Pope Francis met with an international group of formators of religious life on Saturday, April 11 at the Vatican, encouraging them to be witnesses of the beauty of consecrated life.
The group of about 1,300 was in Rome to participate at the five-day conference in Rome, which had as its theme “Living in Christ according to the way of Life of the Gospel.” The conference was organized by the Congregation for Consecrated life and Societies of Apostolic Life and is meant to coincide with the Year for Consecrated Life, which Pope Francis proclaimed last November.
Society members Emmanuella Akewongo, Veronica Ufomba and Stella Envulu attended and submitted this report:
We are grateful to God who makes things possible. We thank the Society for deeming it fit that we; Veronica Ufomba, Emmanuella Akweongo and Stella Envulu should attend the above Congress.
The gathering was an International Congress for Formators in Consecrated Life, which took place in Rome from 7th-11th April 2015 with the theme: “Living in Christ according to the form of life of the Gospel” (Prefectae Caritatis 2). It was organized by the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life. The Prefect for Consecrated Life, Joao Braz Cardinal De Aviz and his secretary, Archbishop Jose Rodriguez Carballo, OFM, were present to preside over and moderate the Congress.
The Congress started with an opening prayer vigil on 7th April at 8:30pm at Veglia di Preghiera Chiesa S. Gregorio VII.
The Congress was attended by 1300 participants of 207 Nationalities and 416 Religious Congregations and Societies of Apostolic Life.
There were presentations by different persons in line with the theme of the Congress at Ergife Hotel. The topics included the following:
- “Looking back at the past with gratitude, living the present with passion, embracing the future with hope” (cf Pope Francis, Apostolic letter for the year of consecrated life) by Joao Braz Cardinal De Aviz
- “Have the same mindset as Jesus Christ” (Phil 2,5) by Prof. Michelina Tenace
- “Until Christ is formed in you” by Fr. Amedeo Cencini, FDCC
- “In him, we are chosen, called, redeemed” (Eph. 1:4-7) by Sr. Claudua Pena Y. Lillo, FSP
- “Do you still not understand?” (Mk 8:21) by Fr. Cicardo Volo, CFM
- “That your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of sight” (Phil. 1,9) by Sr. Lola Arrieta, CCV
- “I have been there many times; I have knowledge and experience of all the ways, I have travelled along them many times” (Tob 5,6) by P. Miahael Mc Guire, Colomban
- Presentations of some Formation Experiences by Fr. Sebastiano Paciolla, O Cist
- Formation in various Congregations by Beniamino Cardinal Stella, Prefect Congregation for the Clergy, Archbishop Jose Rodriguez Carballo, OFM, Secretary Consecrated Life and A. Vincenzo Zani, Secretary Congregation for Catholic Education.
We were also divided into smaller groups for workshops on selected topics. The workshops basically looked at the challenges of Formators/Formation and Consecrated Life.
On 11th April, the last day of the Congress, we had Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica and an audience with the Holy Father, Pope Francis at Paul VI Hall. It was a great opportunity to meet and touch the Holy Father. The Congress was concluded with a closing prayer at 6:30pm. Below is a summary of the topics discussed at the Congress; a way forward for those who journey with young people:
- make known your joy and handover this joy to the young people who join you
- your commitment should come from your own conviction of a life of faith
- support the young people you journey with. Treat them not as your own properties but as God’s
- do not presume. Learn from Jesus’ pedagogy
- do your own learning. Be open and humble
- do not forget that it is the Father who forms through the Spirit. We are mere mediators
- be full time formators. Be present. Give the best of yourselves and be valuable. Consecrate your time to regular meetings; individual and group. Build an interpersonal relationship between you and the formee and the Spirit. Do your part of the Will of God that is assigned to you
- have a big heart to welcome those the Father entrusts to you. Give value to every human person
- form young people with the heart and love of God and with great passion for God
- do not expect anything from the young people which has not been put into practice by you
- do not be afraid to accompany the young men and women to find out their own truth by their own weaknesses. Make them feel you are close to support them. Be merciful especially to those who are not in line with their chosen vocation
- do not be afraid to accompany young people to the Easter of Jesus
- get back on your path; build communities, monasteries (spirituality of communion as Saint John Paul II advices) for it brings us to the origin of the Trinity, if not, we become unfulfilled persons; individual spirituality is not enough. Follow the messages of your founders so that consecrated persons have no reasons to ask for dispensations
- we have been nourished by values that do not belong to the Gospel, such as the exercise of power and money. Therefore, it is necessary we change these values to Christ’s values. Power and money are ruining our consecrated life.
In conclusion, Archbishop Jose Rodriguez Carballo said that the Church loves, appreciates and prays for men and women journeying with young people, that without our service, young people run the risk of not seeing a world transformed by the Beatitudes.
For the three of us, we have been greatly enriched by these days of Formation. We have been challenged, encouraged, equipped and strengthened to bear authentic witness to Jesus’ own values by our way of renewed LIVING.