local_offer General Community

Interview in "Vida Nueva "

I eventTuesday, 28 September 2021

Interview with Vida Nueva – Spain 

[Original - English]

 

  1. Which way is the wind of the Spirit blowing for the Religious of the Assumption in this post-Covid era? Has this pandemic shaken you in your projects and presences as an institute or have you continued with your plans as usual?

The pandemic has forced all of us to face an unprecedented global crisis, turning upside down many of our planned projects and programs. We have had no choice but to respond creatively to the consequences of the pandemic for today as well as for tomorrow. I embrace this situation as an opportune moment to explore new ways of making Assumption presence and mission more meaningful and relevant. The real challenge is to discern the “new forms” of the Assumption charism that will make us a source of positive energy and prophetic hope for a better world. As the saying goes, “when the roots are deep, there is no reason to fear the wind.” This new way of life makes God’s healing presence, God’s justice and compassion more visible in these trying times.

  1. There are more than a thousand religious, present in 33 countries. A real 'multinational'. How do you lead a congregation without falling into business criteria, but also without turning your back on the demands of today's world? An expert in leadership in religious life, do you think that consecrated men and women continue to lose themselves in wanting to carry the weight of the management of their works when they should rather be the soul?

I do not consider myself an expert in leadership in religious life, but I understand leadership as our participation in the project of God. Leaders are called to empower the members to be at the service of God’s mission. Based on John’s Gospel, I have been proposing a covenant-friendship model of leadership as the best paradigm of animation in religious congregations.  Leadership is understood as a loving service rendered among friends and disciples of Jesus (Jn 15:13-17). This Johannine model of animation brings an aspect of reciprocity to leadership roles: we serve “one another” as covenant partners in God’s mission. In such an atmosphere, relationships are mutual and collaborative rather than hierarchical. The charism of leadership, rather than control from above, inspires teamwork and whole-hearted commitment. It is an animation from within to build up a community for God’s mission of creating a more humanized world.  Leaders then do not feel their mission burdensome, but their animation becomes a grace-filled experience of giving life in abundance to all its members. While this friendship model provides space and freedom for each member to make her or his unique contribution, it also calls for accountability. It implies integration of firmness with compassion and justice with mercy. It is not easy, but not impossible when we “walk humbly with God” (Micah 6:8).

  1. Leader and woman: How do you value the steps Pope Francis is taking, especially in the appointments of the last year? Necessary? Sufficient? Can you imagine voting in a Synod?

I am inspired and challenged by Pope Francis’s way of animating the Church. He is concerned about the wellness of all peoples of God. The poor and marginalized, including women, have a special place in his heart. His desire for greater participation of women in the decision-making process is evident in his recent appointments of women to positions previously held exclusively by men. While I appreciate every step Pope Francis has taken, I feel that we still have a long way to go to ensure the rightful place of women in the Church. I have full confidence that we will get there, slowly but surely. My experience as a member of the Federation of the Asian Bishops Conference has been quite extraordinary, an experience of communion in which cardinals, bishops, theologians are reflecting together without any hierarchical order. Each one has his/her place, and each one’s voice is listened to with respect as disciples of Jesus. I was a participant at the Synod of Bishops on New Evangelization in October 2012 without the right to vote, and I look forward to the day when all participants will have the right to vote in the Synod. I would say women should play the role of “opportunity seekers” in the Church and take every opening as a favourable moment to make their unique contribution to its life and mission.

  1. For many years, Rome sent out the message that religious life was 'dead' or 'dying' in the face of the lack of vocations in the West, the commitment to the freshness of the new movements... Has this perception changed at all?

Religious life will never die, but it will undergo radical changes in the process of its natural evolution. Much has been changed in religious life since I made my first vows with declining numbers, aging profiles, diminishing apostolic presence in educational and other institutions. There seems also to be an identity crisis for some, a crisis in finding meaning in consecrated life in our changing cultural, religious and socio-political contexts. An important question is how to make sense of what has been transpiring over the past decades, and how to preserve a realistic and resilient hope in redefining the identity and mission of the consecrated life for our times. A society that is more interested in building walls than bridges, polarized and prone to violence, needs the charism or charisms of consecrated life. Our international community characterized by the Gospel values of inclusivity, forgiveness, justice, and mercy will be a prophetic sign of hope for our times.

  1. More than a few charismatic families are putting their trust in Indian religious as general superiors. India is spoken of as the future of the Church, but it is rather the present... Don't you think so?

Even though the Christian population is less than 2.5% in India, the church makes a significant contribution in the building up of the nation. I do not know whether India is or will be the future of the Church, but we have developed a contextualized theology that responds to the concerns of our people and the challenges of our times.  As a Superior General from India, I have the golden opportunity to share with the whole Congregation – the fruits of my theological formation, our radical option for the poor and marginalized, the richness of our multi-religious and cultural contexts, and our integral and holistic spirituality.

 

  1. You belong to the Syro-Malabar rite. For a Westerner, it is something exotic and unfamiliar to say the least. What does this Eastern rite bring to the Latin rite? More spirituality? More freshness? More openness to dialogue with other religions?

I think both the Rites – Eastern and Latin – enrich one another. The Eastern Churches do have vibrant, joyful, and participative liturgies. We grow up by breathing in the air of faith and have a sound faith formation for a period of twelve years starting from the age of four. For example, on the last Holy Saturday, my little niece who is just nine years old called me to ask: “Is the Resurrection of Jesus real?” This is the kind of faith tradition that we have inherited. I think the more rooted we are in our faith, the deeper we can be in communion with the peoples of other religious traditions with mutual respect and reverence. We also have a long tradition of harmonious inter-religious living in Kerala (South India).      

 

 

Read the interview in Spanish here

Download the full interview in Spanish here

Leia a revista em português aqui