(Excerpted from Sister Margaret Fielding’s address to the Extended Institute Leadership Council in November 2022, referencing RSHM change from separate area units to one single entity of governance.)
“Listen to the Holy Spirit’s promptings and press ahead towards what awaits you.” (GS 7/X/1878)
We come together in this “period of experimentation” as we journey “towards becoming one unit of governance….” It is also a very significant time in our Church as it moves forward on the Synodal journey toward becoming a more collaborative and inclusive Church.
Our background is a world still emerging from a global pandemic, a world caught in the turmoil of widespread political and civil unrest, war and violence, a world increasingly affected by natural disasters, a world in which hunger is reaching catastrophic levels and a world, too, that is increasingly multicultural, interconnected and interdependent.
Our logo for this meeting expresses the theme of journeying from the past, represented by the green shoots that were sown at our 2019 General Chapter when we set out on the journey of restructuring. The journey ahead looks steep, but we are not alone. The cloud of bright light represents the Holy Spirit who is enlightening us, urging us forward, prompting us to choose God’s way. The Spirit, the Consoler, strengthens and unites our minds and hearts and brings them into harmony with the mind and heart of Christ (God’s way), making them available to what God wants.
The journey of restructuring continues to involve all of us, the whole Institute, young and old. We must not forget that its purpose is mission: that we may carry out our mission effectively today and in the future – that, as numbers decrease and structures become simpler and lighter, we may be light and salt, small but making a difference wherever we are. At this stage in our journey of restructuring, we trust that God’s Spirit is opening new horizons and inviting us – all of us – to new ways of living our life and mission in the 21st century.
As we discern God’s invitations to us today and how we can respond to them, we can be certain that we will be given the resources that we need for mission. This was the belief of Father Gailhac when he wrote: “I shall pray only that you may have what is necessary to accomplish the works to which God will call you.” We may no longer have large numbers of sisters, but we have the strength of our unity, the richness of our diversity of gifts, languages and cultures, the wealth and inspiration of our charism which we want to live today “with resilience” and in new ways. We continue to welcome new entrants in some of our areas and we are blessed with a growing spirit of collaboration within the Institute and with lay people, a gift which enables and empowers us to respond to today’s urgent needs both locally and globally. And we have the advantage of today’s communication technology to deepen unity and lighten the burden of administration. Can we recognize that this time of restructuring, which is requiring us to reduce our works and our properties in the face of declining numbers, is also offering us the grace of opting for the essentials in our choices for mission. Can we see that we are indeed blessed?
We will open the Year of Jean Gailhac during this meeting. May it be a year of abundant blessings for us and for all who are associated with us in mission. So let us ask with great trust, through the intercession of Father Gailhac, to have hearts and minds that are attentive to “the Holy Spirit’s promptings” and let us ask with the same trust that in the year – and years – ahead we “may have what is necessary to accomplish the works to which God “will call[us].” Let us now “press ahead towards what awaits [us].”