It is necessary
that you promise to use all your strength
to maintain and perpetuate union and charity in all the Institute;
for the greatest pain that I would be able to endure
would be to see charity weaken in the heart of one soul of our daughters.
Mother Adele de Batz de Tranquelleon
Wow. As of today, I've been in Rome for 1 week. And what a week it has been!
Today is the 4th official day of our meetings of the young professed Marianist sisters. We are 19 sisters - 7 languages (within those 7 there is some overlap of those who speak multiple languages) from 11 different countries. All of us are under 45 years old. I am towards the older end of the spectrum, but not the oldest here. We have gathered here in Rome, at the home of our General Administration, for a number of reasons: to strengthen our bonds as younger Marianist sisters, to come to understand what it means to be a part of an international congregation, to visit the important places of our foundation (we go to France in a few days!), to pray together, and to discuss our future.... Tall order, yes?
There have been many things that have struck me so far in our time together...
Communication has been difficult, to say the least. Many people understand some English, but not everyone. 2 sisters can understand both Spanish and French, and some English (one is from France the other is from Brazil)... Our sisters from the Province of Japan are actually Vietnamese and can speak Vietnamese, Japanese, Korean and English (English is the lesser known) ... Our sisters from Korea speak Korean... some Japanese... and very little English. Our sisters from Africa (Togo and Côte d'Ivoire) are French speaking, but they studied English in high school, therefore many of them can still speak some English (one of them, Chantal, serves as a translator from English to French... we work together on the coordinating team)... Our 3 Indian sisters have Malayalam as a first language and can speak Hindi, English, and Italian (they did their formation and some professional training here in Rome)... Of our Spanish speaking sisters (from Chile, Colombia and Ecuador), only one of them knows some English (Carmen, from Ecuardor, serves with Chantal and me on the team)... Denise, from Brazil, has Portuguese as her first language... she can speak Spanish enough to get by and speaks French very well. Lastly, Nathalie from France is a Latin professor, so her command of languages in general is pretty good. She understands some Spanish and speaks a little and the same with English...
From just the above paragraph I have learned: 1) that we are very creative in trying to communicate - hand gestures, facial expressions, miming, etc. 2) so many sisters here have made an effort to learn English... I am humbled by the experience of not being able to communicate my ideas in another language when so many are doing quite well in English. When we split into language groups, I am the only person in the English language group who has English as a first language. The other 5 in my group are the 2 Vietnamese sisters from Japan and the 3 Indian sisters. We do very well, but I realize that they have to work so much harder than I do. As an American, I am spoiled in many ways...
And in spite of the communication difficulties (and even frustration for some), we have had some amazing, honest conversations both in small groups and in the larger group. I am blown away at how fast we developed a sense of trust among us to talk about deeper issues - what it's like to be the youngest professed in community - our hopes and fears concerning the future - the importance of learning a 2nd (or 3rd or 4th) language - the interesting phenomenon about which provinces have many vocations coming and what provinces don't... and why - and what it is about us that unites us as one....
To list everything, I'd have to write something much longer than this. But, know that our time here has been very rich. Thank you for your prayers!
We have also had some fun... teasing each other, sharing our cultures (food, language, songs, pictures etc). We do a lot of singing - in every language! Earlier today we went to St. Peter's for Mass and a short tour of Rome... and gelato, of course! It was a very good day.
In the afternoon today we spent time in language groups in our archives. I saw letters and books of accounts written in our foundress Mother Adele's handwriting!! That was amazing to me. Such a richness. In a few days we will leave for France to visit some important places in our history - Agen where Adele was born, Bordeaux where the Marianist family was first formed and 3 other cities. We are very excited. Most of us have never been there.
Below, I have placed a few pictures. Enjoy... Pray for us...