I will begin with this song by Robert Lebel that I love:
Let’s take the road together, it’s God who leads us,
Let’s walk the road together at the sign of the Spirit of God
May S/he come and teach us to read what emerges for today
Between the lines of the Gospel, the road where Jesus leads us
(Prenons la route ensemble…)
I had my first General Chapter experience in 1993. We were only two Africans. I trembled wondering how I was going to live this chapter and what I could bring. The first thing was to see that we had all prayed and reflected in all the provinces before coming to the chapter.
Meeting our sisters from all walks of life was a great joy and opened my eyes and my heart to the fact that we are all MSOLA religious but living in different contexts. It broadened my horizons and helped me to listen with empathy to the mission of our sisters living in another mission context.
In another chapter, I felt that the crisis that shook the world during those years was not over. We had a whole chapter on vows in 1999 where we tried to unify the different trends.
At the global level there was a rejection of authority; there was talk of responsible leadership: there should no longer be any superiors or inferiors. I was in the group that reflected on the vow of poverty. Those who had the most difficulty were in the group working on the vow of obedience.
It was good to let people express themselves, but what really enlightened us was listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit, and the prayers of all the sisters of the Congregation.
Let us therefore open our doors to the Spirit in faith, listening to what he has to communicate to our congregation. Yes, prayer is the source of our life, and it is faith in Jesus that casts out the Evil One.
Regarding authority, the churches in Africa followed a somewhat slower pace. At that time, they held on to tradition and remained attached to authority, whether that of the civil world, families or institutions.
Through reading the documents of various chapters, in addition to my personal chapter experiences, I see that the Congregation has always been attentive to what was happening in the world and in the Church.
In the 1970s, the African sisters were authorized to live an experience that some thought would be a fulfilling path for them. Experience made, after reflection and evaluation, the sisters returned to the fold. Changes taking place in the world affect our communities and consecrated life in general. (cf. “A rereading of our family history” English: page 400 and following)
Life is made up of ups and downs and we, as a Congregation, cannot escape this. But with confidence and perseverance, we always manage to climb the slope: God be praised!
Openness to what is happening in the world, obedience to Jesus who asks us to cast our nets wide in faith, instead of locking ourselves in what we know, will help us bring in many fish and graces that we had neither planned nor made to our size!
My recommendations to the delegates of the General Chapter 2023:
- Be women of faith and prayer who love Jesus and his Mission, who embody the treasure that is our charism and who have a strong sense of belonging because without JESUS we can do nothing.
- Be open and listen to the Holy Spirit who leads us! Pay attention to inner movements and get out of our little closed world.
- Desire to walk together with respect and acceptance of the opinions of others, because no one has the whole truth. It takes humility.
- Engage in discussions and express your point of view without fear.
Take the GOOD ROAD WITH JESUS! May the blessing of the Lord descend on us all, on our way to the Chapter.
Sr. Bijundi Bashige, Kinshasa, D.R. Congo