My first word at this moment is gratitude to the Lord for calling me to follow him in consecrated life, and in particular in the family of the Daughters of St. Camillus, where I truly find myself – as has always been the case – at home, and to such an extent that I have never managed to see myself as happy and fulfilled in any other way.
Today we are celebrating the one hundred and twenty-fifth anniversary of the foundation of the Institute which I see as – and feel to be – a great family; it is undergoing constant growth, it is in expansion, it has the gift of new vocations, more in some areas than in others, and it is present in four of the five continents of the world and in nineteen nations.
From my heart arises a deep feeling of gratitude, first of all because like the other charisms in the Church for us, as well, the charism that has been given to us is a precious pearl, of inestimable value since it is a gift of the Lord for us and for those who are the eyes and the heart of God: the sick and the suffering. The way in which pearls are born is an authentic miracle. They are formed, in substantial terms, from suffering, in pain. This example is expressive and helps us to understand how the pearl of charity of our Institute has been formed and strengthened by difficulties and crosses since its origins, and to such an extent as to provoke in Father Tezza the moving phrase: ‘The works of God must be cemented by pain and strengthened in sacrifice’. And these words of his find a correspondence in the words of Saint Camillus: ‘this crucifix – he confided – founded the Religion of the Ministers of the Sick…it has helped and comforted me…first God and then this leg of mine with a sore founded the Order’ (Spirito di S. Camillo, p. 195).
It should be emphasised that during these 125 years of our existence the Institute has always remained faithful to the charism as such, a charism inherited from St. Camillus through our blessed founders Fr. Luigi Tezza and Mother Giuseppina Vannini. This has always been very clear and this thanks to God who is total faithfulness and to our sisters who have been involved with fervour in the exercise of charity, in communion with our brothers, the men Camillians. There have been, and there still are, shadows, but there are also so many lights of good. The former invite us to a serious examination of our consciences and call us to conversion and the request for forgiveness; the latter lead us to thank the Lord because in his infinite goodness he has done great things in us as well! We must, therefore, recognise with gratitude that our Institute makes the Church more beautiful and that she would not be the same without this gift of charity brought forth in her breast by the Holy Spirit.
With a language that is familiar to us, we can say that our Institute does indeed have various pathologies, but it is a healthy organism. Despite all the challenges that are posed every day, I believe that the pearl of charity continues, and will continue, to shine beyond our limitations and our sins, revealing to us a future of hope.
- In the holiness of our Founders and of the very many sisters who have preceded us as a sign of faithfulness to God and His promises!
- In the role of the very many sisters who today live their vocation with faithfulness and love, literally giving their lives every day in service to our brothers and sisters who suffer!
- In the very many young sisters who have embraced our charism with enthusiasm and who through their typically youthful fervour give new freshness to our Institute!
- In the very many requests for foundations in very many parts of the world, a sign of the contemporary relevance of our charism!
- In the wish of Pope Francis to have a Church that is poor for the poor and, as a consequence, in the very many poor, sick and alone people cared for by our sisters throughout the world, where Camillian love for those who suffer leads us to address multiple difficulties – of an economic character as well – and great challenges and hardships!
My strongly felt wish is that this jubilee celebration will renew us in our enthusiasm and will charge our spirits so that we can embrace anew the gift our vocations with joy and hope in order to live that gift in its fullness! We thus entrust ourselves to the maternal protection of Mary and the intercession of St. Camillus and our blessed Founders.
Grottaferrata, 1 February 2017
Mother Zelia Andrighetti FSC