· Vatican City ·

To the Congregation of the Sisters Disciples of Jesus in the Eucharist

Promote paths of inclusion and redemption

 Promote paths of inclusion and redemption  ING-035
01 September 2023

On Friday, 25 August, Pope Francis received participants in a pilgrimage promoted by the Sisters Disciples of Jesus in the Eucharist, and encouraged them to let their love of the Eucharistic Lord inspire care for “the poorest, the most despised, and the most marginalized members of the Body of Christ”. The following is a translation of the Holy Father’s address, which he delivered in Italian.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I greet the Superior General, the Council, all of the consecrated sisters and you laypersons associated with the Institute of the Disciples of Jesus in the Eucharist. I am happy to meet with you on the centenary of the foundation of the Congregation which occurred on 4 October 1923 through the Venerable Bishop Raffaello Delle Nocche and two young, courageous and generous women, Linda Machina and Silvia Di Somma.

The Holy Spirit inspired their action through a concrete and pressing appeal of a local Church: that of Tricarico, in the heart of Lucania. A Church made of living and suffering stones, tried by centuries of poverty, without a pastor for a long time and marked, like so much of Europe and the world in those years, by the scars of the First World War and by the devastating pandemic — of the “Spanish flu” as it was called. The Spirit sent to that land a Bishop in love with God and the people, with a solid interior life and a great sensitivity to the needs of the people.

And when, in the midst of the many needs of his Diocese Msgr Delle Nocche found no male or female religious congregation willing to come and work there, he was not discouraged: accepting Pope Pius xi’s invitation, he himself founded a new institute that could help him in his service to the least.

Thus were born the Sisters Disciples of Jesus in the Eucharist, poor servants of a poor people, supportive in sharing their labours and prophetic in promoting their human and religious redemption. At the heart of their lives was the Eucharist, “a sacrament of love, a sign of unity, a bond of charity” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 47), as the Second Vatican Council teaches us.

Love, unity and charity. What does this mean? To adore, serve and repair, that is, to fill with tenderness. Let us not forget that tenderness is one of God’s features: God’s style is closeness, compassion and tenderness. Let us not forget this. To fill with tenderness the wounds and the voids produced by sin in man and society, starting by kneeling before Jesus in the consecrated Host, and remaining there for a long time, as the good Bishop would recommend doing, even when one seems to feel nothing, in silent and trusting abandonment, because — to repeat an expression particularly dear to him — “Magister adest”, “the Teacher is there” (cf. Jn 11:28).

According to the world’s standards, this strategy of action seemed absurd: in the face of immense needs and with almost no resources available what sense could there be in telling the Sisters to kneel and “to adore and repair”? Yet, as always, the way of faith and self-giving worked in this case too!

Indeed, the prayer of those courageous women generated a contagious force, which soon led them to embark on and promote works of material, cultural and spiritual redemption far exceeding all expectations. They reawakened the faith and commitment of families and parish communities, they founded schools of various orders and levels, and they rekindled devotion and the sense of self-dignity in many people, men and women, young people, adults and the elderly, too often and for too long oppressed by inhuman living conditions and the contempt and indifference of the surrounding world, which saw them as nothing more than the rejects of society. This is also the case today: how often are there people who are thought of as rejects of society! And so, the Lord continues to call you to go out there, like the first sisters. They unleashed a different “war”: that against poverty, against injustice; and they spread a different epidemic: that of love. As opposed to the First World War, a different war against poverty and injustice; against the epidemic — the “Spanish flu” — the epidemic of love. This has been your path.

Dear sisters, you are witnesses and heirs to all this, but also successors, with your presence on the five continents, with your Eucharistic centres, schools, missions, and all the services you provide. Today, too, there is no lack of challenges! Therefore, beginning by standing before Jesus in the Eucharist, the broken Bread and the Teacher who washes the feet of his disciples (cf. Jn 13:3-15), you also learn how to look at your brethren through the magnifying glass of the consecrated Host. The Eucharist, “focal point, blinding and illuminating” (Saint Paul vi , General Audience, 31 May 1972; L’Osservatore Romano English edition, n. 23, pg. 1) of every Christian vision of man and the world, urges you to care, as Bishop Delle Nocche and the young Linda and Silvia did, especially for the poorest, most despised and marginalized members of the Body of Christ; it inspires you to promote paths of inclusion and redemption of the dignity of persons in the works entrusted to you.

Bishop Raffaello asked the Sisters Disciples to be vasa Domini, that is, “chalices and patens” in which the humble offering of the poor could be received and presented to God. This seems to me a beautiful image of your mission: to divest yourselves of self, having “your purse always empty”, as your founder often repeated, so as to be open and spacious “chalices”, ready to welcome everyone and to bring everyone in your heart before God, so that each in turn can make a gift of his or her life.

Be like this, sisters: vasa Domini, “welcoming vessels”, kneeling before the Tabernacle and with your arms always wide open towards your brothers and sisters! May Our Lady guide you always on this path, and may my blessing accompany you. And please, do not forget to pray for me. Thank you!