[Spain] This Encounter took place in Madrid from the 4th to the 6th of October. We normally meet every three years, with the participation of Daughters of Charity and Vincentians representing the canonical Provinces of Spain (Visitors, Visitatrices, Councillors and Delegates in Youth and Vocations Ministry) to reflect about vocations. It has become very important in the last decades, our life depends upon it: the life of the Company of the Daughters of Charity and of the Congregation of the Mission.
Having this opportunity of the Interprovincial Encounter is better understood if we think about a significant text that the theologian Edward Schillebeeckx wrote, more than thirty years ago: “Everything began with an encounter. Some men, Jews of Aramaean language and maybe also Greek, entered in contact with Jesus of Nazareth and stayed with Him. That encounter, and all that happened in the life of Jesus and around his death, made their lives acquire a new sense and a new meaning. They felt renewed and understood, and this new personal identity was translated into a similar solidarity with their neighbours. The change of direction of their lives was fruit of the encounter with Jesus […] it was not a result of their personal initiative, but was something that happened to them from outside” (E. Schillebeekx, Christ and the Christian. Grace and Liberation, Edcs. Christendom, Madrid 1982, 13).
These words summarise the experience lived these days in Madrid: an encounter with Jesus Christ that gave us a new personal and community identity, captured in a common mission in solidarity with our neighbour (so ingrained in the language and gestures of Pope Francis) and, in our case as Vincentians, to the most in need.
We began with the Eucharist on October 5th. We were invited not to lose our smile (our testimony to the happiness we find in living as Daughters of Charity and Vincentians) and to develop the roots of our vocation. Sister Rosa Maria Miro, General Councillor, welcomed and encouraged all the participants, for the countless vocational efforts in which we are engaged do not always correspond with what we would like in our pastoral proposals. The first speaker, Fr. Ignacio Dinnbier (Jesuit of the Arrupe Centre in Valencia), underlined the importance of vocations in the context of concrete “culture”. In a secularized world a vocation is cultivated so as to acquire its value. Vocation starts with the encounter with Jesus Christ. One hears and responds to the call that God, in some moment of their life, has directed to him/her. From there, the diverse vocational pathways point to a question, clearly central: the capacity of the vocational subject for interiority, choice, freedom and encounter. The subsequent dialogue with Fr Ignacio highlighted two attitudes that we should embody. There is the necessary self-reflection in vocation work. and the unavoidable institutional freedom centred in the charism that urges us, with audacity, toward building a future from the present, without looking excessively to the past that, if we are not alert, can reduce our vital flexibility.
In the afternoon Fr Fernando Castilla, C.M. from the Madrid Province, parish priest of St. Michael of Miramar, in Malaga, invited the audience to follow the way of St Vincent de Paul and St Louise of Marillac. Vincentian Vocation in the New Evangelisation is imagined like a picture with a dark background (not black) with the colours of the announcement of the Gospel. The conversion to Jesus Christ (paying attention to the importance of the poor) and the necessary light of evangelisation should possess some priorities. There should be an offer of quality, depth (with the special intention to provoke experiences), evangelical effectiveness and be up-to-date. There are some accents of our own to add: prayer, accompaniment, to propose to “go to the frontier”, not only to welcome but to “get up and go” (1 Cor 9, 1). We must keep in mind the importance of our testimony of life. Definitely, we should be aware that we are anointed, we are urged by charity and we are sent.
The prayer vigil let us to go “to the unknown God”, present and acting in some “streets” of our world: Emmaus Street (encounter and dialogue, to share disillusions and lack of sense), Jericho Street (encounter with pain, marginalization, from the periphery) Bethany Street (encounter with fraternal life and friendship) and Jerusalem Street (encounter with the most profound, the most truthful, with love, on the way to formation and discernment).