Today [22nd September]. the very solemn and moving opening of the XXIII FMA Chapter took place.
Even though Sr Connie and I have been here for quite some time much has happened before this homely, yet dignified great event. We had a wonderful retreat with time to enjoy the peace, cool and inspiration of Mornese, while being equally challenged by the wise sharing of Bishop Thomas from India. The closure of the retreat in the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians was unforgettable, with the final act being the renewal of vows of all the FMA present and a dedication prayer at the urns of Don Bosco and Mother Mazarello, possibly topped by a heartfelt rendering of 'O Qual Sorte' - a kind of world wide hymn thanking the Lord for our good fortune to belong to this fantastic congregation dedicated to young people.
On September 18th we went in pilgrimage to Lu Monferrato, about an hour and a half away from Mornese, to help this small town celebrate the hundredth anniversary of the birth of Sr Angela Vallese, the leader of the first Missionary expedition to Uruguay, aged 24! The rain and the warm welcome we received helped us feel so at home. Despite being small, the mothers of this little town meet regularly to pray for vocations and believe it or not, in one hundred years have given one tenth of their children to the Church as either priests or sisters in various congregations! Notable among this number is Don Rinaldi.
After the long journey back to Rome we had some days of intense, prayerful and helpful reflective preparation on what a Chapter really is, and what our roles as Chapter members entails.
There are 110 out of the 194 Chapter members attending a Chapter for the first time; one for her 7th! The average age of those present is 56, while the average number of years profession, about 33. During this time we have also been helped to get to know each other. Much emphasis has been laid on our need to have an openness to a world view of the Institute and huge dependence on the Holy Spirit, as well as our need to be women of faith when we enter more fully into the world of our youth and of our communities.
So you could say that now the work begins . . . tomorrow we will have Mother Yvonne's Report on the last six years of the Congregation, and will have time to 'chew it over' in silent reflection as well as sharing in various groups. . .
Hoping you are managing to check things out on our International website www.cgfmanet.org
If things continue as they have started this is going to be a really wonderful experience of family, church and a kind of Pentecost experience!
Sr Pat Devine FMA