On the occasion of the Feast of Candlemas, Sister Viviana shares with us some accents to be privileged in the religious life of Latin America and the Caribbean. She speaks particularly of the option for life in community as a prophetic sign of the light of Christ that we wish to show to the world of today.
Choosing the path of conversion towards Jesus
Religious life has entered into a process of discernment and reflection on what it means to be a religious at a time of crisis and profound change both at a global level, and at the level of suffering humanity. This process of discernment has favoured the awareness of the call of the God of Jesus Christ. Given that the prophetic dimension is essential in religious life, why has the latter become less prophetic and less of a witness in today’s world?
This discernment and reflection have highlighted the urgency of putting ourselves back on the route towards what is essential in the following of Jesus. This entails a personal and structural conversion that favour a mission based on the prophetic identity that we have received.
Community as the cell of a living organism
This return to the essential has shown that the first thing we must cultivate is the experience of community life. From the very beginnings of religious life, it is the community aspect that has been foremost in the expansion of the Gospel. Community reflects back alternative values to society. It is a prophetic sign that, through its life, announces a greater good – Jesus and his way of living. During the regional assembly of the Daughters of Jesus in Latin America in January 2020, we used the metaphor of the cell. we wanted to say through this metaphor that, if the communities as cells are healthy, then the whole Congregation as a body, will be healthy.
If we strengthen the experience of community as a cell, we can then be faithful to the mission entrusted to us in today’s society. It is by living in international, intergenerational and intercultural communities, with all their diversity, that we discover that the experience of community is a true university of life. It becomes a process of human growth, and of a mature spiritual life. In this experience, we do not choose whom we will live with. On the other hand, if we choose to love, we learn to relate to others in a spirit of respect and charity. We learn to keep alive the desire to know ourselves as brothers and sisters called by God to share in His mission.
Community as witness and sign
The experience of community means fostering the knowledge of each other’s cultural, family, academic, and pastoral roots, and of our life projects at a personal, spiritual, and apostolic level. We need to put in common not only our material goods but also what gives rise to life in us and around us, what concerns and occupies us. In other words, we need to share our experience of faith. We need to strengthen each other in following Jesus and to speak of the gestures of the Kingdom that we see or that we help to bring about. We need to make the Word and the gesture come alive among us.
A local community that takes this step will be a reflection, a witness, a sign of God and of His way of relating and acting. As a trinitarian God, He is the encounter between three different people. This interpersonal encounter necessarily brings us out of our comfort, or our indifference.
A community of mission is a magnificent opportunity to grow in social awareness and develop a clear vision of the meaning of :
- an option for community in a world of ephemeral and sometimes broken relationships.
- the vows we profess and of their impact on those around us.
- our academic and spiritual formation.
- the choices, decisions and actions that we take as religious.
- the collectives or networks of which we are part.
- managing our time so as to favour a life project that is both personal and collective.
When people ask us about our life, our way of relating to one another, our way of sharing, of working, of dressing, of eating, it is this that they have in mind.
Latin America says, “The hour has come!” The Conference of Religious of Latin America and the Caribbean in particular, have taken this reference to the story of the wedding at Cana in the Gospel of John 2, 1 – 12 as their slogan, as a horizon to aspire to. One of the highlights of this story is the active participation and leadership of the whole community. It is not only the bride and groom who are the actors in the story, but the needy community – Mary, Jesus, the master, the servants, the guests, and the steward. In religious life today, we celebrate this sign of a community that is ready to say that Jesus’ hour has come. Latin America and the Caribbean feel that the time has already arrived for collaborative leadership. The time has come to return to Jesus, to enter into a dynamic of renewal, a renewal of community and network structures or organizations, in accordance with our mission, in accordance with the Kingdom.
“What can a community that is united not do?”
(Mother Marie de Charles)
A community in which the newness of the Spirit takes hold.
Sr Viviana Carolina Forero Angulo dj