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"Joy was the energy that motivated us and transformed us on our journey together, united in Mother Frances, who continues to inspire our healing gestures, creativity and love toward the most vulnerable people".

This is how Sr. Lécia José Da Silva, a Brazilian Franciscan Sister, described the experience of the Congregational Conference, held in Rome from June 1 to 5, which gathered eighty participants—among them Sisters, Associates, and collaborators—from the five Geographical Areas of the Congregation: United States, Italy, Brazil, Senegal and the Philippines.

 man 02"This conference has allowed us to experience a great sense of communion: Despite the customs, cultures and languages spoken by our Sisters being so different, we were a group that aspired to reach a common ideal”, Sr. Lécia says.
“I thoroughly enjoyed the Senegalese Sisters spontaneous singing and dancing on at least two occasions; outside after the celebration of the 35th anniversary of the Associate program and on our way to the Vatican for Sunday Mass with the Pope.”

Karen, an Associate from the US explains, “I also enjoyed the liturgical songs, sung by the Italian Sisters/Associates. There was great rejoicing among the Apostles after the resurrection of Jesus. So I think singing and dancing give expression to our theme of "Resurrection" and "Joy" is a Franciscan value”.

 man 03The conference was a meeting between Chapters that helped to deepen our Direction and three Calls chosen in 2013. Together we explored the theme "Apostles of the Resurrection: the joy of a transforming journey."

"Above all we are called to be Angels of the Resurrection," recalls Sr. Sophie Emilie Dioh. "Joy is a fruit of the Spirit and all Christians are called to live their Christian life in joy, despite the difficulties that may arise in our lives," she notes.
It was a busy week with a varied program, interspersed with sessions with Sisters and Associates as speakers, ideas for reflection, dialogue and sharing moments at the tables, healing and mercy circles, personal time for reflection and prayer.

During the morning sessions there was also the opportunity to hear two presentations; one on the theme of Transformation, offered by Sr. Nzenzili Lucie Mboma, FMM, and one on the theme of the Resurrection, presentedby the theologian Stella Morra.

“I appreciated the creative aspect of our Conference, and the topics dealt with were very fruitful. The various dynamics during our prayers together, the speakers’ presentations, the dialogue at the tables and our healing circles provided me with a truly deep encounter with myself, with God and with others”, Sr Lécia highlights.

"The group work at the tables was to me a source of enrichment. In fact, there isn’t always time in everyday life to reflect on ourselves and on others. Moreover, many issues, such as the Resurrection, transformation and listening, which I feel strongly about, have been widely discussed," Italian Area Associate Silvio adds.

 man 011The theological reflection proposed by Stella Morra stimulated the reflection on what it means to be Apostles of the Resurrection today, recalling some basic knowledge related to our faith and to ourselves. A humble and profound journey that invites us to leave our comfort zones,  which come from what we already know conceptually, in order to welcome an experience of faith “in the making”, which is the result of the relationship with people who, like us, are faithful to the Risen Lord.    

"Two other points that have profoundly affected me from  what was said by Stella Morra are: the theme of peace, a gift offered to the Apostles by the Risen Lord, as their first challenge to undertake, and the call for a new alliance with the "negative", or at least with the dark side of ourselves, " points out Sister Sophie.

Among the most significant leitmotifs that marked the conference was the image of Ubunto: I am because we are, the African belief  that invites us to overcome our personal claims to seek the Good born of communion; and generative listening, a prompt taken from the presentation of Sr. Lucie, which is a careful form of listening, respectful of the person speaking, that makes life flow not only in the person listened to, but also in the one who is listening.  

And then the grace of transformation that we experienced on our skin: "The transformation that I have experienced is that now I believe I can illuminate my life by doing the most ordinary things in an extraordinary way and living the charism," says Sr. Sophie . "I arrived full of anticipation and excitement; I was looking forward to seeing the Sisters and Associates coming from the different countries. I left full of energy and inspiration” echoes Karen.

 man 01As Sr. Licia reminded us on the last day of the Conference in her final reflection, "Indeed, what has emerged from our discussions at the tables is the importance of continuing to walk together in transformation, so that this Conference can bring concrete results of growth to our daily lives and, as a result, to the entire Congregation.

 man 09After this conference we won’t be the same anymore. It's up to us to choose daily transformation, to find the peace of the Risen Jesus; to choose the joy of a journey that transforms us, and to set free the healing energy of Christ among the challenges of our ever-changing world.

Let us always remember:  Ubuntu: “I am because we are.”

By Eva Donelli

Published: August 11, 2016