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SEDOS Conference at Arricia near Rome - April 2007

Gloria, Ger and Claire with Lake Albano behind them.In April, Geraldine Lennon, Gloria Calabrese and Claire Sykes had the good fortune to attend the 2007  conference of SEDOS (The Service of Documentation and Study) held at  the Centre of the Divine Master at Arricia just outside Rome.  

SEDOS offers its members the opportunity to exchange ideas and experiences related to their missionary work.  The annual seminar  fosters reflection and encourages  initiatives that are at the  service of  mission and  evangelisation.

The theme of the 2007 conference was Intercultural Formation for Mission.  The religious men and women who participated were from every continent. They were reminded that the purpose of all formation  is to grow in freedom and responsibility so as  to live the Gospel and give prophetic witness.  To be involved in Intercultural Formation is to take part in the global process of interculturation, it is to be part of the phenomenon of migration, it is to actively promote a real appreciation of all cultures. 

Gloria Calabrese shares some thoughts and images which remain with her from the seminar on “Intercultural Formation for Mission”:

In today’s world, religious men and women are sent, not as missionaries “to” the people, rather “with” them – being alongside as neighbour and friend, so that “heart speaks to heart”. I found this resonated particularly with our charism to be companion, wherever we find ourselves.

Communities need to be places which “aid the missioner in inserting herself creatively, intelligently and vitally into the context in which she works”. New members must become women “led by the Holy Spirit, for whom God’s truth has become their truth, for whom Christ is the centre of their being”.

I was interested to hear, in a seminar on being missionary today, of the importance and emphasis placed on personal conversion and commitment, personal and communal prayer and liturgy, fellowship and solitude.

A telling image was given of the necessity to form “vertebrates” ie. “people who can stand on the strength of the skeleton they have inside, and not snails who are soft inside and need to be defended by an outer shell”.

Gloria and Ger look across Lake Albano to Castel Gondolfo.Candidates need to be empowered to become “creative protagonists” of the charism they have received through the dynamics of formation, asking themselves what particular kind of member they want to be and what specific contribution they can make to the life of the congregation.

I found simply being with a group of 138 religious women and men from 45 different congregations worldwide and sharing with them hopes, desires, challenges and commitment was in itself a wonderfully formative and enriching experience.

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Our little Society has for its end
     to glorify the heart of Jesus
           by  every means in its power ...     (Marie Madeleine)