On this joyful feast of our Lady, I greet you all with love and affection!

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1 September 8, 2014 My dear Sisters, On this joyful feast of our Lady, I greet you all with love and affection! Two weeks ago, we also celebrated the feast of the Assumption. These two great feasts of our Lady remind us of the important place of Mary in our Christian life, more so, in our life and mission as a Congregation. We find in Mary the sublime example of perfect consecration. 1 She dedicated her whole life to God and she belongs to him completely. Throughout her life, Mary exuded joyful confidence in God. The source of her inner joy is the firm conviction that she is loved infinitely by God. Imagine the joy in the heart of Mary when the Angel announced that she is favored by God and that she will bear in her womb the Son of God, the God of Joy! The joy of Mary at the Annunciation is also the gift we received when God called us. The heart of our vocation and the secret of our fidelity is the joy of the moment when God looked at us, loved us, and called us to be His own. In his meeting with the seminarians and novices, Pope Francis stressed that for God, we are not numbers but people; and that we know that it is he who is calling us. 2 We are important in the eyes of God and he calls us to surrender our whole being and our whole life to him. We are likewise called to be bearers of this message of hope, serenity and joy; to bring God s consolation, and his tenderness towards all. 3 Only if we first experience the joy of being consoled by him, of being loved by him, can we share that joy to others. How can we attract men and women to Christ if we are sad, anxious, discontented and bitter? True joy is contagious, and it impels us to reach out to others. The best vocation promotion and the indispensable tool for evangelization is the joyful witness of our life of consecration! Let us relish again and again the joyful moment when God called us to follow him and draw our renewed strength from it. 1 Pope John Paul II, Vita Consecrata, Art Pope Francis, Meeting with Seminarians and Novices, Rome, 6 July Ibid.

2 The Holy Father announced that we will celebrate the Year of Consecrated Life in It will begin on the 30 th of November 2014, and will terminate on the 2nd of February For this purpose, the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life has published a letter entitled Rejoice! which presents a common itinerary, a space for personal, communal and congregational reflection, as we journey towards 2015, with the desire and the intention of making courageous evangelical decisions leading to revitalization, bearing fruits of joy. 4 The letter highlights the teachings of Pope Francis to consecrated men and women, and the main theme is JOY! I want to say one word to you and this word is joy. Whenever there are consecrated people, seminarians, men and women religious, there is joy, there is always joy! It is the joy of freshness, the joy of following Jesus; the joy that the Holy Spirit gives us, not the joy of the world. There is no holiness in sadness. 5 I consider the celebration of the Year of Consecrated Life a great blessing for our Congregation, since it coincides with the implementation of our Capitular Acts We have clearly drawn a common itinerary and have provided ourselves a space for personal, communal and congregational reflection. We have listened and continue to listen to the movements of the spirit in our personal lives and in our life as a community. The only thing left for us now is to put these plans/projects into action. This requires commitment, consistency, and concerted efforts to dare to make a difference in our world today. It is my fervent hope and prayer that we will be able to make courageous decisions that lead to personal conversion and communal revitalization, bearing fruits of joy! How do we bear fruits of joy? The Gospel of John gives us the answer: Remain in me as I remain in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it remains in the vine, neither can you unless you remain in me (Jn 15:4). We can bear fruits of joy if we remain united with the Lord. Jesus is 4 Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, Rejoice, Rome, 2014, Art. 3 5 Pope Francis, Meeting with Seminarians and Novices.

3 the source of our joy, our life and our fruitfulness in the ministry. It is only when we open our hearts to Christ and let his life and his Spirit come into us that we bear much fruit. We may be engaged in so many activities and projects and claim that we are doing these for others, but if we are not united with the Lord, all our efforts are fruitless. We are likened to the unfruitful branch; busy doing a lot of works, but cut off from God. Prayer is the source of our fruitfulness in the mission, not an obstacle. Joy is a gift that comes from the Lord. This gift of joy has to be nourished by our life of prayer, meditation on the Word of God, the celebration of the sacraments and life in community. 6 If these are neglected, we are bound to experience difficulties and crisis in religious life. Let us cultivate the contemplative dimension of our life so that we do not get trapped in the whirlwind of our apostolic works. St. Ambrose gives us a beautiful picture of Mary who went in great haste to bring to the world the uncontainable joy she carried in her heart and in her womb: Joyful in achieving her desires, sensitive in her duty, thoughtful in her joy, she hurries towards the mountain. Where if not towards the mountain, should she set out so kindly, she who was already full of God? 7 Mary throws open the door of her heart and runs to Elizabeth. Let us also ask ourselves: am I like Mary who goes out in great haste to serve others? Do I retain the force of restlessness for God and for his Word that makes me step out of myself towards others? Are we moved by their needs or do we remain closed in on ourselves or in our communities which are often comfortable for us? 8 My dear Sisters, these questions paused by Holy Father remind us of the challenge that we articulated in our Capitular Acts: Let us come out of ourselves, out of our comforts and our passivity; to bring the presence, the word, the compassion of Christ. 9 Let us take the challenge seriously and have the audacity to go beyond our fears, to transcend our limits and to 6 Pope Francis, Meeting with Religious Men and Women, Korea, August 18, St. Ambrose, Expositio Evangelii secundum Lukam, II 19: CCL 14, p Pope Francis, Homily for the Opening of the General Chapter of the Order of St. Augustine, Rome, 28 August Capitular Acts 2013, p.22

4 let go of our psychological and material securities in order to be available to others. 10 These days, we hear of Christians and non-christians everywhere who are displaced and suffering because of wars, hatred, and violence. How many of our brothers and sisters today long for peace and serenity, justice and charity? In the face of all these realities in our world today, the Church invites us to be audacious, frontier men and women, 11 to get out of our comfort zones and reach out to the poorest of the poor, the marginalized, and the displaced. We are challenged to promote dialogue and create a culture of encounter and relationship that open doors and build bridges. Today s world expects to see in consecrated men and women the concrete reflection of Jesus way of acting and loving, and to be experts of communion. Since we are called to be witnesses of communion, we are called to wear God s smile, 12 to give joy to others. Our fraternal life in community is a fertile ground to practice charity, and to promote dialogue and encounter. Community life enables us to live more fully (and joyfully) our life of consecration. 13 It is a providential training ground for the heart. 14 In a world that is fragmented, our unity in community in the midst of our diversity is a tangible sign that communion and mutual understanding rooted in love are possible. We know from experience that to live in community is not always easy. Conflicts and misunderstanding are inevitable and they must be faced. Despite such difficulties, it is in community life that we are called to grow in mercy, forbearance and perfect charity. 15 We call each other Sisters, therefore let us treat each other with respect and love, forgive one another and speak kindly of one another. It is my wish and prayer that we become happy, holy, loving and faithful Sisters! Let us continue to pray for our Sisters in Central Africa and Ukraine, especially during this critical moment. May our Blessed Mother, who is full of grace and joy, teach us to live our consecrated life with joy and faithfulness. I commend you all to the loving mercy of God and the maternal protection of Mary. God bless you all! Superior General 10 Ibid. 11 Rejoice, Art Ibid., Art Book of Life, Art Pope Francis, Address to Men and Women Religious in Korea. 15 Ibid.

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