Sunday, August 5, 2012

Interview with Mother Yvonne Reungoat

Interview with Mother Yvonne Reungoat, FMA

The state of health of the FMAs, prospects for the future, the world of young people, and her own story

(ANS – Rome -- August 2, 2012) – ANS has asked Mother Yvonne Reungoat, Superior General of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians (better known as the Salesian Sisters), about that religious congregation, which Don Bosco held to be a “living monument” to Mary Help of Christians, and about her role as Superior.

You have just carried out an evaluation. What is the state of health of the FMA Institute? What challenges face it in the future?
At the moment there are two groups of interprovincial conferences that have yet to carry out their evaluation of GC22, where the experiences and reflections of their provinces will flow together. I think I can say, however, thanks to what I have found out also in my visitations, that the Institute is in good shape. The desire and commitment to revive our charism is alive and well in all the sisters. They feel the need to deepen their personal spirituality and to strengthen their prophetic message, basing it on its mystical roots. They have also noticed the need to focus on the evangelical nature of their relationships as FMA communities and as educating communities. The journey with lay people is becoming more apparent not only at the level of working together, but also in co-responsibility for the educational mission. They have become more committed to a renewed option for the poor, in a world becoming more and more impoverished, and they recognize the importance of building communities that are truly vocational, where young people feel welcomed and listened to and where they can clearly see the beauty and the energy of our charism.
To sum up: the journey of the Institute is somewhere between the “already” and the “not yet.” But I think that the greatest challenge, embracing all the others, is that of hope.
The FMA Institute is celebrating 140 years of existence. What changes have there been in its identity and mission?
140 years of the Institute’s life is an important occasion for the entire Salesian Family. For us FMAs it means the celebration of God’s fidelity and of our response to his love, a reason for joy and thankfulness. Don Bosco’s idea of giving girls the same opportunities that he was offering to his boys was realized thanks to the response of some young women in the Association of Mary Immaculate in Mornese who took up his suggestion of consecrating themselves to the Lord as religious following the Salesian spirit. In that little place in Monferrato, just as from a seed cultivated in good and fertile land, the Institute sprang forth; it was August 5, 1872.
The FMA identity was clear from the start: women consecrated for the mission of evangelizing through education, with a strong Marian identity. Don Bosco provided a powerful witness, and Maria Domenica Mazzarello felt totally in harmony with his project of life and his method of education, the Preventive System. The Institute grew in a remarkable way and expanded to a presence which now reaches 94 nations in the world and numbers about 14,000 members who live and work in all six [inhabited] continents.
The secret is in the energy of the Spirit which has given our religious family a missionary dimension and a universal appearance. This identity has become richer over the years, and our educational mission today embraces new frontiers, new fields to meet young people and reawaken in them a search for meaning, bringing them up to be good Christians and honest citizens, as Don Bosco wanted them to be. This program has been taken up wholeheartedly by the FMAs since their beginnings, and today it is more and more linked to promotion of their fundamental rights and commitment to their evangelization.
What are the expectations and challenges of today? Does the world of youth still have a geography, or has globalization unified everything?
There are certainly challenges specific to youth depending on their socio-cultural situations. In areas of greatest economic poverty, young people are more motivated to raise their social status, and they know how to profit from the opportunities offered to them. Those in richer countries are less motivated and take longer to reach human maturity. But these are only generalizations.
Globalization has to some extent unified their needs and brought about new needs. At a world level, young people today are alike in many more ways than they are different. Languages, consumption, expectations, news media, and new technologies have all been globalized.
I am not referring only to the negative aspects of globalization – secularism, relativism, consumerism – but also to the positive aspects. For example, solidarity has been globalized, volunteering has become more popular, and there is a new awareness about human rights and the dignity of each person. The deepest needs of the young are the same as ever: to love and be loved, to find meaning and happiness in life, to work for the common good, to make the world a home where all can live. Today young people want to be themselves: not just making their voices heard in protest, but making their resources available as committed youths. I believe that we are preparing to enter a new season, so long as we know how to listen to them and accompany them in their journey of human and Christian growth.
There is not just one language of youth, “cryptic.” There is another language consisting of simplicity, concreteness, freedom, and gift. There is an often implicit question about meaning that needs to be brought to light, and there is a hidden request from young people to be accompanied by significant adults in a world that is ever more multiethnic, multicultural, multireligious, without points of reference. The challenge for us is to accompany them to open themselves to others and to the Other, leading up to the explicit proclamation of Jesus.
Mother Yvonne with Fr. Pascual Chavez, SDB Rector Major
The word crisis is used in various circumstances, from economic to social, from values to the youth situation. What hope can the FMAs offer?
The hope we can offer depends on what animates our own lives. The first sign of hope for young people is to find adults who are capable of hoping. The crisis, mostly seen in the West, is economic and social, a crisis of cultural and educational values. The “educational emergency” can be interpreted as an emergency of fathers and mothers, of family homes, of upbringing.
The task of educating can be more difficult and our efforts hampered in a society that too often makes relativism its creed, that swamps the new generations with emotional gratification and exalts the ephemeral. I am convinced that we can offer hope to young people only if we overcome the crisis of authority into which many adults fall, often abdicating their responsibilities.
If, as FMAs, we witness to the beauty and joy of our vocation, if will be easier to set up a vast network of communion and dialog with all those who care about the education of the young and with young people themselves.
In the name of all the FMAs, I want to express our desire that many young women will discover the call to follow Jesus in our Institute. The field of educational need is immense. We can get through the current crisis, which is also vocational, if we are able to hand on the Salesian charism to new generations for them to develop and enrich. One hundred and forty years from our foundation, I can see a broad and open horizon where our religious family can continue to write pages of joyous fidelity, with the help of young women who are not afraid to commit their lives to following Jesus.
Can you tell us a little about your own vocational story?
In our family there was an uncle who was a Salesian missionary in Canada, and we regularly received the Salesian Bulletin. That was how my parents discovered the existence of an FMA school in Dinan, in Brittany, France, where I could continue my studies. I was struck by the family spirit that reigned in the community. One day the superior asked me, “Have you ever thought about religious life?” This direct question reawakened my desire to become a religious. It had been in my heart before I knew the sisters, but I had let it slip, thinking that I could never achieve it. I must acknowledge that the superior in Dinan truly accompanied me and that the educational atmosphere in the community supported my journey. The FMAs had the knack of turning us into leaders. They gave us little responsibilities, geared to our ability, in order to guide us toward the service of others. This accompaniment helped me to bring my vocational response to maturity. I felt gripped by God, but without that question, perhaps I would never have become a Daughter of Mary Help of Christians.
My time as a missionary in Africa enriched my vocation, which then developed in a surprising way with my election as visiting councilor, vicar general, and finally Superior General. From the start I thought that this mission would totally overwhelm me and that I could fulfill it only because I could count on the help of the Lord and of Mary Help of Christians.
Being the ninth successor of Mother Mazzarello is a task that can be undertaken only with the grace of God and through entrustment to Mary Help of Christians, who has done everything in my life. I am convinced that the Lord asks of us only our availability for him to work freely in us and make us instruments of his anticipating love.

No comments: