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August 2017: Assembly of the Spiritual DHS Family


On 10 August 2017, 79 delegates coming from the USA, Chile, Peru, England, Wales, from France, Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Sisters, Consecrated Lay women and Associates gathered at Ile breathtakingly beautiful Ile Blanche. The tide was out in that late afternoon as we settled our belongings in our rooms and all the boats looked marooned on the sand.

We came together in the Grande Salle, a large conference room fitted with booths, microphones for simultaneous interpretation. We were instructed how to use the equipment. The opening celebration in the chapel in the evening introduced us to the theme of the Assembly: “Led by the Spirit, let’s witness together to the Love which transforms the world”.

11 August, the tide had come in and all the boats were cheerfully afloat. A document was given us, At the morning prayer, we were given a document in our respective languages. We took time to read it and to make it our own. Our task was to study, comment on and complete this document on the international DHS Family drawing special attention to the relationships of the Branches to one another. The document contains three sections summarizing the History of the Congregation, its spirituality and charism, and Mission. Discussion groups divided by languages then shared reflections with suggestions of modifications.

Several groups found the History very comprehensive regarding the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries development of the Congregation, but less so for the 20th and 21st centuries. It was clear that this was due to the space limitation in the document; we expressed our desire for information as solid as possible on our roots. Our spirituality, groups felt the need for a more precise definition or description of spirituality and charism in general as well as what is specific to the spiritual DHS Family. Concerning our mission, group members recommended some bullet points to avoid repetition. We returned to the Grande Salle to share in assembly our observations and further discuss comments. Mass followed then dinner. The tide was out.

12 August was our most intense day of work. We found the tide back in and the boats afloat as we began the day in the Grande Salle. Félix, Associate from Peru, reviewed the events of the previous day and work on the document continued by “Branch”. Mass concluded the day. The tide was back out and some of us felt as tired as the boats on the sand.

13 August found the boats bobbing gaily in the refreshed tide. Our brains were rested and ready for more work. Felix summarized again the unfolding of the previous day. Sr Thérèse Revault, DHS, gave a comprehensive presentation on the foundations of a spiritual Family as well as on spirituality and charism in general. She defined spirituality as the desire for God; and our route consists in tending to achieve unity with Him. For many, that route involves joining with specific groups with similar desires and manners of putting them into practice. She informed us that the term “charism” was first used by Pope Paul VI in 1971 to describe an individual or a group’s gift or way of living its spirituality. She pointed out Matthew 25, Word of God of the greatest importance for the DHS as well as living in proximity to and serving those in need. Spirituality is the source and charism is its implementation in mission.

Sr Thérèse also helped define some distinctions among the DHS Branches. The sisters live in community while the consecrated secular branch members, though they are vowed, live autonomously. We divided into “Esprit de famille” cafes” to discuss questions on what the Spiritual family means to us and what it is called to today.

The Latin American group presented the family as responding to the first call to collaborate, to promote dialogue and to seek justice and peace.

For the French-speaking group, it is a living source of living water where each Branch has its own grace. It is also a house being built to which each member brings his or her own stone. Each branch has its own specificity and is necessary. The house needs a cornerstone and that is Christ. The leader of the project is the Trinity, the Spirit is the assistant. They concluded saying that the spiritual DHS Family needs to intensify knowledge and relationship among the three Branches through more meetings involving all the members of a particular locality, inviting all of them to share their respective readings and as belonging to one and the same family.

The English-speaking group envisioned a “tree house” where the house was three-sided with each side being one of the DHS branches. The house has n open side for welcoming and misioning. It is a tree house where the tree and its roots nourish the house and the members of the house provide the fruits of the tree: love, sharing, peace, justice. The house has a satellite dish to suggest using all available means of communication and is nourished by the Holy Spirit.

On our return to the Grande Salle for the assembly, all groups presented their discussion results and Sr Thérèse provided conclusions based on those presentations. She reminded us that the family is a living source for evangelization, each individual and branch enriched by the others. It was not a family for its own sake but to announce the gospel to the world. Formation is a way of consolidating the branches as a family and she reminded the group to recognize lives of others with joy and equality. Sunday liturgy brought the day to a close with the boats resting comfortably on the sand.

14 August, the boats again were ready to set out into the open. Felix again summarized the previous day’s events and the group validated the propositions of modifications to the document which will be reworked by each commission before January 2018. Burt (Associate of the USA), Abiola (DHS from Nigeria) and Giovanna (Consecrated Secular from France) had prepared a message to be addressed to the Spiritual DHS Family.

15 August, the boats all sat at attention waiting to be sent out on the swelled tide. Hundreds of sisters, consecrated seculars, associates and guests arrived by car or by bus for the big celebration and the official close of the Marie Balavenne year.

Nancy Berube, Associate USA, Published on 29/08/2017



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