8 December 2023
Solemnity of the Immaculate
Dear Lay MSI’s
This year we prepared ourselves for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, by contemplating the face of “the sweet heavenly Mother” reflected in the faces, traditions and cultures of the peoples to whom we are sent and with whom we share life and the journey of faith.
Finding myself in India, in the province of Vijayawada for the canonical visit, I wished to conclude the pilgrimage, which we ideally and spiritually made together during the days of the novena, by going to the Gunadala Lourdu Matha (Our Lady of Health), Sanctuary of Gunadala, which is a few kilometers from the provincial house. Thanks to the initiative of the PIME missionaries who, after settling at the foot of the Gunadala hill in 1923, erected this sanctuary and placed the statue of Our Lady of Lourdes to protect the city and keep it close to Jesus.
On the day in which we celebrate the anniversary of the foundation of our Congregation, I joyfully extend to you my best wishes and my memories from this sacred place. I think of our first sisters who arrived in India 75 years ago, entrusted themselves to the Virgin of Gunadala as it is evidenced by the memories jotted down in the community diaries of the time. “All six of us leave at 5 for Gunadala… for the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes… as on a pilgrimage. It is a true triumph of Marian devotion” (from the Diaries of 1949 and 1951).
In Gunadala you can breathe missionary spirit: the statue of the Madonna venerated by Catholics, Protestants, Hindus and Muslims reminds us of the beauty of our apostolic life and the prophecy of communion between peoples, which we all know how much we are in need!
The tragedies of peoples struggling with wars, poverty and difficulties of various kinds, ask us first to give a name to the evil that tramples on, despises and tries to destroy every little seed of love. It is called ruthless hatred, a crime against humanity; thirst for revenge, cultural and religious intolerance and many other forms of evil. Even more, those that we find deep within ourselves, small or big.
The liturgical feast of the Immaculate reminds us that the head of the ancient serpent must be crushed; further more: the story of Mary and her unconditional YES to the angel reveals the possibility of a story different from the one written by enmity. Mary, with that YES that she will renew many times during her life, in the midst of crises and difficult situations that she goes through, impels us not to give up on evil or destiny but to believe in the IMPOSSIBLE.
Faith believes the impossible because it believes in the paschal mystery: “Christ was crucified, died and was buried. On the third day he was resurrected, according to the Scriptures, he ascended into heaven; he sits at the right hand of the Father… His kingdom will have no end.” God conquers evil with the cross; right on the cross we see that God loves us with a love stronger than death and of any evil that we can do.
We too are called to remain steadfast in the faith; we are called to stand together with those who act as bridges between persons, peoples and nations, by becoming instruments of peace. Following the example of Mary, we want to be a prophetic sign for the humanity of today that is in search of peace. Is it utopia? No, it is the prophetic choice of those who want to go beyond walls and frontiers. It is the only way to expose the serpent’s deception and reveal God’s blessing on humanity.
Together with the sisters of Vijayawada province, I wish you all a very Happy Feast of the Immaculate!
Sr. Antonella Tovaglieri