31/08/2014 – Interview with Mother Yvonne on the theme of GC XXIII
The General Chapter XXIII of the Daughters of Mary Help Christians is a historic event in the life of every daughter of Mary Help of Christians, the young and all who are connected to us in any way. It is an important and significant event for the entire Institute of which we form an integral part. We have been preparing for it with much prayer, study and reflection and will continue to support the members of the General Chapter with our prayers.
Let us listen to the interview of Mother General published on 31/08/2014. The translation of the same you will find below.
Interview with Mother Yvonne Reungoat on the theme of GC XXIII
June 13, 2014
1. “Being, with young people today, a home that evangelises” is the theme that has been chosen for the coming General Chapter. What horizons can it open up for the future of the Institute?
The future horizons for the Institute are those of a revitalisation of the charism in dialogue with our times, in which there is a strong need to feel at home, i.e. to have affective and social points of reference, a sense of belonging and secure, shared values. The solitude of the family, often defenceless and fragile, unstable relations between people, alienation, defensively closing in on self, can all leave people, and especially young people, feeling alone and disorientated.
Offering a home, or rather being one, and being one together with them, means the freshness in human and spiritual relations that we intend to live. At the same time, it implies openness to others, since we are speaking of a home with open doors and windows, welcoming, proactive, where a sense of responsibility and care for each other is lived and, together, all tend towards a goal of beauty and fulfilment in Jesus, the true meaning of our life.
Therefore, the future horizons are in the area of the charism, whose most basic expression is the family spirit; a family in which young people can feel welcome, loved, valued, made responsible for their own lives and those of others, encouraged to discover the plan God has for them. Young people are not, in the first place, object of our care, but protagonists in cultural and social change in the light of the Gospel and according to the spirit of the Salesian charism.
2. In the Working Document three nuclei are proposed for reflection:
o Hope from the margins
o Called by God to be a prophecy of joy
o Relationships at the heart of the charism
How can they be a response to the challenges that the Institute needs to face?
There are many challenges to be faced, but basically they can be reduced to three:
• To allow ourselves to be challenged by the world, especially that that of young people, which is becoming impoverished, not only at the economic level but also at a human, cultural, social and religious levels;
• To rediscover the fascination of our religious life and witness to the joy of following Jesus in a setting where pessimism, scepticism and seeking easy gain seem to dominate;
• To let ourselves be challenged by the need for true and authentic relationships, and for a humanity that rediscovers itself and its dignity.
o Hope from the margins. Pope Francis recommends not allowing ourselves to be robbed of hope. Not alone must we not allow ourselves to be robbed of it, but we must recover it from the existential margins, as the Working Document for GC XXIII suggests. Indeed, the margins become the Gospel perspective from which to look at life with love. The margins are not just bearers of problems, suffering, limitations and death, but of life and hope. Wisdom can be learned by living with suffering and limitations, by sharing simplicity and poverty. The poor evangelise us with their very lives. In dialogue with them we become more creative, joyful, capable of going to the essential, and of proposing the beauty of the Gospel. Besides being a Gospel perspective, the margins are also a charismatic perspective. Don Bosco and Mother Mazzarello were people of the margins and they started their mission among young people on the existential margins of their time.
On the level of human relationships, we have understood that the model of development cannot be that of prosperity, seen as accumulating wealth, but the possibility of living with dignity, moderation and joy and especially of sharing.
Consecrated life itself is experiencing what it is to be a minority, both because of falling numbers and because of its attitude of readiness to go out of itself and to journey in order to meet Jesus in the poor, on the margins of life and of every kind of poverty. It goes where the mystery of sin, suffering, and lack of rights reign; on the margins of thought and of every form of misery, especially those experienced by young people, in order to evangelise them and allow itself to be evangelised in an enriching mutual sharing.
On the margins we recognise the face of our communities. Together with the educating communities, many of them are rediscovering the joy of loving and serving in places where life is most fragile, insecure and threatened. From this point of view, today, even the family founded on marriage is an existential margin that needs to be cared for. No less care must be given to our communities, which are becoming ever more multi-generational, multi-cultural and, in some places, having a high average age, with all the richness and difficulties that this new configuration involves. Calls for inter-congregational collaboration are becoming ever more frequent. In brief, we are discovering an open field for the building of a home for all as a large family of children of God who live in communion and share what they are and have.
The margins do not offer security, but they involve a choice in favour of a fruitful future, because it is evangelical and Salesian and makes hope practical.
o A prophecy of joy. It is from the margins that we can experience joy, because it is there that God calls us, speaks to us, invites us, and gives us consolation and joy. It is by starting from the margins that we can witness to the fact that we are happy to follow Jesus and to proclaim the Gospel of joy. Joy is contagious and becomes a prophecy of hope in the possibility of a new world. It is not only the joy of being with Jesus but the joy of being with young people. We are called to inhabit the places in which we can meet them, listen to their thirst, and present the Gospel in a credible and convincing way, starting from a trustworthy witness that makes the life of Jesus visible in our words and actions.
Young people are our life, our fatigue, our hope, our future. They are a different and demanding generation. This could scare us, but the Lord does not leave us alone. It is among them that we can meet him. It is with them that we can live the preventive charism, revitalising our hope. Young people are capable of surprising us in a positive sense because they exceed our expectations with their generosity. If we are among them with an oratorian heart, they will show us their true face, one of poverty and hope, of generosity and beauty in the total gift of themselves.
The crisis in the family challenges us, not only to accompany the young people, but to establish a family pastoral, especially for young families, to help them to become an active support to other families.
If our heart is filled with the fascination of following Jesus, it will discover the comfort and joy of being with those He loves, especially young people, and of inhabiting those places in which they are to be found, not only the physical places, but also the virtual ones. The joy of communicating something beautiful and great will help us to enter into harmony with their languages, to become competent in the relationship of accompaniment, to be present in social networks and also to learn from young people. It will lead us to accept the new challenges of the educational and evangelising mission.
The new poor are not only to be found where the Gospel has not yet reached, but in many existential margins. We are particularly challenged by violence against women and children, abuses within families, human trafficking, migration and corruption.
For this reason we welcome the invitation of Pope Francis to be a Church that is going out to the mission, joining forces to oppose situations that degrade the human person and nature.
In a positive sense, we want to educate to life, to self-giving, to gift, to responsibility for others and for creation, to care for fraternal life.
o Relationships at the heart of the charism. With young people and the whole educating community, we commit ourselves to build a home of fraternity through relationships that make life more humane, animated by the spirituality of Don Bosco’s Preventive System. We feel that the charism is a word of God for today. We want to revitalize it by making the style of life in our communities more prophetic and joyful: a prophecy of joy and hope that involves the educating communities. The home we want to build is open to all. When we approach others windows are thrown open that make it possible to know each other, exchange gifts, respect and appreciate each other. Relationships will save us from individualism and, at the same time, guide us to put people at the centre, restoring their dignity.
In this regard the Salesian charism offers an interesting educational journey. It challenges us to make our relationships more mutual, to find the spot that is accessible to goodness, that is, the level of contact that allows the person to feel accepted in his/her deepest reality.
In Valdocco and Mornese, where the Salesian charism began its journey, thanks to the availability of St. John Bosco and St. Maria Domenica Mazzarello, all breathed a family spirit. They formed profoundly human relationships. They lived the fascination of the vocational call and the passion of the da mihi animas cetera tolle. Mother Mazzarello felt that she had received the educational mission from the very hands of Mary Help of Christians and lived it as a trust.
Relationships in the family spirit, lived as an educating community, become a prophecy of a different way of living, of telling our story, of expressing ourselves, of going out to others, and even of structuring one’s own identity. In fact, our image emerges, as in a mirror, from our relationships with others. We are called to revitalise the prophecy of fraternal life and make sure that it reaches all the existential margins in which our life and mission take place, with the momentum of the da mihi animas cetera tolle and the tender love of one who is aware of the call to care for others with compassion and mercy.
3. What is your dream for the experience that will be lived during the General Chapter?
The Assembly of GC XXIII will be representative of the whole world (there will be FMA from all continents, representing the 94 countries in which we are present). It holds the dream of new communities, open to universal fraternity, capable of appreciating the precious treasure of the Salesian Spirit inherited from our founders and of giving it new life, incarnating it in the situations of the present day. They will be capable of sustaining their hope in the certainty that the Lord is doing something new today and that we need to have eyes to see it. At GC XXIII I expect to experience FMA who are capable of believing in the dream of a Salesian religious life that can offer a new fascination and attraction, despite human limitations.
It is not primarily a question of studying what to propose to others (to those who do not take part in GC XXIII) and therefore of producing documents, but of experiencing the contagious beauty of our life, called to witness that the Lord Jesus fills the human heart and opens it to others.
For this reason I pray for a great openness to the Holy Spirit, the true protagonist in this event.
The conditions needed for this are: inner freedom and a new way of looking at things, the ability to go out of oneself to search for unprecedented paths, in the conviction that the future is not what remains of the past, but something absolutely surprising, that brings us back to the freshness of the origins of our charism that it may be a source of new life.
The Chapter will not solve all problems, but it will give a new spirit with which to face them with a Gospel and Salesian heart.
4. What message do you want to give to the many Sisters and members of the educating communities who will follow the work from home?
From now on the General Chapter can be lived in all our FMA communities and in the educating communities. Each member must be able to say: this involves me; it belongs to me; it is speaking of me and my community, because the Chapter is not something reserved, even if only one representative can take part. The Chapter belongs to everyone and should be followed with a sense of belonging and great love, with prayer and empathy, and above all with great confidence and hope. “When the Spirit works, it always creates something new”. It is the newness of the Gospel that radiates.
I pray that the new wind of the Holy Spirit that will blow through the days of GC XXIII may reach the most marginal communities and spread the contagion of life and hope to them.
There will be intense coverage on the website of the Institute. I invite you to make use of it. Thus you will be kept up to date in real time and will, in a way, live this significant event directly.
I hope, too, that you will accept with trust the transmission that the Provincial and delegate/s to the Chapter will give on their return. This attitude will make sure that the Chapter will be incarnated in the different settings in which you live and work with missionary hearts and that it will become contagious.
Stay in contact with us: do not pull out the plug. Every day interesting surprises will await you. Your responses will be precious for us and will encourage us in the search for new paths. They will be a privileged channel in order to live this event in synergy.
5. Thinking of the young people, how can they contribute to the growth of the Institute? What message do you want to give them?
Young people are the heart of our mission, but also our first collaborators in building a home for humanity.
Dear young people, I want to ask you to help us imagine a different world. Make your point of view known to us. Tell us what you think; even be critical of us, but not indifferent. Your opinions are vital for us. We want to listen to you, meet you, tell you what gives us life, but also to learn from you. Let us know your expectations and hopes, your disappointments and anxieties. Have the courage even to disturb us, but don’t just look on. Feel responsible for the building of a future of justice, peace, welcoming of differences, giving special importance to what unites and creates communion. Feel that you belong to the great Salesian Family born of the heart of Don Bosco and commit yourselves at local level. Belonging implies knowledge. Try to reflect in depth on Salesian values. One can only love and serve what one knows. Tell us what you think are the bricks that are solid enough to build the home of fraternity. You are leading actors in this undertaking, as the theme of the Chapter shows: being, with young people, a home that evangelises. A home inhabited by the Spirit. Mary Help of Christians walks in this house, protects and supports it with her counsel and maternal tenderness. May she help you to believe that what happened to Don Bosco and Mother Mazzarello who received the call from her “I entrust them to you”, can also happen to each one of you. Yes, because God continues to trust you and to call you to collaborate with him.