The Asian Forum of IJ Sisters and Lay Collaborators, organised by the Provincials of Asia, is the fruit of the first Asian Forum of IJ Sisters held in 2016.
The 41 participants from the Provinces of Japan, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand and the District of Myanmar gathered in St Gabriel’s Personal Development Centre, Bangkok from 15 -18 March 2019.
There was so much positive energy and enthusiasm generated when the group of sisters and lay partners met. For many, this was the first time they had encountered each other. The sense of belonging to the IJ family resonated with all.
The warm welcome given by our Thai sisters and the sharing of each one’s story of how they came to know the IJ family brought the group closer. The getting to know one another and the fostering of bonds among the participants was one of the stated aims of the Forum. Other aims included the call:
To deepen the understanding of the IJ Spirituality, the underpinning of the IJ Mission.
To work collaboratively to respond to God’s call in the IJ Mission.
To have a better understanding of the vocation of the laity as missionary disciples and the vocation of the IJ sisters within the IJ family.
To respond to new calls and discover new ways and approaches in our ministries together as the Provinces of Asia.
We are once again grateful to Sr Hirota Shizue (Filo) for being our resource person and facilitator. Sr Filo is a member of the Mercedarian Missionaries of Berriz and its executive coordinator. She is a native of Japan and has served in the Philippines, Nicaragua and Mexico. She was a board member of the International Union of Superiors General and is currently an executive committee member of Pax Christi International. Our thanks go also to Mrs. Angela Tan, our lay partner from Malaysia, for accepting to be the secretary of the Forum.
Our Thai sisters led us in the opening prayer to listen with openness and generosity to the Spirit who will lead and guide us at this Asian Forum. The participants were invited to share their hopes, aspirations and expectations of this Forum and the attitudes and dispositions they wish to bring to the Forum.
In a spirit of openness and an atmosphere of contemplation, the participants listened to the sharing by each Province of their journey together with the lay partners.
On the second day, Sr. Maria shared on the IJ Journey with the laity from its foundation to the present day. Time was given for personal reflection. During the group sharing, the participants were invited by Sr Filo, to come up with key words that described the IJ charism. During the Plenary at the Prayer Space a member of the group shared the meaning of their chosen words. As the participants walked in silence contemplating the words, they were made aware of the realities which concerned people with their struggles, hopes, dreams and doubts. Some realities mentioned were: family breakdown, human trafficking, environmental problems and climate change, individualism, xenophobia, poverty, racial and religious conflicts.
Sr Filo reminded us about the IJ charism, which is life and to make the charism come alive, we must look at the realities of today. It is the charism that expresses itself in the IJ Mission that unites us in our diversity coming from differing cultures, backgrounds and history.
We spent some time looking at the way we live out our faith/discipleship in the cultural context where we find ourselves.
We spent the next day looking at the Church’s call to the Laity and Religious after Vatican II.Sr Filo gave a presentation on Church - Communion, a New Ecosystem for sharing Charism and Mission and spoke about the Discipleship of Equals.
We then looked at the new path of collaboration as we move into the future.
How do we live collaboration in Mission?
What are the challenges of collaboration?
Can we think of any new way – a new structure?
We spoke about the different levels of collaboration, participation and sharing. Sr Filo, our resource person, reminded us that identification with the founding charism is a pre-requisite and is non-negotiable.
The Way Forward – Collaboration for our IJ Mission in Asia and beyond was the topic we discussed in depth and participants came up with concrete ways to do it.
What is God telling us in the here and now? Inspired by the Spirit to continue the journey, the participants feel called to:
deepen our understanding of the IJ spirituality
articulate the process of belonging to the IJ family, giving recognition and identity to our lay collaborators
have inter-provincial collaboration in Asia, put in place an Asian structure for collaboration and share resources and experience with one another
The feedback was very positive as all felt that this Asian Forum was both inspirational and meaningful and it has brought the Asian IJ family together to take up the challenge of being prophetic witnesses in Asia recognizing there is unity in strength and collaboration.
With renewed faith and hope, we go forth in trust, assured of God's word: “ I am with you always.” Mt 28:20