Indian Nun goes global
(Note: Indian Sr. Mary Sujita was facing some 900 women religious representing nearly 500,000 global community. She was hammering on structural change, not any cosmetic window dressing to look good as women do before they go strolling. In secular terms she was telling: “With today’s or yesterday’s know how and talents you can’s do tomorrow’s job.” Why? Because change is happening too fast and you become irrelevant and out of place. That is what is happening to most of the traditionalists. You have to live today, and address today’s problems, not yesterday’s. That is what Francis Papa is doing with his daily exhortations. As for religious, it is not enough to take the vow of poverty to become poor. So it is said of religious (both men and women): They don’t possess anything, but have everything they need (Nihil habentes and omnia possidentes). Hence her question: “Who is benefiting from my vows? Will my life make any difference in the lives of those most in need?” Oneself? Or the needy in the periphery? So she spoke of “diminishment”. What does that mean? It means every follower of Jesus must live the saying of the Baptist: “He must increase and I must decrease!” Only to that measure the poor, one serves will become richer. First thing for every one is to survive, just to live, in a world where around 800 million people face the threat of death through hunger. Hence the constant call of Francis for a “poor church for the poor” on which Sr.Sujita also hammers. Theologizing and writing about option for the poor is “arm chair witnessing” proper to scribes like me, although that too is urgently needed to conscientize people. james kottoor, editor)
Rome: An Indian social worker who was the first Asian to lead the global congregation of the Sisters of Notre Dame called on the heads of the world’s communities of Catholic women religious to stop “theologizing” about the needs of the poor and to instead get to work in the places most in need.
Sr. Mary Sujita told about 900 women religious representing nearly 500,000 sisters globally at the International Union of Superiors General (UISG) meeting May 10 that they can no longer “reduce [their] mission to some traditional ministries and good charitable deeds” but must work for deep, structural changes around the world.
“What is my real identity? Am I who I claim to be as a woman religious?” she asked. “Who is benefiting from my vows? Will my life make any difference in the lives of those most in need?”Sujita, who led her order at their Rome headquarters from 1998 to 2011, said congregations should not focus their energies on questions of diminishment —
“The future of religious life will be decided on the peripheries where Christ is in agony,” Sujita said in a plenary address to a triennial meeting of the UISG. “It will not be decided on the number of sisters we have. Let us be clear on this.” “Sisters, we who have everything and often are among the most privileged woman of the world, what are we afraid of?” Sujita asked. “What is the root of our cowardice and fear?”
“How we choose to respond to this moment will decide the future of ministerial religious life,” she said. “We don’t have much time. Like Jesus, we are challenged to be filled with a divine recklessness. We are too careful. Jesus was reckless in his love. Are we ready for that?”
“Time is running short for very radical steps,” Sujita said. “Either we live a prophetic life . . . or disappear as an irrelevant reality.”The May 9-13 UISG meeting in Rome addressed the theme, “Weaving global solidarity for life.”
During the five days of plenary sessions and meetings, including a private audience with Pope Francis on Thursday, the community leaders discussed perennial questions of the role of religious life in the world in the light of current global issues, particularly the continuing economic and environmental crises.
Sujita focused her talk Tuesday on the overwhelming poverty that many in the world face, citing statistics that around 800 million people face hunger and that a child dies from a water-related illness every 20 seconds.“Our sincere commitment to justice and active concern for the poor are absolutely non-negotiable parts of living our faith and discipleship,” said the nun who led the women’s power through Mahila Samakhya (women’s fame) in Bihar, eastern India, in the 1990s. She has left her indelible marks on the Bihar Education Project and the Right to Education Mission of Government of India.
“Today, there is so much theologizing and writing about the radical option for the poor and needy,” she continued. “While I may feel good about that on the conceptual level, where am I in my practical, down-to-earth solidarity with the poor?”
“Imagine, if each woman religious would reach out even to a few persons on the margins, how the margins would be transformed into islands of hope!” she said.“We are not a hopeless group sitting here,” she said. “We are a powerhouse of transformation.”
Women from five continents took part in the UISG meeting, and the discussions were translated into 11 languages, including Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese and Chinese.The meeting involved one or two formal presentations each day, which allowed the women religious periods of time to reflect on the presented topics in their table groups.
Sr Sujita was one of four plenary speakers for the event. At the opening of the conference Monday, U.S. St. Joseph Sr. Carol Zinn warned the women religious leaders against accepting an “entitlement creep” that numbs them from confronting poverty and environmental destruction.
Zinn, a former president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, said religious life has primarily been a “first-world lifestyle” that “can create a numbness of consciences and a blindness of heart through which we can easily see not the pain but see what we want to see.”