It is hard to believe that a week has gone and yet it seems like we have been here for a very long time! We had a whole day on our finances on Friday 14th.
Sr. Alice (General Bursar) introduced Mr George Fitzsimmons (Financial Advisor). George explained things very clearly and with the use of really informative slides, so that by the end of the day we all understood the workings of a CIO (Charitable Incorporated Organisation) and were more than reassured of the transparency, accountability and gospel stewardship in our finances. This demonstrated how the Institute has been faithful to the desire to have a Central Fund as expressed in the 2013 Chapter. It was wonderful to learn how the funds are being used to develop our missionary outreach so that the needs of the poorest of people are being met.
|Later that day, we had a formal sharing with Cardianl Braz de Aviz who is the Prefect for the Institute on Consecrated Life at the Vatican. He gave us an overview of numbers and reminded us of what Pope Francis has said about the urgent challenges in our world today and the need for religious who are Christ-centred, disciples of the Gospel and faithful to their charisms. We also had some interesting sharing about new forms of religious life and collaboration with the laity.|
|Saturday was a Free Day! We were like excited school children going off in the bus with our picnics! It began to rain but it was only joking! Sr. Marina had arranged an excellent guide and we began at the Colosseum, an ancient amphitheatre in Rome. From there we visited the Church of St. Clement and saw some truly amazing mosaics. Later, we walked up the Aventine Hill – one of the seven in Rome and visited a most interesting area for the early Christians particularly Aquila and his wife Priscilla and heard more about the beginnings of the house churches in the time of St. Paul.|
We visited the oldest Roman Basilica dedicated to St. Sabina which is said to have been built over one of these house churches. The Dominicans have a long association with this place; St. Thomas Aquinas lived here for some time. In the afternoon, some of us continued to visit places of interest until we ended up at the Vatican. We came back exhausted but happy and, according to ‘Fitbit’, had done over 22,000 steps which is about eight miles! Thank God for Italian ice-cream, cool churches and places to sit!
On Sunday, the work of the Chapter began, or rather continued, with the proposals received from our Provinces. We had time for personal reflection, small group sharing, working in pairs and plenaries. It was simply amazing to find so much consensus at the end of the day! Thank you for your prayers because we are all aware of the sure guidance of the Holy Spirit. Already we are beginning to turn our attention to the election of a new Superior General and Team and that process will begin to take centre stage on the afternoon of Friday 28th so pray even more so that we may clearly identify how the Lord is calling us.
We were joined by Sr. Genevieve-Maryvonne and Sr. Marie Lydia from the Sisters of Providence on Monday and had a formal session on the Nicolas Barré Federation. Sr. Brigitte Flourez IJS, gave us a background to our common origins and on the many gatherings of both congregations in France since we established the Federation 50 years ago; this was followed by input from Sr. Noreen McGrath IJS and Sr. Benedicta IJS, about how we collaborate in Africa, i.e. in Cameroon, Nigeria and Central Africa. It was really inspiring to hear about how they have met, celebrated and reflected on the way forward together in mission. We also heard from Sr. Marie Lydia about the Brothers of Nicolas Barré in Madagascar and more recently in Central Africa – an emerging group of young men who also feel called to live our charism.
Already the Federation is making plans to celebrate 400 years since the birth of Nicolas Barré; initial planning has begun to have a great gathering in Amiens on May 9th, 2021. All who are inspired by Nicolas Barré and by our spirituality are welcome, so save the date!
Later, during a meal, some of us were excited to learn that the Sisters of Providence are still in Seaford, in the south of England. There are two Sisters, one from Wales and the other from Madagascar. We plan to be in contact, arrange a meeting and who knows what may come of it!
We have some very special times of prayer and liturgy here. One of the most powerful is when we sit in silence at the beginning of our daily programme. Each Mass or Evening Prayer is prepared by a different Province and they have all been wonderfully creative and inspiring.
On Wednesday, June 26th, we went to the Vatican and met Pope Francis. This was again arranged by the Italian Province; indeed they started planning it at least a year ago. They had everything organised brilliantly. We left the house at 7 am in small groups and by 9.45 we were in our allotted places in St. Peter’s Square. There were thousands of other pilgrims! It was like a Christian hajj! We felt very special indeed when we were officially welcomed, along with lots of other groups who were in Rome for Chapters or other events, and we made a big noise!! The sun beat down without mercy but it didn’t seem to bother us too much! After the Pope’s address and his apostolic blessing, which he also extended to our loved ones, we were hurriedly taken to the steps in front of St. Peter’s and arranged in a group so that we could be introduced to Pope Francis. I don’t know how he managed it but we felt that he was greeting each one of us personally; of course Sr. Marie got a special handshake! Later we were each gifted with a Rosary from Pope Francis; a beautiful moment of a very special day.
28 June 2019