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Moira Cashmore fcJ in Rome, January 2007

St. Peter's Basilica.  

The sun was just setting behind the Dome of St. Peter’s Basilica as the taxi, carrying three FCJ sisters, rattled along the cobbles and made its way down the Via Conciliazione to the Instituto Maria Bambina. What a delight to see the tall Christmas tree and the life size crib still in situ in the Piazza and illuminated! This was January 11th and Kate Frost and myself were arriving to take part in the course/workshop “Our Way of Accompanying Others in the Ignatian Tradition” and Christine Anderson was returning home. This was the second part of my sabbatical and I was fortunate to be staying in the Convent which housed the Conference centre where the course was to be held.

On the first morning of the course there was a great buzz as 113 course members from 45 different countries found their allotted places in the Conference Hall. We had just come from the beautiful chapel of the Maria Bambina sisters where we had celebrated with an opening Mass. Fr. Eddie Mercieca SJ. – the organiser – warmly welcomed us. He pointed out that there were 60 Jesuits, 32 religious sisters and 21 lay people attending the course. For the General Congregation of the Jesuits in 2008 one of the commissions is “Collaboration and Mission” and Fr. Eddie told us he was convinced there were few things more fruitful than participating together in on-going formation – that there wasn’t a better way for Collaboration in Mission – “we were all witnesses to it.”

That first day our main speaker was Fr. Hans Kolvenbach SJ, the Superior General of the Jesuits. His theme was ‘Cura Personalis’ or the care of persons. His talk was warm and inspiring. He said that the Cura Personalis was practised by the first Jesuits and ever since in both the giving of the Spiritual Exercises and in Jesuit education in both schools and universities – it was an integral part of the formation of the person for God and for society. He quoted Pope Benedict XVI in saying “Persons move things forward, not ideologists.” This for me was one of the highlights of the course because it spoke to me of God’s warm parental love. The course itself was stimulating as well as practical with lectures from Jesuits from Italy, Malta, Spain, Germany and the USA.  Lectures were in either English or Spanish with simultaneous translation throughout.

Apart from the lectures and the richness of engaging with so many different cultures, some of the highlights for me included the visit to La Storta where Ignatius prayed to be placed with the Son and we too prayed that Mary would place us with her Son to be with Him in his mission; the Papal Audience where I had the feeling of a relaxed family gathering with choirs breaking into song and brass bands playing – such a friendly atmosphere as we awaited the arrival of His Holiness; the visit to the Gesu Church and St. Ignatius’ rooms where we had the privilege of attending Mass; the magnificent multitude of cribs in all the churches with moving models, lights turning on and off, animal and farmyard sounds, small figures and life-sized figures; and the visit to Assisi where the sun shone, the snow sparkled on the top of Mount Subasio and we puffed up the cobbled streets to the hilltop basilicas of Ss. Francis and Clare and viewed the wonderful frescoesof St. Francis’ life by Giotto. So much to absorb into one’s being!

No! I didn’t feel as if I had ‘spiritual indigestion’ as I returned to England but a great sense of being satiated – my cup was filled to running over with spirituality, history, art, love and friendship and a great sense of gratitude for what I had received in Rome.

Group gathered on rooftop with St. Peter's in the background.
Pope Benedict.
At La Storta.
Sr. Moira.

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Nuestra pequeña Sociedad tiene como fin
     glorificar el corazón de Jesús
           por todos los medios a su alcance…     (Marie Madeleine)