IN THE INTERNATIONAL DHS FAMILY Family News
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From the “International” to the “Global” Tree
The tree illustrated in News No. 72 of the Daughters of the Holy Spirit with reference to the DHS Spiritual Family celebration at Ile Blanche in the summer of 2017 renewed for me memories of my experience as a Daughter of the Holy Spirit. The three hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the birth of Marie Balavenne was an excellent choice to enable us all to return to our origins, as Pope Francis asked all religious to do when he addressed them at the beginning of the Year of Consecrated Life. He asked them to return to their foundational charism and said, “We should never forget the prophetic utterance.” The DHS mission was always first class wherever we went to spread the gospel, but as we were, and still are, one of the very few congregations with the Holy Spirit as our patron, we are still often asked about our spirituality.
I consider myself privileged because when I entered the Congregation over half a century ago, we had a French Mistress of Novices who presented Dom Jean Leuduger as the founder of the congregation, a specialist in the theology of the Holy Spirit with his Bouquet de La Mission, and with the presence of his portrait which had a prominent place in every community at that time. I chose to add the Holy Spirit to my religious name. More important still, I had the privilege of making my final profession in the Mother House in St Brieuc, which was so near to the birth of the Congregation.
The “tree” was battered by many storms in its history. It just escaped the French Revolution. I remember reading somewhere in the archives at the Mother House that Napoleon had the document ready on his desk for the dissolution of the Congregation, when his mother pleaded for the sisters whom, she said, were looking after his injured soldiers. The dissolution did not take place.
The anti-clerical laws in France at the beginning of the twentieth century were part again of a long struggle between church and state which led to the separation of the two. The fear was that the government would bring about the dissolution of the congregation but the congregation fought a fierce battle for survival. Their schools were taken over by the state and it was then that they had to go as refugees to England and the USA to carry their mission to these countries. Dom Jean Le Leuduger’s prayer was answered. When he was giving a mission in a parish near the English Channel, he would say tearfully: “Oh how I wish with all my heart that I could cross the waves and set foot in a land from which to help the good priests there who go in danger of their lives.” (Bouquet de la Mission).
It seems almost significant too that our two patrons, the Holy Spirit and Our Lady sent us two religious congregations namely the Sisters of Briouse, a younger congregation, and an ancient congregation of Poligny bringing with them Our Lady and the Holy Spirit to widen our strength.
The Second Vatican Council in the nineteen sixties produced a document for the renewal of religious life, and the Pope asked apostolic religious to open missions in the developing world. The three stalwart trees: France, England and the U.S.A. opened a mission in the Cameroons, Nigeria and Latin America and contributed the personnel to work in these missions. Up to ten percent of the Sisters of the English Province were involved in the development of the Nigerian mission, some having spent over thirty years there. This meant that the new mission felt secure as they had the help of missionary sisters to open the schools, hospitals, and works similar to the original works of the congregation. Novitiates were also set up in these mission lands, and soon they became Vice Provinces of the Congregation. The new branches that developed from these three missions are now at the height of their missions in these distant lands.
The last letter from the General Council has now indicated that we will be moving into a new era in the near future. This era is likely to move from the “ International” to the “Global” tree for distances will be no problems given the technological revolution we are experiencing, and distances are often just at the end of the press of a button! Our communication will be through the social media and we can converse with sisters at the other end of the planet with ease and satisfaction. In the congegation, we have a panel of technological specialists who will be able to produce the technological necessities to bring sisters together across the air, as the bishops already do. In this way, through their telecommunication contacts without moving from their country. we will be able to put into practice the encyclical Laudato Si of Pope Francis in his plea to save our planet.
Our Rule of Life tells us that “there is no mission without adoration....” RL. Art. 12. Perhaps given the demographic nature of the ancient trunks of the founding trees, there could be more time for contemplative prayer among the sisters who have now retired from active mission, to strengthen the mission of those on the mission fields.
Sr Josephine Egan DHS - EIW Province - Published 23 February 2018