By Jacob Peenikaparambil
Indore, December 6, 2018: A Catholic bishop and major superiors of some religious congregations, who attended a seven-day unique spiritual exercise, say they have found new meaning in their mission and life.
“The Christo Centric Leadership Retreat was very enlightening for me and this experience will definitely guide me in my mission and life,” wrote Auxiliary Bishop Telesphore Bilung of Ranchi in his feedback.
The prelate joined 15 sisters and four priests in the November 30-December 6 retreat at the headquarters of the Universal Solidarity Movement (USM) in Indore, the commercial capital of Madhya Pradesh state in central India.
The participants included Carmelite of Mary Immaculate prior general Father Paul Achandy, superior general of Prabhudasi Sisters of Ajmer Sr. Divya and superior general of St. John the Baptist Sr. Arpitha.
The USM team led by its founder director Father Varghese Alengaden conducted the retreat. The USM community, an experiment in new “Wine Skin” method of evangelization, helped retreat participants experience the pluralistic, inclusive, transparent and participatory way of life.
It also convinced them that the way of life Jesus has envisaged as Kingdom of God is possible.
“The retreat helped me develop my personal spirituality through self education and self discipline and I became aware of the urgency of adopting new ‘wineskin’ approach in my mission and producing lasting fruits.” wrote Sr. Arpitha in her summary report.
Sr. Divya said “the amazing way of the new ‘wine skin’ retreat” helped her become aware of the difference between religiosity and spirituality. “The retreat was of great help to me to understand what spirituality is,” she wrote.
The USM has so far conducted 59 Christo Centric Leadership Retreats. So far 932 persons have attended the retreat in USM. Most participants have been provincial teams of various congregations, animators (superiors) of religious communities, principals and managers of schools and heads of institutions. A group of nine bishops attended the retreat in August 2015.
The retreat starts with meditatively watching the movie, Jesus of Nazareth (directed by Franco Zeffirelli) with appropriate commentary by the facilitator and drawing out insights and learning through interactive sessions for application to day to day life. These insights help the participants to solve problems and make Jesus alive through their life and activities.
The input sessions that follow the movie are designed to deepen the participants understanding of their call, vision and mission. They enable the participants analyse current socio- political, religious and cultural context and challenges and respond to them effectively by adopting new “Wine Skins.”
The retreat then prepares an action plan for personal life and for the community/provinces and dioceses.
Father Achandy said the movie, Dharam, questioned his routine pious religious practices and challenged him to evolve a mature spirituality of relationship and outreach to the needy discerned through contemplation. “More than ritualistic activities, I need to judge my spirituality based on fruits of life and love,” he said in his feedback.
The participants have to present at the end a summary of their experience during the retreat. It should also include resolutions taken to sustain the retreat spirit at their places.
Some resolutions taken by the participants are strictly follow one hour appointment with God and oneself and develop personal spirituality in the place of rituals and routine prayers.
While on participant resolved to evaluate daily life through personal journal writing another planned to read a portion from the New Testament every day and reflect over it to enhance individual and community life.
Some planned to make hospitality a hallmark of their communities round the clock and make celebrations simple and meaningful.
Other significant resolutions are:
Treat domestic servants and non-teaching staff of educational institutions with honor and celebrate their birthdays for building inclusive communities
Build harmonious relationship with the followers of other faiths through family visits and participation in various religious festivals
Include analysis of Socio Political context of the country and of the world in the formation program
Display the symbols and quotations from various religious scriptures in all institutions for promoting appreciation, harmony and cooperation among different faiths, introduce inter-religious prayer with readings from different religious scriptures in the school /college assemblies and common gatherings.