In September, 2014, the United States province of the Handmaids of the Sacred Heart of Jesus hosted a world level meeting of the Handmaids. The congregation, numbering just under 1,200 women on five continents, is divided into regions. The superiors of all the regions (provinces and vice-provinces) meet in between the five year span for convoking a General Congregation. In recent years, rather than meeting in the Motherhouse in Rome, Italy, the group has been hosted around the world of Handmaids. This year, for the first time ever, the United States Handmaids had the pleasure of welcoming 20 sisters including the five-member General Team and the heads of regions in Colombia, Peru-Bolivia Argentina, Chile, Spain, Japan, India, Philippines and the recently formed province of Europe-Atlantic, made up of England, Ireland, France, and Portugal, with headquarters in Portugal. For most visiting Handmaids, it was their first time in the States. So the group enjoyed a day trip to Washington, D.C. with Handmaid hosts from the five communities who are able to accompany our sisters on this outing.
A feature of the September days was that Archbishop Charles J. Chaput OFM Cap accepted the invitation to preside at Eucharist at St. Raphaela Center. It was the first time that the archbishop has visited us and we were struck by his affability and desire to learn who are are and what we are about. He spoke of his interest in Consecrated Life both as pastor and as member of the Capuchins. He proposed thatas we renew ourselves in our charism, we attend to the potential new structures called for in the New Evangelization to which the whole church sees herself called. We Handmaids were able to find immediate echo in the archbishop’s focus because as well as the fact that this has been a concern of Intermediate Meeting IX itself, our ACJ FAMILY international assembly gave attention precisely to the importance of examining structures in terms of the New Evangelization.
Sister Dorothy is delighted to be the head of the USA communities when the time had finally come to host these Handmaid leaders. She recently told us: “I am so pleased to be able to show our sisters from other countries who the US Handmaids are, how we live, worship, and minister here, and give them at least a small taste of the US East Coast. Both before and after our September 15-29 convocation, sisters will be visiting our communities in Pennsylvania, Georgia and Florida. Sister Inmaculada Fukasawa, General Superior, visited our El Salvador Volunteer House with two members of the leadership team. We are especially anxious to show them this growing ministry. I hope that our friends will join us in prayer of thanksgiving for this opportunity to renew ourselves in our Reparative-Eucharistic charism. We found true in practice you we call ourselves :One Body for MIssion.”
Sister Inmaculada told us she represented the thought of all the visiting Handmaids on commenting: “You have been so hospitable. It has been a blessing for all of us to get to know some of the United States’ reality and to learn firsthand so much about each of you and your ministries here. Certainly, you are a vibrant group full of energy to carry out our Eucharistic-Reparative mission in such a variety of ways–care for education and retreat ministry, action on behalf of immigrants and refugees, with horizons beyond the US which have taken you on a temporary mission to the US-Mexico border and being able this year to celebrate your tenth anniversary in El Salvador. Let’s all pray for many new vocations here and throughout the world.”