From 2nd to 6th October, we met for the Provincial Congregation of the Middle European Province (MEP) in St. Ottilien. More than 60 sisters and two “ Friends of Mary Ward” – who are members of our lay community – met to address the 3 tasks of a provincial congregation:
- To capture the current picture of the province as clearly as possible in order to be able to clarify the direction for the future during GC2020 based on the summary of all the provinces.
- Elect the delegates for GC2020
- To see where we are at the end of the term of office of the provincial superior and to develop new perspectives.
The delegates have been asking themselves: What does the reality in which the MEP’s sisters are living, look like? What is the reality of the CJ today? What direction should we take in the future? The Benedictine abbey of St. Ottilien provided a good environment for this spiritual process, during which the delegates looked back, analysed the present and thought of a way forward.
The delegates were formed from a good cross-section of younger and elderly sisters as well as sisters working in different missions. Regular times for prayer and reflection were interspersed through these spiritually rich days. Magister Georg Nuhsbaumer of the Cardinal-König-retreat centre in Vienna was the facilitator.
At the beginning of the Congregation, Sr Marica Bašić, Sr Igna Kramp, Sr Gabriele Martin and Sr Anna Schenck told us about their missions with refugees and migrants, with pastoral employees, with children and youth as well as political lobbying being done for staff and clients ..
Sr Gabriele Martin, who is working in” adventure driven pedagogy” with children and young people, emphasised that the life style of children and young people has changed a lot: Their self image is getting more and more important. Teenagers are putting up a big facade of self-confidence, but often they are not self-confident at all. They know a great many facts, but in the area of emotional education we can help them greatly. She said “ I experience many children and young people as searching for the spiritual side of life and they are open to what we can offer them.”
Sr Marica Bašić is working with refugees and migrants. She told us “ Integration is about more than helping them to find flats or a job and other practical aspects. Integration is about making a real contact with them, to really see the other as a fellow human being. The CJ is able to make a valuable contribution in this context: She says ”I am able to co-create inside the Congregation of Jesus. I have the know-how, I know how this can be lived successfully and this is an experience that can be passed on to others.“
Anna Schenck worked for Caritas Niedersachsen in politics. Her work is mainly with carers and their clients: “I am experiencing a great disruption in our society. There are those who feel they belong to it and those who feel themselves totally excluded, unseen and unheard”, she said. “There is an enormous loss of the meaning and significance of faith and of the church in our world. At the same time, there is a huge need to have people who bring an ethical and moral compass to questions of justice in all areas of politics.”
Sr Igna Kramp gave us an account of the vocational training given to pastoral employees: „There is firstly an enormous need for them to know and understand the Bible. She added “ I feel that there is also a great need for discernment on a personal level, but also in group work and similar processes. I perceive this as a huge opportunity for us. Discernment and spiritual accompaniment are both things we can offer and people are seeking them more and more.“
We learned from Esther Finis and Dana Placido de Silvestre, two of the friends of Mary Ward – (these are a group of lay women connected to MEP,) how this group of women are living the charism of Mary Ward in their different positions and situations in the world.
In her retrospect on the time since the last provincial congregation, Sr M. Sabine Adam CJ, provincial superior of MEP, said: “We are currently in the middle of a large process of transformation in our province. We have worked together on the topics of Ignatian spirituality – justice – women/girls and their needs. Now we are looking at how we can move forward in these areas in the coming years.”
In the days that followed, the sisters discussed what changes they would like to see in the form of leadership in the congregation, how they would like to tackle the misuse of power within the community and they also put forward ‘postulates’ for the upcoming general congregation which will take place in Italy in 2020.
The election of the delegates resulted in the election of Sr Sabine Adam, Sr Martha Zechmeister, Sr Brigitta Barnai, Sr Johanna Schulenburg and Sr Veronica Fuhrmann.
Sr Igna Kramp, Sr Victória Kaszap and Sr Gabriele Martin were elected as substitutes.