The opening - VII Plenary Council
VII Plenary Council of the School Sisters of St. Francis of Christ the King - Update # 2 – August 26 -30, 2014
After the opening of the Plenary Council, two days were spent on Biblical reflections by Fr. Stefano Romanello from the Diocese of Udine in northeastern Italy on the topics of evangelization and giving witness.
With the Plenary Council theme being: “You will be my Witnesses even to the Ends of the Earth,” time was taken to look at how we ourselves witness. Every witness we give must speak of Jesus and end with Him. It must have the Resurrection of Christ at its center without separating it from Jesus’ death on the cross. The mission of the Church began through the power of the Holy Spirit who made it possible for us to announce what God has done. Prayer which invokes the Holy Spirit characterizes a Church which is always in waiting.
Witness has the reward of drawing out and changing the lives of the disciples and giving birth to community. In community there are high points and low points, failings in faithfulness etc., but the important thing is to strive for the ideal with continual attention. Signs of a vital community are: perseverance in prayer together, sharing in the Eucharist, and being attentive and in solidarity with those in need. The community evangelizes first by what it is, and then by what it does and says.
On Wednesday evening, Sr. M. Terezija Tomazin, Provincial Superior of the Province of Maribor, invited us to visit the Mother House Heritage Space. Here we viewed display panels, photographs, and various objects and documents which showed the historical itinerary of the birth of our Congregation up to the present and gave important testimony to the roots of our Congregation. We are grateful to have had the opportunity to browse through this space and to sense being a living part of this story.
On Thursday (8-27) and Friday (8-28) we listened to talks by Fr. Stephen Ercole, OFM, from the Franciscan Province of Bari in southern Italy. The theme was “Consecrated Life in the Face of the Challenges of Contemporary Society.”
People today expect more liberty, equality, and the opportunity to express themselves. These are signs of the times that must be evaluated in the light of the Gospel. We must encourage each person to ask themselves: From what do I wish to be liberated and why? Too often, even we become solely occupied with “how to organize our ministry” and not with “why we are doing this ministry.” For this reason the Plenary Council members have asked themselves, “With what language does today’s generation speak?” or “How can we re-evangelize our activities?” In the small group work we shared our experiences, seeking to find new responses to the challenges presented, in order to better understand our contribution to the New Evangelization.
It is true that in present day society we feel the loss of security, solidarity, and joy. In this respect we religious are called to know how to witness, to live with ourselves and others, in other words, to be humble and live in relationship with each other, and finally to know how to be signs of hope. With the words of Pope Francis in Evangelli Gaudium Fr. Stephen challenged us to fight courageously against apathy, egoism, sterile pessimism, a worldly spirituality, and conflicts among us, responding with new relationships generated by Christ.
On Saturday (8-30) we rejoiced in the visit of Rev. Stanislaus Lipovšek, Bishop of Celje, Slovenia, and Apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese of Maribor. Bishop Stanislav celebrated the Mass with us and thanked us for the 150 years of presence and ministry of the School Sisters of St. Francis in Slovenia and throughout the world. He also asked us to pray for the Church in Slovenia.
On this same day our “Instrument of Work” was begun. It represents the fruit of the prayer, personal and community reflection, and collaboration regarding the questionnaire sent to all the Sisters of our Congregation in preparation for the Plenary Council. Emphasized in both small group work and together in assembly was our need to first evangelize ourselves. Work with this “Instrument” will continue during the following days.
We thank all of you for sending your greetings and good wishes and promises of prayer. They are much appreciated.
The Plenary Council News Update Committee