Prophetic Witness for Universal Communion:
Mission in Conflict Zones and Healing

The theme of the 2024 SEDOS residential seminar was Prophetic Witness for Universal Communion: Mission in Conflict Zones and Healing. It was held May 6-10 in Ariccia, Italy.

The General Councillors Sisters Mary Kerber, Carolyn Anyega, Christine Garcia and Martina Radež and the CP Shalom coordinator Tim Dewane attended the seminar. They were richly blessed by the inputs of presenters and sharing they were privileged to experience.

The speakers approached the theme from biblical, psychological, and spiritual perspectives. They spoke with passion, combining theory with personal practical experience. Their convictions, commitment, and testimonies encouraged and challenged the participants.

A thorough reflection and exploration of the theme showed that we are at the center of what the church is for: the church exists for its mission, which is universal communion.

The prophetic witness is about serving life. How do we, as religious men and women, really work for this universal communion?

Fr. André-Léon Simonart, MARF, a member of a steering committee, emphasized in his synthesis of the week three points:

The seminar is a call to wake up in the context of our planet, environment, suffering, and death in many countries.

The dream of God is to bring unity and communion with him through fraternity and sisterhood by walking in the footsteps of Jesus. A call to us is to continue Jesus’ ministry of compassion and healing care in creative faithfulness to one congregation’s and institution’s charism. It is a matter of personal witness, conviction, and commitment. The truth is needed: we have to be honest, authentic, and credible, and we have to search for the truth and be ready to pay the price for it.  This, of course, needs discernment, common discernment.

The seminar invites us to a change of mindsets and paradigms.

The mission is about the service of life, making life possible. An important point is active nonviolence. A paradigm shift means that something has to change in what is a priority in our lives. Conversion to active nonviolence starts from a change of what is important, who is essential for me, what space I give, and what is really important. I will push certain things out of the center of my attention for this priority to take place. This has to be translated into attitudes, action plans, apostolic actions, apostolic insertions, where the congregations go, and which new foundations we will take on.

Integrity for nonviolent programs has four fundamental values and behaviors associated with them:

  1. Creating respect – how the food is distributed, how things are organized in communities, and assembling a non-threatening place.
  2.  Practicing honesty – open and truthful communication, freedom to discover the true self.
  3.  Promoting justice – accountability and responsibility, negotiation and fairness.
  4.  Nurturing wholesome relationships – demonstrate trust and support and adequate resources.

We have been taken to different fields where we might explore relevant and valuable ways and approaches to creatively respond to the call to be at the service of life, benefiting those who suffer most from violence.

(The presentations are available in the SEDOS Bulletin, Vol. 56, no. 5/6 May/June 2024)

PERSONAL SEDOS REFLECTIONS

Step
into the
costly
path
of
active
nonviolence.

Sister Carolyn Anyega SSND

In the name of God …
An eye opener, heart opener, or both?
Prophetic witnesses of universal communion
Healing in conflict zones
Trumpet of the 25th general chapter
Witnesses yes, credibly, truthfully, honestly, authentically.

Channels of rapture – my heart broken?
Braving negotiations in conflicts
Pierced by the horror of being kidnapped
The weight of accompanying the suffering
Martyrdom the price, Algerian monks paid.

Conflict everywhere; it hurts perniciously
Nonviolence, a lifestyle we must live
Jesus, the model calls; peace is not free
Reconcile differences, heal wounds, pray
Disarm the heart; do no harm.

In the name of God… in the name of humanity
Give the world a culture of peace, no ifs or buts
Prevent, stop war and violence, make peace
Martyrs, Pope Francis, Fr. Luigi Maccalli model, do you?
Carolyn, take it up – re-examine your life
Step into the costly path of active nonviolence.

Sister Christine Garcia SSND

Mine was the privilege of sharing faith, of dialoguing daily with religious from different countries, each speaking Spanish distinctively. We were eager to understand, listened to each other earnestly, and made heartfelt connections. It was a joy to share these days in a language in which we all felt at home. I imagine easily those present on the day of Pentecost shouting with amazement and jubilation… “Each one of us has heard you speak of the wonders of God in our own language!”

Living now in Rome, I am daily aware that we, SSND, are multicultural and multilingual. Not everyone has the opportunity to express herself, pray, dialogue, and be understood in her native language. Indeed, it is difficult for us to understand each other, yet at the deepest level, there is that longing to be one, to be credible witnesses of universal communion.

I’m reminded that, in our efforts to understand each other, it is important to ask ourselves: “How am I present? Am I listening with my heart and welcoming the heart of the other, my sister, brother whom I want to know better and share in God’s peace?” I pray, Holy Spirit- Ever-Present, keep working through and within us; soften us to speak the language of your heart; make us artisans of your peace, building bridges to see, hear and celebrate your wonders in our midst and beyond.

 —–

Hermana Christine Garcia, SSND/HEND

 Tuve el privilegio de compartir la fe, y dialogar diariamente con un grupo; todos de diferentes países, cada uno hablando español de manera diferente. Deseosos de entender, nos escuchábamos con atención y establecíamos conexiones de corazón. Fue una alegría compartir estos días en un idioma en el que todos nos sentíamos como en casa. Me imagino fácilmente a los presentes el día de Pentecostés gritando con asombro y júbilo… “¡Cada uno de nosotros te ha oído hablar de las maravillas de Dios en nuestra propia lengua!”

Viviendo ahora en Roma, soy consciente a diario de que las HEND somos multiculturales y multilingües. No todas tenemos a menudo la oportunidad de expresarnos, rezar, dialogar y ser entendidas en nuestras propias lenguas. De hecho, nos resulta difícil entendernos, y, sin embargo, en lo más profundo, seguimos anhelando la unidad. Me recuerda que, en nuestros esfuerzos por entendernos, de ser testigos creíbles de la comunión universal dondequiera que estemos, es importante preguntarnos: ¿Cómo estoy presente? ¿Estoy escuchando con corazón y acogiendo el corazón del otro, mi hermana, mi hermano, a quien quiero conocer mejor y compartir la paz de Dios?”

Te ruego, Espíritu Santo-Siempre-Presente, siga trabajando a través y dentro de nosotros; ablándanos para hablar el lenguaje de tu corazón; haznos artífices de tu paz, construyendo puentes para ver, oír y celebrar tus maravillas en medio de nosotros y más allá.

make
us
artisans
of
your
peace

… 

haznos
artífices
de tu
paz

They stressed
that
the way
we help
is more
important
than
what
we give

Sestra M. Martina Radež SSND

Grateful for the opportunity to participate, I would like to share a few nuggets from the richness of the 2024 SEDOS seminar. It reminded us of the essence of our being missionaries as religious men and women.

We are the Church, called to continue Christ’s ministry of compassion and healing, to be at the service of life, and to participate in the healing of the world.

We are called to be prophets, to build bridges, and to always be ready to give an account of the hope we carry in us. As prophets, as agents of peace, we are called to use non-violent language, witnessing reconciliation.

The presenters’ testimonies of their lived experiences gave credibility to their presentations. They stressed that the way we help is more important than what we give; we need to bring, to restore dignity through our relationships and actions. Being with is more important than doing for. A holistic approach, accompaniment of all persons involved, good team collaboration, and self-care of the co-workers are crucial if we want to be at the service of life.

Personal encounter with God, imitating Jesus in his non-violent attitudes and relationships towards everyone are non-negotiable dimensions of being a prophet, of living a prophetic witness to universal communion.

Sister Mary Kerber SSND

Non-violence …One Decision at a Time

The theme of this year’s SEDOS seminar was most compelling for SSND’s just months after our General Chapter.  Each speaker and each small group session brought me deeper and deeper into the radicality of following Christ in mission.  Living the non-violence of Jesus demands inner transformation, commitment, patient practice and the discipline of an alternative way to live life where the “infinite dignity” of each person and all of creation informs everything we do and are in life.

I was particularly moved by the speakers who shared their experiences of living in hostile environments and how they chose to act.  Their rigorous and courageous inner searching that resulted in their choice of non-violence moved me deeply and continue to challenge me in my every day encounters and choices.  Fr. Pier Luigi Maccalli , after over 2 years of being held hostage in the Sahara desert concluded: “God does not transform evil into good, but into love.”  Choosing this way of love is the active role that each of us plays in the evolution of consciousness and the realization of our universal communion – one decision at a time.   (Please see this link if you wish to read Fr. Maccalli’s story.)

“God
does
not
transform
evil
into
good,
but
into
love.”

There is
no place
for
violence
if
one is
to have
love
and
compassion
for
all.

Tim Dewane

Biblical Roots of Practicing Active Non-Violence

One aspect of this year’s SEDOS Residential Seminar that particularly resonated with me was Fr. Guy Teunis’ presentation, Jesus, A Model on Non-Violence.

I can only describe Fr. Guy’s presentation as an example of “breaking open the scripture” through which was revealed Jesus undeniable commitment to promoting and practicing active non-violence through his words and deeds. Fr. Guy began with a reflection on the 5th antithesis of the Sermon on the Mount, lifting up the messaging behind the call to “turn the other cheek”, “leaving your cloak as well”, and the other elements of the biblical passage – demonstrating how Jesus provided the vulnerable and put upon (and all of us) practical examples by which one could challenge oppressors and reclaim some dignity utilizing techniques of active non-violence resistance.

Fr. Guy went on to highlight Jesus’ commitment to promoting and practicing active non-violence in a variety of other settings: his engagement of the Pharisee Simon who objected to the “known sinner woman” washing Jesus’ feet (Luke 7: 36-50); Jesus driving out the merchants from the Temple; Jesus entering Jerusalem on a donkey or colt (instead of a horse – an animal of war) (Luke 19, 37-38) ; and several instances throughout the passion narratives.  Each example lifted up by Fr. Guy revealed with increasing clarity that we who seek to follow Christ and live the Gospel message are called to do the same.  There is no place for violence if one is to have love and compassion for all.