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We would like to introduce you to Sr Susana, novice mistress, in charge of novitiate (the formative stage that prepares Sisters for the Religious consecration in the Congregation), with a degree in nursing and religious sciences.
She is currently located in the residence of Sisters Hospitallers in the center of Condeixa-a-Nova (Irmãs Hospitaleiras Condeixa-a-Nova), when she is in charge of an international novitiate, a “global village” with Sisters of different nationalities and cultures.
She did the school for formators in Salamanca “Josefinato”.
As a novice mistress and responsible of the international novitiate, could you please tell us more about your daily work and of how do you prepare Sisters for religious consecration in an intercultural environment?
In the mission I was called to carry out as formator, I try to dialogue and discern with the Sisters of the team that helps young women to move towards “being all of God” in the service of those who suffer. The intercultural environment is the richness, it’s like having the “world” in the same house and, at the same time, it´s a challenge to make each novice experience welcome and understanding so she can surrender herself to the hands of the Divine Potter, who knows what needs to be shaped.
What is the most rewarding aspect of accompanying the new Sisters on their journey to the religious consecration?
One of the most rewarding aspects of this mission is to see them grow up from inside, to hear them share and to recognise that God makes wonderful things happen in the journey of each one of them. I feel very blessed to hear a strong experience of the encounter with God, either in the prayer or in service to the “living images of Jesus”.
In addition to religious formation, what other aptitudes or qualities do you try to cultivate in the novices throughout their formation period?
The formation of a Sister Hospitaller is a journey which leads us towards a progressive configuration with the compassionate and merciful Christ, looking to think, love, and desire like Him, which implies knowing oneself and developing the capacity for dialogue and discernment, cultivating Hospitallers values as the sensitivity for the excluded, and the service, the welcome and hospitaller virtues such as the charity, solicitude, availability, and gentleness.
The formation is holistic, considering all the dimensions: the knowledge of themselves, the relation with God and with others, living the experience of the service and care for the brothers and sisters who are sick or in need of help.
Tell us about a significant experience of a challenge that you have faced in working with sisters from different cultures and how you approached it from a hospitaller perspective.
One of the most significant experiences of sharing life with young Sisters from different cultures was discovering the importance of being grateful for a gesture or a gift, not only the day you receive it but also the day after. It seems that a small thing but is very precious. Through this experience I recognised that listening and offering space helps me to understand, to respect, to take off my shoes to welcome the mystery of the other. To allow me to be evangelised by the seeds of the Gospel that are present and alive in other cultures.
You have a degree in nursing. How do you integrate your degree in your work of formation and spiritual accompaniment of the novices?
It is one of the aspects that enlightens us to reread and accompany the experience of service, of the hospitaller practice. What we do, talk about and care for is Jesus himself, in an enriching sharing of so many actors, an interdisciplinary team that puts the person assisted at the centre and embraces the mission with a great dedication and professional quality. Sensitivity to the wounds we carry within us, some healed and others in need of healing. Gentleness in the approach, patience and hope help in the process.
In your opinion, what are the values and fundamental principles that guide the work of Sisters Hospitallers in an increasingly diverse and interconnected world?
I believe that in such a diverse and interconnected world the light of our charism shines through, which is hospitality, the matrix of the values that guide us: we are an open home, where those who arrive (even if they are strangers) feel themselves welcomed, and we are also a refuge those who live in the margins. We see the possibility that may be hidden and invent ways of mercy, liberation, healing, and integration.
How do you think that the interculturality contributes to the global mission of the Sisters Hospitallers and to the reflection of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the care of those most in need?
Interculturality lived in community contributes to developing a desire to go beyond oneself and an attitude of welcoming and valuing the differences as a richness. The union of hearts dreamt and lived by our first Sisters and the relation with God, who is communion, “lead us to discover the imprint of God in our lives and in all creation” and, especially, to recognise God in the people we serve (Constitutions, 11).
Jesus lived the compassion and mercy, showing the heart of Father, sensitive to the sick and marginalised, healing, integrating, and uplifting them. As a Congregation, we are a big family, expressing with our faces the depth of universality expressed by our Founder St. Benito Menni: “This love has no limits, it cannot say enough” (Letter 587).
We were born in different places, but all of us, as consecrated women, sisters to one another and servants of the sick, we are apprentices of Divine Samaritan, who cares for wounds and pours on them oil of consolation, making everyone feel that “one person is worth more than the whole world” (Letter 144)
What would you say to someone considering a vocation of consecrated life?
I just say that, if you feel your heart is burning, it is good to take a break and spend some quality time to let yourself found and to share the feelings that are stirring in your heart. I invited you to listen the dream of God with sincerity and openness. Perhaps it would help to ask yourself this question that Maria Josefa and Maria Angustias asked themselves in their interior search:
We entrusted ourselves to the Lord´s mercy and asked for his help, saying lovingly: “My Jesus, what do you want from us?” (Relación sobre las Origencias, p. 81).
Find out where your treasure is, and you will find out where your heart is.
Finally, could you share any important advice or lessons you have learned during your years of service in the Hospitaller Sisters?
One of the most important and beautiful lessons I have learned by living our “beautiful vocation of charity” (Letter 7) is related to service: how does the encounter with the suffering person become, by gift, an encounter with God?
God speaks to me without words, communicates so much to me without moving me and surprises me by wanting to welcome me into his heart. I feel small to have been chosen for such a beautiful mission, and very happy to feel that the Lord continues to call me to follow him and sends me to give myself totally to his service in hospitality.