Hopes and challenges on the islands

Article by Sr. Florentine,
District of The Isles.
 

Eighteen months ago, on March 25, 2020, a new Leadership Team took on responsibility to lead the District of The Isles. The team began its mission at the same time as the many critical restrictions to fight the COVID-19 pandemic came into force. This situation, which shook the entire world, did not fail to destabilize the islands as well: border closures, quarantines, and an increase in the number of vulnerable and violent people... Amid all this, the team began its mission to lead, serve, and give life so that our mission could continue. All Council meetings were held online. Fortunately, advances in technology allowed us to meet through 'Zoom,' which was a change from email communications in which the councilors couldn't see each other. We dream of the day when meeting will be face to face once again!
 

Our hopes:
 

Animated by the zeal of our founders, 53 sisters carry forth the mission across the three islands. Each community tries to make visible the face of Jesus the Good Shepherd through the provision of quality services to women, girls and children, in addition to the community services offered to families and vulnerable people: home visits, communion services, listening, and support. "Zeal calls us to respond to our rapidly changing world and the pressing global realities of today. This calls us to invest resources in holistic formation and training for all involved in the mission." (Congregational Chapter Direction Statement 2015)
 

  • We give thanks to God for the growing vocation of our partners in mission across the three islands. There are about 100 people who share in the work of our Congregation's mission on the islands. This requires the accompanying sisters to organize solid formation in order to "move from a sister-centered mentality of apostolate to a mission-centered mentality."
  • Candidates also continue to knock on our door, which calls us to imagine a new formation program so that formation in our Unit offers: "tailored formation that will help young people better understand and live the mission of the Congregation."
  • A new house has opened in Antananarivo, where the sisters will live on the outskirts of the capital. This once impoverished neighborhood is improving bit by bit thanks to investment by the Congregation to establish a "women's refuge" project. With the help of benefactors, 30 women have found accommodation there. Even though a new government-funded road that passes very close was recently opened, the mission of the Congregation remains very present there.

 


A group of partners in mission in formation in Antsirabe, Madagascar.
 

The Challenges:
 

Amid so many voices that call and challenge us, we are invited to open the eyes of our hearts in order to discern better what God is telling us. We face several present challenges:
 

  • Formation: formation for all (sisters and partners in mission) so that we can better understand the mission of the Congregation and offer quality services everywhere we are present.
  • Violence: in the wake of COVID-19, violence is increasing in families and broader society. Most affected by this are women and children: abuse of every kind, sexual violence against children, rising poverty, and so on... How do we respond?
  • Increasing our capacity to receive children who are victims of abuse in an area popular with tourists (Morondava, Madagascar).

 


An ICA group meeting in preparation for the 2021 Congregational Chapter.
 

In conclusion, it is with hope that we move forward towards the Congregational Chapter, which is a time of grace for us, and which will mark out a new direction for the years to come. Together, let's move forward "attracted by Love and passionate about Justice."