Making memory of God’s call with gratitude.
Walking humbly with Him who leads me.
Answering the call to go anywhere, at anytime
Serving His people gladly with love.
I am sr. Ursula Pinto, from India. I was born at Shirva, a small town in the State of Karnataka. My first experience of going out of my state was in 1960, to join the Congregation of the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate, in Andhra Pradesh. This was the first opportunity for me to meet a new people, culture and language. It was a joy to get to know the people of Andhra, who are simple, friendly and wonderful. I liked their language and culture. Mother Clara Bellotti and Sr. Rosa Beretta, who had come to my parish and school for the vocation animation, had explained well in a simple way the three characteristics of our call to the mission.
- We are to proclaim Jesus to all the peoples,
2. We must be ready to go anywhere at any time with an open mind,
3. We are to collaborate in the expansion of the Kingdom of God.
I feel this is fundamental for the missionary vocation and it demands love for the mission, availability, spirit of sacrifice and adaptation, an open mind to accept and appreciate the diversities in inter-cultural living and openness to dialogue.
The next experience was going out of India in 1962, as a second year novice, to USA (1962-1966), to be part of the “Sister Formation Program”, started by the “Sister Formation Conference” in the United States in the 1960’s to promote the spiritual, intellectual, social and professional development of women religious, by providing a platform of advanced education for them. This program made an exceptional contribution to the Universal Church, as the Sister Formation Conference made it possible for sisters from Africa, India, and South America to be accepted in the juniorates, and in the Catholic women’s colleges, run by them throughout the United States. Here I found myself in a very different culture but soon I could sense the attitudes of openness, acceptance, appreciation and generosity in the Sisters of Loreto, who welcomed Sr. Vincent Koonananickal and me in their house of studies and enrolled us in Webster College, which belonged to them. I found help from the junior mistress and the companions to insert myself in this new environment. It was really a pleasant experience of equality and togetherness.
Coming to our motherhouse in Milan, in 1967, was my second experience outside India, and it is unforgettable and precious mainly for the possibility of meeting Mother Dones, Mother Igilda, Msgr. Balconi, our sisters of the first groups and the PIME. I had the chance to do vocation animation with Sr. Grazia Villa, to work in the PIME press, in the sector of dispatching the magazines, along with our sisters and for a short period, to keep company to Msgr. Balconi along with Sr. Albina. The journey of insertion made me appreciate the internationality of our missionary family. It was an experience of feeling at home. There was love, concern, understanding as in the family. An experience of real homecoming. Recalling this experience leads me to a dialogue with the persons, especially with our founders.
I got many opportunities to come back to Italy: as a student from 1976 to 1979; to be at the service of the Institute from 1988 to 2000; then from 2010 until today to be at service of the generalate community.
The years of service in Italy is rich in experiences that helped in deepening my knowledge, admiration and love for my Congregation. One such experience is working in the team; the latest is working in the team for the Revision of our Constitutions. Working together to arrive at the set goal: to put in writing the MSI life, by taking into account the changes and the demands of today in the world and in the Church. How beautiful it is to live as sisters! My wish for all of us, both young and old is that we find ourselves in the written life (MSI Constitutions) and be open to a journey of conversion in order to be meaningful today in the context in which we live.
The time I spent in my country as well as outside, were not always easy and there were challenges. One of these I would share here. It was during the time of Vatican Council II and almost towards the end. I was in the States and there was a lot of confusion regarding the consecrated life. I saw many young sisters with whom I was studying leave the convent. This particular experience was hard but at the same time, it made me think what is fundamental in my style of life as a missionary.
- To hear the voice of the Lord telling “I have chosen you and you are mine”,
- to contemplate His gaze on me with deep faith and love the mission,
- to be ready to go anywhere and at any time, to live the dimension of being sent, which demands simplicity, humility and service,
- to dialogue with the foundresses.
Looking back to my childhood and the adolescence, I feel that the contact with the families of other religions in the neighborhood, mingling with the students of different ethnic groups, listening to the missionaries who worked in North India, helped me to develop an attitude of openness, acceptance and appreciation of diversities. Later on in life, I understood these are essential for harmony and peace in any human community.
I say that insertion becomes easy when we understand that we are sent, not to dominate but to serve as guests in a different culture and as sisters. We are not alone on the journey; Jesus walks with us, and asks us to collaborate in creating a new culture where all are welcome and feel at home.
I like to repeat the phrase that Fr. Manna said to Mother Dones:
The Lord is all; he directs all and nobody can oppose his plans. …
This must be our immense preoccupation: to live in the way that is most acceptable to the Lord.
Sr. Ursula Pinto, Community at the service of GD, Rome