The Gathering on pastoral ministry was organized for all the sisters of the Indian Province on 4th August 2021. All the sisters from four states of India [except a few could not] met remotely by Google meet. Sr. Veronique, the Archivist of the Congregation joyfully accepted our request to be the Resource person for the day. Sr. Deepti Srankal unofficially welcomed Sr. Veronique and all the members as the organisor of the meeting. She invited Sr. Vimala the superior of Patna Community who made a short prayer. Sr.Divya from Calicut community officially welcomed everyone to the gathering who joined from all our communities.
Sr. Veronique, the Archivist of the Congregation joyfully accepted our request to be the Resource person for the day. She presented us with severale informative, inspiring and thought provoking reflections on Saint Marie Eugenie and the pastoral Mission of the Congregation.
She highlighted some of the important characteristics of the pastoral ministry at the time of St. Marie Eugenie. In Marie Eugenie’s time “pastoral ministry” was not talked about as it is now but Marie Eugenie connected pastoral Ministry with “our Mission” as religious and as educators.
First and foremost, St. Marie Eugenie talked about sharing and service to people .She reiterated the importance of service to the “poor’, considering the different kinds of poverty from which people suffer- material, spiritual, and moral poverty. She reminded us that if we “experience this poverty in our life, in our living conditions, it will be more effective to serve the people and share life with them. This “service and sharing” is an aspect of Pastoral activity. Thus, we are also entitled to recognize the uniqueness of each person with utmost respect. She compared the uniqueness of persons to variety of flowers which has different colors as well as fragrances. We are called be servants, sisters and friends to the people. This implies that we need to understand the lives of the people,, know their situation and be with them in their sorrows and pain.
She also articulated very clearly that our pastoral work also meant for our own attitudes towards people. We need to discover the gift of the people, to be closed to the people in order to form them in a good character and to know them personally. They themselves are responsible for their life but we are there only to accompany them in their search to provide them the right spaces to grow in their lives.
Giving importance to the uniqueness of each human being, we will respect his/her way of relating to God, allow them to think for themselves, act by themselves, who could make choices with conviction, and decide how to be useful for the society. Also allow people to develop their capacity for commitment. This is a long process.
St. Marie Eugenie repeatedly encouraged us to develop a positive attitude towards everyone, to see “goodness” in everyone. She says even in the worse person there will be something good. If one is not able to recognize “good “in others, one is challenged to examine oneself, one’s ideas, and thoughts.
She recommended the sisters to develop the habit of asking oneself every night “what is good in each one of the students? “We have to help them to develop their talents, accompany their growth .They are responsible for their life. In our schools we are to form “women”(not to make them religious) prepare them for the realities of life, listen to the students, be close to them, care for them but allow them to grow by themselves. She said that we need not do it every day but do it discretely sometimes. We need to speak valuable words in our conversation to people and be extremely careful about what we speak, and how we speak. It needs “silence” say only useful words and be careful of what we say.
We have to have a clear vision of the world. Understand how people live, feel with the heart, affectivity, compassion. We have to look at the situations with intelligence and compassion, both enlightened by Gospel.
When St. Marie Eugenie discovered Jesus and his Love she could say “world is not big enough for my love”. Jesus love is much stronger than any love, we are to love everyone and Christ can give us this gift of love to be close to people I do not know. Again as Marie Eugenie said “none of our efforts should be last…never say”It is enough”
One last aspect of Marie Eugenie’s thought concerning pastoral work is about community. When we are in the mission think that we are send by the community and each one has their own role, recognize, accept, welcome, and embrace each one’s gifts. Today we talk about collegiality and synodality. We need to consult others, take advice from others in order to be more effective in the mission.
There was a time for clarification based on the reflections of Sr. Veronique. Our sisters were impressed by her talk and liked very much. They all expressed that it was magnificent and inspiring. Some of the sisters shared that it is the first time that we have heard that pastoral ministry is so wide, deep and vast and all the communities are into it because we used to think that the pastoral ministry are only what we do so called parish work but it is everything what we do and also it is to a great extent communitarian.
The meeting ended with a vote of thanks proposed by Sr. Marykutty from Chepparamba community. All the communities except Harnaut participated in the gathering with keen interest and enthusiasm. Sr. Deepti from Rajodi community animated the session. She had send the agenda as well as reminders many times for better participation. Hats off to all – Indian Province.
National Pastoral Mission of the Indian Province [August 2021]
Srs. Marykutty, Vimala and Deepti