From December 3 to 19, 2018, I was able to visit our Spanish mission in Benicassim. Only two months have passed since our arrival, and a lot has happened and continues to happen. Here are a few of the joys that we would like to share with others. In the evening of December 7, Mass was celebrated in the large chapel of our house, presided over by Bishop Casimiro Lopez. From that moment on, it is here that we fulfill our most important apostolate in the diocese, that is, we pray for families and with families. Meanwhile, twice a week in the afternoons (on Wednesdays and Sundays), the Sisters remain several hours for adoration. Additionally on Wednesdays, there is a Mass at 9:00pm, always for families. The rosary, the prayer and litany to the Holy Family are prayed, the canons are sung, there is a time of silence, listening to the Word, putting intentions into the “mailbox of God” …. I can testify that we were not alone in the chapel for a moment. What’s more, different groups have already declared their willingness to come to our chapel to pray with the Sisters. This will be the case, for example, during New Year’s Eve. On December 12, during the Mass, the relics of Blessed Frances Siedliska and the 11 Martyred Sisters of Nowogródek were introduced.
More and more, the Sisters participate in the life of the parish and diocese. They are with the catechists and children in the parish catechetical program, at the Masses for children (for example in the musical group animating the liturgy), in the parish Caritas group. Our house is constantly visited, for a moment of conversation or in order to share something with the Sisters, for example, furniture (… because our house is not yet fully furnished), or tasty fruit (now is the season for mandarins and oranges). The Sisters are also happy to participate in various special events. During my stay, we helped in the preparation and organization of the Christmas Fair, which took place on Gaudete Sunday. Truly, it was joyful! Every year, the income from this initiative is dedicated to a different charitable endeavor. This year, the income was used to support one of the schools in Venezuela. We had our own contribution in the form of baked cakes.
In the diocese, there are various initiatives for the family, for protection of the unborn, help for single mothers, etc. We are slowly getting to know the people connected with these apostolates, making different contacts, recognizing our specific place and the tasks that we can take on. Together with the local Superior, Sister Katarzyna, we participated in a diocesan meeting on the subject of pastoral care of families. Over 30 people were gathered. I really admired their commitment, professionalism, enthusiasm and faith. The group was led by lay people (some connected with various ecclesial movements), and there were also some priests present. We were the only Sisters, but we felt very well accepted and even intimidated by the hopes placed in us as Nazareth Sisters, in our mission and charism.
Of course, the Sisters are still improving their language skills, learning new customs, traditions. And although the heart would already want to be doing something more, the realities of everyday life teach the humble path of small steps … The most important thing is to go in the right direction!
The Sisters at the Generalate hosted an international meeting of the Sisters responsible for the Association of the Holy Family from 3-10 March, 2017. The meeting was attended by Sisters representing all seven Provinces of the Congregation and from the Ukraine Region. Mother Jana Zawieja, Superior General, presided over the meeting.
The aims of the meeting were to determine the current situation of the Association in the various provinces, review the Statutes and formation programs of the Association and above all to listen to the voice of the Church on the pastoral care of families today. The introduction to the last issue took the form of three conferences presented by Father Dr.Jacek Golen, from the University of Lublin. Father Golen spoke on the principles of accompaniment, and the directions and forms of renewal as ways of accompanying engaged couples, married couples and families in the light of the Exhortation Amoris laetitia. The topic of discernment was also very valuable from the point of view of personal formation as well as a means of helping those whom the Sisters who are accompanying, to discern the will of God.
The second speaker, Father Dr. Albert Warso from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, addressed the topic concerning the accompaniment of the young as they prepare to those their vocation in life.
The participants also touched on the issues of formation for the Sisters and the involvement of lay persons in the pastoral care of families as well as the role of the Association in the implementation and continuation of the mission of the Congregation.
The outcome of the week’s work resulted in the sharing of new ideas and concrete actions for better development of the Association and the appreciation of its role in the mission to families, engaged and married couples as well as those living in irregular family situations.
During the summary meeting the sisters expressed their gratitude for having the opportunity to better understand one other and the specifics of the Association in individual countries and the exchange of materials and methods of work.
The Association of the Holy Family of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth is a practical expression of Blessed Frances Siedliska’s desire of including the laity in the Religious Congregation which she founded. The first Statutes of the Association, called the Brotherhood of the Holy Family, were formulated during the life of the Foundress.
Members of the Association receive a solid formation and the possibility of sharing in the spirituality and apostolic mission of the Congregation. Through their efforts to live a life modelled on the example of the Holy Family they witness to Christian values in their family environment. For the Congregation the association is a means for a more widespread presence in the world, especially among families.
At the present time the Association numbers 880 permanent members and several hundred candidates and supporters, who meet in 53 formative groups. They are accompanied by over 60 Sisters. Increasingly, the experienced members are taking responsibility for the formation and apostolic activities of their groups.