Thursday, 01 July 2010 13:56
By Sr. Cecilia Marie, Hammersley, IHM
The Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary on May 9-12 received the unexpected privilege of being selected as one of the religious institutes that would have an on-site visitation by two representatives of the Apostolic See.
Last year the Vatican began an apostolic visitation of women’s communities in the United States. The process, a series of four phases, is being headed by Mother Clare Millea, the superior general of the Congregation of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
The process encouraged each community to reflect upon their own identity, charism and presence in the Church. In the beginning two phases, the sisters were encouraged to study the documents on Religious Life from the Vatican as well as their Constitutions, leading to many discussions within the IHM community about our charism and living of religious life as expressed within the Church. Sr. Mary Elizabeth commented that “as we prepared for the apostolic visitation, gathering data, reflecting on our charism, I grew in deeper appreciation of the gift given to us by Fr. Masmitja and Mother Joanne.”
In the third phase, about 25 percent of the religious institutes will receive an on-site visit from a pool of approximately 80 visitors representing the apostolic visitation. The IHM sisters were surprised and honored by being selected. Mother Clare wished to have broad sampling that would cover the gamut of religious congregations in the United States. After reading the material that was submitted to her office, she chose the communities based on geographical location, types of ministry, size, and age span of members.
The IHM Sisters warmly received their two visitors and then spent the next two days talking with the visitors about our community, sharing with them our hopes and dreams, our concerns and struggles, and our love for religious life and the Church.
Sr. Mary Agnes, said, “Our visitors truly brought the love of our Holy Father and Mother Church into our presence.”
Another IHM, Sr. Mary Ann, said: “It was such a blessing to see the working of God in each Sister’s vocation story and the unity of vision among the Sisters as we talked with the Visitors. The Holy Spirit’s guidance was palpable during the visit.”
Mother Marie Bernadette, reflecting on the visitation, said, “The entire time of the apostolic visitation, from the beginning preparations to the closing prayer, was an overwhelmingly beautiful experience. Throughout, God’s tender love and Holy Mother Church’s care and concern was so evident it was almost tangible.”
The sisters are grateful beyond words for this experience, confirmed and convicted in the beauty of the church’s teaching on Religious Life. The IHM sisters felt truly honored to be included in this third phase of this historic apostolic visitation to religious women.