Posted on: 06 May 2022
Author:Sister Joan Kerley
Day 5 UISG Plenary 2022
Today is our final day together at the UISG Plenary meeting although I have to stay here for another few days to take part as the representative for the Sisters in Britain.
We began with morning prayer once again focused on Mary and Elizabeth for us as Women on a Journey. Mary and Elizabeth represent for us the Old and New Testaments as they walk together, complementing each other as they go, the old and the young each carrying God’s salvation to the world. Congregations here re new and old with older and younger sisters in many countries and from diverse traditions but we are called to walk together and to be transformed by the people with whom we walk. Old age is called to share wisdom and experience while the youth have enthusiasm and strength. We were asked like Mary and Elizabeth to stop and to bless one another around our tables, to remove our masks for a short time to look into the eyes of one another and as we did this we were asked to pray to God to bless each one of our communities and every Sister in our Congregations.
We then shared in our groups on two questions as follows:
1. What is emerging from this Assembly?
2. What is the radical transformation that is asked of Religious Life today?
What emerged was that we have to embrace our vulnerability personally and as Congregations, to be aware of the vulnerability of each Sister and to go beyond that to all whom we meet. Religious is synodality in practice and we have to be constantly aware of the call to mission and to communion. When listening we have to be fully aware of what is being said and done but we must also listen to what is not being said and not being done. The past comes to us to enlighten the present and to push us forward to the future to meet the new. We must not stand in the way of the Spirit who is leading us. We must be present in our vulnerability at the foot of the cross of Jesus. The session ended with five minutes of silence in which we all thought of Vladimir Putin and prayed for peace, and we were asked to do this later at arranged times in our Congregations.
We met together in what are called Constellation groups and I had to chair this meeting as the delegate for Britain. Present were the Generals from the UK, Ireland, Netherlands, Romania, Malta and Hungary. We had to discuss the following questions
1. What is emerging that we wish to embrace in our constellations at this time?
2. What aspect is already there that we desire to deepen?
3. What commitment do we make for the Synodal journey?
For question 1 we said that the listening, discernment and journeying together makes us feel called as leaders to a place of stillness and contemplation. We also felt we need to meet together as a constellation online to support especially countries like Hungary, Malta and the Netherlands where there are now few Religious. We need to be transformed into a different way of being present to one another. The image of a tree deeply rooted but then growing and spreading out spoke to us as did that of Elizabeth and Mary. We need to be open and fluid like Naomi and Ruth too. We need to embrace the vulnerability of Religious Life in the Netherlands where now there is hardly anyone and there will be no representative at UISG soon from there.
For question 2 we said we must continue to collaborate with one another by sharing our experiences online in what could become a contemplative sharing and we can also develop a culture of care.
For our commitment in number 3 we agreed:
1. To meet on Zoom as a Constellation twice yearly.
2. To share what we have received with our own Sisters.
3.To try to support each other to promote synodality as we return to our Sisters, the local parish and the local Christian community.
4. To request the President of our own local Conference of Religious to share what we have received with the Religious in our own countries.
5. To ask UISG to draw up a statement of the importance of synodality as a springboard for us to work with.
6. Each Congregation to hold the 5 minute silence for Putin.
Three sisters had been present at the whole assembly as listeners and at the end of the afternoon today they told us what they had heard. They said they listened to the voice of silence as we reflected in our sharing and prayer and felt that the meeting had been a place of encounter where everyone felt at home, and we had all listened with intensity and passion to all that was expressed. They heard that the Synodal journey must be walked together as people of hospitality giving time and space for listening, knowing when to speak and when to be silent with a desire to be a transforming presence because the Paschal Mystery shows us through the passion of Jesus in his nonviolence that God acts in surprising ways to bring peace to our world. They said we committed to live vulnerable synodality through our service as leaders in our communities animating through this the People of God.
At 5pm we had our concluding Eucharist celebrated by the leader of the Jesuits who is the President of the ISG which is the male equivalent of the UISG. In his homily he spoke of how Saul before his conversion had to rely on the synodality of those around him to lead him in his blindness and how Jesus gave us the example of synodality as he walked with the disciples.
At the end of Mass we sang once again in many languages the hymn of the Assembly which I will share with you in English in our next newsletter. Finally we received a blessing for ourselves present and for the members of our congregations giving thanks to God for all his blessings to us this week during our gathering.
My thanks to those of you who have texted and emailed your thanks for my emails. I have been so privileged to be here on your behalf and will share more in due course. We have the weekend free, but I will write again on Monday about the meetings of the delegates which I will be attending. Please remember in your prayers a Sister from South Africa who became ill here in the meeting on Monday and has been found to have serious cancer and had surgery today.
With my love and prayers Maureen