Communion that Radiates
Communion that Radiates
On Thursday, 14 September 2023, from 14:00 to 16:00, the first of a series of three meetings dedicated to reflection, dialogue and sharing on topics related to Synodality and the Synodal Assembly of October 2023 took place, both online and in presence.
The central theme of the meeting was "The Communion that Radiates". The session was divided into three main parts:
- a brief presentation and overview on Synodality and the Synod,
- panel presentations by three speakers on the theme,
- an experience of Conversation in the Spirit among all the participants.
The meeting was opened by Sr Patricia Murray, IBVM, the Executive Secretary of the UISG, who welcomed the participants. She emphasized three words of great value for religious life and the whole Church on the way: vulnerability, courage and resilience.
Sr Maria Cimperman, RSCJ, coordinator of the UISG Synodal Commitment Initiative, moderated the session and offered an opening presentation. She offered background on synodality, context for the October 2023 Synod and five notable elements of the upcoming synod. In her opening remarks she stated that: "It is impossible to overemphasize the importance and profound nature of this time. Pope Francis is calling the entire Church to synodality, a continuation of the renewal ushered in by the Spirit in Vatican II.” Five notable aspects of the October 2023 synod process were in the areas of listening, participation, prayer, synod sessions and communal discernment. She also pointed out that, for the first time, about 26% of the voting members, including laity, clergy, religious, half of whom are women, will also participate as voting members in the Synod, together with the bishops.
Subsequently, the panelists addressed some of the questions we find in the first of of priority issues in the Synod Instrumentum Laboris, offering stimuli for the next phase of sharing in the language groups.
Sr Shalini Mulackal, PBVM, coordinator of the UISG Formators Programme, pointed out that clericalism and gender inequality are examples of a lack of communion within the Church. She emphasized the role of men and women religious in creating a powerful sign of communion, saying, "We can only do this when we are in communion with the triune God," stressing the importance of being recognised not for what consecrated men and women do, but for who they are: men and women deeply in communion with God.
Brother Mark Hilton, SC, Superior General of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart, said he did not have a definitive answer as to how communion will come about, but shared the hope that "it will happen slowly ... with hope and trust, ... even with conflict and pain, with a humility that values each person, with a pastoral vision that seeks to meet everyone."
Sr Jolanta Kafka, RMI, former President of the UISG, concluded her speech by hoping that religious life would be a "countercultural sign of the dream of universal sisterhood and brotherhood". She highlighted the importance of networks of gift exchange among religious, including charisms, academic knowledge and pastoral resources, to promote equal opportunities for all.
During the final phase of the session, community discernment was facilitated through the method of 'Conversation in the Spirit', following Pope Francis' invitation to "speak with courage and listen with humility". Numerous insights were elicited by the Spirit, many shared in presence and also through the online chat.
Instead of final conclusions, participants were invited to keep on "walking together". Brother Matthew, member of the Taize community, issued an invitation to all: an ecumenical prayer vigil will be held 30 September in Rome in the presence of Pope Francis and representatives of different Churches, with the aim of "uniting us in praise and silence, listening to the Word". The ecumenical prayer service will also be streamed online.
This event reflects the desire of Consecrated Life to be a Communion that radiates.
It should be noted that this meeting will be followed by two others: September 25 and 29.
UISG Communication Office