Rome (Italy). From 24 to 30 November 2023 in Rome, at the Generalate of the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, nine FMA from different parts of the world, missionaries ad gentes in Europe, met to participate in a meeting of Ongoing Missionary Formation animated by the Missions Sector of the Institute.
The focus of the reflection was on the significance of the presence and witness as missionaries ad gentes in a changing Europe. The days also had the aim of reawakening the original freshness of the missionary vocation’s fecundity nourished also by the possibility of living and staying in the Generalate, meeting the Mother General of the FMA Institute, Sister Chiara Cazzuola, and the General Councilors, and to have moments of exchange, sharing, reflection, and familiarity with sisters from different nations of Europe.
The program included some interventions that helped to deepen the theme:
- The missionary spirit of the FMA: an original feature, made by Sister Grazia Loparco, FMA, Professor of the Pontifical Faculty of Education «Auxilium» of Rome;
- New European Frontiers: challenges and perspectives for the FMA made by Sister Ruth del Pilar Mora, General Councilor for the Missions;
- The change of Europe: in the context of youth and missionary ministry deepened by Fr. Gustavo Cavagnari, SDB, Professor of Special Youth Pastoral Theology at the Salesian Pontifical University of Rome.
Today the Church, the Christians, the FMA in Europe, live a particular situation of crisis of institutions and of society. A frequent question that emerged among the Sisters who participated in this Ongoing Formation was: “Is this one of the many crises that Christianity has experienced or a definitive decline?” It is a question to which there is no immediate answer, as in all historical processes from which we often learn that ‘crisis’ does not necessarily mean ‘end’. It can indeed be an opportunity to open up to the future, knowing that the great risk is to be content to survive, regretting a better past.
It is therefore important to abide and live in the crisis with “a clear hope” that allows the FMA to bring the young, and the people with whom and for whom it is committed in the mission, to the encounter with the Lord Jesus. The Church, each FMA, every missionary ad gentes in Europe is therefore called to be “salt of the earth” and “seeker of God” (Benedict XVI), with a joyful spirituality.
To the question “Which message or aspect of this Formation impressed you most?” in the rich sharing at the end of the days, the Sisters highlighted:
“Relish the joy of our missionary vocation; lucid, grounded hope; the sharing of the intercultural group; the time of reflection; the evangelical ministry in today’s history; the mystical spirituality that is attached to the Word and the Eucharist; fraternal synodality in the joy of family; ardent hearts and walking feet; the conviction that the Holy Spirit guides our daily journey; the witnesses and teachers that attract in the encounter with Jesus; the houses of prayer for the journey or beginning of faith; the growth in missionary identity; the Institute takes care of us: listening and sharing; the joy of participating in the meeting with sisters from other countries; the return to the sources of the Institute; every return to the Generalate feeds in me the missionary fire to be able to flourish where I am”.
The days spent in the Generalate revived and reawakened in the participants the missionary passion of the da mihi animas coetera tolle, with the awareness of the call to be “pilgrims among the young people” on the road to Emmaus, to listen with compassion to their story and to share with courage and joy the richness of their lives.
As underlined in the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation of Saint John Paul II, Ecclesia in Europa, underlines: “In a context in which the temptation of activism is easy even at the pastoral level, Christians in Europe are asked to continue to be the real transparency of the Risen One, living in intimate communion with Him. The communities must guard the meaning of the liturgy and interior life”.