Today, the 7th of September 2017, twelve RSCJ
were welcomed to probation at the Villa Lante in Rome.
In her opening conference, Superior General Barbara Dawson shared with the probanists that:
Since Sophie’s time, probation has been significant. It is a key moment in each RSCJ’s life and an experience which is central to the unity and vitality of the Society.... This time of coming together as an intentional international community in preparation for your ultimate commitment to Jesus Christ in the Society is a personal gift from God and the Society. It is an experience of our Cor Unum and is essential to the future of the Society....
She offered four points for their reflection:
1. A place
The Villa Lante: It is a gift to be here: to walk in the garden, knowing that your feet are walking the same path that Sophie and her companions walked. To kneel before the tabernacle in the same place where she placed her life into the tender care of her God.... I urge you to find a place on this holy ground where you can open yourself up and let God speak to the depth of your being.
Rome: It is a gift to be here in Rome at a moment in the Church that is filled with life as well as challenges. Our pope, Francis, calls us to live attentively as members of the global community, to reach beyond our comfort zone, to share our gifts as women to co-create a healthy world that is a welcoming home for people of all faiths or no faith, of all states of being and ability, of different ways of life, of different ways of thinking and being.
2. An image
The image for you is a 7th century Egyptian icon called by some “The Friendship of Jesus”.
It shows Jesus standing side by side with Menas, a monk, who is called “friend."
Jesus has his arm tenderly on the shoulder of Menas, and together they look forward....
The probation team will share ways to contemplate this icon,
to enter into the experience of Jesus as friend
through your contemplative gaze into the life
of Jesus and Menas, Jesus and you, Jesus and us.
I also urge you, as you reread your life during these months, to dialogue with Sophie about her way of friendship. During this year when we celebrate Philippine’s arrival in the “new world”, you might take some time to think and pray about Sophie and Philippine.... Sophie and Philippine, two holy women, two women who cared deeply for each other, whose friendship supported each one’s call, who sometimes misunderstood each other, who stayed faithful friends despite geographical distance, who helped each other learn what it means to discover and make known the love of the Heart of Jesus, each in her own way and place and yet both standing together, living in the present and looking forward.
This time of probation is a time for you to write the icon of your life with God, to discover again what is at the heart of this relationship with Jesus Christ, to discover and thank God deeply for who and what has brought you to this moment of readiness for a permanent “yes”.
3. A call
You are coming to probation at a wonderful moment in the history of the Society as we celebrate Philippine, our first missionary and 200 years of moving beyond frontiers. In a way, this is your Rebecca moment... Don’t be afraid to acknowledge that arriving at this moment in your life is both thrilling and perhaps a bit overwhelming. And, like Philippine, you have companions for this journey – especially your companions of this probation group.
I pray that the calls of the General Chapter permeate your experience. As you pray them and live them within the context of this international community of your peers, may they nourish your spirit and give you life and hope for the journey.
4. A reminder: "I have chosen you" -- Jesus' reminder to his disciples.
Each one of you will discover again during these months what God’s choice to call you to the Society of the Sacred Heart means in your life now. God did not choose you to be a hermit, or to live in a monastery, or to be in relationship with only one person in marriage or a partnership, or to live blessed singleness.
God chose you to be a woman of his Heart, a Religious of the Sacred Heart who lives her call within a community of women, all of whom commit themselves to live the charism of Sophie to “discover and make known the love of the Heart of Jesus”. My prayer is that you will help each other live this call of love.
Excerpts from the Opening Conference of
Sister Barbara Dawson rscj (Superior General)
7 September 2017, Villa Lante, Rome