Sunday, January 31, 2010

People of the Year - #6

From Inside the Vatican

Each year for the past 10 years, Inside the Vatican has chosen 10 "People of the Year" -- men and women of courage, vision, learning and faith.

I find myself unable to write currently, and so in my desire to bring Freedom Through Truth, will be bringing to you things that I have seen and admire for their veracity.

Here is the sixth member of that illustrious group.

Mother Tek­la Famiglietti
Even if only for the salvation of just one soul, who otherwise might never have been able to meet Christ, the opening of a new house would be thoroughly worthwhile.”—Mother Tek­la Famiglietti, General Abbess of the Bridgettine Order

As 2010 begins, important anniversaries have recently marked or will soon mark the life of the Order of the Most Holy Saviour of St. Bridget (in Latin Ordo Sanctissimi Salvatoris Sanctae Brigittae, O.SS.S.), popularly known as the Bridgettine or Birgittine Order, after the name of its foundress, St. Bridget (or Birgitta) of Sweden (1303-1373).

The anniversaries began almost three years ago, on April 24, 2007, with the 50th anniversary of the “pious transit” (passing away) of Blessed Mother Maria Elisabeth Hesselblad in Rome in 1957.
More recently, Oc­tober 1, 2009, marked the 10th an­niversary of the proclamation in 1999 of St. Bridget as Copatroness of Europe.
Coming up, April 24, 2010, will mark the 10th anniversary of the beatification of Blessed Mother Hesselblad.
Finally, September 8, 2011, will mark the 100th anniversary of Blessed Mother Hesselblad’s re-establishment in 1911 of the Swedish branch of the Bridgettine Order after a gap of several centuries.
Many good and propitious developments in the Church go unreported. The phenomenal expansion of the Bridgettine Order, especially in the Third World, under the guidance of the present General Abbess, Mother Tekla Famiglietti, is one such story.

Under the direction of Mother Tekla Famiglietti, head of the Order for almost 30 years now, since 1979, no less than 16 new houses have been opened around the world, most recently in Cuba, the Philippines and Indonesia. The Order is presently active in Europe, and more exactly in Italy (Rome, Farfa Sabina, Assisi, Naples-Camaldoli), Sweden (Djursholm, Falun), Norway (Heimdal), Finland (Turku, Stella Maris), Denmark (Maribo), Estonia (Tallinn), Poland (Czestochowa, Gdansk), Germany (Bremen), the Netherlands (Weert), England (Iver Heath, Birmingham and Holywell in Wales), and Switzerland (Lugano). The Order is also present in the Middle East, both in Palestine (Bethlehem) and in Israel (Jerusalem), and in Asia, especially in India (Marikunnu, Bangalore, Kalamassery, Pallavaram, Mysore, Nantoor, Trivandrum, Puttur, Sipcot, Goa, Chikmagalur, Kurnool, Belgaum, Mumbai, Kannur, Amachal), and in the Philippines (Tagaytay, Montevista), in Indonesia (Bali, Maumere). The Order is also present in the United States (Darien, Connecticut, Tel. (203) 655-1068. E-Mail: and in two countries of Central America, Mexico (Tacambaro, Mexico City, La Paz, Colima, Guadalajara) and Cuba (Havana).
Today some 700 Bridgettine sisters are scattered in 50 religious houses, with an average of 30 new vocations every year, about 4% growth per year.

As a sign of the increasing importance of Asia for the Order’s apostolate, Mother Tekla told us when we met that she was about to leave for India for several weeks to visit her numerous houses.

This presence in India began in the 1930s. On April 10, 1937, 12 sisters (there is a significant precedent for this number in the history of the Church!) left from Brindisi to go to Malabar.
Interestingly, Mother Hesselblad, who would have led the group herself had her health not already been compromised, on that occasion reminded her nuns that the eastern vocation was deeply rooted in the Order, dating as far back as its first foundation under St. Bridget. In fact the first Indian sister, Maria Caterina from the East (familiarly called Maria Caterina the Black in the Order), joined St. Bridget and her daughter Caterina first in Naples and then in Rome. After the former’s death, the Indian sister decided to accompany the daughter on her way back to Sweden to bury Bridget’s mortal remains and finally entered as nun the newly-built convent in Vadstena, where she conducted a holy life which ended with a holy death.

But how was this expansion achieved? Certainly it cannot but be the result of a sound accomplishment of their charisma and vocation.
On the Order’s web site, such charisma is described as “the happy synthesis of active and contemplative life, based on the meditation of the Word of God, on the apostolate and religious formation, and on a profound Christ-centric spirit, having Christ as the fulcrum of ecclesial life with the consequent emphasis on the importance of the Eucharist.”
Asked about whether the Asian territories were difficult locations for new houses, Mother Tekla agreed in principle, although pointing out that they were “not impossible,” because “everywhere the people are eager for the presence of religious sisters and for words coming out from the mouth of religious sisters.” 
Each person is today in search of values “and with a religious sister they open their heart to dialogue and start asking questions,” thus revealing what Mother Tekla calls “their hidden treasure.” As a matter of fact, she points out, “they start dealing with God, yes, exactly with God, and want to know, to figure out, to see how much you know, and this is wonderful.”
Because in so doing, she concludes, “they may even say things that are private to a certain extent, but end up opening their heart to God. And this a real grace of God.” —Alberto Carosa

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