Fr Martin Neyt OSB
President of AIM
For many years women Benedictines have lived in the shadow of the men's Congregations. In parallel with the place that women have taken in society, the female congregations of nuns and sisters have come together progressively, erasing their difficulties, to put in light their identity and their autonomy. The birth and development of this movement began in what nowadays constitutes the "Communio Internationalis Benedictinarum". These women of all generations, come from North, South, East and West and have gathered together in Rome in the College of Sant'Anselmo, opening new ways to the feminine monachism. Mother Maire Hickey OSB, Abbess of Dinklage in Germany, their Moderator, describes their adventure similar to the one of the Hebrews, setting themselves free from Egypt to enter the Promised Land. It is now 40 years they have worked to write this new page of monastic history. In September 2006, the CIB organized its 5th symposium and thereby strengthened their process of autonomy. Mother Maire, who weaved patiently the threads of this beginning solidarity, was succeeded by Mother Judith Ann Heble OSB. From now on the Benedictine Sisters and Nuns united in a communal march and now constitutes a considerable power to support life and formation to some 16000 Benedictines throughout the world. AIM associates itself to the joy of the C.I.B. in this new stage and congratulates the new Moderator and assures her of its support.
The great number of female congregations too many to remember and the diversity of communities has often stunned the monks but the absence of unified and centralised organization, has had its advantages and has kept them. This diversity constitutes a source of mutual enrichment.
The essence of monastic life has always preciously remained protected within the monastery and mysteriously shines on its guests and neighbours and surrounding population. From now on with the support of CIB the communities develop a universal communication, ever more complex, profitable to the giver as well as to the receivers.
"Attentiveness is the natural prayer of the soul" wrote Malebranche. Commenting on the 64th chapter of The Rule of St. Benedict, Sr. Aquinata Bockmann OSB, gave a beautiful example of how the strong and the weak can walk together in a community. She also underlines the importance of attentiveness. If the adjectives "Attentive-full of attention" foster the daily life, they also express this "tension towards"...searching for the Essential. In their feminine identity, the Benedictines bring a new and personal way of being attentive to the daily realities...like to a new dawn rising in the horizon. In her own way, Sr. Cecilia Dwyer OSB, shares her own experience of Guiding with Wisdom. She is aware at the same time, of the energy...faith...hope...discernment and vision that the sister in charge must have, without ignoring the weaknesses, spiritual desires and the personal search for God in her community.
This number gives also an account of the news of the monasteries of S.E. Asia:..mainland China, Korea, Vietnam, New Zealand and Australia. Other news comes from African monasteries. The Monastic Inter Religious Dialogue remains all the more important....Each of us could have followed the Papal Visit to Istammbul...his visit to the Phanar, the See of Patriach Bartholomeos and followed his visit to the blue mosque standing next to the Great Mufti of Islam. The account of the 10th East West exchange underlines the spiritual suppport of the monasteries in this domain.
A.I.M.'s preoccupation for formation remains constant; tools of work and accounts of books are presented by Sr. Veronique Dupont OSB, of Venière in France. The next number will deal with the relationships between monasteries and the youth and will present the important ecumenical meeting of Bose in Italy.
Translated from the French by Paul and Jane Rozé, OSB Obl., Cliftonville, Kent, England.