Monday, October 08, 2018

New Pauline Sisters in the USA

This weekend our fellow Pauline community, the Sisters of Jesus the Good Shepherd (nicknamed the "Pastorelle" sisters because of their pastoral mission), celebrated the 80th anniversary of their foundation. And on that very day, October 7, the first Pastorelle sisters arrived in the United States to begin their mission here! It is a day I have long prayed for, and pestered God (and the Pastorelle sisters themselves) for.

Even better? Their first US community is serving in Chicago!
New arrivals taking a Chicago selfie (in the Bean, of course!)

Blessed James Alberione first got the idea for a community of "parish sisters" in 1908 when he was a newly ordained priest serving for the first (and only) time in a parish. He quickly realized that there were services that were absolutely necessary in pastoral ministry, that were essential to the "shepherding" role of the parish priest, but which could only be carried out by a woman. Typical of Alberione, he applied his prodigious intellect to the problem, interviewing scores of parish priests, reading the Church Fathers in the light of his question, scanning Church history and noticing the key role often played by women, especially women who collaborated with priestly ministry. By 1912 he had written a substantial book, "Woman Associated with Priestly Zeal."

In the years between 1912 and 1938, Alberione was consumed with establishing the first "printing school" (1914) and getting his first women's group (us) off the ground (1915) while surviving World War I and tuberculosis. In 1924 he got the second women's group started with two young women: they became the first Sister Disciples of the Divine Master, entrusted with a more contemplative life (where possible, they maintain perpetual adoration, and each sister makes two Hours of Adoration instead of one--the second Hour being their spiritual contribution to the apostolic mission of the other congregations). Their outward work focuses on the liturgy in two directions: service to the priesthood and in the area of liturgical art (vestments, statues, even architecture).
Their emblem: the front has "I am the
Good Shepherd" and the reverse,
with Mary at the foot of the Cross,
"Behold your Mother."

Can you see where this is going? If, for Alberione, Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life, he was going to establish religious congregations that likewise mirrored that divine self-description. The Daughters of St Paul (with our brother congregation the Society of St Paul) especially image Jesus as Truth, by spreading the Word of God. The Sister Disciples are the image of Jesus the Life, through their liturgical apostolate, since the life of grace comes to us especially through the Liturgy and above all through the Eucharist. But for over twenty years, Jesus as "Way" was not fully imaged in the Pauline Family.

That is where the Pastorelle sisters come in. As "shepherdesses," they "guide" people along the "paths of righteousness," leading them to Jesus. They go out to the peripheries, as Pope Francis loves to say, to find the lost or wounded sheep, and they care for them in the name of Jesus and the Church. They bring the pastoral care of the parish "out" to where the people are, where that care is needed. And so, while all the other congregations and institutes in the Pauline Family honor Jesus as "Divine Master" (Maestro: Teacher or "Master" in the sense of consummate expert), the prayers written for the Pastorelle address him as "Master and Shepherd." While the other institutes in the Pauline Family address Mary as "Queen of Apostles," the Pastorelle invoke her as "Mother of the Divine Shepherd." while the other institutes call St Paul our father and protector, the Pastorelle sisters look to two fathers: Peter ("feed my lambs")  and Paul.

So this is a very exciting week for the Pauline Family as a new Pauline congregation takes root in the United States. Please pray that the sisters (I think they are all Filipino, but I could be wrong) will find themselves at home right away, and that the Lord will abundantly bless their first steps by sending them vocations from the many ethnic groups in the Chicago neighborhoods they will be visiting from their base in St Stephen Protomartyr parish.

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