We are happy to share with you some important events that marked our Juniorate Pilgrimage.
We set off on the 11th of September accompanied by our sisters Julia Alonso Martinez and Jeanne d’Arc Ouattara. From the beginning we were asked to be open and flexible as the problems with visa reshuffled our plans. Marietha Asimwe arrived on 10 September and Yollande Kandongo was able to join us only on 5 October. However, the new technologies came to our help and allowed us to start the program together.
On September 14, the four juniorists Iwona Cholewińska, Magdalena Orczykowska, Marietha Asimwe and Yollande Kandongo we began our juniorate pilgrimage. During the opening Eucharist celebrated by Father Stan Lubungo, Superior General of the Missionaries of Africa, and in the presence of the sisters of the large community of the Generalate, the Superior General, Sister Angela Kapitingana, officially welcomed the juniorists for this 6-month period of spiritual deepening. Thanks to zoom, our companion Yollande was able to participate in this important event from the distance of thousands of kilometers, share her desires for this time of juniorate and present her symbol as each one of us did.
Walking the ways of our interior pilgrimage, this first month was rich in encounters with God, with ourselves and with each other. Among important prayer moments we would like to share is the Ecumenical Prayer Vigil at Saint Peter Square on the 30th of September. The event gathered the youth participating in the gathering of Taizé and the participants of the upcoming Synod of Bishops on synodality. With this ecumenical prayer the delegates to the synod begun their three days’ retreat. A very prayerful atmosphere rich in Word of God and meditative music was crowned by the prolonged and powerful moment of silence. The prayer was concluded with a word from Pope Francis in which he insisted on the importance of silence in our Christian life. What a joy for us to participate in this significant event in the life of the Church.
After the arrival in Rome of sister Yollande the joy of our reunion was immense. On 8 October we made a pilgrimage to the catacombs of St Callixtus, starting with Sunday Mass in the Quo Vadis chapel, which we saw as a place of discernment (what a wonderful coincidence!).
28 October was the day of the pilgrimage in the footsteps of the “Holy Women of Rome” with our sister Gisela Schreyer. We visited the basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, the church of Saint Praxedis and Santa Pudentiana, and ended up in the basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri, with the image of the Risen Jesus as a gardener. Other highlights of the pilgrimage were the shared ice cream, an hour’s wait for the bus for some of us and an hour’s walk for others, with a magnificent moonrise.
On 29 October we were lucky enough to take part in the Mass inside St Peter’s Basilica presided over by Pope Francis for the closing of the first session of the Synod. The history of the Church is unfolding before our eyes! In his homily the Pope said that we can love God through adoration and service. He wished us to be a Church of adoration and a Church of service that washes the feet of wounded humanity, that accompanies the journey of the fragile, the weak and those left behind, that reaches out tenderly to the poorest. The synodality was already visible – we were seated just after the cardinals, close to the Pope! After Mass, we stayed in St Peter’s Square to pray the Angelus with the Pope and so many other pilgrims from all over the world.
On 31 October we set off on another pilgrimage, still guided by our sister Gisela, in the footsteps of Cardinal Lavigerie in Rome. There were five stations: Basilica of St Agnes Outside the Walls, Basilica of the Holy Apostles, Church of Gesù (where the tomb of St Ignatius is located), Church of St Louis of the French and the Cardinal’s tomb in the crypt of the Generalate of the Missionaries of Africa. We took time for personal reflection and prayer at each station, and at the end we had a wonderful moment of sharing at the tomb of our founder. A beautiful day, rich in history, spirituality, community and physical effort!
The rest of October was taken up by several sessions and by the daily life of our small juniorate community and that of the large community of the Generalate.
“May your heart never cease to marvel at the daily miracles of your life. For it is in the dew of little things that the heart finds its morning and its freshness” (John O’ Donohue).
Dear sisters, we count on your prayers to accompany us in this interior pilgrimage.