God’s fellow workers: the joys, challenges and opportunities of the relationships between Institutes of Consecrated Life
For when one says, “I belong to Paul,” and another, “I belong to Apollos,” are you not merely men? What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are equal, and each shall receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers;you are God’s field, God’s building. 1 Cor 3, 4-9
Rejoice always (1 Thes 5, 16)
A wise tradition of the Church encourages us to begin every important evaluation of our lives and mission from a place of consolation, from joy, and this, I believe, is also the best place from which to begin this brief communication on the ways Institutes of Consecrated Life relate with each other. Early in Evangelii Gaudium, though, Pope Francis offers us the salutary reminder that the kind of joy we are talking about here, the joy of the evangelizer, always shines out against the backdrop of grateful memory.
So we could do much worse than to take as our starting-point here this question: what grateful memories do we have of positive and life-giving relationships between other Institutes and our own that continue to bring us lasting, inspiring and energizing joy?
In the hope of encouraging you to find your own answers to this question, let me respond to it from out of my own story and my own experience, and with reference to four key areas of our consecrated living.