Today, together with the Holy Father and a very fervent crowd of worshipers, we celebrated Evening Prayer II for the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul in the splendid Basilica dedicated to him here in Rome. We were deeply moved by the faith of the people and the sense of ecclesiality that permeated the Basilica. It also thrilled us to hear the Benedictine monks solemnly intone in Gregorian chant words so dear to all the members of the Pauline Family: St. Paul, Apostle, preacher of truth and doctor of the Gentiles, intercede for us! Once again, we felt our Father very close to us.
This moment of liturgical prayer marked the closing of our meeting. This morning Sr. Antonieta gave each of us a copy of our new Project for redesigning our presences, entitled: Where the Lord Is Leading Us. She then thanked God for guiding us along his path–the right path for us–and encouraged us to follow him joyfully. Our demanding work, fecundated by his blessings, enabled us to all look toward the same horizon, acknowledging that the journey we have begun will include times of fatigue, uncertainty and darkness. But we are all resolved to “pull the Pauline cart” in the same direction and this will happen if, as St. Paul says, we continue to cultivate the same sentiments of Christ and grow in mutual love among ourselves.
Paul, who guided our journey, invites us to live in a state of continual conversion and to expand our hearts to meet the needs of humanity, without being conditioned by the past, by outdated ways of thinking and by activities that are already consolidated. Sr. M. Antonieta suggested that on our journey we should “take a minimum of luggage and walk with a light step, looking into the distance.” She said that in our “backpack” we should carry the Word of God, which will give light and vigor to our discernments, and that we should cultivate an attitude of listening to the voice of the Spirit and to the cries of humanity, wounded by countless physical, moral and spiritual sufferings.
Our Project for redesigning our presences, she concluded, will give rise to further steps that will involve all our sisters in a dynamic process of renewal and growth. So let us have faith in the fruits of the Spirit.
Rome, 24 January 2009
We lived the days of our enlarged council meeting in the light of Paul, praying over the itinerary of his life, seeking to carry out our work with his spirit and making the effort to follow in his footsteps.
We felt the Apostle’s presence among us even more strongly during this last stage of our meeting. Today, in fact, we approved the Project for the redesigning of our presences, allowing Paul to once again illuminate us by means of the words he heard from Christ himself on the way to Damascus, “Get up and stand on your feet” (Acts 26:16): an invitation to us to live in a spirit of continual conversion and profound unity among ourselves, propelling the “cart” of the Pauline mission forward with the energy of the Spirit. Having come to a common vision, we strengthened our determination to carry out this journey together, realizing that will not always be an easy one and that it will require a lot of hard work, but nevertheless convinced that we have set out on the path pointed out to us by the Lord. And so we will continue to move ahead trustingly.
We, the General Government and the superiors taking part in the enlarged council meeting, carried out our work as representatives of all the sisters of the Congregation. Now we will continue this journey by striving to transmit the spirit and proposals of the Project to everyone in such a way that the FSPs throughout the world will follow the same path and so that the redesigning of our presences will become an accomplished fact, to the joy of everyone.
Rome, 23 January 2009
The Latin saying: motus in fine velocior, that is, “things go faster at the end,” is abso-lutely true. We can confirm this because today our work went very well and at high speed! The speed was deliberate, above all because many ideas are emerging and our views concern-ing the work of redesigning our presences are becoming more concrete.
Today we sought to pinpoint a number of lines of action on the congregational level to implement our working objectives, which aim to involve all our sisters as much as possible in this itinerary and help us get to know our socio-cultural, ecclesial and congregational situations so as to decide all together the steps to be taken. The whole redesigning process will be founded on the Word of God, which gives us the light, inspiration and wisdom we need to understand where the Lord is leading us and which enables us to make the changes necessary for this.
All together, we came to a consensus concerning the journey we want to make: one that will follow “a broad and spacious path” that does not lose sight of our goal. And we will reach that goal as step by step we face our problems and fears and conquer them. We are reas-sured that this is possible by a beautiful phrase that is an integral part of our charismatic herit-age: “Do not be afraid. I am with you.”
We’ll be in touch again tomorrow!
Interview with Sr. Maggie Ishaq Superior of the FSP Delegation of Pakistan Sr. Maggie Ishaq, the Superior of our Pakistan Delegation, is participating in the enlarged council meeting on the theme of “redesigning our FSP presences throughout the world.” Sr. M. Antonieta Bruscato, Superior General, and Sr. Samuela Gironi, General Councilor for formation, made the Fraternal Visit to our communities in Pakistan from 15-30 November 2008. We asked Sr. Maggie to tell us about the FSP presence in Pakistan and the challenges to our Pauline mission there.
Sr. Maggie, could you please give us a short presentation of the Delegation?
Our Pakistan Delegation is young, vibrant and brimming over with hope, in spite of the fact that we carry out the apostolate of proclaiming the Gospel through the instruments of social communication in the midst of a very tiny number of Christians. We are also trying to promote dialogue between Christians and Muslims.
What is a distinguishing feature of the Pauline presence in this country?
99% of the Pakistani people are Muslims. In spite of a widely-diffused atmosphere of funda-mentalism and terrorism, the Daughters of St. Paul are striving with faith and courage to reach all the dioceses of the country, even those farthest away, so that as many people as possible will receive the Gospel message, especially through dissemination of the Bible.
What are the main challenges facing the Pauline mission in Pakistan today?
To mention just a few: the ongoing rivalry and violence between various factions in society; discrimination and injustice toward Christians; the fact that we live and work in a culture that manifests a low esteem for women, and also the fact that there is a shortage of sound leader-ship in the Church.
Sr. Maggie, what do you hope for the future?
To give our young women a suitable preparation [for the Pauline life and mission]. Currently, we have 17 aspirants, 3 novices and 10 junior professed sisters. I hope that with a sound for-mation, they will become strong, courageous and holy women like Maestra Thecla (the Co-Foundress of the Daughters of St. Paul), and that they will establish a powerful “Pauline net-work” in Pakistan, in keeping with the desire of Blessed James Alberione.
Rome, 22 January 2009
Today was dedicated to searching for the “path” to follow in redesigning our presences. Together, we clarified our reasons for undertaking this journey and the attitudes that should accompany it, such as faith, a sense of belonging to the Institute, great openness of mind and heart, discernment, a willingness to change, courage and determination.
Our small-group discussions were followed by debate and further clarifications in the assembly, where we came to a convergence of ideas concerning the general and working objectives we want to reach, thus laying the first “stones” of our Project. Tomorrow we will focus on the concrete lines of action needed to implement it. We will let you know the results of our work as soon as possible, and also how we hope to involve all our sisters in this reflection on the continental, circumscription and local levels.
Taking advantage of the presence of all our major superiors gathered here at the Generalate, we spent the afternoon exchanging ideas concerning the FSP trademark we have been using for the past 15 years, in an effort to ensure that it will continue to express our apostolic identity in an effective way.
Rome, 21 January 2009
Babel or Pentecost? Today our assembly swung between a “Babel of many tongues,” ways of expressing ourselves and points of view…and a “Pentecost of light and fire” that worked the miracle of bringing about a convergence of ideas, time after time, concerning the objectives we want to reach by redesigning our presences. Today more than ever, the meet-ing’s facilitator, Sr. Battistina Capalbo, had many opportunities to demonstrate her ability to provide us with guidance and to summarize input clearly and briefly. We are very happy to be holding this meeting here “at home” on the grounds of our Generalate. The St. Paul House is comfortable and quiet and we are taking full advantage of its new conference hall, which is equipped with everything necessary for international meetings. Tomorrow we will let you know a little more about where our “Pentecost” is leading us!
Rome, 20 January 2009
We are almost halfway through our journey and we want to thank you for all the mes-sages, best wishes and promises of prayer that you have sent us. All of this gives us great encouragement.
How is our work going? Fr. Mario Aldegani’s talk this morning answered many ques-tions for us and satisfied our curiosity about a lot of things. He discussed the redesigning process, which he said many Congregations are going through today. We found it very helpful to get to know the steps taken by various religious Institutes, both masculine and feminine, in implementing this process, together with the problems they encountered and the results that were achieved. Fr. Mario then offered us some criteria and lines of action to help us avoid making choices based on “emergency situations” and also to avoid falling into the trap of thinking that redesigning is simply a matter of re-organization.
As Sr. M. Antonieta said in her letter of 15 May 2008: “It is important to view the redesigning process as a process of personal, communitarian and structural renewal aimed at offering us hope and prospects for the future. It is a step that will help us respond to the formative and apostolic challenges we face in the various regions on the world in which we live and work.” We also became aware of the important elements that can have a revitalizing effect on our Congregation, such as a sense of belonging to the Church, creative fidelity to the charism, governing with vision, supporting innovations, setting down clear objectives and increasing the flow of information so as to involve the whole Institute in this process.
During our group work this afternoon, we tried to pinpoint the motivations and attitudes required by the redesigning process, and we began to sketch out our general objective.
The rhythm of our days and the work pace are intense. The majority of us are in good health but the cold and damp winter weather has caused several of the participants to come down with coughs, colds and the flu….
Rome, 19 January 2009
Our day began with the presentation of the theme, What Type of Authority Is Necessary in the Process of Redesigning Our Presences? – a topic deliberately chosen to provoke deeper reflection rather than discussion. Guest speaker Fr. Mario Aldegani, Superior General of the St. Joseph Fathers (founded by St. Leonard Murialdo in Turin, Italy) invited us to reflect on the local situations of the countries in which we live and work from the perspective of the world, not vice versa, because the process of redesigning our presences can be prophetic only if the Institute is considered to be a large family in which all the members base their planning and programming on a common vision.
He then went on to speak about the authority-obedience relationship, saying that the “heart” of the document, The Service of Authority and Obedience (chapters 4-12), places this relationship in a theological-anthropological framework. If we do not sincerely seek the will of the Father, then the raison d’etre of our choice of the consecrated life is diminished. The service of authority is meant to facilitate this search, which should be carried out in sincerity and truth. Fr. Aldegani then discussed at length the figure and role of the superior in a reli-gious community today, offering us timely insights concerning the meaning of this service, which is aimed at building communion and fraternity. The role of the superior today, said Fr. Aldegani, is above all “to consolidate fraternal communion, but this consolidation must be perceived by the members as coming from within the group, not from above it or outside it.”
Many things have changed and are continuing to change within us and around us. So it is only natural that even our understanding of the concept of “community” is changing. Superiors today must know how to read the signs of the times and discern new paths for the future. They must also provide individuals with animation/guidance and encourage them to as-sume their responsibilities, helping them rekindle the motivations at the foundation of their religious consecration and manifesting a genuine interest in their lives and well being.
Our Assembly welcomed Fr. Aldegani’s comments and explanations as a very beneficial “wake up call” – a reminder of the values that should support our lives and also the purpose of this enlarged council meeting.
Tomorrow, Fr. Aldegani will speak to us about the practical aspects of the redesigning process: the reasons behind it, the criteria that motivate it, and the way in which it should be carried out.
Rome, 18 January 2009
Today the sisters participating in the enlarged council meeting took a “virtual” but very realistic tour of North and South America as they listened to the reports of the superiors from Canada, the United States, Mexico, Venezuela/Puerto Rico/Dominican Republic, Colombia/Ecuador, Peru/Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Argentina/Paraguay/Uruguay (15 countries in all).
How do our sisters on these two continents view the redesigning of our presences? What are their hopes and fears? In general, they are worried about the unknown and some of them are afraid of the new things that are emerging. However, they are all convinced that un-iting our energies and organizing ourselves in an enlightened way will help us respond to to-day’s challenges through the Pauline mission. Among the many challenges pinpointed by the superiors, the assembly was struck in particular by the data concerning how many people have emigrated to the United States in the past 8 years: almost 9 million people (and this number only concerns legal immigrants)–1,174,127 from Europe; 2,737,511 from Asia, 3,512,165 from Central and South American, and 570,661 from Africa.
Faced with societal, political, technological and religious situations that are currently undergoing rapid change, the Daughters of St. Paul feel the need to question themselves as to what strategies to employ to passionately reach those who are most deprived of the Gospel. Coming to a greater awareness of the situation of each continent and of the entire world is fundamental to our upcoming work of creating a Project aimed at redesigning our presences.
Rome, 17 January 2009
The work of the enlarged council continues as the participants seek to grasp the situa-tions of our various circumscriptions through the input of the superiors, who were invited to express their “view” of redesigning, sharing with everyone the positive elements and advan-tages they see in this process, along with the worries and problems of their circumscriptions and the goal they hope the redesigning will attain.
The FSP representatives of Europe (10 circumscriptions/delegations/dependent com-munities), those of Africa (where we are present in 13 countries), Asia and Australia all took turns sharing their thoughts, fears, problems and resistances, but also saying that they and the members of their communities have a profound trust in the redesigning process and feel it is truly a “favorable time” to initiate this journey. If the redesigning is carried out prudently and wisely, with the involvement and participation of all the members of the Institute, then it will undoubtedly be beneficial to the life of our communities and to our mission.
The superiors also spoke about the experiences of other religious Congregations in their parts of the world that are in the midst of redesigning their presences or that are preparing to do so, and offered the assembly suggestions for our own journey on the basis of the concrete experiences of these Institutes.
Now we are waiting to hear the input of our sisters from North and South America. We’ll let you know what they have to say as soon as we can.
Rome, 16 January 2009
After a Eucharistic Celebration presided over by Fr. Silvio Sassi, Superior General of the Society of St. Paul, the Daughters of St. Paul began their reflections and discernment on the complex and sensitive subject proposed by our 9th General Chapter (2007): the “redesigning” of our FSP presences throughout the world. Fifty-three sisters are participating in this meeting: the members of our General Government, our circumscription superiors and superiors of the communities dependent on the General Government, the sisters of the commission that prepared the meeting and the event’s facilitator, Sr. Battistina Capalbo.
The situation in which we live, the extremely rapid changes taking place in cultures, societies and the world of communications today, the new forms of poverty that are emerging…all question the quality of our life and the meaning and effectiveness of the mission we carry out around the world, inviting us to revitalize our life and work.
In her talk, Sr. M. Antonieta Bruscato focused on Fr. Alberione’s imperative to “organize the good,” which is the purpose of the redesigning process. In fact, initiating this process is what God is calling us to do today. While we are well aware of our need to revital-ize our image and our prophetic service of the Gospel, we must organize ourselves in a fresh manner so as to live the aspects of fraternal communion, prayer, formation and mission in a balanced way.
The Superior General reminded everyone that today the Congregation must be able to grasp the signs of the times, look to the future, and search for paths that will allow our charism to reveal all its vitality. She further said that we must courageously adopt new ways of carrying out our mission, in a spirit of communion among ourselves and in collaboration with the laity. She concluded with the affirmation that she is convinced it will be easier for us to discover where the Lord is leading us if we keep our gaze fixed on the horizon, that is, on Christ, and allow ourselves to be led by the “wind” of the Spirit.