In the joy of the birth of the Divine Child we offer our thanksgiving for all the benefits that He has bestowed upon us throughout the year.
As we all know, it has been a time of difficulty, through which -by God’s grace- we have been given innumerable benefits, proving once more that He does everything for our good and in everything He manifests His loving and provident hand. We have good reason for giving thanks and rejoicing, for as our proper law states “Ultimately, joy springs from considering that God is, that Christ is: Take heart, it is I (Mk 6:50); that truth prevails over lies, good over evil, beauty over ugliness, love over hate, peace over war, mercy over vengeance, life over death, grace over sin… in short, being over nothingness, the Virgin over Satan, Christ over the Antichrist, God over all. God is infinite joy.”
Giving thanks makes us see with authentic realism and humility all that we have received from God, not by our own merit, but by His great goodness and generosity toward us. We take for our own the words of Saint Paul: What do you have that you have not received? (1Cor 4:7) and we ask ourselves How can I repay the LORD for all the good that he has done for me? (Ps 115).
This year we would like to invite you to make your thanksgiving looking at each of the elements which we call the non-negotiable elements united to our charism, which we know by experience, give much supernatural fruit and have been the source of many vocations for our Religious Family.
- Dignified celebration and participation of the Holy Mass
Even in the most difficult moments, the majority of our 210 religious communities around the world, have been able to participate in the Holy Mass daily and receive the sacraments, taking prudent and convenient measures. God has given us the great gift of continuing to receive the Eucharist, increasing our thanksgiving for such a great and undeserved gift. We affirm once more that “the principal, the most important thing we must do each day, is to participate of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. It is the main act of worship, the sacrifice of praise that gives infinite glory to God.”
It must be the center of our whole lifeand we must strive for an ever more active, conscious, and fruitful participation, always attentive to see what we can do to embellish the liturgy. In this regard, great work has been done with the choirs which help to solemnize the Eucharistic celebration.
We are especially grateful toward the IVE priests and all the priests who celebrated the Holy Mass for our sisters around the world. As well as to the various Communities who have been able to share their Mass “live” for those who could not participate in person.
Also, by the grace of God, the investiture ceremonies, and the simple and perpetual profession of vows have taken place. Some of these celebrations were held with the participation of only a few people due to the restrictions at the time, but always with the beauty of a solemn liturgy. In different dates and places, the current 143 novices (117 apostolic and 26 contemplatives) received the holy habit, 91 sisters professed first vows and 45 professed final vows. Also, 26 sisters of our Institute celebrated their silver jubilee.
I would like to emphasize how grateful we must be for the new vocations and perseverance of our sisters which, as our Official Bulletin shows, in 2019-2020 was at a 99% among the perpetually professed, and an average in the last 10 years of 98.8%. A way of showing our gratitude toward God is by renewing our love for our own vocation, seeking to manifest Christ, our Spouse, by our lives. This is the foundation of our religious life and we must strive with all our strength to “love and serve Jesus Christ – His Body and His Spirit – and to help others love and serve Him. We want to love and serve the physical Body of Christ, the Eucharist, as well as His Mystical Body, the Church.”
Lastly, in relation to this non-negotiable element, I would like to point out two apostolates which are being done in order to promote the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament: the collaboration with the 40 Hours Project (begun by the Third Order members, and has extended to 57 countries, reaching this past month of November, 4,212 participants) and the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament which the sisters of the Monastery “Saint John of Ribera” in Alcoy (Valencia, Spain) are promoting. The Church adjacent to the Monastery is in the place of the Eucharistic miracle which took place in 1568. Since the arrival of our sisters in 2018, they have collaborated in the reopening of the perpetual adoration chapel which for many years had taken place there. Currently, there are over 300 adorers and they have begun to guide the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament for children.
- Serious Spirituality
Due to the fact that in many times throughout the year the apostolates carried out were suspended, many communities took advantage to dedicate more time to prayer, adding, for example, a second hour of Adoration, praying the Holy Rosary and the Stations of the Cross in Community, etc. The spiritual exercises of Saint Ignatius were still held and where they could not count on the assistance of a priest, they used the videos which our priests have made available to everyone.
Many communities have been able to dedicate more time to personal study and have held many intensive courses on different subjects, some in person, others online; in some provinces, different topics on the spirituality of Saint John of the Cross were chosen for the on-going formation meetings and many sisters have deepened on the doctrine of Saint Catherine of Siena, virgin and Doctor of the Church. Along with the Circular Letters sent every month, different works written by our sisters regarding the doctrine of Saint Catherine on a specific topic were sent out. This upcoming January 17th will be the conclusion of the year which we have dedicated in her honor and which has been of great benefit to us.
- 3rd and 4th elements: Docility to the Magisterium of the Church and a clear intention of following the Magisterium of Saint Thomas Aquinas.
We have begun the new Community “Maria, Sedes Sapientia” in Fossanova, to collaborate with the opening of the Center for Higher Studies of our Religious Family, which will mainly be dedicated to the scientific study of the doctrine of Saint Thomas Aquinas.
This year, the intensive Courses of Biblical and Classical Greek have begun. They are part of the Center for Higher Studies project and are open not only to the students of the Center, but also to those who dedicate themselves to the evangelization of the culture through education, the study of Sacred Scripture, etc. To complete the program of each course, the students attend classes for three months each year for a cycle of three consecutive years. In this first cycle of study 8 sisters have participated with much fruit, 4 in the Biblical Greek Course and 4 in Classical Greek.
- 5-Apostolic Creativity
As a result of the limits for carrying out our regular apostolates, many communities -respecting the measures required by the current situation- sought with creativity new ways to carry out their apostolates and continue to accompany those entrusted to them, assisting their spiritual and material needs.
Many used different means of social communication, and in many cases learning to use those which would help them the most. Various Marches for life were held, Concerts, Oratories and camps online, including the traditional Youth Festivals, Family Days and vocation discernment “Come and See” events, all transmitted online.
In turn, this year more than ever there has been a greater effort made in the diffusion and collaboration with the priests of IVE in the preaching of the spiritual exercises, face-to-face or online, and new sisters have begun with this apostolate preaching in many missions and various languages: Italian, Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese, Mandarin, Cantonese, Arabic and English.
Furthermore, social means of communication were used to prepare thousands of people for the consecration to Mary according to the method of Saint Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort.
By the grace of God, many things continued to be carried out and in various Provinces we have been able to move forward with new missions and apostolates. In a common apostolate with the priests of the IVE in Italy, the first school of our Religious Family in that country was inaugurated. Also, in Ukraine, this qualified apostolate began. And taking on various difficulties and heading off to the missionary adventure, 15 new communities (5 contemplative and 10 apostolic) were founded:
- The Monastery “Saint Lutgarda”, Velzeke, Gante, Belgium, first foundation of the Servants of the Lord in that country. It has as its particular intention that the Sacred Hearts may reign in society, especially through the apostolate and sanctification of the laity, in a special way, for our Third Order members.
- The Community “Fr. Damian of Molokai”, Velzeke, Gante, Belgium.
- The Community “Our Lady of Fatima”, Iquitos, Peru, for the care of the “Saint Jacinta Marto” Home.
- The Community “Blessed Bernardo de Hoyos”, to help in the Expiatory Church of the Sacred Heart in the Diocese of Girona, Spain.
- The Contemplative Novitiate “Saint Catherine of Siena”, Brooklyn, United States, which has as a particular intention that all men sincerely look, love and be formed in the truth and find their fullness in the Incarnate Word.
- The “Patronage of Saint Joseph” Monastery, in the Diocese of Lipa, Philippines, whose intention is to pray so that the Church may be, in all the ends of the earth, a witness of Christ the Redeemer of man, center of the Universe and history.
- The Community “Blessed Nhá Chica”, Senador Firmino, for parish work in the Diocese of Minas Gerais, Brazil.
- The Community “Saint Maurice Tebano”, in Gharaghos, Diocese of Luxor, Egypt.
- The Community “Blessed Mary of Jesus the Good Shepherd”, for parish apostolate in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, United States.
- The Community “Saint Catherine of Siena”, Rome, for the sisters who study in Rome and those who are currently working for the Congregation for the Evangelization of the Peoples, the Italian Nunciature for the Vatican, and the Vatican Library, among other apostolates.
- The Monastery “Saint John the Baptist of the Conception” in Torrelaguna, belonging to the Diocese of Alcalá de Henares, Spain. This community prays so that congregations may be faithful to their charism, so that we be faithful to our own, and so that Spain may preserve its faith.
- The Community “Our Lady of Ephrem”, Taybeh, which cares for the Elderly Home “Bet Afram”, belonging to the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem.
- The Community “Notre Dame du Lausanne”, Lausanne, Diocese of Lausanne, Geneva and Fribourg, Switzerland, which cares for the residence of university students “Foyer Bon Accueil”.
- The Community “Our Lady of Karaganda”, for parish work in Karaganda, Kazakhstan.
- The A Community “Saint Catherine of Siena”, in the Diocese of Breda, Holland, for the apostolate in the beguinage of Breda, Holland.
- 6- Strong community life and a spirit of joy
In most of our communities around the world, community life has been lived with greater intensity and each Province has celebrated in a “more familiar” way and with great joy the important feasts of our Religious Family. We like to remember Chesterton’s phrase: “joy is the gigantic secret of the Christian”, for if God exists, what reason do we have to not be joyful?
Likewise, many reunions among different Communities have taken place using different means of communication. In this way, Conviviums, fogones, etc., were held, giving an opportunity to the Communities further away and alone, to participate, which they could not have done otherwise.
- 7- Biting into Reality (Morder la Realidad)
To face reality with supernatural vision in order transform it according to the spirit of the Incarnate Word was one of the challenges met by those who have helped both the sick and families, so that they may discover the reason behind their illnesses and suffering. In a word, to find the meaning of the cross in the light of faith. “If there were another way to Heaven, Jesus Christ would have followed it, and moreover, He would have taught it. However, He did not. Christ went by means of the royal road of the Holy Cross, and He taught us to go by it as well.”
This has also been the mission of the sisters who have offered themselves to take care of Covid-19 patients, seeking to give hope and Christian joy to those in great need. God has given us the grace of being close to the suffering in order to help them unite their sufferings to the precious Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ; remembering that the Cross “is not a reduction of the Incarnation; but rather, its fullest acceptance, it is going to the depths of being and of all things.”
- 8- Emblematic Missions
The birth of the Incarnate Word also “urges us to work in the most difficult places (those where no one wants to go).” That is why it has been a great joy to found missions such as Iquitos (in the jungle of northwestern Peru) or Karaganda (in the northeast of Kazakhstan, Central Asia, where in the concentration camps built there during communist persecution numerous martyrs gave their lives for the faith).
These foundations join the other emblematic missions that our Institute has the grace to fulfill in different parts of the world. During the year many of these missions celebrated important anniversaries and these festivities were joined by the first anniversaries of the arrival of the Servants in Nizhnevartovsk (the second community founded in Siberia), Baghdad (Iraq), Trabzon (Turkey), Damascus (this is the second foundation of our Institute in Syria).
We also appreciate the growth of our monasteries, which manifest clearly “the only thing necessary”and “are at the forefront of all the works of the apostolate of the Institute, for with their life of prayer and penance they obtain from the Lord the graces necessary for the salvation of many souls”. The founding of the contemplative Novitiate “Santa Catalina de Siena” in Brooklyn (United States) is added to those founded of Brazil, Argentina and Italy. With the new vocations, the Contemplative Branch of our Institute has 274 sisters in 23 communities.
- 9-Works of mercy
God continues to show his paternal assistance and provide what is necessary for the 48 communities of our Institute engaged in the apostolate in works of mercyin 18 different countries. “The poor are Christ”and every good practiced with them results in even greater goods that reach our entire Religious Family.
Our Constitutions state that “we have to always have the poor with us, especially by feeding them. Let’s not be afraid that we will not have enough. God does not let Himself be outdone in generosity.” The communities engaged in works of mercy and the many other communities that during this year have initiated or expanded apostolate with those most in need bear a special testimony of how Divine Providence has manifested through their care even in the smallest details. With profound gratitude to God we give thanks for these apostolates and continue to ask Him to protect and bless these works of charity.
- 10- The providential vision of a lifetime
In His infinite Goodness God has cared for us even in the smallest things, providing in our material and spiritual needs.
And even in the midst of difficulties and crosses, such as seeing our sisters who are ill suffer, or witnessing those who have died and left for heaven. By such crosses we have had the opportunity to grow in trust in God’s loving Providence that allows everything for our good and who cares for us with infinite goodness.
Permit me here to quote number 67 of our Directory of Spirituality which expresses in a magnificent way how we should live this trust:
“A particular way of giving glory to God is to trust without limits in His Providence, based on his plan of salvation, which manifests itself in an eminent way in the Incarnation. We must learn to look at everything as coming from the One who does not forget even a little bird… and has counted every hair on our head. That is why St Paul teaches that all things work for the good of those who love God (Rom 8:28). By saying all things, it doesn’t exempt anything. Therefore, here are included all events, prosperous or adverse, concerning the good of the soul, the goods of fortune, reputation, all the conditions of human life (family, study, talents, etc.), all the inner states through which we pass (joys, deprivations, dryness, disgust, tedium, temptations, etc.), even faults and sins themselves. Everything, absolutely everything. In saying they dispose for good, it is understood that they cooperate, contribute, happen, for our spiritual good. You have to have this vision and not that of the carnal or worldly. We must see everything in the light of the loving designs of God’s Providence, which only the spiritual man discovers: the spirit judges everything (1 Cor 2:15). We must firmly believe that even the most adverse events opposed to our natural vision are ordained by God for our good, even if we do not understand their designs and ignore the end to which He wants to take us. But for our part, we have to meet a condition in order for this to happen in this way. That is why He adds of those who love God, that is, those whose will is united and submissive to that of God, who seek first and foremost the interests and glory of God, who are willing to sacrifice everything without reservation, persuaded that nothing is as advantageous as abandoning themselves in the hands of God, in all that He pleases to ordain.”
A clear example of how God wants us to trust in His hands was the astonishing recovery of Sister Maria Balsamum Purum, a novice in Brazil, for whom our entire Religious Family joined the Blessed Martyrs of Pueyo in prayer. This led us to witness once again the value of unity among our family members, especially at a time when one of our members suffers in a particular way.
Preserving the supernatural gaze is a grace of God that allows us to continue with joy and encourages us to give with confidence all that He asks of us. Those who maintain this providential vision of life achieve great fruitfulness of spirit, an example we see in more than few of our missionaries.
- 11. Devotion to the Blessed Virgin.
Finally, to the Blessed Virgin Mary, we express our love and gratitude, for our congregation, which was born under the mantle of Our Lady, has grown under the mantle of Our Lady, has developed under the mantle of Our Lady and will endure under the mantle of Our Lady. We must never forget that on the first Good Friday in history, Jesus Christ gave us Our Lady as a mother.
One of the great events experienced this year was the renewal of consecration to Mary in maternal slavery of love. From Lourdes, Fatima and from various other missions, our Religious Family around the world came together to ask Mary to be the one who reigns in our souls and in our Institutes. That day we received the scapular-medal with the image of the Virgin of Luján, who before God is the patron saint of our Religious Family.
Much more could be written to thank God for all that He does for us, on a spiritual level by giving us His grace, a true anticipation of Heaven, and on a material level giving us even more than necessary.
I invite you to approach the kind and sweet Child God, the greatest gift God has made to men, renewing all our desires for holiness and recommitting all our strength to be like another Incarnation.
May the members of our Religious Family who have preceded us on the way to Heaven (we especially remember the sisters who parted to the House of the Father this year: María Del Corazón Misericordioso and María Voznesinnia) encourage us through their intercession and by their good example to follow.
With the Blessed Virgin Mary, “the Mother of beautiful love from Bethlehem to beyond Calvary”, may we sing God’s mercy with our lives, with the joy of knowing that God is.
In the Incarnate Word and in his Most Holy Mother,
M. María Corredentora Rodriguez
Directory of Spirituality SSVM, 210.
Constitutions SSVM, n. 137.
Ídem, Cfr. n.235.
Constitutions SSVM, n.7.
Cfr. Directory of Spirituality SSVM, 210.
Directory of Spirituality SSVM, n. 134.
Las Servidoras IV, Himno a la Cruz, pg. 126.
Directory of Spirituality SSVM, n. 86.
The Institute has 8 Homes for Disabled, 11 Homes for Children, 7 Homes for Adolescence/Youth Residences, 9 Nursing Homes, 3 Homes for Single Mothers, 4 Communities dedicated to Apostolate with Children and 6 Communities Dedicated to Care in Hospitals or Health Centers.
Directorio de espiritualidad SSVM, n. 28.
Constituciones SSVM, N. 159.
Directorio de Espiritualidad SSVM, n. 67.
Constituciones SSVM, n. 17.