Province "Santa Elisabetta" - XVI Provincial Chapter 2021
On August 5 - 11, 2021, in the Provincial House in Limassol - Cyprus, we contemplated the wonders of the Lord by celebrating the XVI Provincial Chapter, with the theme: 150 years of missionary service in the Middle East! Enriched by the experiences of the past, we live the present with confidence and face the challenges of the future with courage.
The chapter sisters, who came to Cyprus from our various communities and missions, experienced the chapter meeting as a renewed proposal for the spiritual and apostolic life of the entire Province. In the contemplative search for God and in the concrete responses of the deepest desires that mark our day, we were accompanied by the pleasing presence of the Superior General Sister Paola Dotto and Sister Augusta Visentin, Secretary General.
Sister Paola and Sister Augusta have supported us, encouraging us to sow the seeds of brotherhood, openness and acceptance in this beloved land of the Middle East: a land of saints and a significant memory that encourages our present in faith and hope, projecting us towards the jubilee of 150 years of missionary service, with a creative and courageous lifestyle.
The dominant experience was that of the spiritual exercises, in preparation for the Provincial Chapter, led by Father Jerzy Kraj ofm, patriarchal vicar for Latin Catholics in Cyprus. From the beginning the speaker invited us to get in touch with God by letting ourselves be questioned by His Presence, and to draw from the figure of Saint Joseph to discover the Providence of God in our daily lives, following some guidelines:
- give us strength and courage at this strong time of the Provincial Chapter;
- take a step forward in accepting the will of God;
- experience the hunger and thirst of God and His Word;
- make room, within us, today, for the grace of God;
- learn from Saint Joseph to be men and women who base their lives on faith in God.
The reflections focused on the figure of Saint Joseph, father and custodian of the house of Nazareth, focusing on his faith and acceptance as a model rich in spiritual wisdom and personal and community pedagogy. God entrusts himself to us in his sister, in the poor, in the needy, and our response to this gesture of love must be expressed in total trust in him, in unconditional surrender, like Joseph.
“The spiritual path that Joseph traces for us is not one that explains, but accepts. Only as a result of this acceptance, this reconciliation, can we begin to glimpse a broader history, a deeper meaning (...) Joseph is certainly not passively resigned, but courageously and firmly proactive. In our own lives, acceptance and welcome can be an expression of the Holy Spirit’s gift of fortitude. Only the Lord can give us the strength needed to accept life as it is, with all its contradictions, frustrations and disappointments”. (Patris corde, 4)
Pope Francis says that Joseph “who was able to turn a problem into a possibility by trusting always in divine providence.” (Patris corde n.5). This beautiful emphasis on Saint Joseph spurs us to transform our way of life into obedient listening to the Word, in concreteness and silence, starting with the Person of Jesus.
Pope Francis also suggests and recommends that we invoke Saint Joseph as a father and learn from him spiritual fatherhood.
“Fathers are not born, but made. A man does not become a father simply by bringing a child into the world, but by taking up the responsibility to care for that child. Whenever a man accepts responsibility for the life of another, in some way he becomes a father to that person”. (Patris corde n. 7)
Joseph, contemplative, docile, humble, silent, father and custodian of the house of Nazareth, for us today becomes the immediate image to narrate the consecrated life in a simple and prophetic way, enriched in our fraternities by the diversity of nations and cultures.
At the end of the spiritual exercises Father Jerzy urged us to welcome with wonder what is daily, to convert the ordinary into extraordinary, to let ourselves be touched by the grace of God and sisters, to live relationships of love and to generate a future together. This is the miracle to ask for our fraternities.
A fruitful journey was traced to us by the Superior General Sister Paola Dotto, who encouraged us in our commitment to build bridges and positive relations between the two worlds: Western and Eastern, with simple style, in the richness of synodality and in the acceptance of the greatness of God in feriality.
Sister Paola underlined with satisfaction the privilege we have in our Province: to be presence and living witness in the Church, bearers of the joy of the Gospel in the diversity of faces, cultures, ethnic groups and religions, meeting brothers and sisters fleeing war, from hunger, trafficking, fear, violence. He urged us to make our own the goal that the Church, as a caring Mother, proposes to us: to care for spiritual values, formation in all ages, the prophecy of consecrated life, inserted in a society that has the cult of well-being, of hedonism, of individualism.
In these days, lived in communion, we have highlighted the sacred history of our Province and our personal, community and pastoral resources in the search for the one Good. Therefore, we consider it important for us to have a common commitment in the diverse world in which we find ourselves, facing up to it, without scaring the current situation. Sister Paola emphasized the quality of life and reiterated that this reality must provoke in us the greater awareness that we have a life in Jesus to witness, we have a time to devote to listening, to welcoming the other, making ourselves instruments and collaborating passionately with the action of the Spirit in the people we meet, in the serene search for the will of the Father.
During the assembly we allowed ourselves to be questioned by some questions:
- On the eve of the 150 years of presence and service, what is our response today to the mission which Christ himself entrusts to us?
- In the light of the Word of God, what path of renewal are we called to take, identifying the needs of the Church and of the world?
- Are we able to understand the signs of the times following the example of our founders and first sisters?
- Are we mission? Are we fraternity that witnesses and attracts?
The presence of the missionary sisters and the sharing of the beauty of the missions of Cyprus, Lebanon and Bulgaria was another constructive moment for all of us, because it made us perceive our missionary heart that goes where there is need of love and tenderness, and consequently embraces the poor, the least, the refugees and the marginalized. Missionary fraternities and sisters, in their various forms, guard and proclaim the Gospel with courage, drawing in prayer zeal and compassion for humanity (cf. Cos. 4).
In this context of internationality and interculturality, just as in the origins of our Religious Family, and in the fraternal atmosphere of great experiences and desires, sustained by the prayer of the elderly and sick sisters, With confidence we let ourselves be guided by the Holy Spirit for the election of the Provincial Superior Sister Antonia Piripitsi and her Council.
In her closing speech of the XVI Provincial Chapter 2021, Superior General Sister Paola Dotto shared some thoughts, almost a program of life, that helps us to renew our way of life and traces the path to the future not only of our consecrated life but of all humanity:
- to feel ourselves provoked by the richness of the congregational, spiritual and human patrimony, which shines through our history, and which encourages us to sink ever deeper roots in the Lord and in the witness of life of the many sisters who have preceded us;
- live with enthusiasm the 150th anniversary of the mission, in the sign of the restitution to God, with gratitude, of all the Good he accomplished in so many courageous sisters with the power of the Spirit, animated by merciful love for all, without distinction, and in particular, close to the poor and the weak;
- with docility and openness of mind and heart, collaborate, in synodality, for the construction of a universal brotherhood, in dialogue with the religions present in the mission;
- by living, pointing out Jesus and the Gospel to the people who make their way with us, and continuing convinced and in communion with the Church;
- take to heart the present and the future of Consecrated Life as FMSC in this Land of mission, with evangelical creativity and family spirit, looking to St Elizabeth, to the sisters who have gone before us and to our Founders.
On the feast of Saint Clare, "Francis' Little Plants", we concluded the XVI Provincial Chapter 2021 with sentiments of gratitude for the greatness of God in our midst.
To Sister Paola Dotto Superior General and Sister Augusta Visentin we express our fraternal gratitude for having accompanied us in serene sharing and courageous proposals.
Certain of His presence, let us continue the journey together, in the sign of humble and trusting restitution for all the good received, with passion, with strong faith, with ardent love and apostolic zeal!
To Thee be praise and glory forever and ever. Amen!