The retreat was held in Hyderabad from 11 to 16 February. For Fr Brambillasca, the congregations are united by the same charism “that goes the extra mile, trying to evangelise amid obstacles, paying attention to the poor, the sick and the people marginalised by society."
Hyderabad (AsiaNews) – The retreat that brought together for the first time all the congregations founded by PIME fathers around the world or inspired by the charism of the institute was an "historical event that will certainly bear fruit because of the sharing of experiences and the great number of groups," said Fr Ferruccio Brambillasca, superior general of Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME) speaking to AsiaNews.
The meeting "took place in Hyderabad from 11 to 16 February. It was the first time in which we all gathered together. We got to know each other in person, boost the spirit of our family, and share our missionary experiences," Fr Brambillasca explained.
"It came almost unexpectedly from a meeting of the two general directorates, that of the PIME fathers and that of the missionary Sisters of the Immaculate*. We sat down to come up with a list and noted that our confreres were behind or inspired 15 groups, from China to Myanmar and Brazil.”
The event was held at the retreat centre of the Sisters of the Immaculate. Some 35 people – priests and nuns included – from seven countries and nine congregations took part. "I did not expect such a large participation,” the superior said.
“Everyone was really eager to meet. A contagious enthusiasm came from the congregations, who expressed a sense of affiliation and 'debt' towards us that I myself rarely encountered during my travels. For me, it was a surprise to see how these institutes, founded by our fathers, carry forward the same charism and spirituality."
As a matter of fact, the meeting was like a spiritual retreat. The day was divided into two parts. "The most theoretical meetings were held in the morning to present the spirituality of the Fathers and the Sisters. For our part, we invited Fr Gianni Criveller and Fr Sergio Ticozzi. The first spoke about today's mission, the second introduced us to the lives of some PIME priests."
The "most interesting" moment came in the afternoon, when each congregation presented itself. The main challenges and difficulties – that these institutes who love PIME face – were laid bare before everyone, with the troubled stories they confront." For example, in China, "The Sisters of St Joseph in Anyang described the problems they face in spiritual preparation, which has led to a crisis in religious identity. Theirs is a cry for help that we must consider."
For the superior, the common thread that binds the various ecclesiastical groups "is missionary spirituality". For example, "I can cite the mother superior of the Sisters of Providence in Myanmar, who said: 'We have seen PIME missionaries work with the poor full-time, non-stop, with huge efforts and without wasting time. This is what people who bring the Gospel and dedicate themselves to it 100% in difficult areas have to say, people who have dedicated their whole life to the mission, even in conditions of extreme poverty and lack of freedom."
In short, for everyone, "PIME’s spirituality is embodied in the founding fathers, a spirituality that goes the extra mile, trying to evangelise amid obstacles, paying attention to the poor, the sick and the people marginalised by society."
After Hyderabad, it is possible to say that the foundations for the future have been laid. "We realise that if we want to remain united, we must not waste time. For this reason, the next meeting will be held two years from now, perhaps in India again. As for the issues, I have proposed projects to be implemented together in new missions."
* The female congregation associated with the Institute.