quarta-feira, 4 de junho de 2008

Portugal: A Formative Relationship of Give and Take

Sr. Maria Mendes (center with scarf) and the CFC members.

The Couples for Christ (CFC) was first initiated by 16 couples in Manila, Philippines in June 1981. After twenty-four years, the CFC was granted recognition by the Holy See (Vatican). CFC came to Portugal through the instrumentality of an SVD priest in Lisbon in October 13, 2001. While Sr. Remedios Socorro Aunzo, SSpS, a Filipina sister, was here to learn the Portuguese language, she was the one who accompanied the group in their spiritual formation. She has since left for East Timor. The group asked for another sister to take her place. I was given the assignment to journey with them. Every first Sunday of the month we have a spiritual formation session. Included in their Christian Life program is regular confession. I have asked an SVD priest to be their confessor.

The celebration of the Holy Eucharist is also central to their formation. Hence, every first Sunday, they sing the Mass songs in English and every third Sunday, they sing Portuguese Mass songs. This helps them a bit with their language difficulty. Sundays are always celebrated together, sharing food, faith and life stories. They also reach out to others, especially the poor by raising funds to provide shelter for the less fortunate and for scholarships for poor children.
Their life and mission reveal to me their faith in Jesus, ever present in their life. I learn many things from them. Their witnessing to their faith challenges me to grow deeper in my own spiritual life and mission as an SSpS.

Sr. Maria Mendes, SSpS

Portugal: The Parish is a place for vocations (2006)

These past days,we had several activities to participate in. One of them was a National Forum forVocation Animators in Fatima on October 27 to 28, 2006. It was organized by the Episcopal Commission on Vocations and Ministries.
The theme of the gathering was: “The Parisha place for vocations”.
The speaker was no less that Fr. Amadeu Cencini, a Canossian priest, who came all
the way from Italy to give this weekend formation seminar. He works as a professor in
the Gregorian University as well as the Salesian University in Rome. He talked about the Vocational Pedagogy in the parish, the Dynamics of Faith, Vocation Ministry and the Vocational Paths. I had the opportunity to participate on Saturday which was dedicated to the topic presentedby Fr. Cencini. It was a very enriching day for me as he talked about the Vocation Ministry, its scope and its challenges. He shared his own experiences that can also give valuable lessons in this particular mission.

There were 300 participants coming from different dioceses and Institutes of Consecrated Life in Portugal. This was one opportunity for all of us to share about our activities, difficulties and hopes, and a venue for mutual exchange between the Diocesan Vocation Secretariat and the Vocation Ministry /Services of the different Consecrated Life Institutes regarding the Vocation ministry in general, and the complementarities and articulation of their respective programs and services. Held in an atmosphere of prayer and reflection, this forum affirmed the increasing interest and the inspiring dynamism of the different sectors and services of the Vocation Ministry. Fr. Cencini further stressed the importance of true conviction: Either a parish is a parish that promotes vocations or it is not a parish at all. He is aware that the parish today is challenged by the ills of mass media, threats to the spirit of community and even distortion of its identity. It is then important that the parish rediscovers its true identity – not in the structure nor in its services but as a community of believers who are called by God to be mediators of God’s call for each one. Often times, we feel that many are called but those who are called lack the joy and courage to be messages and animators of God’s call in others. This is not a crisis in vocation but a crisis in the culture of vocation brought about by the absence or the silence of vocation animators. He further clarified that each believer is a vocation animator. He advised for an end to the clerical monopoly of assuming vocation animation and proposed an opening to the wealth and plurality of all vocations that can be found in the parish. In the parish, the missionary dynamism is found in each person who lives happily his/her personal vocation/charism.

The parish is the place where the Voice of God is heard. It offers the opportunity to grow in faith and with the community of believers and thus grow in the discovery of one’s own unique vocation. In this way, the priests, the consecrated people, the parents, the educators, the teachers and the catechists are private vocation animators that have the responsibility as elder guides to the younger members of the community.

Mary, in whose shrine we had gathered, gave us a concrete model of total readiness to say yes to God’s plan. Hence, through her intercession, we pray that more vocations may be fostered for the service of the Church and for the life of the world.

Sr. Maria Mendes, SSpS
Missionaries Holy Spirit Sisters of Region Spain/Portugal ( 2006)