– That is, a few (or dozens) words about the Consecrated Youth Congress…

This year, the Fourth Congress was held in Lichen from September 22 to 25, 2022, accompanied by a quote from the book of the prophet Isaiah: “Arise and shine.” It was attended by 11 of our Sisters, including 7 Junior Sisters. The Youth Consecrated Congress is an amazing event that brings together hundreds (this year as many as 616) people from many different religious orders, congregations and secular institutes in one place. It was a time filled with many meetings, praying together, conferences and, above all, encounters with the diversity of charisms and spiritualities present in the Church. It was a time that allowed us to reignite in ourselves the gifts of the Holy Spirit and deepen our choice of vocation. The purpose of the meeting, which is chosen by the organizers, is to get to know each other, to deepen the gift of vocation, to exchange experiences and to glorify God for the gift of consecrated life – something that has truly taken place and, I think, is still constantly taking place in our hearts.

With joy and gratitude for the opportunity to participate in SUCH an event, we want to share with the Sisters what we were able to experience and hear day after day…😊

Day I
September 22, Thursday

The first and most important point of the Congress was the common Eucharist in the Shrine of Our Lady of Lichen, just after entering the basilica above the main altar are the words: I AM WHO I AM, to which Fr. Dariusz Bartocha SDB referred during his homily, saying: how deeply these words penetrate when so many representatives of the various forms of consecrated life in the Church participate in the Eucharist. Today, in a special way, God marks His presence in us, and through us in “a world that doesn’t like us very much.”

After the Mass, we went to the Conference Room to listen to the message of Brother Raniero Cantalamessa – “When I see young people taking up religious life today and talk to some of them, I see how their vocation is revealed. I will admit to you that at that time my first reaction is to congratulate Jesus. And I say to Him: truly, Jesus, congratulations, because You are so strong today, as when You passed by the Lake of Tiberias, You called someone, and that person left everything and followed You. Because especially today, a religious vocation is a miracle of grace.”

Sr. Margerita sharing her experience of the Congress wrote as follows: “This time was an encounter with God, with His Mother and with people. When I saw people who are at the beginning of their religious journey, gratitude for 15 years of life with Jesus was born in me. It was a time to return to what is most important, the essence of my life – the bond with Jesus.”

Day II
September 23, Friday

At dawn and in the morning mist, we all made our way towards the chapel to pray together our Morning Prayer there. After Lauds (also on the following days), Fr. Michał Deja OFMcap introduced us to a meditation on the Word of the day.
During the conference delivered by Bishop Jacek Kicinski, we faced the question: “What is our identity? What about our being a consecrated person?”.

Each of us is called to holiness and this vocation is constantly maturing into life. When we love our vocation, it can be a “return to the lost paradise,” which is “the response of the love of the human heart to the eternal longing of the love of God the Father,” the pastor of consecrated persons stressed, adding: “I am proud of the youth consecrated. You are, for me, a breath of evangelical radicalism. (…) My desire is that you become a real hurricane of the Holy Spirit in the Church, and do not close the windows if the elders say there are drafts.” During the Eucharist, the bishop began his homily with the words: “This congress is a breath of the youth of the Holy Spirit, who is always young and always touches our hearts. The question remains, however, do we want to always be young?”

That day was also our first group meeting, which was an opportunity to share in the Word of God, which guided us throughout the day, as well as to live out one’s identity as a consecrated person. There were probably 30 groups, consisting of about 20 people, from different congregations and institutes.

Sr. Agata shared after the Congress as follows: “A very valuable experience for me was working in groups, where everyone shared themselves, their experience of God, but also of hardship, through which we were becoming closer to each other.”

Father Michał Nowak OFMCap gave a conference in the afternoon, in which he addressed the topic: “Do you also want to leave?” He touched on the stages we go through in our consecrated life, which ultimately lead us to the question: “Why do we decide to stay?”  Sometimes it happens that instead of deepening our relationship with Christ, we turn this bridal relationship into all sorts of escapes. Father encouraged at the end: “Decide to be exclusive.” We want to be who we are. Nobody else.

Thank you for so many precious words, which were a true reflection of the path to which Christ Himself invited us.

The culmination of the whole day was the Evening of Testimonies, entitled: “The Passion of Consecration.” We heard the testimony of the lives – the passion of vocation – of people from three different Congregations and Institutes, whom the Lord leads along the one and only way of holiness and true happiness. Therefore, throughout the night we had the opportunity to abide with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, adoring, praising and glorifying Him for the gift of consecrated life.

September 24, Saturday

On the third day of the Congress, we tried to make the most of our time together being with each other and sharing the joy of our consecration.

The first conference was given to us by Fr. Krzysztof Palys OP, and its theme was: “God separated the light from the darkness”. Father shared the testimony of his life, and the content he preached was firmly rooted in his experience. He said that the great miracle is that God has drawn us to Himself, that we can have His power within us. We only “shine” when Christ dwells in us, who is greater than all our darkness – he continued that all revelation is nothing in the face of discovering that God is in me. He also gives sense, while the devil “de-senses.” The Dominican also paid much attention to the virtue of humility – he posed the question of what it means to “clothe oneself with humility.” It is not to say that one is nothing, but to recognize that everything is an undeserved gift of God’s grace, everything is “borrowed” (What do you have that you would not receive? -1 Corinthians 4:7).

Sr. Aleksandra shared: “I feel as if Jesus is showing me what is really happening in or through the lives of consecrated persons…. How much good He is doing through us, how much blessing, and how Jesus is giving life to the world just through us…. I go to bed and know that I take nothing with me, everything is borrowed, that is, everything is His gift. In this there is so much freedom, the Holy Spirit will take care of everything and give everything that is needed for the time….”

The next item on the agenda was a Mass presided over by Bishop Radosław Orchowicz. In his homily, he referred to the words of Pope Francis on the urgent need to walk together, which is expressed in the proposal of synodality in the Church, and which is intensifying in view of the polarization manifested in the modern world.

We are all called to follow Christ, regardless of the nature of our vocation, and God is extremely generous in distributing charisms. The theme of today was beautifully reflected in the words of Paulina Jaricot, quoted by the preacher: “My poor heart, tired of seeking happiness in this transient world, has finally sunk its impotence in God’s love.”  The eucharist was also attended by members of the Association for the Support of Priestly Vocations, which came as a surprise to everyone. But also an opportunity to thank the members for their prayers.

Group meetings were again able to take place largely outdoors thanks to favorable weather. The topic proposed for discussion was the image of God (what is the God who made Himself known to me?) and personal ways of praying that help us build a relationship with Him.

The second conference was given for us by Mr. Franciszek Kucharczak. He started with the question of what in life is worth living (“people can go for nothing anywhere, regardless of being in a relationship or not”). His vivid testimony was moving and inspiring as he recounted his encounters with so-called random people with whom he prayed together. To the question of what light the world needs from us consecrated people today, he answered by suggesting precisely praying together with those who are experiencing difficulties, because “prayer breaks down the wall of helplessness.” He encouraged “steadfast kindness” in everyday life, because kindness, as a gift of the Holy Spirit, has a clear impact on our relationship with people, but also their relationship with God.

The first part of the evening was spent in the chapel to adore Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and adore Him with singing, while meditating on the Gospel led by Fr. Marek Chmielniak. The second part was more entertaining: those willing had the opportunity to play board games or dance together, although some preferred to simply talk over a cup of tea.

Day IV
September 25, Sunday

The last day of our Congress was a little joyful, because we are still together, and a little sad, because it was time to go back… But, as Kohelet said, “there is a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to wail and a time to twirl.” There has already been dancing, but for the time being we do not plan to wail, but according to the recommendation of Fr. Tomasz Nowaczek, MIC, provincial of the Marian Fathers, who preached the homily at today’s Eucharist, to ask Jesus to help us put together the experiences of these days – to think about what is worth keeping, what relationships to take care of, how to glorify God and be good news to each other. And, as the custodian of the Basilica of Licheń said, despite the economic crisis, do not turn out the lights! And every day learn to listen, because, as Fr. Marek Chmielniak SAC reminded at the conference, the first is “listen.” – listening is also the first form of tenderness.

Sr. Veritas wrote: “The Holy Spirit through this Congress has refreshed and cheered up my heart! I heard anew the call to carry out the mission of Jesus with such gifts and strengths as I have…. That my impotence is a home for His power. I have longed for His Word of Love and Truth to penetrate, ignite and transform me day after day. And I was inspired by the words to be a pastor of the ear…. And to listen more to the voice of God in my heart, to listen to the people I meet.”

In the conclusion of this time, our unity in diversity, which has blossomed so beautifully here, was emphasized: the fact that despite our differences, we so often struggle with the same difficulties, are edified by the same joys, and find in each other the same desires – for closeness, for an intimate relationship with God. There was also a resounding reminder that the first path of our sanctification is the charism of our institute. There was a handful of statistical information, which is presented graphically below. The culmination was the solemn singing of our hymn, which resounded throughout the basilica.

For me personally, it was a rich time. Rich in the experience of encounters with God and with others, and may the Holy Spirit continue to guide us in our daily lives so that, drawing on this richness, we can continue to bring light to others.