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b1Sr. Tiziana Merletti and Calogero La Zara during the opening prayer

It is the end of June and Sisters and Associates gather in Vermicino for the annual Area Assembly. Our process of deepening our healing charism continues and in this meeting our attention is focused specifically on forgiving. Hence the title: “Forgiving for Healing.”

The symbol we choose to accompany our reflection is water: an indispensable element of Nature, which purifies, washes, and makes fecund. In the Opening Prayer we make a gesture of “letting our hands be washed” and present ourselves to God, asking for His forgiveness and blessing -- so that our lives may be a source of blessing for many others.

This year we had the pleasure to also have with us Sr. Tiziana Merletti and Sr. Jeanne Glisky.  

b2Sr. Jeanne Glisky and Sr. Anna Ingoglia
b5Working at the tables

Forgiveness in Relation to God and Others in the Writings of Mother Frances
The theme of the assembly was presented by Sr. Jeanne, building on the words and life experience of our foundress. This is a reflection that made a deep impression on our hearts, emphasizing how forgiveness and healing are so intimately connected.

Two images guided us: the first is the image of a hunched over woman who rises up again after being healed; the second is the image of the human heart as a place in which harshness and mercy co-exist.

In the figure of the healed woman, we saw the very icon of our charism. As Mother Frances reminds us in her second autobiography, Gertrude – repeating the Lord’s words – invites her to “care for the poor sinners.” Forgiveness and healing are connected. They form a journey that, through God’s mercy and with the grace of His forgiveness, allows one person to choose a new direction in their lives. This is the experience of Mother Frances, of the Sisters back then as well as today, and of the many people encountered, cared for and served by the Franciscans of the Poor.

The image of the heart where harshness and mercy co-exist brought us back to the meeting between Peter and Jesus, described in the Gospel of John. The Lord asks His disciple three times: “Do you love me?” and through that dialogue he “restores the relationship” that was lost because of Peter’s denial. “Follow me!” is Jesus’ invitation, which is possible because Peter is available to accept the Will of God. This is the same experience lived by Mother Frances in Liège: only after she received three times the question, “Do you love me?” does she experience that her heart is ready to answer “in a manner that is adequate to the Lord.”

The day ended with a moment of meditation that had been prepared by Sr. Joanne Schuster, but who could not be present with us. This meditation helped us get in touch with our heart and let the healing energy accompany us in a process of forgiveness.

b7Sr. Clara Carlitti during the closing prayer of gratitude

b3Day of group discussion led by Silva GolliniDreaming Together: Our Gaze toward the Future
On the second day, facilitator Silva Gollini guided our reflection. We tried to “look ahead” with her and grasp what is “being born.” We dialoged at the tables through a process we called “World Café”. We realized a collective creative production: the fruit of the reflection from each table was expressed through a creative object, metaphor and synthesis of the exchange that had occurred at the table. This was then shared with the whole group. Through a multi-step process we were invited to look at:

-Where we are today and what has been accomplished
-Then, what we think should be born and manifest itself in answer to the voices of the poor in the places where we live
-And finally, what we need to let go of, to make room for the new.

“We opened a construction site!” These are the words that Sr. Anna used to describe the outcome of our meeting. She invited us to continue our journey with faith, in preparation for the 2013 Chapter and to discover more and more the capacity of the energy of the Charism that heals us individually and encourages us to be witnesses to this grace of God.

Sr. Francesca Vitulano, sfp

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