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Challenges to and opportunities for religious life today

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Fr. Pernia was asked to address specifically the issue of “Opportunities and challenges that today’s world and Church present to Consecrated Apostolic Life and the Theology of Consecrated Life”.   Among the many challenges, the speaker focused in particular on the crisis of consecrated life caused by an increasingly globalized world.

This crisis is particularly evident in Western Europe and North America, although it is also conceivable that such a crisis, sooner or later may creep in other parts of the world. The most evident sign of this crisis is the unrestrained decrease in the number of religious men and women on the one hand, and the perception of an increasingly irrelevance of religious life on the other.  This crisis is manifested also not only in the context of a Church which is becoming more polycentric and global, but also in the process of Westernization taking place within the Church.

Europe, Fr. Pernia reaffirmed, is increasingly becoming less and less the source of missionary vocations.  The image of “white missionaries” going to distant lands to live among the natives” is becoming more remote from reality.  With increasing frequency today, we speak of mission in all five continents, with all the consequences it inevitably entails.  The speaker was asked: “Are we not simply replacing the European missionaries in Asia and Africa, while actually leaving intact the usual way of carrying out the mission?”

The main opportunities which today’s world can offer to the religious life are those of the increasingly multicultural aspects within certain religious Institutions, the inter-congregational collaboration and the increasing involvement of lay people who are trained and properly motivated.  All these may not be enough.  Many questions still await for an answer:  such as “does religious life properly belong to the charismatic dimension of the Church rather to its hierarchical dimension?;  Can the new religious communities be considered a development of consecrated life today?  To what extent do paradigm shifts of the mission (from “Missio Ecclesiae” to “Missio Dei”) affect the religious life today?

The first answers to these questions, both for the challenges and opportunities came early in the morning through five interventions  concerning the current situation of consecrated life in Africa (Bishop Faustin Ambassa), Latin America (Sr. Mariacarmen Bracamonte), Asia (Sr. Mary Sujita Kallupurakkathu), France (Fr. André-Pierre Gauthier) and Oceania (Sr. Susan Smith).

On quite aa few provocations heard worldwide, and after a careful sharing by language groups in the afternoon, the day’s proceedings concluded in a General meeting to share some basic guidelines for the future.  Work will resume on Wednesday morning, February 9 with a second main Conference entrusted to a speaker from USA, Sr. Mary Maher on the theme:  “CALLED AND SENT: REFLECTIONS ON A THEOLOGY OF APOSTOLIC RELIGIOUS LIFE TODAY”


(Fr. Angelo Arrighini)

Published: February 9, 2011

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