“Our participation as women, is as they say in Italian: piano, piano . . . We walk ‘little by little’ towards the Church that will recognize us, because the presence of women in the Amazon forest is really very great.”
This appreciation was expressed by Sister Alba Teresa Cediel Castillo, M.M.L, [UISG], from Colombia, who was among the Synod participants speaking at a briefing in the Holy See Press Office today, Oct. 7, on the first General Congregation of the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazonian Region.
The Synod is taking place Oct. 6-27, 2019, on the theme “Amazonia: new paths for the Church and for an integral ecology.”
Also speaking was Bishop David Martínez De Aguirre Guinea, OP, Titular Bishop of Izirzada, Apostolic Vicar of Puerto Maldonado (Peru); Bishop Emmanuel Lafont, of Cayenne (French Guyana); Dr. Paolo Ruffini, Prefect of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Communications; and Father Giacomo Costa, SI, Secretary of the Information Commission. The briefing was moderated by the Deputy Director of the Holy See Press Office, Cristiane Murray.
The religious sister very passionately expressed her gratitude for the attention Pope Francis has dedicated to the Amazon, her appreciation for the little, but always greater steps, to involve women in the Synod process, and about the reality of sisters in the Amazon.
“The Synodal process has been impressive,” she said, “because since Pope Francis proclaimed in 2017, that there would be a Special Synod for Amazon, action followed.” This included, she said, a pre-Synod, where they met at a small level, in indigenous communities, then later at the Vicariate, and so on, where they met together and discussed various important questions.
While Instrumentum Laboris Vital, Document Will Die
“What was most interesting,” she added, “was the participation of the indigenous peoples. All the indigenous: children, young people, adults where we went, listening in a very calm way, and where they felt themselves the subject of that Synodal walking, which is what the Pope really wanted.”
For this reason, she said, “the Instrumentum Laboris is of vital importance for us.”
“However,” she recognized, “as the Pope said to us this morning, “that document must die for another to arise, where all of us can now have an opinion.”
Sisters Input Included
“I tell you from experience,” she said, “there are many Sisters in the Congregation that have passed through Amazonia, and we did very interesting work with them. From the young sisters, to the older and sick sisters, they all gave their opinion and we were faithful in gathering all this information and sending it to the Synod.”
“Our participation as women,” Sister highlighted, “is as they say in Italian: piano, piano . . . We walk little by little towards the Church that will recognize us, because the presence of women in the Amazon forest is really very great.”
She expressed that there are very few priests and many of them have to go from one place to another, “and to another, and another.” “However,” she said, “we sisters have a constant presence.”
In education, health, and development projects which are being presented in each one of the communities, “we are present in each one of these places,” she said.
“What do we do? Well, what a woman can do from her Baptism, as women priests, as queens and as prophets. We accompany the indigenous there in different events, when a priest can’t be present and a Baptism is needed, then we baptize. If there is a possibility that someone wants to get married, we are also present there and are witnesses of the love of that couple. And many times we’ve had to hear in confession, [from the indigenous] that ‘they [people in the Church] don’t listen to us…’
“We do not give the absolution but, in the depth of our heart, we have prayed with humility to God for men or women who approach us in situations of sickness, near death. We believe that God the Father also acts there.”
For this reason, she summarized, “women’s presence in the Amazon is very great and very fruitful,” noting women’s’ participation in ecclesial life must be much greater in her opinion.
Little by Little
“However, we go little by little,” she said, “and we will arrive there, little by little.”
“We can’t exert pressure; we can’t fight, no,” instead, she added: “I think we can do so by dialoguing. In dialogue, in meetings, I believe that little by little we are giving an answer to what the Church and the world are asking us.”
“But we certainly,” she reiterated, “are important in the Amazon’s forest, and we are there.”
For priests and bishops, she explained, it is more difficult to be as active “because they have to care for a very large city and they have to go here and there, across the very large Amazon, where the distances are so great, and the costs to get around are so high.”
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