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JERUSALEM – On Wednesday, May 3, 2017, Archbishop Jose Rodriguez Carballo, ofm, Secretary of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life met with the religious and consecrated men and women in the Holy Land at Notre Dame Center in Jerusalem. 

The Conference, jointly organized by the Committee of Religious Men and Union of Religious Superiors of Women, was attended by numerous representatives from the various religious congregations serving in the Holy Land. Fr. Marcelo Cichinelli, ofm, the moderator, welcomed Archbishop Carballo, all the Priests and Sisters who were present, including Archbishop Giuseppe Lazzarotto, Apostolic Nuncio in Israel and Cyprus and Apostolic Delegate in Jerusalem and Palestine.

The program started with welcome remarks by Fr. Jean Daniel Gullung, A.A., Director of the Committee of Religious Men, and Sr. Bruna Fasan, a Sister of St. Dorothy and President of the Union of Women Religious. Both presented updates on the activities of their groups and upcoming events. The presence of the religious in the Holy Land was well noted – 30 congregations of men religious and numbering almost 500; 72 congregations of women religious with over 1,000 members;  15 contemplative monasteries; and 21 institutes of Consecrated Life with about 275 members.

The recently concluded Jubilee of Mercy renewed and highlighted the Works of Mercy that religious congregations have always put into practice according to their charism or the dedication of their members. Three priests and two sisters presented the realities of some ministries, institutions, and outreaches of many religious and their congregations that bring to life the Works of Mercy here in the Holy Land: life and education of children; accompanying the sick and those in palliative and hospice care; the work for children with physical and mental handicap and acceptance of people with disabilities; the Prison Ministry and the situation of prisoners in Israel; and the presence and pastoral work of the Church among migrants and refugees in the Diocese that now exceeds the number of local Christians. The common threads that weave through these ministries are –suffering, welcome, accompaniment and care for the poor and marginalized, diversity and collaboration, and respect for the person’s dignity.

After a short break, Archbishop Carballo spoke about Religious Life after the Jubilee of Mercy and the Year of Consecrated Life focusing on “The Great Challenges of Religious Life Today”. He stated that the time after the Year of Consecrated Life celebrated in 2015, has been “a time of grace which continues, … in which the consecrated life has been invited to look at the past with gratitude, to live the present with passion and to embrace the future with hope, all of them goals that places consecrated life in perfect harmony with the way of the Church of the 21st  century, as John Paul II wanted at the beginning of this millennium…”

Consecrated life has gone through different phases and time, he continued, of the difficulties and tensions after Vatican II; and that “now is an auspicious prophetic time, of consecrated men and women who say to the people “that there is a path of happiness,” of grandeur, a path that is full of joy, that is the way of Jesus, that there is something true, more beautiful, greater, to which we are all called, the way to be close to Jesus.”

It is still a time of transition that we “may not yet see the fruits but to continue sowing with hope in the Sower who knows the seeds buried in the depths of our lives, in history, before or after, will bear fruits…”  “Another thing is clear: that without thinking that we have done nothing until now, there are many things that we have yet to change in our lives, many vessels that we have to break to make new (cf. Jr 18: 1- 6), and that many structures must be renewed or simply abandoned so that others may emerge with a new spirit. It is the propitious time to “be born again” (cf. Jn 3: 4)

Archbishop Carballo pointed out ten of the many challenges in Consecrated Life, to which, at least, religious must try to respond to:

  1. Give greater intensity, dynamism and energy to consecrated life, to return to Jesus, to the Gospel and to the essentials
  2. Restructure to revitalize – revisit the structures and restructuring, always having a dual purpose: life and mission.
  3. Contemplate and listen to God in the cry of the poor of today and always.
  4. Create fraternities/communities and awaken hope – fraternal life in community, like any other ecclesial reality, is built on human weakness, that conflicts and moments of crisis and discomfort of the fraternal life in community are an occasion for human growth and Christian maturity, and that even in the midst of the difficult, consecrated life is called to manifest the joy of living together, thus being signs of the Kingdom.
  5. To be human to” humanize” – The consecrated life today is called to offer the present culture an alternative of living the human condition, which involves permanent and initial formation, seriously paying attention to the human dimension of the person.
  6. Switch from a role and preoccupation of prestige, privilege, power to living the meaningful service.
  7. A life and mission shared with the laity: collaboration, participation, and belonging
  8. Openness to the inter-intra as a way of life – time of synergy and collaboration.
  9. Adequate formation to the new technology culture.
  10. Listen to new anthropologies and new ways of thinking.

In conclusion, Archbishop Carballo thanked all religious for their presence and work in the Holy Land, and he stated that “the discourse on consecrated life today is very delicate. In many cases, it is a question of choosing between life and death, … men and women consecrated to the service of the Lord, who exercise in the Church this way of a strong poverty, of a chaste love that leads them to a spiritual fatherhood and motherhood for the whole Church, an obedience that is a gift of the heart.”

According to Pope Francis, the religious and consecrated must leave the balcony and enter the procession. Walking well in the reality of people, never forgetting their reason for being as Jesus was poor, chaste and obedient. Jesus and the mission should be everything. Consecrated persons must continue to deepen their mystical and prophetic identity, based on the Word and the Eucharist, in a continuing process of daily renewal.

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