The Asian Forum, organised by the Provincials of Asia, was conceived two years ago. The Sisters of Asia from the four Provinces of Japan, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand gathered in Bangkok with the following aims:
- to get to know each other better and build bonds as IJ Sisters in Asia.
- to listen to God’s call to inculturate our Charism in Asia, keeping in focus our prophetic role in Asia today in the 21st Century and beyond.
- to look at new ways to respond to the calls and challenges of today and to see together the way forward in our collaboration in mission and the sharing of resources, to cross boundaries or even coming together as one in our response since we share the same vision and heritage.
- to collaborate together on joint projects e.g. formation and mission.
- to look at new forms of membership and
- to look at our interconnectedness and collaboration with our lay partners in mission.
This Asian Forum became a reality on the 6th November 2016 when 46 Sisters from the four Provinces came to Thailand to spend the next three days together to see, reflect and share on how they see the future of Religious Life (IJS) in Asia. We are grateful to Sr Hirota Shizue (Filo), a Mercedarian sister for being our resource person and Sr Kathleen Geaney, a Columban sister for being our facilitator. We are also grateful to Mrs Mathews Shuquo, our lay partner from Singapore for accepting to be our secretary.
The Asian Forum opened on the 6th November with a welcome Thai dance by the students of Mary Immaculate Convent School in Chonburi. This culturally rich and graceful dance together with the hospitality by our Thai Sisters set the scene for our Asian Forum in the next few days. The Sisters are grateful to Sister Marie and Sister Noreen for their presence and participation at our Forum.
On the first day, we were invited to be still,
It is a contemplative way of being together; a way of engaging meaningful conversations that are rooted in deep listening … We listen from an inner silence that creates a space where something new can emerge. We come together in a circle of peers, of equals (where no one is an expert, no one is teaching, dominating, persuading). We come with the intention of creating a field of presence and love by grounding our awareness in our hearts, our Source, our interiority, our God. And at the same time, we offer ourselves wholeheartedly to creating communion in this circle as we intentionally listening for something new to emerge.
We practice three skills of contemplative dialogue:
- contemplative listening
- contemplative speaking
- and intentionally creating a WE space among us as we listen to and build on one another’s thoughts. Thus WE space will be a space of the Ruah… being fully aware and attentive to God’s gift and grace revealed in the present moment, no matter what is happening in that moment.
We were posed with challenging questions:
Listen to what is stirring in you…
Deal with the diversity…
Journey towards a new way of being IJs in Asia and in the world…
Dream… Imagine… Be creative…
Trusting … Audacious…
- How do we respond to the challenging reality in a new way?
- What is God telling me as I look at the reality of Asia in the light of our Charism?
- What is burning in my heart?
- What is our dream for a common Asian response as IJs to the reality of Asia today?
This led to the setting up of an Asian Mission Team appointed by the Provincials with members (either a sister or a lay collaborator) from each Province/District to carry out feasibility studies on new calls in other parts of Asia, discern the response with the Asian Provincial Teams and network with existing NGOs. Sisters and lay collaborators who feel called, has the IJ Spirit and passion for and experience of mission, good health and able to work as a team are invited to offer their services.
We began each morning with prayer in the prayer space and each evening with mass in the chapel.
In the light of our IJ experience of collaboration with lay partners:
- What ways forward/new ways are opening before us?
- Name one or two concrete steps we can take at the Asian level in terms of collaboration with lay partners.
- Another dream is to have our next Asian Forum where both the Sisters and our Lay Partners will participate
- The Forum generated a lot of energy and enthusiasm and all felt that it was worthwhile, inspirational and life-giving.
With renewed faith and hope,
we go forth in trust, assured of God's word:
“ I am with you always.” Mt 28:20