Letter to the Editorin Sathyadeepam online: Author: Thomson P. U., Statistical Officer, Paravara (H), Kochi–682038.
I refer to the three interviews published in April 1st edition of the Fortnightly on women religious life with Rev. Sisters of different congregations spoke at length on the religious life – today & tomorrow. In this context, I would like to add a few reflections to the religious life in general and women religious life in particular as a corollary to the concerns expressed through the interviews.
Some of the religious think that putting up buildings and managing the same is the main ministry they have to indulge in. And in this process of building and managing they forget the very objective of their calling to the religious life. This lands them in a kind of degraded religious life, I would say. This gives wrong signal to the laity forcing them not to see any meaning in religious life, resulting in fewer number of vocations and practically nil qualitative vocations.
Coming to the problems faced by the women religious as expressed in the interviews referred above, I am of the opinion that some kind of study is to be done among the women religious in order to gauge gravity of the issues expressed through the interviews mentioned above. If we find the issues to be significant statistically, then authorities concerned will have to think of the remedial actions. And these remedial actions have to be evolved based on a series of discussions and deliberations guided by Holy Spirit. In my humble opinion, this should be the course of action for the problem, rather than jumping into solutions.
It is widely pointed out in one of the interviews that the current form of religious life will die because it is no more attractive. One fails to understand what the interviewee meant by the term attractive. But the next statement throws some light – adorning executive positions in the institutions run by the Church. Moreover, throughout the interview, concept of holding prestigious positions in Churchrun institutions is emphasized directly and indirectly. In this context, I would like to remind the very objective of choosing religious life by an individual. Of late, when I happened to talk to a diocesan priest, he was making a statement that candidates for religious congregationsboth men & women are few compared to vocations for various dioceses. Situation is worse for women congregations (two of my elder sisters happen to be members of two different congregations) where novitiate is run for more than two or three provinces together for want of sufficient novices in individual provinces.
Apart from the abovementioned facts, it is high time to reflect lifestyle of those who are already in various religious congregations. Most of the religious both men & women – aim at reaching executive positions making their life more secure. In this process of achieving materialistic gains, they even forget the real meaning of their calling to be religious, and this is the real irony of the story. We are not supposed to sacrifice the very meaning of the religious or priestly life for the sake of maintaining number of vocations, and I am afraid whether at least a few congregations are moving in this direction. Therefore, modules of religious / priestly training should be modified with more emphasis on religious life, than on the professions some of them may practise after their formative years. Candidates should be instructed to be more committed & dedicated to the life they have chosen than to the profession they might practise. In such a situation, looking at the commitment religious are nurturing towards the life they have chosen, laity will take inspiration, and this in turn will surely result in qualitative vocations from the generations to come, whatever be the hindrances we may foresee for vocation in the 21st century.
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