Very Dear Sisters,

It gives me great pleasure to welcome you to Angers and, in particular, to the Mother House. It would be difficult to choose a better day for the opening of the General Assembly: Pentecost Sunday, enlightened by the Holy Spirit and accompanied by our dear Good Shepherd Sister Blessed Maria Droste on her feast-day.

Our theme “Life Bearers for the Poor of the World” gives our Assembly a very special direction. It is an invitation for us to pursue our mission together, to pay attention to the gentle breeze of the presence of the Spirit among us, and to find concrete responses for today.

On February 2nd 2002, we convoked the General Assembly with the theme “Life Bearers for the Poor of the World”. Today, Pentecost Sunday, I declare the 4th General Assembly open.

The world, the Church and the Congregation call us to direct our attention to the poorest of the poor. In this wounded world, where do we find the face of Christ?

In his book “That Your Joy May be Complete”, Timothy Radcliffe in some ways responds to this question. He invites us to discover God in the centre of our being, and to allow the silence of God to be at the centre of our lives. He invites us also to dare to be penetrated by the burning desire of God whose Kingdom will come. To discover the face of God in our world means discovering new ways of being human. The God of life becomes visible when those who are marginalised become the Centre.

Because we find the image of Christ among the poor, we are life bearers for and with them. Vita Consecrata #75 identifies the poor for us: “The quest for divine beauty impels consecrated persons to care for the deformed image of God on the faces of their brothers and sisters, faces disfigured by hunger, faces disillusioned by political promises, faces humiliated by seeing their culture despised, faces frightened by constant and indiscriminate violence, the anguished faces of minors, the hurt and humiliated faces of women, the tired faces of migrants, who are not given a warm welcome, the faces of the elderly who are without even the minimum conditions for a dignified life”.

These are the faces that once again cry out to us today. In the course of the days that follow, we shall be led to name them, to listen to them, to discover their needs, to allow ourselves “to be touched by the miseries of the miserable” (SJE). Perhaps we could take a moment now to identify some of these faces; to put a name we know on the face. We can keep these names in our hearts, or perhaps note them down. They are the ones we should not forget throughout all our meetings. Those for whom and with whom we wish to be bearers of life. (silence).

At a time when so many questions are being asked about religious life, about what should be done and about what should not be done, “to turn ourselves toward Christ” may seem to be too simple an answer, and yet, was it not in answer to his call that we said “yes”? A “yes” we have to renew every day. Questions we must honestly pose so as to make sure that our God is always the God of Jesus Christ.
St Mary Euphrasia said: “Live happily with your God and think only of him; do not seek anything else but him, concern yourself only with him, breathe and live only for him” (Conf. XVII).

It was said of Maria Droste that a simple glance at God was enough to reassure her, and in her heart the fire of love grew steadily. She herself would add: “My hands are busy with work, my head is full of worries, and my heart is full of love for Our Lord”.[1] What has this fire which burnt in the heart of Maria Droste in common with the fire which burnt in the heart of St Mary Euphrasia? Of Aguchita ? Of our 4 Filipina Sisters who gave their lives 25 years ago? Of the Sisters today who are the presence of the Good Shepherd among the poor? Is the fire of my zeal still so ardent?

The mission is becoming more demanding and we know that our human response is not enough. “Contemplation is the source of contemplative religious life. Congregations themselves discover that they share in the mystery of a God in movement”. [2]

Being bearers of life calls for a fruitfulness rooted in God. Fruitfulness which calls for solidarity among ourselves and with women; a fidelity which accepts change and practises forgiveness in daily life.

Since the last Assembly, we have become more aware of the importance of working together. The Church needs prophets. Is that what we are? Are we close to the very poor, to the most marginalized, and what are their cries?

Perhaps we could listen for a little while in silence to these cries we hear in our hearts.
What are these cries calling for?
What answers can we offer together to kindle a fire of love in this wounded world? (silence)

As we look at the future together, we face a number of questions regarding the very nature of our religious life. Words such as fidelity, authenticity, solidarity, poverty, living with, visibility, etc., are constantly used, but responses to these are not easily found. Living with questions has become a way of life we have to become accustomed to. Daring to go forward in trust is a real challenge. This is true in the case of the future of religious life. Joan Chittister said: “An ability to take risks is the major challenge of religious life today”.

Elsewhere she says: “The virtue of risk is a bridge linking the religious life of today with that of the future”. [3] I think this will be an important point when we discuss and reflect about our structures as a congregation so that they can really be at the service of the mission.

This time spent in assembly is a space for God, a time for us to listen to him, in his Word and in others; a space for the Spirit who will inspire our actions, keep our hearts open to the “newness of God” become one of us; a fraternal space, a space for communion in which we allow others to challenge us and speak to us of God.

With Mary, Mother of the Church, we say “yes” to the Lord. In fidelity to our call, and as true daughters of Saint Mary Euphrasia, we commit ourselves to be bearers of life, and to find together some responses to the cries of the world.

Have a good Assembly!

Liliane Tauvette

June 8th 2003

[1] Maria Droste in “Comme une flamme...”, Michel de Kerdreux, p.81
[2] Joan Chittister, “The fire beneath the ashes”, Bellarmin, p.325
[3] Idem, p.326

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