“Remember the past with gratitude, live the present with enthusiasm
and look to the future with confidence.”1
Very dear sisters,
Blessed Dom Columba Marmion says that “looking back, the soul is astounded at the sight of the countless graces, by the handful, with which God has filled it”2 and turning to God exclaims, “although you ‘have no need of my goods’ (Ps 15: 2); nevertheless, it is just that I show you gratitude for your infinite generosity towards me.” In the same way, considering the graces that the Infinite Goodness of God has poured out on our Religious Family, makes us grow in gratitude and is a great incentive to charity. St. Bernard wisely said that “the heart expands with love, considering the divine bounties of his mercy and willingly breaks forth in praise and thanksgiving.”3 I would like to invite you to consider and weigh with great gratitude some of the important graces received during this year.
With great joy, on March 19th we celebrated the 30th anniversary of the foundation of our Institute, and a true thanksgiving resounded with great enthusiasm throughout our communities. This important anniversary marked many of the events that occurred during the year and gave us the opportunity to remember the innumerable benefits received from the beginning of our Institute, many of them through the intercession of our Patron Saint Joseph!
As signs of gratitude, in the various jurisdictions of the Institute, beautiful gifts were offered (including new crowns and gold lilies), and numerous activities were organized in honor of Joseph the Just. To name just a few of them, the sisters of the Province of “Our Lady of Aparecida” dedicatedto the Holy Patriarch a whole series of activities that culminated in a play about his life. In the Province of the “Immaculate Conception” a concert was organized “Ite ad Ioseph”; and in the Province of “Our Lady of Luján” plaques were placed on the first altar, in the first tabernacle and in the first house of the Institute, all obtained through the intercession of the Patron Saint and placed under his protection.
New graces have been added to the updated edition of the St. Joseph and the Servidoras book, but much remains to be told. This year, for example, on the very day of his feast, the sisters of the Provincial House of Madrid obtained the convent they needed and in Argentina the novices reached a total of 30, a grace requested through his intercession. And like these, there have been many new graces received in which St. Joseph has been particularly present.
Next, I would like to take the time to mention some important benefits received during this year, which are a great cause of joy for the whole Institute, and invite you to have them present in your thanksgiving.
During 2018 we have opened ten new foundations:
- In Hinschu (Taiwan), the contemplative Community “Our Lady of Sheshan“. It is the first monastery in the Province of the Far East and has the particular intention to pray for the Chinese people to know Our Lord Jesus Christ and his Blessed Mother the Virgin Mary and for all the lay faithful of Asia.
- In Alcoy (Valencia, Spain), the contemplative Community “San Juan de Ribera” whose intention is to pray for Catholic Education at all levels. This Monastery is located at the place where a Eucharistic miracle occurred in 1568. Our sisters have collaborated with the reopening of Perpetual Adoration that already has more than 270 adorers.
- In Villa Mercedes (San Luis, Argentina), the Community “Blessed María Antonieta de Paz y Figueroa” whose ministry is at the Catholic School “Isabel la Católica,” which our Institute startedin this city.
- On Isabela Island (Galapagos Islands, Ecuador), the Community “Estrella del Mar”, whose main apostolate is assisting in the Catholic School of this island.
- In Mankato (Minnesota, United States), the Community “Saint Theodore Guerin”, which collaborates with the parish “St. Peter and St. Paul” under the care of the priests of our Religious Family and in the Minor Seminary of the IVE “San José Sánchez del Rio.”
- In Ibiza (Spain), the Community “Blessed Francisco Palau Y Quer”, to assist in the Priestly House of the Diocese and in the parish “San Salvador de la Marina”, under the care of a priest of the Incarnate Word.
- In Almada (Portugal), the Community “Our Lady of Fatima”, which carries out its apostolate in the parish “Santiago Apóstol.” It is also the first foundation of our Institute in this country.
- In Tinos (Greece), the Community “Virgin Panagia Vryssiotissa”. The sisters dedicate themselves to the apostolate in the Marian Shrine of the Island and help at the parish under the care of priests of the Institute of the Incarnate Word. This is the only religious community in the entire Diocese and the only community of our Institute in Greece.
- In Orvieto (Italy), the Community “Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament.” The main apostolate is the promotion of Eucharistic devotion in the Duomo of Orvieto. This Cathedral guards one of the most important Eucharistic miracles in the history of the Church. This is the Bolsena miracle, which motivated Pope Urban IV to proclaim with the Bull Transiturus of the world on August 11, 1264, the Universal Feast of Corpus Christi. In addition, the city of Orvieto was the residence of St. Thomas Aquinas for three years (1262-1265). It is here that by order of the Holy Father, he wrote the Office for the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, which is used to this day. Our clear intention to follow the teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas and our Eucharistic devotion are some of the reasons that motivated Bishop Benedetto Tuzia (Bishop of the Diocese of Orvieto-Todi) to invite us to collaborate in this important apostolate.
- In Thurmont (Maryland, USA), the Community “Our Lady of Lourdes” collaborates with the priests of our Religious Family in the attention to the pilgrims at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes, located in the Campus of the University Mount Saint Mary’s. Sisters from this community collaborate with the Fabro Project.
In addition, in Guayaquil (Ecuador) the Community “Santa Narcisa de Jesús” reopened for collaboration in the apostolate of the parish “San Luis Rey” and in the parish and school “St. Padre Pio,” both overseen by priests of the Institute of the Incarnate Word.
Opening new communities is an immense grace as is perseverance in the entrusted missions. For this reason, I invite you to give thanks for the important anniversaries celebrated in our missions. The Aspirancy “Blessed Laura Vicuña” – the first of our Institute – celebrated the 25th anniversary of its foundation, there are 122 sisters who lived in this Aspirancy. And the “St. Edith Stein” Monastery (Brooklyn, USA) celebrated its 20th anniversary.
In addition, we celebrated the 15th anniversary of the foundation of the communities:
- “Servant of God María de Jesús León Delgado” (Tenerife, Spain)
- “Saint Mary Salomé” (Jordan), the first foundation of the Institute in this country.
- “Blessed Sor Maria Ludovica de Angelis” (La Plata, Argentina)
- “Saint Damaris” (Bridgeport, USA)
- “Holy Martyrs of China” (Puxin, Taoyuan, Taiwan)
And the 10th anniversary of the foundation of the communities:
- “Blessed Maria Patrocinio de San José” (Vic, Barcelona), first mission in mainland Spain.
- “Beata Lindalva Justo de Oliveira” (Jardim das Fontes, Sao Paulo, Brazil).
- “Our Lady of Sheshan” (Yuanlong, Hong Kong).
- “Saint Mary Magdalene” (Le Cannet des Maures, France), first community of our Institute in this country.
- “Servant of God María Lourdes del Santísimo Sacramento” (Venado Tuerto, Santa Fe, Argentina).
- “Maria Puerta de la Aurora” (Pumpėnai, Lithuania), first community in the “Land of the Crosses.”
- “Our Lady of Knock” (Bunclody, Ireland), first community of our Institute in this country.
- Community “Saint Tabita” (Yafo, Tel Aviv, Israel).
- Community “Saint Tecla” (Aleppo, Syria), first community of our Institute in this country.
Another reason to be filled with gratitude is the vocations received during this year. In the days leading up to the Solemnity of Saint Joseph we prayed the Thirty Day Prayer in all our convents, asking for this grace and for his particular intercession we want to give thanks for the 1814 new members received, among them whom are the first young people from India and Uruguay. We also give thanks for the vocations to the contemplative life: 35 sisters have entered the Monastery and begun, together with 3 contemplative sisters from other Monasteries, the year of Monastic Formation in Tuscania (Italy). In turn, the Monastic Novitiate “Saint Gemma Galgani” has 5 novices.
During one of my canonical visits, a mistress of novices told me that she could distinguish in each of the vocation stories shared, one or more of the non-negotiable elements of our charism for which the young women were particularly attracted to our Religious Family. The worthy celebration and participation of the Holy Mass, the devotion to the Blessed Virgin, the serious spirituality (sought by many through the Ignatian exercises), the strong community life and the atmosphere of joy, the emblematic and difficult missions – which you can only reach by embracing the Cross of Christ – to mention just a few – these were the elements that helped them discern that God was calling them to live their consecration in the Religious Family of the Incarnate Word. St. John Paul the Great said that “a religious vocation is a gift, freely given and freely accepted. It is a profound expression of God’s love for you, which requires, on your part, a total love for Christ.”5 God calls who He wants and how He wants and a true way to show our gratitude for this free gift is to live with increasing fidelity to our charism and to those elements that are united to Him and that in some way mark our spirituality and religious identity, because this is what He wants us to live and what really bears fruit.
With the Thirty Day Prayer to Saint Joseph, in addition to the increase of vocations, we also ask for the grace of perseverance for all of our sisters. We particularly give thanks for the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the first religious vows of 22 sisters6 and the perpetual vows professed by35 sisters (including Sister Boni Remedii, the first vocation from New Zealand, today a missionary in Papua New Guinea). In addition, during this year the first vocations from Sudan, Papua New Guinea have made their first vows.
We have also commemorated the 20th anniversary of the profession of vows of Maria Fix7, recalling her life and her virtues. The firmness of her faith during the sufferings undergone in the concentration camp, the charity with which she encouraged others to remain faithful to Jesus Christ, despite all the difficulties and dangers of the time of suppression and the fidelity of her dedication to God until the end of her days are a great model of virtue and perseverance for all of us.
Continuing with our thanksgiving, we cannot help but appreciate the apostolates that are carried out in all our missions and that by God’s grace increase in number and diversity. For example, more activities in favor of life were organized in the Philippines, Holland, and Argentina, just to name a few missions, and there was the inauguration of new houses built for the disabled in Brazil and Ecuador.
In several countries, Voces del Verbo has started with many fruits: young people who seek to live their faith with a strong commitment to the truth and who want to take the Gospel to each of the cultural spheres. By the grace of God, this apostolate, carried out in conjunction with the members of the Institute of the Incarnate Word is growing and is already bearing much fruit.
This year I would like to highlight in a special way the qualified apostolate of the preaching of the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius. Our Constitutions teach that “in its spiritual dimension theInstitute will have to face the evangelization of culture through the sanctification of individual persons. This will be done, preferably, by the help of Spiritual Exercises according to the method and spirit of Saint Ignatius of Loyola.”8 To date more than 26 sisters have preached the full weeks of these exercises, 58 have helped with some points and numerous sisters have collaborated in various ways to promote this valuable instrument of sanctification. We know that this requires time and generosity and in this we must follow the examples of surrender and zeal for souls given us by the priests of the Incarnate Word. I encourage you then to generously prepare to collaborate in everything that falls to our part to “prolong the Word”9 in souls through the holy Exercises.
The apostolate that has been created for the Persecuted Nazarenes is also a grace. This spiritual movement emerged in Buenos Aires (Argentina) as a result of the testimonies of our missionaries about the persecution of Christians in Syria and Iraq, especially after the conferences of Sr. María de Guadalupe. It is encouraging to see the spiritual fruits that the examples of these martyrs and confessors of the faith arouse in so many people in the West. Among them are children, youth, adults, lay, consecrated, people away from the faith that return to it, and committed Christians who feel challenged to be saints. Today there are more than 20,000 members of this movement around the world, united by the same love for persecuted Christians, with the same desire to spread the truth, to strive to practice charity to counteract so much hate and live the Gospel radically like our brother martyrs in the Middle East.
Another important apostolate has been the volunteering (link is external)of young people and adults in various missions of the Institute. Just to September of this year we have received 775 volunteers in 17 different countries. In a special way, it is the works of mercy overseen by our Religious Family that receive these volunteers, doing great good for the souls of the young people and adults who come to serve.
We give particular thanks for the apostolate initiated by members of the Third Order with the 40-hour Project(link is external). To date there are 1,400 registered women10 who join in prayer asking for the increaseand perseverance of vocations for our Religious Family and for the whole Church. This should also be our apostolate as well, to help it to grow and give thanks for its valuable contribution, for how many graces come to us through the hidden prayer of so many women!
We also thank the sisters for their work in the Cornelio Fabro Cultural Project (link is external)and the progress made thanks to the constant dedication of all its members. This year we have also been able to assign some sisters to collaborate, in conjunction with the IVE priests, in a new project taking shape whose aim will be the scientific study of the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas, for the “San Bruno, Bishop of Segni” Center for Higher Studies.
And in relation to the apostolates, I would like to highlight the abundant spiritual fruits – clearly perceptible – of those missions where the unity of the Religious Family is greater and where we work with great sacrifice for the salvation of souls. By nature, “in the name of Christ we want to be a religious family in which its members are willing to live radically the demands of the Incarnation, the Cross, the Sermon on the Mount and the Last Supper; where the humiliations of Nazareth and Calvary can be imitated, where one enters into the secrets of Tabor and Gethsemane; where the paternity of the Father can be experienced, as well as the brotherhood of the Son and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, so that we can love each other as sons of the same Father, brothers of the same Son and temples of the same Holy Spirit, forming one heart and soul (Acts 4:32).”11 And God has shown us that He blesses us without limits when we faithfully live our vocation to be members of the Religious Family of the Incarnate Word. The spiritual assistance we receive from our priests, the sacrifices they make for our good and their willingness to help us in our needs are a source of deep gratitude that should motivate us to be generous and ready to help in our part.
Continuing with the thanksgiving, I would also like to mention the first intensive course of Gregorian chant that took place in the Monastic Formation House of Tuscania. It was taught by Professor Dr. Christian Alejandro Almada, titular organist of the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls; he in charge of the Liturgical Office of the Abbey and teacher of Gregorian chant of the Benedictine monks. The course, which by the grace of God has borne much fruit, had the participation of 60 sisters from different monasteries and missions from Italy, Holland, Spain and Luxembourg.
And at the end of this year we cannot fail to mention the particular grace granted, to have one more intercessor in Heaven: Elizabeth Guardo Silva, admitted on October 6th as a contemplative postulant in the “Santa Teresa de los Andes” Monastery (San Rafael, Argentina). That day she prayed with great devotion: “I surrender myself to Jesus, my Spouse, to deal only with love with Him and be a fruitful mother of souls by faith, hope and charity making my life a whole host for God and a silent prolongation of the mystery of the Incarnate Word.”12 On the 25th of that same month she left for the Father’s House, being the firstpostulant of the Institute to reach Heaven. From there, Elizabeth prays to God for all of us and we ask her to help us be faithful to the path laid out for our sanctification.
To conclude, I would like to recall the offering under vow to the Most Pure Virgin of Luján, in which together with the members of the Institute of the Incarnate Word we have promised our Patron a shrine in her honor in Tajikistan, and on our part, we have also offered to found a contemplative Community in this same country.
We were born under the mantle of Mary and “we have to learn to see ourselves enclosed with Christ in the womb of His Virgin Mother. There at the moment of his incarnation, we were included in Him: Christ assumes, morally, the flesh of all. In the womb of Mary, he physically took flesh and morally the flesh of all of us, in such a way that we were conceived in the pure womb of Mary and that is why she is our true spiritual Mother: we were born from the womb of the Virgin as a body united to its head.”13
To her maternal solicitude we commend all the fruits of this year, and with great confidence we offer her the one that now begins.
I wish you all a very happy and holy new year!
In Christ and Most Holy Mary,
M. María Corredentora Rodriguez