My plans for you are for a future full of hope … Jeremiah 29:11
From May 6-10, eight Australian women’s Congregational Leaders attended the UISG Plenary in Rome. Throughout these five days the 850 Religious Women Leaders from around the world gathered, shared and reflected together on the theme Women Religious - Sowers of Prophetic Hope. We shared in stories and realities that spoke deeply of what it means to be a Religious Woman today engaging in topics on the Vision for Religious Life, Sowers of Prophetic Hope for the Planet - A Biblical Perspective and our participation in the UISG campaign for the Planet, Intercultural Life as a sign of Prophetic Hope and Sowers of Prophetic hope; The Call to Interreligious Dialogue and the Care and Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults including the abuse of Religious Women. The papers for all these presentations can be found on the UISG website. www.internationalunionsuperiorsgeneral.org
Apart from these challenging presentations, we found ourselves engaging with the many voices speaking the truth of their reality in different parts of the world: voices that spoke of remaining with the people in the face of violence and starvation; of caring for the earth when the only means of heating is through the cutting down of trees to create a fire for cooking; of powerful stories of Sisters and women working in the areas of intercultural and interreligious dialogue. Weaved in and through these stories we heard small voices calling us like the voice of Sr Norma working with the migrants on the Mexican border; when asked: What is going on here? She simply replied: I am restoring human dignity. Speaking of the Sicily inter-congregational migrant project when the government was withdrawing their support, the Sisters were asked: Will you also go away? We were encouraged to be women of prophetic witness sowing one seed of hope at a time.
With particular reference to our current journey to the Plenary Council, Teresa Maya ccvi offered these encouraging words: As religious we are called to lead into collegiality, collaboration and networking like never before. This is a particular gift that we have to share with the whole church. In our meeting with Pope Francis his simple gesture of firstly removing the stately chair prepared for him and asking for a simple chair to replace it and then asking for one for Sr Carmen, the President of UISG, inviting her to sit next to him spoke louder than the words he uttered. In opening the floor to questions from the gathered assembly he showed a willingness to enter into fruitful dialogue with the group.
We also marked the 10th year of Talitha Kum - the project addressing Human Trafficking with the opening of the ‘Nuns Healing Hands’ Photographic story. The work of ACRATH here in Australia enables us to join our voice to the global effort to bring about change in this distressing reality.
At home in Australia the country has been preparing for the election. I express my gratitude to the CRA Justice Committee for providing Congregations with access to important issues to be considered when voting.
While I am in Rome, many women and men are participating in the national Mission Conference - One Heart Many Voices. As a host of this Conference, CRA expresses its appreciation to the Australian Mission Network of CRA and Catholic Mission Australia for the many hours of preparation in providing this opportunity to people around the country. I shall look forward to sharing in this experience on my return.
Let us continue to walk together as people of hope and healing in a world seeking compassion and connection. Let us trust in the prophetic call which is ours ‘lovingly restoring creation, restoring peace and restoring human dignity’. (Sr Teresa Maya)
Sr Monica Cavanagh rsj