Vincentian Formation Session for Daughters of Charity from the Provinces of Africa and Madagascar

afrique.4[Motherhouse] From the eight provinces of Africa and Madagascar, we gathered in the Mother House in Paris for two grace filled months. We arrived to the warm welcome of our sisters in the Mother House on the 1st of June. Thirty nine of us from different countries and languages united by our common origin and desire were sent from our provinces to deepen our Vincentian Charism and acquire ways of transmitting it as animators.

 The session began on the 2nd of June with the celebration of the Eucharist by Fr. Patrick Griffin, General Director who was with us for the most part of the session. In her opening address, Sr. Evelyne Franc, Superioress General, urged us to make adequate use of this period of ongoing formation given to us this Year of Faith. She said we should enter into the spirit of the session, as God has made a special appointment with us here and now. The Blessed Virgin, our model, guide and mother will accompany us. Sr. Neghesti Michael, the General Councillor for Africa charged all of us to use this period of grace to intensify our studies of the documents of the Company and reflect on them. She urged us to endeavour to interiorize all we will be experiencing during the programme.

We were enriched by the presentations of the confreres and sisters who accompanied us during the session. They exposed us to the origins and spirituality of the Company. We were led to rediscover our rich heritage and were equipped with new methods to dig into our “gold mine”, the writings of our Founders and the community documents.

 afrique.5We were challenged to be people of balance in the footsteps of our founders and first sisters who were active mystics. Our charism will be impossible to live without a deep commitment to create a community where each sister strives to grow in virtue. The vows and the virtues are lived in community. A well lived example of how one can live in community and serve in the apostolate is “pure gold”.

Times for studies and personal reflections as well as group sharing helped us to interiorise all we were given. This period of sharing was quite enriching. It added colour to the beauty of our meditations. We also listened to one another’s vocation story and learnt from each other. The joy of our vocation radiated from each sister and warmed the dynamic group.

The role of Mary the “only Mother of the Company” was reiterated. She is the only one who is totally open to the Holy Spirit, completely given to God. She is both a mother and a model to the Daughters of Charity.

Pilgrimages to places of our Vincentian heritage were wonderful experiences. In the footsteps of St. Louise, we celebrated the Eucharist in St. Nicolas de Champs and entrusted the Little Company to Mary at Chartres. Vincent came alive at “The Berceau” and Chatillon sur Chalaronne. Our experiences at these pilgrimages will remain indelible in our hearts.

 afrique.3We were challenged to deepen our faith by the witnesses of the Saints and Martyrs of the Community and the Vincentian family. They had the courage to live their faith to the full, sometimes at the cost of their lives. We were given input on the lives of St. Catherine Labouré, Marguerite Rutan, the martyrs of Spain, blessed Ghebre Michael, St. Justin de Jacobis and others.

The presentations of the General Councillors broadened our horizons of the Company. We feel really blessed to belong to a Company that serves Christ in the poor round the clock. The sun never sets on the Company. We were reminded of the importance of keeping Community archives and correct attitude to the temporal goods of the community.

We remain highly indebted to the Community for giving us such wonderful opportunity to deepen our knowledge of the Little Company. These two months have been very enriching. The beauty of our different cultures was expressed in liturgies and we enjoyed special intimacy with the Lord and Our Lady in the Chapel of the Apparitions. We are going back to our provinces renewed and energized to live out the Charism as African women, Daughters of Charity, conscious of the great challenges that are awaiting us in the land of Africa. In the midst of all these challenges, we are encouraged by the voice of Jesus: “Take courage! Get up, He is calling you (us)”. (Mk. 10: 49).

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