The second part of their trip was the international workshop for young consecrated men and women religious. This was held at the Vatican and included three days of workshops on the following themes: fraternal life, mission and vocation. There were over 2,600 men and women religious from all around the world. On the second day of the workshop, the Holy Father, Pope Francis, gave those in attendance an hour long General Audience which was one of the highlights of the trip. To end the conference, they attended Mass in St. Peter's Basilica.
Sr. Mary Lucia reflects on attending the General Audience with the Holy Father: “Our meeting with Pope Francis was most memorable. Early that morning while it was still dark, we hopped on the bus to go down to the Vatican. Only a handful of people were there, and we joined the line awaiting the security check to get into the Vatican. After several hours of waiting and a mad rush (nearly running) into the Paul VI Hall, we claimed our seats in Row 11 with a good view of the stage. The atmosphere was charged with anticipation, and thousands of Religious flowed into the Hall. As we waited another hour for the Holy Father, the excitement continued to build. Finally, the Swiss Guard entered and the buzz of the crowd hushed in anticipation. The silence was broken only briefly by a few Africans chanting “Papa Francesco”. And then...he came. A tremendous roar from the crowd. Cries of joy, cheers, shouts, tears, and jumping for joy. The emotion was overwhelming. Here was our Holy Father, the Vicar of Christ on earth! Though we had never met, I felt a closeness to this man who has the sole responsibility of guiding Mother Church. Pope Francis took his seat, and the happy crowd of Religious from all over the world quieted in only a few minutes out of respect and reverence for their Holy Father, eager to hear what he had to say. Pope Francis proceeded to give an hour long conference. I simply sat and soaked it all in, listening to the Holy Father in one ear and our English translator in the other. He spoke to us as a Religious to Religious, and as a Father to his children, slowly and deliberately. He did not mince words. His message was strong, yet with a certain gentleness.”
Sr. Mary Monica continues, “the Holy Father took questions from three Religious including a man from Syria. When he finished his question, the Holy Father asked where he was from. When the young man said “Syria,” the Holy Father got out of his chair and gave the young man a hug. This was the most touching experience of the audience because the Syrian also gave Pope Francis a bullet shell he had picked up from a playground in Syria and told the Holy Father to ‘not forget Syria.’ I felt a great closeness to all the participants of the conference even though we live in different parts of the world and come from very different cultures. We have been chosen by God to follow Christ in a special and radical way as Brides of Christ. In the afternoon, we met in different language groups in various places around Rome. Our site was at the The Church of Gesu, where St. Ignatius of Loyola is buried. During these language group workshops we discussed and reviewed the day’s conference theme such as fraternal life and mission. We had sisters and brothers from different countries including India, Poland, Burma, Indonesia, Germany, the United Kingdom, Pakistan and Nigeria and other African countries. It was a grace-filled time to speak with these Religious about our vocation and how it is universally lived.”
In conclusion, both Sr. Mary Lucia and Sr. Mary Monica relate: “Our time in Rome was a grace-filled and inspiring experience. We are so grateful to have had the opportunity to participate in this event. We know that our time in Rome will continue to bear great fruit in our own spiritual lives as well as in the Apostolate as we continue to be Christ’s merciful love in the world.”
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