Sisters in Initial Formation
Our European Novitiate (which is based in Versailles, France) was inaugurated in October 2010. Sisters of the former provinces of England/Ireland, France-Togo and Italy immediately felt a new source of hope in this choice to ‘put in common’ the formation process for women discerning their call to live as Cenacle Sisters. It takes several years of prayerful discernment, participation in community life, apostolic commitments and studies to pass through the stages of initial formation.
There are many opportunities to learn what it means to be a sister within the province of Europe-Togo, in the context of an international congregation.
The initial stage of formation, pre-novitiate, happens in the country through which the woman enters. This time, normally a year, concentrates on confirming that the candidate is ready to enter the more intensive period of novitiate formation. An opportunity to share in community life is indispensable. Visiting a community in another part of the province is generally arranged.
During the time of pre-novitiate, I was sent to the UK to discover the European dimension of our congregation. It was with great trepidation (because I had not mastered the language) that I left France to spend 10 days in the community of London. What struck me immediately was that through the warm welcome of the sisters I recognized the spirit of the Cenacle there. I discovered that the heart of the Cenacle Charism could be lived out in different ways and places. I lived a real Pentecost experience of Pentecost when I accompanied one of the sisters to her ministry at the ‘Jesuit Refugee Service’ where she leads a prayer circle for women.
Moreover, within the community, I who had worried that the language barrier would stop me from sharing and communicating, became aware that my basic English and the willingness to learn helped me to experience beautiful times of sharing. I discovered also that while our life of prayer and community life might be expressed differently, we are all united by the same desire to ‘follow Christ’ and to ‘make him known and loved’. Despite different cultures, different rhythms of life the same desire to ‘see’ the ‘goodness’ of God in all things and at the heart of the world animates each sister of the Cenacle. It was this experience of sensing a union of heart and desires that touched me a lot during my placement in London. (Chrystelle)
During the novitiate the novice experiences a deeper grounding in what it means to live the vows of Chastity, Poverty and Obedience within an apostolic community. The 30 day Ignatian Retreat is a vital part of this formation, along with ‘poverty’ and ‘community’ experiments. This time of formation will influence the whole way that the novice understands and lives her religious commitment. At the end of 2 years she may apply to make temporary vows in the congregation.
The intensive time of novitiate in the province of Europe-Togo gave me the chance to have an intercultural formation and to learn what it means to be part of an international congregation. I received a deep formation in prayer. Each of us could pray the 30-day retreat in our own language. I discovered different ways of knowing God through the experience of listening to the experience of others. It was a chance for all of us to open ourselves up to something bigger than our own country, our own culture and our own habits. Through this we lived a little something of the Kingdom of God.
The novitiate was a way:
to become more free, more myself
to answer God’s call and to discern how I want to follow Christ
to deepen my life of faith, of prayer, of charity
to love Christ and his Church
to become an apostle of Christ in the way he wants me
Above all the novitiate was an introduction into ‘a way of living life’: a journey with the Lord and with my sisters, a journey forward in life. (Marielle)
The thirty-day retreat was a rich experience for me where I could discover more deeply the God who I want to follow. It was a time where I could understand a bit more who I was as well. What I thought was impossible (30 days of silence and prayer!) became possible with the Lord. And the fact of living this experience with other novices was a great help in my personal journey. (Sophie)
When the sister professes religious vows she enters the period of temporary profession. Vows are taken for three years and then may be renewed. TPs live in communities of the province and continue their formation, through apostolic training and further studies as appropriate. They gather twice a year for sessions focused on their continued formation and also participate in inter-congregational meetings for temporary professed religious.
Testimony – summer session of Temporary Professed
This session was something to savour. It was like receiving a big gift to open and I am still unwrapping it now. The times of sharing, personal contributions, reflections were real treasures of formation for me. I was happy to be able to look again at and reflect on my experience of the 30 Day Retreat during the novitiate. I can see how the ‘Spiritual Exercises’ continue to live in me, how they nourish my daily life and are a means by which the Lord teaches me about ‘the path of life’ (psalm 16). One thing I value particularly: the wonder of discovering more how ‘contemplating Christ’ is a gift. To contemplate Christ helps me grow in intimate knowledge of God made man and at the same time to know myself more deeply. I am still full of thanksgiving for such a valuable session that will bring fruit that will last! (Anne-Catherine)
I really enjoyed this session on the ‘Spiritual Exercises’ and discernment. Most especially because it was a time to give thanks and praise for all the ways that I could see God at work in my life: all that he has given, gives each day, and will give tomorrow. One wonderful thing is that having reflected on my experience of the 30 day retreat I discovered the seeds sown during that time which today are unfolding in my life, gifts which I could not see at the time and which now help me live deeply my life. (Marielle)
Testimony from the team
Words to describe this time: simplicity - beauty - depth - relevance - listening – welcome - truth – respect – Spiritual Exercises - contributions - personal reflection - remembering - sharing – leisure - celebrations - games ... (Erica)
This session with our Temporary Professed sisters was such a gift for me. I loved sharing the richness of our Ignatian legacy. I felt touched as I listened to the depth of sharing of my sisters’ faith and convictions. I enjoyed being with their energy and commitment to our way of life. I felt supported too by the organizing team as they helped to make sure each sister could understand and contribute to the full. It was a time of grace for each one of us. (Kate)
Participation in Wake Up the World: world meeting for young consecrated men and women, September 2015 Vatican City, Rome
Courage, be strong! The Lord has been generous with you, he has set his eyes on you and you have been loved (CF. Mark 10, 17-30), and he called you to share his life and his mission (CF. Mark 3, 13). Be generous with him!
We were there to listen to the call! During this meeting we were able to experience the beauty of the Church, the various charisms that the Spirit gives her and the beauty of sharing life between us. We discovered the beauty of testimonies of migrant persons, who have become artisans of peace for others. We were at home in the heart of brotherhood, of sisterhood. There were such strong emotions as we recognized that the community in which we stand is the place where we discover who we really are (God’s children, brothers and sisters by nature) and who God is : our Creator and Sovereign Lord. We reflected on the hopes and fears of the men and women of this world. We share them too and they invite us to a new creativity! We have to live an ecumenism inside of the Catholic Church, between congregations. We need to dream together, to work together, to build together a society of tenderness! During these days love and joy exploded in and among us!
My soul bless the Lord…. (Marielle)
As the sister comes to the end of temporary profession she makes the decision to apply to make perpetual vows as a Cenacle Sister. If she is accepted she will undergo a final period of formation known as ‘tertianship’, where she revisits the history, charism and spirituality of the congregation. She also makes another 30-day retreat.
The tertianship: a very special year of formation
To believe that life is a gift: it is a gift without measure from God. This was confirmed for me during this last year of initial formation as I prepared for my definitive commitment.
After my training in philosophy and theology in Paris, I was sent to the Marseilles community for tertianship. This year is offered to us like a third year of novitiate, in order to deepen our knowledge of religious life in the Cenacle, to be able to listen more profoundly to God.
What a gift! Throughout this year, accompanied by the sister responsible for this stage of formation, I tasted what it means to slow down with God, so precious in this fast paced world! I deepened my appreciation of the dimensions of religious life in the Cenacle through much reading, a period staying in the community of London and daily life in community. I also had the grace to pray again the 30-day Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius where I could place myself before the Lord and offer him my desire to follow him in the Cenacle.
Even if this journey of tertianship is very personal, it is not lived alone. First, there is of course the Lord who walks at our side. There was also another sister who made her tertianship at the same time as me in Marseille. Moreover, we had the opportunity to live international community for 2 months with other sisters in the congregation close to their perpetual vows. During a month in the Ardèche where we visited the foundations of the congregation, followed by a month in Rome we had many intense sharings and experiences together.
It is three years now since I made my definitive commitment as a Cenacle Sister. Today I continue to drink in the graces I received throughout this year and I thank the congregation and the Lord for all the good that I received during this time. (Nathalie)
Since 2010 six sisters have experienced formation within the European novitiate.
There are currently seven sisters in temporary vows and three novices.