The Extended General Council Meeting
The meeting took place at the Camillian Pastoral Health Centre, Bangalore India, 25th -30th September 2015. This was the second EGC to be held in India and Sr. Pauline wanted to maximize the experience by arranging a Workshop on Leadership and also a visit to some communities in both Provinces. Planning began in February and continued throughout the following months until the middle of September when the first group of participants began their journey to Bangalore and the final preparations were made.
Sr. Marietta, Sr. Annie Paul and Sr. Prasanna, (Provincial Bursars) were the first to arrive at the Centre which is run by the Camillian Fathers and Brothers and they ensured that everything was in place and that all the practical arrangements had been made. The Centre itself had been built with the help of donations from Italy and the architecture is more Mediterranean than Indian in style. On the same campus there is a school and hospital for children who are suffering from HIV Aids and each day we were heartened to hear the sounds of happy children at work and play.
During the following days, more and more Sisters began to arrive. Some journeys had proved more difficult than others and we were glad that a former pupil and great friend of the Sisters has a responsible position at Bangalore Airport as he and his team were on hand to make arrivals and departures a lot easier for us.
By the morning of Monday, 21st September, all the Congregational Leaders had gathered and were eager to begin the Workshop which was organised by our two facilitators, Sr. Mary Harrington, SUSC, and Sr. Gabrielle Stuart, RSM. This was a great opportunity for us to gain further knowledge and skills and, by the final day, new relationships had been forged and old ones had been strengthened. It was a wonderful preparation for the EGC as Sisters now knew each other much better and were able to share their hopes, fears and aspirations at a deeper level.
On Friday 25th September, some of the group ventured into Bangalore to see some places of interest. Having made several trips to the airport we were very worried about possible traffic hold ups, but we were in luck as it was a Public Holiday and fewer people were out and about.
We were able to take a ride on the new Metro Railway which runs above the city. It was rather like going to an airport - as security was high and we, and our belongings, had to be scanned before we were allowed to enter the station. However, it was well worth it - as we were able to see Bangalore from a different angle and to appreciate how this “high tech” city is growing and developing. We then explored the famous “MG” Road named after the legendary Mahatma Gandhi and found a craft shop which sold traditional Indian souvenirs. After having some refreshments we were ready to return to the Centre and prepare for the EGC’s Opening Prayer and Session.
The planning and preparation which had taken place in the months and weeks before the Extended General Council were certainly worthwhile. Participants had come ready to enter wholeheartedly into the meeting. There was a great atmosphere of prayer and the joy and good spirit which existed amongst members, was palpable. Many issues were discussed and decisions made and we felt, that although we had come from Africa, India and Europe, we were closely united by the same charism. When it was time to leave the Centre we felt that we had indeed grown closer to one another and had a much greater understanding of the life in mission in all parts of the Congregation.
To complete this wonderful “Indian Experience” the Sisters from Africa and Europe were given the opportunity of visiting communities in both Bhubaneswar and Visakhapatnam Provinces -where we were treated to traditional Indian hospitality wherever we went. It was a great opportunity to see at first hand, some of the tremendous work which is taking place amongst the “poorest and most neglected” in society. We were also privileged to attend the Perpetual Profession of six young Sisters in Bhubaneswar and to be part of the Diamond Jubilee celebration of six Senior Sisters in Waltair. We returned to our various countries feeling that we had received many graces and blessings during our time together as leaders within the Congregation; that we had learned more about our life in mission; that we had forged new relationships and strengthened old relationships and that we could truly say: “All is One”.