Here below is a translation of the Pope’s address to the participants in the 23rd General Chapter of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, also known as the Salesian Sisters, this Saturday morning in the Vatican's Sala Clementina:
Dear Sisters, Mother Yvonne thanked me for the audience, but it would not have been possible without her insistence! I do not know if this Superior knows how to govern, I don’t know, it’s for you to say, but she does know how to knock on the doors, and loudly, yes! I assure you. I thank you, Mother, for what you said. I also allow myself to be insistent, thinking of Patagonia … I’ll say no more!
During these days you focused your attention on the theme "To Be with Young People Today an Evangelizing House,” which is well placed in today’s social and ecclesial context, marked by so many forms of spiritual and material poverty. In fact, today there is suffering because of indigence, but also because of the lack of love and relations. In this context, you can gather especially the fragility of young people to whom you are dedicated with loving commitment, according to Don Bosco’s style and in the wake of Mother Mazzarello. You are called to offer all the message of the Gospel, which is summarized in the love of the merciful Father for every person.
From your work, fundamental guidelines are emerging for the life of each woman religious and of every community.
First of all, the commitment to allow yourselves to be guided by the perspective of “going out,” of getting on the road to the many areas of geographic and existential borders, with preferential care for the poor and the different forms of exclusion. There are so many!
Then the awareness of the need to act opportune ways of change and of pastoral conversion, thus transforming your Houses into environments of evangelization, where young people especially are involved in your own mission. It is a question of establishing a climate of co-responsibility that fosters the journey of faith of individuals and personal adherence to Jesus, so that He can continue to fascinate each one. In this way, young people are formed to become themselves agents of evangelization for other young people.
I cannot but encourage you to go forward with enthusiasm on these lines of action, which the Holy Spirit is suggesting to you. Open your heart to receive the interior motions of God’s grace; extend your look, extend your look to recognize the most genuine needs and the urgencies of a society and a generation that are changing. Be, everywhere, a prophetic witness and educational presence, through the unconditional reception of young people, addressing the challenge of inter-culturalism and identifying ways to render your apostolic interventions effective in a context – the one of youth – permeated by the virtual word and the new technologies, especially the digital.
To do all this it is necessary to put Jesus at the center of one’s existence; one must allow oneself to be molded by the Word of God, which illumines, guides and sustains. The missionary spirit must be nourished with perseverant prayer, with Adoration, with that “wasting time” before the Tabernacle.
At the same time, you are called to witness an ideal of fraternal communion among yourselves, with sentiments of mutual hospitality, accepting limitations and appreciating the qualities and gifts of each one, in keeping with Jesus’ teaching: “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). I want to repeat advice that I gave in these days to another group of Religious: unity. Never, never must there be envy or jealousy among you. Do not allow these things! Have unity in the House. However, the most dangerous terrorism that has entered religious life is the terrorism of gossip. If you have something against a Sister, go and say it to her to her face. But never allow this terrorism, because gossip is a bomb that you throw into the community and destroy it. There must be unity without the terrorism of gossip.
And this unity requires – you know it well – a serious path of formation, which includes updating also in those human sciences that can help you in your mission. Your are asked, in fact, to be able to listen with willingness and understanding all those who come to you for moral or human support, to be able to interpret the situations in which you work, in order to be able to inculturate the evangelical message. In this connection, the mission ad Gentes offers you a very vast field to give yourselves with love.
In the course of your Chapter works, you did not fail to reflect on your daily apostolic activity, which puts you in touch with the joys, the expectations and the sufferings of people. Being in the courtyard with children, in the classroom with pupils, with young people in real cities or in “virtual neighborhoods,” in the markets with young women, you come across realities and problems that are always new and that challenge you. Be for everyone missionaries of hope and joy, witnessing the values proper to your Salesian identity, especially the category of encounter, fundamental aspect of your charism: it is an ever fresh and vital source from which you can draw that love that revitalizes the passion for God and for young people. The inevitable difficulties, which are met on the way, must not lessen the enthusiasm of your apostolic action. Rather, may the example of Saint John Bosco and of Saint Domenica Mazzarello drive you to contribute even more enthusiastically to the New Evangelization, with your activities in the realm of education and the school, of catechesis and the formation of young people to the apostolate.
Dear Sisters, you know well how much the Church esteems consecrated life. It, in fact, at the very heart of the Community and is the decisive element for its mission, to which it offers a specific contribution through the witness of a life totally given to God and to brothers. With the maternal help of Mary Most Holy, whom you venerate with the title Help of Christians, may this be the commitment of each one and of your whole Congregation! With this hope, I impart to you and to all your Sisters my heartfelt Apostolic Blessing. And I ask you to pray for me, and not to forget Patagonia! Thank you.
[Original text: Italian]
[Translation by ZENIT]