VATICAN RADIO interview - Rome, October 12, 1990
with Sr María Gema Cadena,
Superior General of the Congregation of the Good Shepherd
How has the Institute received the news about Sr Agustina's death? Her work empowering women and evangelizing the people of La Florida, and many other neighboring villages in Peru, was the cause of our dear Sr Agustina Rivas' death. According to eyewitnesses, before the shot was fired, the final judgment was heard: "You're dying for talking about peace, for organizing these people and leading them astray...".
These acts of violence have an impact on and pose a significant challenge to the people of Latin America. The fact that today one of the victims is a sister of the Good Shepherd, has been a painful blow for all of us; a strong call to clarify and reaffirm our commitment to the people we serve, following the example of our Good Shepherd who "lays down his life for his sheep".
During these days, our eyes and interests are focused on our dear Sr Agustina. A brave woman who was 70 years old. They say about her: "We saw her journey onward, all her life, in complete dedication to ceaseless love and service, silent and serene, sowing the true sense of humanity, of Christianity and of peace among the people of La Florida".
We trust that the blood shed by a sister of the Good Shepherd, as well as that of some priests and of many innocent people, will be fruitful seed for reconciliation, peace and justice to flower in the beloved Peruvian people.
What charismatic service does the Institute of the Good Shepherd provide within the Church and in society?
Our foundress, Saint Mary Euphrasia Pelletier, was moved, like Saint John Eudes, the Congregation's spiritual father, by a deep faith that made her sensitive to the demands of the Gospel in her time. She identified our charisma as sharing the mission of Jesus the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd who wants to give his life for his sheep...and for those most in need...
Currently, our services are as numerous as the numerous problems of women and girls today. We provide:
- Residences for women and their children who have been abused by their husbands.
- Residences for young people with family and behavioral difficulties.
- Diagnostic and therapy centers for sexually abused young people and children.
- Homes for single mothers.
- Counseling and support centers for women victims of prostitution.
- Counseling and pastoral care in men's and women's prisons.
- Counseling and evangelization for families in need in marginal areas.
- Assistance in youth centers and centers for women affected by AIDS and drug addiction.
- Support and advocacy services for refugees.
We provide these services across the five continents, motivated by the zeal of St Mary Euphrasia, a woman who – for the glory of God and the mission – was willing to travel the whole world.
In addition to these specific socio-apostolic services, do the Good Shepherd Sisters carry out other pastoral or evangelistic activities, or social empowerment?
According to the needs of the countries where we are located, our services also align with professional empowerment in rural areas.
• Medical clinics in mission areas and highly deprived areas.
• Youth group and catechesis activities.
• Children's nurseries.
• Colleges and schools.
• Evangelization and leadership training in places where there is no Church presence. This is the case of our community in La Florida, the scene where dear sister Agustina Rivas was sacrificed.
These empowerment services are also intended to be ways to identify people in difficulty so as to offer them an encounter with the Good Shepherd's heart, the source of mercy and reconciliation.
How many sisters are there? What is the Institute's situation concerning vocations? As I mentioned earlier, we are present in the five continents, in 63 countries. There are 7,000 sisters, of which 1,050 belong to the contemplative branch.
The two branches, united by the same charism, are two lungs that give life to a single heart, that strives to be the same Good Shepherd in order to mercifully approach those who suffer and are in need of help.
Concerning your specific question on vocations, they are continuing. They are more numerous in Asia and Latin America. They are beginning to rise in Africa. In Europe, North America and Oceania, they are fewer.
Recently, there has been a great desire in the East to respond to the call. A group of five sisters is preparing to go to help our Hungarian sisters who, after 40 years, have been allowed to restructure their community life and develop an apostolate to support families and young people in need, according to our charism.
Zeal for the salvation of souls is the inheritance from our foundress. In this jubilee year – 50 years since the canonization of St Mary Euphrasia – the whole congregation strives to deeply renew ourselves in our founding charism, in the context of the New Evangelization. We are also preparing for the twenty-sixth (26th) General Chapter which will be held next year.