‘By accepting vulnerability’, sisters hope to draw strength and help others

VATICAN CITY – The superiors of women’s religious orders around the world will meet in Rome or online to examine their areas of vulnerability and find ways to “embrace” them so that together they are stronger and can be signs of hope for other vulnerable people and communities around the world, said Claretian Sister Jolanta Kafka.

“We have often placed ourselves on the side of the needy, but from a position of power,” said Kafka, president of the International Union of Superiors General. The challenge is “to recognize more consciously that we too need compassion, mercy, conversion, to be aware of our wounds, of our sins”.

Nearly 700 Superiors General – including 520 present in person – will participate in the UISG Plenary Assembly from May 2-6 in Rome under the theme “Embracing Vulnerability on the Synodal Path.”

Kafka and other leaders of the organization scheduled the April 29 assembly for reporters from the Vatican press office.

As the sisters recognize their vulnerabilities, she says, “we feel the need for a new reading of the essentials of religious life and the evangelical counsels” of poverty, chastity and obedience and how leadership and authority can be exercised in a more “gospel” way. , synodal spirit.

“It is a paradox that when we embrace fragility, we are strengthened to support each other,” she said, and this applies not only to relationships between religious women, but also to their relationships and their ministry to “suffering humanity”.

The sisters, she said, are exploring the subject of vulnerability as part of their contribution to the church’s ‘synodal journey’, learning how to better walk together and work together ‘to serve the mission of the church. to proclaim the gospel, care and heal” in a way that embraces everyone, including those who “feel alienated or excluded” from the church.

Sister Mary Kudiyiruppil, Indian member of the Missionaries of the Holy Spirit and deputy executive secretary of the UISG, told reporters, “Religious congregations are vulnerable from many sides,” including the evident decline in numbers in many parts of the world.

But also, she said, “we experience the vulnerability of the internal structure of religious life itself, exposed as we are to questions, challenges and attacks. We are questioned, tacitly or aloud, about our supposedly consistent positions and values, and about inconsistencies in practice.

“For example,” she said, “we profess to have our safety and security in God and a life of detachment, but sometimes in practice we worry, we hoard, we keep gathering things, etc.”

“The intergenerational challenge” is another vulnerability, she said. “Our younger members are asking questions that haven’t been asked before about our relevance and they’re asking for change.”

But, she said, “it’s important to note that the plenary theme says to ’embrace’ vulnerability, which is different from just tolerating or enduring or lamenting.”

Loreto Sister Patricia Murray, UISG Executive Secretary, highlighted some of the new projects the group has launched since its last plenary in 2019, including the establishment of a Commission for Care and Safeguarding with the Union of Superiors General men.

Addressing two other areas of vulnerability, she said the UISG will launch two new initiatives on May 9 focused on the needs of senior sisters around the world.

“The UISG, in conjunction with the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (USA), will focus on the needs of people living with some form of cognitive impairment, particularly Alzheimer’s disease,” she said. , without providing details. “The second focus will be on the care and support of older sisters in general. In many parts of the world, nuns have no social security or health insurance. I add that they were often in pastoral ministries and received no payment.

Barry F. Howard