UISG Plenary: Final Step
Vulnerability and Synodality: The Last Stage of the UISG Assembly
The theme of the UISG 2022 Assembly, “Embracing Vulnerability in the Synodal Journey,” has been developed in 3 distinct phases: two online meetings, a presential meeting in Rome (also available online), and a final meeting, which took place on July 11th with the participation of nearly 300 Superiors General.
Sr. Nadia Coppa, UISG President, opened the meeting with words of welcome:
“We are very pleased with the active participation and the proposals made by all of you for the path of the UISG Assembly. The theme has simultaneously both challenged and impassioned us. It has transformed us. We have gone through a true process of discernment, and we have learned that synodality is not an ideology but the very nature of being consecrated women. Synodality pushes us to go from ‘I’ to ‘we.’ Walking together, we go further.
Synodality leads us to assume all our vulnerability. This journey has been a generative meeting-space for us and for changing the world; we can see it as a prophetic space. Our synodal love reveals the Love of the Trinity.”
The purpose of this last meeting was to reflect on the draft written by the UISG and USG commission, composed of four theologians (two Sisters and two Fathers), as a synthesis of the contributions of the General Councils to the UISG and USG survey on synodality.
The participants had received the document with some questions for reflection before the meeting:
- 1. What do you want to state in the document?
- 2. What might be missing/need greater emphasis?
- 3. How can we as UISG members carry the Final Document forward?
Three of the four theologians who prepared the draft synthesis presented some general comments.
Maria Cimperman, RSCJ shared:
"We read everything! Even when it came in an envelope!
Religious life has something very important and essential to offer to this time and the synodal process. With the massive changes around us, our witness, our capacity to collaborate, our openness to conversion, transformation is significant. Modeling – learning how to do this better as well – a synodal style of leadership and sharing these efforts, is key. Our failures are learnings and new ways offer impetus for further possibilities."
Gemma Simmons, CJ:
"As we read the reports from congregations what came across powerfully was the level of consensus from all around the world. Sometimes it was clear that this was a voice from a particular continent, but very often the religious were speaking with one voice across continents. For me this came across as the voice of the Spirit, ‘speaking to the churches’, but also speaking to religious themselves.
If there was a strong critique of aspects of ecclesial life (hierarchy, clericalism, abuse of different sorts), there was also a powerful self-critique of how authority is exercised within religious life itself. Where there is a lack of collaborative, participative authority, there is the infantilisation of members that leads to stagnation of spirit and structures. The synodal voice is speaking as strongly to ourselves as religious as it is to the church authorities. Our task now is to listen and respond."
Father Orlando Torres, SJ emphasized that “in the responses there are many desires regarding synodality that are, at the same time, challenges for everyone. I am aware that clericalism creates situations that can lead to abuse. Synodality invites us to collaborate; for this we need time, patience, and humility.”
In the survey that the UISG and USG sent out months ago, congregations were invited to reflect on these points:
• Evoke stories of synodality in their Institutes;
• Discover the seeds of synodality that already exist; and the weeds that threaten it;
• Dare to formulate a grand Dream of synodality and the possible designs that make it feasible;
• Formulate some of the implications of this reflection for consecrated life, as well as its implications for the life and mission of the Church.
The UISG Assembly has experienced, for the first time, this new modality: over 700 Superiors registered; all were able to appreciate the texts of the talks. The whole process involved over 50 hours of meetings with the Superiors, with more than 25 speakers and more than 30 interviews with Sisters on the theme of vulnerability and synodality.
Now it is time to reap the fruits of this year and continue the synodal journey, as Religious, with the global Church.
UISG Communication Office