Joined Together in the Mission of Charity

NCSW Spotlight: Roma De Robertis, Sisters of Charity of the Immaculate Conception

1. What led you to feel God was calling you to serve in consecrated life?

Early in life, I experienced God’s presence and friendship. Our immigrant parents taught us about simplicity, compassion, dedication and integrity. Having experienced war and poverty, they emphasized attentiveness to those who are sick, suffering and lacking life’s basic necessities. Our father took us to church and raised my brother and me Catholic. He often emphasized the universality of God’s love and mercy amid the world’s diversity.

The call I began to experience more clearly in my 20s was gentle, loving and persistent. I tried to evade it because I had other plans. I did not go to Catholic schools and there are no religious or clergy in my extended family.

My family was deeply disappointed by my vocational choice. I was strengthened and accompanied by many faithful mentors — women and men of various ages, cultures, Christian denominations and other faith traditions. God’s Spirit sent me gifts of deep peace and joy that allowed me to listen, grow and respond in freedom.

2. How did you experience being drawn to your community’s charism?

I was drawn to the sisters’ generous, down-to-earth style and sense of liturgical music, ministry and fun. I also learned from and was inspired by those who were missioned in Peru. Earlier, in western Canada, lay women encouraged me to join them in exploring active responses to Catholic social teaching as part of a parish social justice committee.

I belonged to a young adults group and also participated in parish music ministry and adult Christian initiation. Lay women leaders suggested I explore the possibility of religious life. After much avoidance, I contacted the SCIC, whose spirit seemed a good fit. Later, I learned the SCIC style to which I was drawn is part of our Vincentian and Charity charism. In Saint John, it was adopted and brought to life by SCIC foundress Honoria Conway and companions.

3. How do you give expression to your God-given charism in your specific community?

Our community charism is shared with women and men associates, focusing especially on God’s love, compassion and justice for suffering humanity and the rest of creation. The Charity charism compels us to learn from and accompany others from diverse backgrounds seeking to grow personally and spiritually. It includes advocacy with others for positive transformation in church and society, as well as communal thanksgiving and celebration.

Earlier, I accompanied and learned from young adults in campus ministry in western and eastern Canada. Today, I seek to express our charism through writing, photography and communications ministries, through participation on our leadership circle (team) and co-ordination of our congregational ministry for social and ecological justice. In community, I also celebrate with liturgical music and song.

4. What role do you feel consecrated persons have in the continuing call to evangelize/spread the Word of God?

We are richly blessed with opportunities for ongoing formation, as well as educational, community and ministry experiences and relationships. These gifts beckon us to seek and welcome new ways to celebrate, receive, learn and share. As we grow older and fewer, we are sometimes less visible today. Yet our rich heritage, influence and legacy continue to water many gardens in ways both known and unknown.

As sisters and others who are faithfully committed, we understand that each person uniquely embodies God’s Spirit and presence. We share God’s good news by upholding human dignity and rights, especially where these are neglected or violated. We gather with and accompany others to discover and honour all the ways they express God’s suffering, goodness and beauty.
Locally and globally, we are attentive to the signs of the times. Engaging in diverse networks, we participate in co-creating God’s desire for greater compassion, justice and peace for humanity, Earth and cosmos.

We also seek to recognize and express God’s Word through creative liturgies and participation in wisdom circles of sisters, associates and others. Together, we enter into silence and reflective conversation, recognizing that all are leaders, blessed with God’s Wisdom.

5. What would you like to say to someone considering consecrated life today?

I would highlight the importance of nourishing friendships, as well as spiritual accompaniment or direction with people of integrity who are experienced and well prepared in this ministry. My sense is that we need both women and men along our paths of discernment. Scripture, liturgy, sacraments and community continue to be vital throughout our lives.

Because there are fewer younger or newer members in consecrated life in this part of the world, the demands and pace can become frenetic. Life-giving support networks and outside activities seem essential to achieve some semblance of balance.

On occasion, saying “no” to others regarding time, travel and ministry can be difficult. We recall that Jesus regularly sought solitude, private prayer, restful periods and friendships with both women and men.

Sometimes family members and others may have plans for our lives which seem good, but may not harmonize with our gifts and God’s desires. This can be painful, so we need to listen deeply within, to choose in freedom and be true to ourselves. Our peace lies in recognizing how we cooperate with God’s desires, leading always to greater freedom, justice, life and love for ourselves, the church and world.

Story adapted from Sister Roma’s response to five questions formulated by the Diocese of Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada on behalf of the Sisters of Charity of the Immaculate Conception (SCIC). The responses were later published in the May 5, 2015 issue of the Prairie Messenger newspaper. Happy National Catholic Sisters Week to Sister Roma De Robertis!


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