneficial; it is an index of “spiritual vivacity” which was a characteristic of our Foundress.
Our journey asks to welcome responsibly the present time making us in charge of the historical moment which we are living in order to respond to the actual exigencies.
“Let us allow the Spirit to enlighten us, to guide us, to direct us, to lead us. The Holy Spirit knows well what is needed in every time and place.” (EG 280)
Surely, in this Seminar the contributions of Bro. Enzo Biemmi, Fr. Sergio Ticozzi, Sr. Sandra Maggiolo, Sr. Margarete Sta Maria, sr. Theresa Chien the sharing of different missionary experiences will help us to make a step forward. It is necessary to think over proposals and orientations that can be transformed into guidelines for the whole Institute.
With Mary, let us continue the journey. Let us persevere in the research and in the discernment with generosity, audacity and passion so that the “joy of the Gospel”, which is our strength, can also be for all our brothers and sisters in the world.