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The Younger Generation celebrate 70 years since the Foundation of the Little sisters of Jesus, 8th September 1939
News from the New Generation
Little sister Magdeleine wrote: 'I only wanted a work of love.'
'To celebrate our 70 years, we have to do something which is a little crazy!’
This is how Little Sister Gertrud-Veronika, our General superior, welcomed us when we arrived in Rome, Tre Fontane. We were 67 young women coming from different corners of the world. She said: ‘At this stage in the life of our community, we could easily slip into the pitfall of becoming too rational – that is why we had to do something foolish!’
Yes, the General Council invited all the young little sisters, (pre)postulants, novices and a few young professed to come to Rome from every corner of the world. Little sister Gertrude had at the back of her mind an important idea. She wanted us to realize in a very practical way where the future lay. We could see straight away that the majority of us did not come from Europe! The bunch of flowers which we offered to Little Sister Magdeleine was composed of numerous flowers from Africa, some from the Near East and Asia, and completed by foliage from Europe! Representing each one of us, it was certainly a very colourful sight!
As soon as we arrived, we could experience both the universality and the diversity of our Community. We felt ‘we needed time to be rooted in the charism,’ and as Little Sister Gertrud-Veronika told us: ‘It is important that you get to know each other, that you build a web of friendship among you. Our Community is about becoming a brother, a sister to the other.’
Every moment was precious; joining in the daily life of Tre fontane, community prayer, jobs to be done, meals taken together. We also discovered more about the life of Brother Charles and of Little Sister Magdeleine.
Listening to Little Sisters Jeanne and Marguerite who were there at the very beginning of the community with Little sister Magdeleine, telling stories of those early days, made it easy for us to understand how Magdeleine had followed in the steps of Charles. We also understood that age is not an obstacle in responding to God’s call and to undertake a journey round the world to spread the love of God. It was so wonderful to find the charism that Little Sister Magdeleine had wanted to transmit to us so alive in Little Sister Jeanne! She never tired of repeating to us that we have to look at the Infant Jesus and let ourselves be loved by him:
‘The most important is be closely bound to him and to follow him at all times. God only wants our trust.’
We shared in small groups about what touched us in the life of our foundress: her faith, her perseverance and confidence in this God who took her by the hand, her love for all people, her choice for life, even through the times of pain that she experienced. Her folly, as one of us mentioned, continues today with the folly of our Little Sister Gertrud-Veronika - this good foolishness which has also accompanied the beginnings of the Community in the different continents.
So, for the first week we were plunged into the history of the foundation. As one of us said: ‘it was a gift to learn about those the early years and to hear at fist hand how everything began. I realized what courage and trust those first little sisters needed to be ready to go everywhere.’
Our next discovery was Rome! The Little sisters preparing to make their final vows had come to the end of a time of preparation together in Tre Fontane. As part of their ‘sending out ceremony’ they had a Eucharist at St. Peter's Basilica to which we took part. We were able to feel that we were not only part of the community of the little sisters of Jesus, but also of the universal Church. In the days that followed we discovered the importance of this internationality of the Church which Little Sister Magdeleine opened us up to. Of course, it was already visible in the composition of our group, but now we felt more strongly how we were part of something bigger than our own community.
On the 8th September, everybody gathered on our hill to celebrate the 70th anniversary itself. We welcomed a colorful crowd of friends and acquaintances: Priests, Brothers and Sisters, our friends from L’Arche of Jean Vanier.
After a solemn Eucharist, we shared food coming from our countries. There was such a variety of specialties and it was a wonderful celebration of all the encounters and friendship across the continents!
Another special moment was the visit to the tomb of Little Sister Magdeleine in the afternoon. With all the little sisters, we went down to the grotto to give thanks for her life with songs in our mother tongues. An amazing moment was when in the Grotto itself we all sang the Our Father in our different languages with different tunes and rhythms and it sounded as if in complete harmony!
During the days that followed we walked in the footsteps of St Peter and St Paul. On the first day we took part in the Papal audience. Then on the next day, we went on a pilgrimage to the Via Appia and visited the catacombs of St. Sebastian. We also discovered St. Peter's Basilica and St. Paul's Basilica and the place of his captivity and martyrdom. One of our group shared her feelings with us: ‘The visit of those places touched me. It is important to see how Christianity takes its roots in the history of the martyrs who are still alive in the Church today and who pray for us. Here in Rome, I am able to feel the strength of the early Christians and it is something that I am going to keep in my heart.’
We were aware of all the big buildings and the pomp but also of the Church in its simplicity, the Church of today with all its history and the story that continues.
As the days were drawing near for us to return home, we took time to evaluate all that we had lived together. We had discovered so many treasures which we were going to be able to take back to our small communities. Therefore, it is with great happiness that in the evening we could give thanks during a time of adoration together in the chapel which we had decorated with symbols reminding us of all we had lived during these few weeks.
During a last meeting with Little Sister Gertrud Veronika, she spoke to us about our return. We would go home different! She impressed on us to trust, trust that we can move forward. We must ask questions, express ourselves, even if we are not always able to do it well. Then she encouraged us to develop our consciences in the light of the Gospel, living at the heart of the world as we do. Often those around us want us to believe in things contrary to those values of the Gospel.
Thirdly, to hold onto that sure knowledge that we live in the bosom of God, and that nobody can tear us away. Finally, she insisted on spiritual childhood: ‘Walk with confidence, know how to marvel and remain open.’
Our time together ended with a celebration of thanksgiving. The room was overflowing. There were skits, songs and dances from all over the world! We have to admit that we the young little sisters have a good share of foolishness which is ready to burst out at every opportunity!
So now, we are all returning to the four corners of the world holding in our hearts the desire to live and to go on deepening what we have experienced during those two weeks.
Inspired by Brother Charles...