I was also happy that the following topics were treated so as to deepen our understanding and broaden our horizon: OLA charism and spirituality, Mission, the vows, community life, individual differences and conflict management. JDPC (Justice, development and peace, integrity of creation) ongoing formation, the challenges of religious life with regards to globalization, interreligious dialogue, the benefits and risks of new technologies and their position in the consecrated life…
The feelings that I have are that of joy, pride and hope.
This feeling of joy I have is due to the richness and the diversity of the various cultures shared amongst us and also the youthfulness that shines and glows in the institute. There was a general feeling of fraternity and vitality. My second reason for this joy is as a result of the generosity and availability of our senior sisters who shared their knowledge with us on different topics. I was challenged by their spirit of service.
In other to continue with our tradition, we had a session for the sisters' preparation for their final commitment in Calavi - Benin, from the 1st of July to the 30th of August 2012. We were 34 sisters with temporal vows, 21 Francophone and 13 Anglophones. We had Sisters in their 7th, 6th and 5th years of vows. Six Sisters journeyed with us during these two months. After this beautiful experience, I gladly share with you what I retained and that which I treasure.
The rediscovery of our apostolic spirituality has enhanced and inspired me with some re-appropriation of our charism. In fact, as a woman apostle, I am called to keep awake the fundamental aspects of this spirituality which are:
- meeting and maintaining a strong intimacy with the Lord in prayer;
- making the Lord present in all my actions and carrying him along with me;
- giving the best of myself to my community so that my community radiates a life of fraternity
according to the gospel values.
Thus, I will be more involved in putting in place possible ways of living our charism in my apostolate.
This awakens in my heart the openness to the missionary dimension (mission ad extra) of our Institute and its focus on woman. The discussion we had on the place of women in Africae Munus in relation to our charism challenged me. Deep within me I felt a greater energy, enthusiasm and determination of making the justice and Love Christ present in the struggle for the liberation and wellbeing of women. My thought went especially to the few African women that I prepare each year for sacraments. They are employees in homes and often live situations of abuse and injustice. Thus, this time of catechesis for them is not only a place where they meet the Lord but also it gives them the opportunity of sharing what they have in their hearts. I must confess that I always leave this place happier because they feel they have been listened to. In this place, they also listen to the gospels and discover God's love for them.
The different approaches of the three vows that were presented to us afterwards gave me a broader understanding and perspective on the vows that I will be making soon for life. For example, the different links that has to do with the vows of poverty: security, power, love and freedom. The vow of obedience reminds how to accept: my day to day life, what has been asked of me to in terms of service, the decisions of my superiors in an attitude of availability. The vow of Chastity embraces all aspects of my life; I discovered that refusal to a healthy friendship is against the vow of chastity. Most especially the link with the vision of Xavier Thevenot really touched me. I remember that any negative attitude of mediation requirements of my life is a rejection of the Law of the Father which is an essential element in the process of growth. Such a situation lead to a state of childhood and therefore the refusal to be an adult. This is also a refusal to grow up, communicate, and live in love.
Furthermore, the discoveries about community life has made me to be more conscious of the need of knowing myself better and that will enable me to enter into a better relationship with others. For this to happen, I need self- empathy so as to be attentive to what is happening to me such as my feelings and needs. The tools of non violent communication that we have been given will help me to explain myself to the other. Empathetic listening will also help me to understand that words of the other are true expressions of his/her unsatisfied needs (sometimes of his wounds).
Another point that challenged me was the commitment I have to make in the struggle for justice and peace and the integrity of creation. I got to know that it is in the activities of daily life that my attention is being drawn to, the collaboration and relationship with the other before I think of acting on a larger scale. Again how is my relationship with my environment? I also have to be watchful with the way I make use of the tools that modern technologies make available at our disposals, so that they do not invade nor interfere with our consecrated life.
In conclusion, this session was a moment of grace, evaluation and revival for me. My sincere appreciation goes to the institute for giving us the opportunity of experiencing this moment of growth and update. This is a unique opportunity in the life of an OLA. My wish is that this beautiful tradition continues and that it is maintained for the good of the institute, and also for a greater participation in the life of the church in which we share in its great and noble mission. This happens through a better community life, a lived experience of my own charism and finally a more active participation in the service of the Gospel entrusted to us.