Spirituality Sustains Our Interculturality

At the conclusion of the Seminar on Spirituality and Interculturality, which took place at the Saint Michael Mission Center, in Steyl, Netherlands, from January 26 to February 14, 2020, we returned to our provinces/regions and mission fields very motivated and convinced that Trinitarian Spirituality sustains our intercultural experience.

There were 35 participants from different continents, including translators and the organizing team, SSpS, SVD, and 3 lay collaborators. We experienced interculturality intensely, not only in content and dynamics, but mainly in the coexistence among ourselves.  In the first week, we introduced ourselves through our cultural contexts and symbols. Roger Schroeder explained the basic concepts of culture and interculturality and Srs. Adriana Milmanda and Miriam Altenhofen, together with Fr. Tim Norton, addressed intercultural conflicts and their impact on spirituality.

On February 29, we celebrated the feast of St. Joseph Freinademetz and, inspired by his missionary journey and the life of Mother Theresia Messner, we studied our founding generation and interculturality and also the SSpS and SVD path to intercultural life and mission with the presentations by Sr. Maria Cristina Ávalos and Frs. Jürgen Ommerborn and José Antunes.

It was important to understand the differences between personality and culture and to deepen the intercultural path of Jesus and the early church. We also studied interculturality and mission based on our Trinitarian spirituality and prophetic dialogue. But the most important thing was to become aware that it is part of our vocation as members of the Arnoldus Family to live in intercultural communities, dialoguing with differences, overcoming conflicts and building a new way of relating, integrating elements from different cultures.

We started February with a pilgrimage to Issum, Kevalaer and Goch and, on Sunday, we celebrated the International Day of Religious Life with Mass and lunch in our Mother House. On the 3rd we celebrated Mother Maria Helena and heard some very remarkable missionary testimonies in our Mother House. In the afternoon, in groups, we also told our own intercultural stories and presented them in plenary.

In the following days, we deepened our spirituality and its relationship with interculturality and prepared for a four-day retreat. The novelty was that each participant spiritually accompanied one person and was accompanied by another, integrating intercultural and gender differences. It was a very profound experience to pray from baptism and to seek the conversion of our ethnocentrism.

In the third week, organized in different groups, we were invited to develop materials such as programs for annual retreats or monthly recollections, community reflections and others for the different communities, provinces and regions, as well as for lay partners.

This seminar in Steyl, the sacred ground where we have our congregational roots, was a very rich experience. We were able to visit the tomb of Saint Arnold Janssen and our mothers and be in contact with our three congregations with a visit to the sisters of Perpetual Adoration (SSpSAP). Lay participation also helped to broaden our horizons.

Sr. Ana Elídia Caffer Neves – Brazil North

 

See also the opening address of the seminar of Sr. Maria Theresia (MT) and Fr. Budi Kleden (BK):

Spirituality and Interculturality 

MT: Welcome to the First International Workshop on Spirituality and Interculturality for SVDs, SSpS and Lay partners.

We have learned that Interculturality is more than just living together under one roof. As Arnoldus Family we have many years of experience of intercultural living and serving.  Sometimes we have just transferred our culture to the other, but we also always had great missionaries who have studied and shared the life and culture of the people, have learned to appreciate the values of other cultures. For many this has been a deep experience of conversion.

BK: Our congregations are known as German congregations. It is true that the intention of our founder was to start a German mission house, but from the beginning our congregations were never purely German congregations. Without people like Saint Joseph Freinademetz or Mother Theresia Messner our congregations would not have been as they are now. Interculturality has been part and parcel of our identity and reality, although for decades we did not reflect and talk much about it. In the last years, with the richer composition of cultures of our communities, as well as the increasing challenges of living in a divided world because of cultural and ethical differences, we feel the need to reflect and talk more about this topic. Along with this, there is a new need in the Church, especially among the religious congregations, to discuss about interculturality. And our congregations are seen as experts in this regard. A lot of events organized at the levels of UISG and USG, as well as the levels of congregations involve our Sisters and Confreres as resource persons. We realize now that this blessing of being intercultural congregations is not something just for us, enriching our life and mission, but also to be shared with others. What Fr. Antonio Pernia said is true: interculturality is our heritage, our commitment and our mission today.

MT: Our last two General Chapters (2008 and 2014) speak more concretely about becoming intercultural, skills for intercultural living need to be developed, multicultural awareness, intercultural witness towards intercultural communities and the last Chapter says: we become aware of and honestly own the lights and shadows of our intercultural and intergenerational living. In response to this we have organized different workshops on Interculturality for SVDs and SSpS. Every time it was a very good and enriching experience to do it together as brothers and sisters.

During this term of Leadership, we had 4 international assemblies (Provincials/ Regionals, Formators, Treasurers and Communication Coordinators). In all these assemblies as well as in formators’ courses and other formation programs INTERCULTURALITY is part of the program.

BK: The last two chapters of the SVD (2012 and 2018) also talk about interculturality. Especially the 17th General Chapter made interculturality the main theme of the chapter. We declare there that living and working together as confreres from different cultural, linguistic and ethnic backgrounds is a witness of the presence and love of the Trinitarian God and richness (unity and diversity) of the Church. With several recommendations and resolutions, the Chapter asks and encourages us to deepen interculturality and train ourselves in this area. Since then different workshops have been organized, at the congregational as well as at the PRMs levels. Interculturality is now an integral part of courses and workshops offered in Nemi.

Our Chapter in 2018 concentrated more on spiritual renewal and transformation for mission, including interculturality. One resolution (1.1.5) asks us to develop a reflection guide to promote appreciation of and mutual enrichment by different cultural expressions of spiritualities present among members of the communities, and to develop this for mutual enrichment in spirituality with lay partners. Another resolution (1.1.6) tasks us to continue the efforts to fuller interculturality in terms of spirituality and other areas.

MT: The topic of interculturality has become very important among religious congregations worldwide, especially in the area of formation. We, SVDs and SSpS are invited frequently to share our experiences and reflections with other congregations, Superiors General, formators. This also has made me reflect more on Interculturality, not as a necessity, but as part of our Charism.  Therefore, we have established a joint committee that helps our two councils in promoting interculturality: The Resource Committee on Interculturality (RCI). Some of you are members of this committee. We are grateful to have this committee. Today we sense that we need to explore how we can nourish our long years of experience in intercultural living and mission with our Spirituality and how we can make it more fruitful for missionary life and service. Interculturality needs Spirituality.

BK: Our congregations have been working together for decades in promoting missionary spirituality. As we know, the Arnold Janssen Spirituality Team of Steyl was suspended for some years, waiting for the chapters of the three congregations. After the General Chapter of the SSpS this year we will think about and decide on the future of the spiritual animation of our congregations. Meanwhile the two general councils saw the need to organize this workshop on spirituality of interculturality.

MT: The objectives of this workshop are:

  1. to train SSpS, SVD and lay partners to be resource persons on spirituality of interculturality who will help the PRMs and the lay groups to grow in this aspect
  2. to develop models that can be used by our communities and groups for mutual spiritual enrichment. The last week of the workshop will be dedicated to this purpose.
  3. we also hope that this workshop will strengthen the collaboration between SSpS, SVD and the lay partners
  4. to integrate and contextualize spirituality and interculturality
  5. because you are expected to be the resource persons, it is our hope your contribution to the members of the congregations as well as to the lay groups will strengthen teamwork at the continental/zonal level and
  6. contribute in developing a vision for the future of spiritual animation in our congregations.

You see, as resource persons you will be playing a very important role in promoting the spirituality of interculturality.

BK: Finally, we wish all of you, the participants, the organizers and the resource persons a fruitful workshop. We ask our Founder and the founding generation, Saint Joseph Freinademetz, Mother Theresia Messner and our martyrs to accompany this workshop with their intercessions to God. We apologize that the two of us cannot stay with you for the workshop due to other commitments for our congregations. But some members of the councils and the generalate teams will be with you. Be assured of our commitment to promote the spirituality of interculturality; we continue to keep you in our prayers and we ask you to pray for us.