Sr. Marie Emeline Ezami Atangana, SP, shares with us her learnings from her ministries, especially that of Vocation Ministry.  Her use of Scripture in doing so challenges us to ask ourselves:  How do we truly encounter the other?

“Every beginning is difficult. The story of the miraculous catch of fish in the Gospel of St. Luke (5:4-5) has profound implications for all those who, like Peter and his companions, have the primary vocation to become fishers of men. Jesus said to Simon: “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men. When they brought their boats to the shore, they left everything and followed him.” Luke 5:10b-11.

I, too, am called to cast my nets in deep waters rather than in shallow or warm waters. Indeed, Christ’s call for me is to cast my nets in deep water. This deep water is that of my multiple ministries. Among others, Vocation Ministry, my involvement in the Cartier Emilie team, one of our charitable organizations of which I am a secretary and member of the board of directors, and in spiritual animation at the Pavillion Providence (infirmary) of the Sisters of Providence Motherhouse.

I welcomed these ministerial assignments with an attitude of interior availability and following in Virgin Mary’s footsteps. I cannot but say: “I am the handmaid of the Lord”. At the same time, I confess that I shudder a little when I consider the importance of these different ministries. That is true especially with the expectations of a growing number of people in the process of broadcasting funerals on our Facebook page and the projection of spiritual and congregational activities proposed by the Provincial or General Councils using the Pavillion Providence’s closed circuit broadcasting.

This deep water is one of my multiple challenges related to our closed circuit sound system at Pavillion Providence as well as the sound system for recording and livestreaming the funerals via social media. The pandemic offered us this opportunity to continue our activities using the zoom platform. This is one of the reasons why the Vocation Ministry of which I am a member is currently done through our Facebook page called Pastorale Vocationnelle Montréal where I can make the congregation known through all of it’s historical dates. In response to the goals of the vocation ministry committee, I make Jesus known and loved through a commentary on the Word of God and I participate in the virtual meetings organized by Centre PRI (Intercommunity Religious Presence). The meetings with the members of the board of directors are done via zoom.

I am becoming more and more aware that virtual communication can be at the service of a culture of encounter. While respecting health measures and despite all my limitations in the face of the mastery of modern means of communication, how is it possible to be truly close to those to whom my ministries are dedicated? I find an answer in the parable of the Samaritan, which is also a parable about a communicator. The one who communicates indeed becomes close. And the Good Samaritan not only comes close, but he takes charge of this man whom he sees half-dead on the side of the road. Jesus reverses the perspective; it is not a question of recognizing the other as my fellow human, but rather of my capacity to make myself like the other.

Today, we run the risk that certain media condition us to the point of making us ignore our true neighbour. It is not enough to pass along the digital roads, that is to say to be simply connected; the connection must be accompanied by a real encounter. In the current context of the pandemic, we are not able to live alone, “confined in body and mind” and withdrawn into ourselves. We need to love and be loved. Moreover, the world of media is no longer strange to the concern of communication for humanity. I wish with all my heart that the icon of the Good Samaritan, who heals the wounds of the wounded man by pouring oil and wine on them, will be our guide to revitalize our charism and our SP mission and adapt them to the current dimensions of our humanity.

Let us not be afraid to become citizens of the digital territory. The attention and presence of the Church through dialogue with internet users is important in order to bring them to meet Christ.   As a Congregation within the Church, we respond to this need. In the current Coronavirus context, the revolution of social networks is a great and exciting challenge, which requires dynamic energies and new imagination to convey the beauty of God to others.

Through the pandemic, I have learned to be patient with myself, patient with my local community sisters, patient with my ministry colleagues, patient with the authorities, patient with the sound system when it does not work. I remain aware of my limitations and possibilities in operating the communications tools that are available to me to reach the world via the live-streaming and broadcasting of spiritual activities through the Pavillion Providence’s closed circuit. I am convinced that the pandemic brings hope and that together we will succeed in demystifying these modern means of communication, encouraging each other rather than criticizing, judging and condemning the fruit of our efforts. Every beginning is difficult.”

How has the revolution of social networks challenged you?  Have you become a citizen of the digital world?  Have you experienced those real encounters she mentions in her article?

Barbara McMullen, CDP

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123, New Lenox, Chicago IL 60606

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