In the context of the pandemic that we are experiencing in our world and in the light of Easter, Sisters from Latin America share with us a reading of their new regional structure using the metaphor of the basic cell. They shine a light for us on the invitation of Jesus who goes out to meet the women and tells them “Do not be afraid, go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me”.
Wanting to embrace a new structure
In the context of Easter, the longstanding desire to revive our missionary mandate as Daughters of Jesus has been even more powerful. In January we launched a new regional structure that focuses on local communities. Building on the metaphor of basic cells, cells of a living organism that is the Congregation, we are seeking to renew the structure of our meetings, our ways of organizing ourselves, of “drinking from the source”. By doing this we want to take care of our common home, go out to the new existential peripheries, update the charism, and to revive the gift of the vocation of discipleship. We are not alone in this search; in this context of pandemics, the world is also looking to a new way of thinking.
This new way of thinking has been imposed on us in a short space of time. Father François de Roux expresses it well when he says that it is “political will” that has made it possible to have everyone stay at home, to slow down the economy, the rhythm of life, our daily habits. Foreseeing the inability to cope with a massive expansion of the virus, quarantine for everyone and a whole system of care has been implemented. Staying at home, taking care of yourself as an exercise in caring for others, taking care of your immune system … these are some of the measures that have shown how other viruses can mortally affect the living organism. One example of this is the effect on families, where the precariousness of living from day to day is evident, with overcrowding, the difficulty of being together, and of organizing oneself outside of work. What is happening to families is a reflection of the virus that attacks our educational systems, religious communities, the Church, and health systems, among others.
I make all things new
In the face of this evidence of precariousness and of a high degree of vulnerability, the Spirit that accompanies humanity has inspired us to organize ourselves in new ways. It is perhaps not just a coincidence that quarantine coincided with the Lenten season of conversion, of heartfelt reflection on the motives behind our thoughts, our choices, and our actions.
It has thus been a time of grace and opportunity. In the midst of the cry of the hungry, a whole creative movement has emerged. We can cite:
- the sharing of goods, or the creation of ‘meeting spaces’,
- community aid and other forms of accompaniment,
- changes in how we work and rest,
- expressions of humour, the writing of new songs,
- reflection on the causes and effects of the spread of the virus.
A new way of assuming the motto of the “Church that goes out“ is emerging. Not being able to go out into the streets as much as we would like, we understand a little what it means to go out to the peripheries of existence. We have dared to propose meetings among ourselves that go beyond the formal, to open up dialogues, to talk, to put in common, to listen. At the ecclesial level, a movement is emerging, priests are leading celebrations in empty churches or in different places, with the conviction that people who believe will enter into their “inner temple“ to meet God. As Monsignor Pablo Emiro Salas said in Barranquilla, “We were accustomed to massive encounters, to long processions and pilgrimages, today is a time to make a pilgrimage of the heart.
Sixteen families reunited using Zoom to pray the Way of the Cross together
Jesus goes out to meet us
The quarantine is now illuminated by Easter. As Daughters of Jesus, The Spirit of the Risen One challenges us and lets us see how the virus could be affecting our basic cells. He says to us us again, “Women, rejoice; do not be afraid to go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, for there they will see me” (Mt 28:10). Today we can say that yes, we missed the people and the tradition, but we have found a great deal of joy in the way we can be together in a celebration where God speaks to the heart of each and every one of us. We can affirm the value of gratuity, of dialogue, of new ways of accompanying people by telephone or online, of a virtual Way of the Cross, or serving as intermediaries to deliver some food. All of these new ways of going about things has opened us up to a change of pastoral structure.
We have taken more time to pray, to watch the news together, occasionally a film. We have learned to be together, to eat together, to be available, free, taking care of the house. This has strengthened the community’s immune system so that it can cope with the viruses of selfishness, division, anxiety about the economic system that encloses us in unhealthy circles, of living outwardly or inwardly our own personal project. I believe that like families, it has been good for us to learn to be together, to dialogue in simplicity, to share at table, Jesus’ favourite place to share life.
And after the pandemic?
Continuing with the metaphor of the basic cell, a well-cared-for immune system will be able to deal with viruses and cancerous cells so that the Congregation as a body can continue to serve and reassume its mission of going out into the streets, of going to the peripheries of existence without fear, of going out to face the world that we will find after the pandemic. It is sure that a reinforced prophetic presence will be needed to allow us to heal our wounds, to learn to be together, to get on with life, attending with love to the victims who have been left in debt, unemployed, or anxious and uncertain in many cases.
With the women of Easter let us walk firmly from the Cross, firm in deciding to carry the perfume and await with hope before the tomb so that we can be witnesses of the joy of the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus.
Sisters of the community of Cali, Colombia