“[You] have come together from many parts and provinces” (The Canticle of Exhortation for the Ladies of San Damiano 1:1; FF 263 [Audite poverelle]). On September 5-10, 2022, the Urbanist Poor Clares of Italy conducted an Intermediate Assembly at the Seraphicum College in Rome. The Seraphicum is a large and beautiful venue, which for several years, has been a hospitable location for our assemblies and formation courses.
The attending sisters came from our monasteries in Altamura, Naples, Orvieto, Montone, Città di Castello, Fucecchio, Osimo, Filottrano, Forlì, Montepaolo, and Camposampiero. A family atmosphere was immediately established, even amid the resident friars, guests and students.
On the morning of September 5, Maria CAMPATELLI of the Aletti Center (Rome) gave a lecture entitled: “Synodality as a ‘Gateway’ to Christian Life.” Christian life is authentic insofar as it is lived in the manner of the Trinity: we are not alone before God, we are not a sum of individuals, we are a communion of persons, for whom “to be” means “to be together.” The lecture led to working in groups and, subsequently, discussion in the lecture hall, where there was time for questions, clarification and reflection.
In the afternoon, we heard the report by our President, Sister Damiana ARDESI, on the path we have taken together over the past three years. The report mentioned how the pandemic has partly prevented, but not stopped our formation. The Assembly then turned to the revision of our Statutes. Earlier, a commission was formed to deliver a draft to all the monasteries. The Assembly then corrected and approved the draft. Next, the Assembly focused on the status of the Federation and its individual monasteries, a rather diverse landscape, which seems to find common ground (and therefore strength?), in its precariousness and fragility. Our numbers and median age are parameters that show how necessary it is to join forces, to share problems and hopes in order to walk together. “We hope only where we accept that we cannot see the future…We do not have God’s imagination. Tomorrow will be something else and we cannot imagine it” (Blessed Christian de Chergé). This thought of the Trappist martyr may be the right lens through which to view our times and to take our first steps towards “God’s imagination.”
Sister Damiana then posed some questions, which were summarized in a somewhat provocative one: “How do we see our Federation? Is it a graveyard or a still-fertile field?” The replies of the sisters, especially the younger ones, reassured the whole Assembly. Although we do not see the future clearly, we are willing to believe the impossible is possible, to dream, think and walk together; to believe that the Holy Spirit is still sowing in our “fields,” making them more and more “holy,” thus able to bear fruit.
According to schedule, on Sept. 6-7, Friar Maurizio DI PAOLO was to have guided the Assembly through the arduous task of correcting and voting on our Statutes. Unfortunately due to Covid, he was unable to attend in person. However, he did participate online for two intensive days. The sisters’ commitment and willingness to work hard made it possible to reach the finish line and finally approve the Statutes within the allotted time.
On the morning of September 8, Friar Đình Anh Nhuệ NGUYỄN, representing the Pontifical Missionary Union (PMU), of which he is Secretary General, spoke for five very intensive minutes and explained the goal he sets: “All the Churches for all the world.” Friar Đình thus indicated the urgent need to pray for missionaries and all missionary activities.
Friar Andrzej ZAJĄC then spoke passionately about the bond Francis and Clare shared in their day. He examined the writings of St. Francis: the Form of Life, the Last Will, and Audite poverelle; these are the texts by Francis that speak of Clare. Clare, on the other hand, never stopped talking about Francis, even after his death and canonization. Friar Andrzej invited us to think about our common history, which has its origin in Clare and Francis. Theirs was an all-spiritual relationship, willed by God. Thus, for the sisters as well, everything must unfold in a divine plan.
In the afternoon, Friar Gaspare LA BARBERA, President of the Federazione Inter-mediterranea Ministri Provinciali (FIMP), spoke about how urgently we need to stop focusing on ourselves and learn to say “we”! Only in this way can we show the world that fraternity is possible.
Our founders lived a mad existence! Today we have ours! We must dream if we are to keep dreams alive. This is the task of the elderly: to give young people a dream and allow them to make it come true. This invitation was warmly welcomed and accepted by the Assembly.
On the morning of September 9, Friar Germano TOGNETTI, General Delegate for the Second Order and Affiliated Institutions, who, despite being in convalescence, was present for a large part of the Assembly. He spoke about keeping hope alive, looking with confidence and gratitude at what the Spirit is accomplishing in the communities, and faithfully living what one has promised.
Monastery of Montepaolo