Meeting Sisters in Ministry in Latin America and the Caribbean
In early April of this year, I travelled to Buenos Aires, Argentina, with two young Haitian Sisters of St. Joseph and two Sisters of St. Joseph of St. Vallier from Quebec for a two-week meeting of Sisters of St. Joseph in ministry in Latin America and the Caribbean.
The theme of the conference was an invitation to open ourselves to a new theology, a new ecclesiology, a new way of living our spiritual heritage and charism in these times of rapid change. The liturgical celebrations were very rich from the customs of all the different cultures present. Pictured at the right were the five Sisters in ministry in Haiti carrying in their flag: Sister Leonne Pierre,a nurse responsible for a dispensary in a remote village in Haiti. Sister Rosemary Fry, Sister Louise Gauthier, Superior General of the Sisters of St Joseph of St. Vallier from Quebec, Sister Jeanne d'Arc Auclair, responsible for formation in Haiti and Sister Vialard Cesaire.
There were 102 Sisters of St. Joseph present from 19 congregations and 14 countries. All four federations were represented. It was certainly a concrete experience of the parable of the mustard seed as I realized anew how much had grown from the tiny foundation of Father Médaille and our first six Sisters.
We met in the large assembly mostly for presentations, but also in small discussion groups. In my small group there were seven Sisters from seven countries. We spoke four different languages: not having one language in common meant everything had to be translated four times. This was the most powerful experience for me. Of course it slowed everything down but it also meant that we had to care for one another with great attention by listening acutely and speaking very slowly, concisely and to the point.
Each group put up an exposition of their country, its culture and challenges, on a place on the wall. There was great richness in the various cultures and a commonality in the challenges, most of them coming out of the experience of colonization.
Beside the sessions in theology, ecclesiology and psychology there were evening presentations from various countries and presentations from the Global Co-ordinating Committee, the Global Justice and Peace Committee, the Co-ordinating Committee for Latin and Central America and the Caribbean, the NGO at the U.N, and the investigation of the women religious communities in the U.S.
A highlight for me was meeting and sharing with so many Sisters of St. Joseph from all over the world. In particular I was excited to finally meet Gloria and Maria, our two Peruvian, Pembroke Sisters of St. Joseph whom I have known about and held in prayer for years. Of course we needed an interpreter but the smiles and joy in the eyes on meeting communicated more than words.
What a gift we have been given for our Church and for our world!
By Rosemary Fry CSJ who also contributed the photos