Last weekend our recently renovated Novitiate house in Long Beach, California, was nicely prepared because it was the most appropriate place for our Provincial Chapter to take place. Those who arrived Saturday evening made their appearance on Sunday for breakfast, sharing the details of their long journey. Later, over the course of the same day, Fathers Daniel Rivera, Superior General, Domenico Di Raimondo, Provincial Superior and other brother priests also arrived. Most, however, were seen on Monday morning for breakfast, which was offered by a small team of volunteers from the Apostleship of the Cross.
As agreed, at 11:00 am, with everybody present, the Provincial Chapter was kicked off with lunch and fellowship. Greetings, hugs, conversations during and after lunch, the dining room was filled with the characteristic family spirit of the Congregation. These were moments of intense informal communication.
After lunch, we began our Spiritual Exercises, guided by Sr. Mercedes Casas, Superior General of the religious Congregation of the Daughters of the Holy Spirit. She based her reflection on an activity with a 'Kaleidoscope', where each one of us created our own, thus echoing Psalm 23, “The Lord is my Shepherd,” which inspired the fundamental notion that it is "He who leads me to still waters, He makes me lie down in green pastures, He restores my soul, and guides me along right paths.” By becoming conscious of this grace gave us a starting point to answer core questions: Why do I sometimes feel like I’m missing things and I look for them elsewhere? How has the Lord help me to understand what I have experienced these past years? What are some life circumstances where I need the Lord’s help to see more clearly? What are some of the roads the Lord is showing me in order to grow? In what experiences of personal and provincial history has God's protection been felt? ... The lyrics of the song "How much you loved me!" by Fr. Marcos Alba, MSpS, was the background for this time of personal reflection, as if helping the most appropriate response along for our doubts and uncertainties. This initial moment concluded with a shared prayer of thanksgiving: giving thanks “for the love and mercy of the Father,” “because Jesus leads us as the good shepherd He is”, “because He is present in our journey as a province,” “because He never abandons us,” “because He lets us experience how much He loves us,” “because “He lets us share in his ministry as shepherds”, etc.
We ended this moment singing the “Regina Coeli” so that, like Mary, we can feel the gaze of the Father upon us, we may imitate Mary, and we may take advantage of this time by seeking to do “His will”.
In the second moment of the afternoon, Sister Mercedes asked us why were we starting with spiritual exercises. There followed some clues as to the reason: to better prepare ourselves to enter together into these days of prayerful discernment, to rid ourselves of internal bonds and become “available” to the motions of the Spirit; to look deep inside ourselves and listen to our inmost being and the intense longing of our heart; so that together we may find ways to better incarnate our charism as Missionaries of the Holy Spirit, following the guidelines and invitations of Pope Francis and the guidelines of our recent VI General Chapter.
What attitudes can help us in this journey of illumination? Gratitude, inner peace, the pursuit of God's will, humility and inner silence. After having time to meditate individually these attitudes, we ended the first day with the celebration of the Eucharist, presided by Father Daniel Rivera, who, in his homily, stressed the importance of listening attentively to the Word of God.