Posted on: 05 May 2022
Author:Sister Joan Kerley
Day 4 UISG Plenary 2022
We had to leave the hotel in shared taxis by 8.30 today to be in time for security at the Vatican and enter Paul VI hall for our audience with the Pope at 11am. We had a long wait. but we’re seated so it was fine. Like everything here he was late, but we were shocked to see how frail he looked, and he was in a wheelchair because he said he is unable to walk. However he was his usual self in talking to us and gave his prepared speech to our President and then just answered questions making the following points:
1. Consecrated life can be an uncomfortable place to be because we wish to be with the People of God, but we also have to be with the Bishops. They have rules but we must be like St Catherine of Siena if we believe we are right we must speak out.
2. We must never go backwards because to do so is to be frozen and frozen nuns are no good to anyone! We must never return to rigidity as is happening in some seminaries and religious houses where they go backwards and are rigid. We must live in our reality today and adapt ourselves accordingly.
3. Discernment followed by prayer shows us the right path to follow and in difficulty we must never fear because fear is a great enemy.
4.It is always important to listen even though sometimes Bishops are deaf. We listen in our family, in our communities, in prayer but we are only able to listen if we feel we belong. We are like trees which have roots and if we are rooted then we grow. In our communities we must keep what is essential like in a family when we differ from our family members we argue when we meet but we kiss before we leave each other, and we still love one another because we have our family spirit.
5. In response to what can we do about Ukraine he said we can pray; we can take people into our homes and care for them but listen to their stories which are different from ours and we must open our hearts to them for as long as they need it otherwise if they have to go after three weeks or months what do they have to return to!
6. In response to how can we collaborate with him to bring world peace he said in the face of the monstrosities we see in war it is not easy to find a way of peace, but we must truly feel the deep pain of those who are suffering and we must wait in silence as we do when we visit the sick and no words are helpful. We do not offer solutions, but we accompany.
7. With regard to civil war on some African countries we must recognise the colonialism is against human dignity and when so called independence is given it is sometimes the devil who is the biggest coloniser who we let in often in the guise of the well-educated or respectable one who enters our house. The devil brings in spiritual worldliness wherever he can, and this is the biggest evil which can affect the Church.
In the afternoon we had four short presentations as follows:
1. Sowing Hope for the Planet given by Sr Sheila Kinsey
In 2019 those of us present at the Rome meeting committed ourselves and our Congregations to personal and communal conversion in trying to listen to the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor. Many Congregations are now working towards joining the Laudato Si Action Platform and we have been considering this also. It involves making a commitment that we will do our best to live lives mindful of the impact we each have by the way we live on the lives of others and our planet. We will now consult the new LSAP guide on your behalf to see whether we as a Congregation can make this commitment for the future.
2. Talitha Kum
This is the UISG joint project for anti-trafficking and is now worldwide. We were told that in addition to preventing trafficking the project also helped many people especially women suffering food poverty and political instability during the last three years because of the pandemic. Traffickers constantly find new ways of working and many smaller groups working against trafficking have now join together and collaborate on a greater scale. Eight new networks have been formed and people from many African countries are now requesting training and there is also inter religious collaboration to stamp out this human evil. A new group of former young victims has been trained as ambassadors for the youth in order to help young people avoid being trafficked.
3. Care and protection of children and vulnerable adults.
This group began as a project of UISG in 2019 and is a networking group which is constantly growing. Many webinars have been held over the Zoom platform and I have attended many of these. The latest area where abuse is occurring in religious communities is in spiritual abuse and abuse of the vow of obedience. The project is now looking at ways to tackle this kind of abuse as they have found that reported cases are only the tip of the iceberg.
4. Catholic Care for a children International
This is a new initiative of the UISG which began pilot schemes in several African countries including Kenya and Uganda where we are present. The purpose of the group is to get Congregations to move from institutional child care in orphanages etc to family based care much like what has happened a number of years ago in UK and Ireland. The vision is to have a family for every child but there is a very long way to go because currently there are over eight million children across the world in institutionalised care even though some eighty per cent of these children have at least one parent alive. It is often poverty which causes children to arrive in care.
The day concluded with prayer about 6pm and we reflected on what Pope Francis had said to us this morning. We were blessed to be present and when he gave us his blessing I held all of you in my heart to receive that blessing also. He concluded his time with us by asking us to pray for him and to especially pray that he will be able to walk again as he would wish. So please remember him in prayer as he continues in the ministry given to him by the Lord.
With my love and prayers and the request that you continue to pray for me also,