May 5-21,  2010 Sister Kieran Kneaves,  Daughter of Charity USA West Central Province, spent time with the Daughters of the British Province giving a series of workshops and a retreat based on the life and inspiration of Sister Suzanne Guillemin, Superioress General 1962-1968. She pioneered in the Sister Formation movement and led the Daughters of Charity in the revolutionary act of modifying their habit in September 1964.

Some highlights from the site…

Mother Suzanne Guillemin DC was the Superioress General of the Daughters through the Second Vatican Council. She was brilliant, good, holy, and fearless. A born leader, and yet completely approachable. She was among the favorites at the Council. For she was an “auditrice,” one of 23 women auditors officially invited to the Council.

Concerning her participation in the Council, it is said that  it was no surprise that she was invited. She was already pioneering in the Sister Formation movement and led the Daughters of Charity in the revolutionary act of modifying their habit in September 1964. She was as well known in European circles as any prominent Cardinal.  She has been called “a twentieth-century religious, a modern woman cast in the mold of Pope John 23rd.

Her life must have been hard, for everything was changing in the Church, and she was charged with changing the order and yet also making sure the order stayed together in one piece. But the structures needed to change, and she took up the challenge with everything she had. Her words are still worth hearing. In her famous speech to the French bishops in Rome, October 26, 1964, she argued that new structures were critical if the Daughters were truly going to accomplish their original mission:

“Entering actively into the movement of the church and adapting ourselves to the world of today are a matter of life or death for a community. … Our manner of going to God, our mode of union with God, and the place of our contemplation, are located within our action, in the meeting of the people we encounter side by side at this moment. As St. Vincent said, ‘A Sister who finds the poor ten times in the day will find God there ten times a day… This calls for a renewal of spirit and structures.’”

In 1967, she spoke her inner fears to the Sister Servants on retreat in Paris.

“I hope, Sisters,” she said, “that religious life will be strong enough to retain what is essential, but the difficulty lies in determining the essential.”

Mother Guillemin said it this way:

“In reality, the … renewal of the Community [depends on] the journey and the effort of holiness of each member … All decisions can be made, all the Constitutions can be renewed, revised, updated, nothing else will matter if everyone does not put forth this essential effort, this vital effort of holiness. … The adaptations that we are making are to deepen justly our spiritual renewal, to allow us to have a more authentic relationship with God and to allow … our witness of religious life to be read, to be recognized by the world.”

She was a prophet whose words give clarity about :
– Who we are
– What we are about
– With whom we stand
She is there encouraging us to become what we claim to be and to find God in the EVENTS of our lives!

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