Naples (Italy). Consecrated life and the role of women in the life and mission of the Church are among the themes developed by the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation and Mission”, held in the Vatican, from 4 to 29 October 2023, deepened in the synodal paths carried out in the previous phase by Dioceses around the world.

During the XXXI Synod of the Church of Naples, which opened on 28 April 2022, the need arose to produce a document that reflected the real presence of consecrated women and men in the territory of the Diocese, from the ever-changing cultural, economic, and social context.

“May the synodal journey that begins today – recommended the Metropolitan Archbishop of the Diocese of Naples H.E. Msgr. Domenico Battaglia on 18 October 2021, announcing to the Neapolitan people and clergy the beginning of the Diocesan Synod – be both a time of deep listening to the Spirit and in the Spirit, of companionship and listening to every man and every woman.”

“Consecrated Life between memory, prophecy, and hope in Naples” is the document that emerged from this reflection, to the drafting of which started from listening, from the comparison and sharing of the participation bodies present in the parishes and in the decanal areas – Sister Anna Avenia, Daughter of Mary Help of Christians of the Southern Province Our Lady of Good Counsel (IMR) participated as Archiepiscopal Delegate of the Office for Consecrated Life of the Diocese.

“The reflection in the document is not exhaustive, but opens up new opportunities for thought,” says Sister Anna. “The goal that accompanied the work was to ‘arouse curiosity, questions, perplexities, openness to the Spirit’. The commitment was to offer a reading that can, in some way, challenge Consecrated Life, not only, but also priestly and lay life, considering that within the Church of Naples all have a place and all walk in communion for the one mission.

The careful and meditated analysis starts from some key words: memory, prophecy, hope, recurring elements within the document as points of reference of the entire drafting work. The chapters are introduced by an evangelical reference of “Mary, model of consecrated life and disciple of the Son” (Pope Francis), giving continuity, harmony, and theological value to the document.

The attempt to reflect on Consecrated Life in Naples opens up new perspectives, broadens horizons, and boldly promotes the beauty of the gratuitous Gift. It makes visible, in simplicity, the authentic following of Christ which is not made of powers but of persevering service to the Church and to the people of God.

Mention should be made of the woman who, aware that she cannot fill priestly roles, is however invited to collaborate with the various ministries within the parishes and the curia, with an advantage on the quality of pastoral service.

The combination of communion/mission is reviewed, realities that go hand in hand. The various charisms within the Church are highlighted, which, inspired by the Holy Spirit, give the one evangelizing mission a very particular connotation towards the people of God.

The challenges that are reported are not definitive, but give rise to a ‘new reflection, to new perspectives’. They are aimed at producing programmatic guidelines to address a style of sequela in accordance with the Gospel.

Consecrated Life, lived down the centuries in communities or monasteries, has assured the Church continuity in evangelizing peoples and cultures, in administering the sacraments, in caring for the poor and the least, in caring for the spiritual life and Christian practice, in prophesying the power of the Kingdom and the ultimate realities. Despite the ‘ups and downs’ of history, which has seen the suppression or death of Religious Institutes and Congregations, their members have given stability and development to their charism, which has survived thanks to the Rule of Life, the practice of religious vows, to fraternal and community life, to the service of the needy.

On the 26th World Day of Consecrated Life, Pope Francis in his homily said that today ‘there is the temptation to go back, for security, for fear, to preserve the faith, to preserve the charism of the founder. He added that ‘the Lord does not fail to give us signs to invite us to cultivate a renewed vision of consecrated life. And how do we do this? He will show us the way. We open our hearts, with courage, without fear. Let us return Him to the center and let us go forward with joy’ (2 February 2022).

This is our will, our trust, the hope that animated the drafting of this document, which we entrust to the Virgin Mary, our Mother and Help of the Church,” concludes Sister Anna Avenia.


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