Rome (Italy). The Mother General of the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, Sister Chiara Cazzuola, in Circular no. 1031 shares some concrete stages of the post-Chapter journey that we are following as an Institute.
First of all, she recalls “the beautiful experience of World Youth Day at Lisbon, in Portugal, from 1 to 6 August 2023, “of which we still have many images in our eyes and hearts”. Mother recounts firsthand the emotions and sensations she experienced, observing in particular the young people who participated with enthusiasm, conviction, and openness to listening, “always smiling and kind, mysteriously patient”, despite the queues and inconveniences.
In the flags that paraded together, “held up by serene and cheerful young people”, Mother recognizes “a prophetic sign, going against the current” compared to the actual trends of building walls and closing in on prejudice and suspicion. “Young people are truly a significant sign of universality and peace that speaks to the world; a sign of hope for the present and the future!”, she affirms.
“What should you take with you when returning to everyday life?” This is the question Pope Francis asks young people in the homily of the closing Eucharistic Celebration of WYD but that Mother Chiara says, “is certainly an existential question also addressed to us adults who accompany young people.”
Mother thanks the communities and the FMA “who accompanied the numerous youth groups, making the reality of the Salesian Youth Movement concrete,” whose presence in the midst of the crowd was recognizable “due to the numerous Salesian signs visible on the t-shirts, flags, and banners.” The different groups – around 8,000 young people and their companions – met in the Salesian House of Estoril on 2 August to live together, “on a day of celebration in Oratorian style, the Salesian spirituality with which they identify,” welcoming the theme Come, Live, Proclaim.
She defines it as “an unforgettable day, interesting for the richness of the contributions offered, and above all for the last part of the day in which the young people of the SYM gave life to a creative and beautiful representation of the dream at nine years of age.” This was followed by the Vigil with Eucharistic adoration in which, she underlines, “the absolute silence full of prayer that was created among the young people was the most eloquent and significant verification of the great education and formation work that is carried out in the local communities.”
A synodal spirituality
There are various events in preparation for the upcoming Synod on Synodality. Young people are expected in Rome in the last weekend of September, “to share and walk together as people of God, in the dialogue that reconciles, opens up to others, and helps to build peace.” Another is the ecumenical prayer vigil which will be presided over by Pope Francis on 30 September in St. Peter’s Square, “brothers and sisters from all the Christian confessions were invited to entrust to God the work of the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops,” whose first session will be held from 4 to 29 October.
Mother Chiara indicates the ecological crisis and the cry of the poor as priorities that emerge in the prayer and in the fabric of the Synod and which challenge believers, and therefore also the FMA, “as consecrated educators.”
She then expresses the Institute’s harmony with the Instrumentum laboris, “where the call often returns to the dream of an increasingly synodal Church in its institutions and structures; of a space in which the common baptismal dignity and co-responsibility in the mission are not only affirmed, but practiced.”
In the conviction that “synodality remains the privileged path to conversion for everyone because it can renew the Church in its unity,” Mother recognizes how “participating in this process helps us as a religious family to assume ever more consciously the communal dimension of the journey and the mission entrusted to us.” From a careful reading of the Instrumentum laboris, we can see that “Salesian spirituality is in full harmony with synodal spirituality.”
The Seminar for an authority that generates life
Responding to the mandate of the XXIV General Chapter, Mother and the General Councilors decided to “dedicate together a useful time of reflection and in-depth study to find the way to understand and live authority as service, as animation and government in an evangelical and Salesian style” through a Seminar for Interprovincial Conferences with the theme: “For generative animation”.
“We are therefore urged to cultivate a participatory style of animation, with a generative attitude centered on evangelical values, encouraging the expression and contribution of all in the search for the common good and in the exercise of their responsibility” (cf. Acts GC XXIV, n. 15).
The first to experience the Seminar, from 25 to 29 August in Lusaka (Zambia), was the Conference Africa – Madagascar (CIAM): around eighty sisters lived the experience “in a climate of youthfulness, hope, and commitment.”
From 19 to 23 September, the Seminar of the Middle East and Europe Interprovincial Conference (CIME) will take place in Italy in Frascati, Rome, with the “consistent and collaborative” participation of the sisters of the 22 Provinces and Preprovinces that compose it.
The process of revising and updating the Formation Plan and the Guidelines for the educational mission of the FMA Institute
Mother concludes the Circular with an update “on the reflection initiated in recent months regarding the Guidelines for Formation and for the Educational Mission of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians”.
With the aim of carrying out, through “a participatory process characterized by listening, discernment, and involvement,” the revision and updating of the Formation Plan of the FMA Institute and of the Guidelines for the educational mission entrusted by the Chapter Assembly to the General Council, an international working group has been set up which operates through various phases to involve the entire Institute, keeping in mind the different levels.
Mother Chiara explains that it is “an expanded synodal process,” which involves all the members of the educating community. It is “a gradual and convergent, unitary path” that asks each FMA to accompany it with prayer, offering, and effective involvement, “so that the Holy Spirit may guide and direct us to choose for the Institute always and only what is His will.”
On the threshold of the month of October dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary, she entrusts the beginning of the Synod and the path of the Church to the powerful intercession of Mary, Mother and Help.