There is no need for one to dominate the spiritual life, but one does need to be free; it is also no coincidence that love is of primary importance. Those two words: freedom and love are fundamental as we pause and recall the life of Jesus Christ. In fact, we could say that freedom and love characterize Christian ethics. If one wants to follow in the path of Jesus Christ, those two elements of love and freedom are indispensable … freedom and love at are the very heart of the Christian mystery.
Throughout our lives we are challenged to reread and live each day in a truthful and honest way. Sincerity enables us to see the path that we travel. When we look at the path that we travel along, we become aware of the steps that we have taken and the obstacles that we have overcome. At the same time, we also become aware of the steps that we have not taken. God never ceases to call us to travel along the path of happiness. Francis de Sales states that some pilgrims, having fallen asleep, are all awakened by the sun. Some get up and walk on, arriving safely at the place where they are going. The others go back to sleep and get up late. Becoming lost in he dark, they are captured and mistreated by thieves. Now all of them were awakened, but it is not the fault of the sun that all did not get up and arrive safely at the place where they were heading. Everyday God, who is infinitely good, is willing to receive us with open-arms. God invites us to live in accord with his will and to do so with love and in freedom. God invites us to wake up and to walk in the light of the day. To have an authentic vocation means that we freely decide to say yes to God … it means that we accept a new lifestyle.
It is now time to look at the path that we have travelled. Five young men are about to complete the first year of their vocational journey, that is, they are about to conclude their year at the Internal Seminary. These young men are: Elie Chamoun and Joseph Bassila (Middle East), Jean Baptiste Gning (France), John Ashu (Ireland) and I, Francisco Vihena (Portugal). This time was a very enriching experience in which we grew in the art of seeking, learning and collaborating and also in the art of being passionate in service. What each one of us takes away from this year is immeasurable but will certainly have consequences for the remainder of our lives since our journey is not simply symbolic.
At the very beginning of our journey, Father Patrick Issomo, CM told us that our first place of mission is the inner recesses of our being and that during the time of our year in the Internal Seminary we were to consolidate our knowledge of God’s will for us. Thus, it happened! That year was a time of intimacy with God, a time during which we experienced joy and at the same time, experienced discouragement and questioned ourselves. In reality, both good and bad times led us to greater perfection. Above all, this was a time to become aware of the importance of living as beloved children of God … God who having nothing of his own, received everything to give to others. If we learn to return to the moment when we have felt loved by God, we can once again feel the positive emotion that makes us know that we are loved and thus learn to live with ourselves and give ourselves to others in freely and selflessly. With freedom, God makes us aware of the fact that we participate in the process of maturation and, in freedom, we enter into a deeper relationship with God and with others.
In Chieri, we grew in our love for Saint Vincent de Paul. There we came to a fuller understanding of his story, his thoughts and his charisma. Our love for the Congregation of the Mission became more intense and our knowledge was deepened with regard to what is fundamental in order to follow in the footsteps of the Lord. The goal for this year was not to fill an empty glass, but to increase one’s appetite. To live an authentic life as Vincentian missionaries, it is essential to return continually to the writings of St. Vincent and those who, like us, fell in love with this man and who shaped their lives by clothing themselves in the spirit of Jesus Christ. It is also important to learn from history and to live in accord with the Constitutions.
During this year, we prayed every day: This is your house, O Lord God, this is your house. Let there not be in it, I beg you, not even one stone which your most holy hand has not placed there. Preserve in your name those whom you have called and make them truly holy. We asked the Lord to do only his will, to guard us and help us become holy. We have become more aware of our limitations and weaknesses and more aware of our responsibility to grow in holiness and to be a protagonist for change. With freedom, God makes us aware of the fact that we participate in the process of maturation and, in freedom, we enter into a deeper relationship with God and with others.
This year was also time to live the mission and to intensify our life in the Congregation. Community life cannot be theoretical, ideological, or abstract, but must be embodied and lived. Father Stanislav Zontak, CM, told us that it is wrong to think that we can live and fulfill our vocation outside the community. We belong to the congregation because we share common values and the community is the path to our holiness. There is no ideal community! The building up of the community takes place in accord with the truth that each one of us lives. It is essential to adopt a posture of growth: an awareness of who we are, an awareness of the limitations of the community (signs that we are not yet living in the kingdom of heaven). Throughout this year we have lived and shared our life with many people … to all of them we express my sincere thanks. The Turin community taught us the meaning of the words WELCOME and GENEROSITY; the community of Chieri taught us the meaning of the words CARE, RESPECT, FRATERNITY; the Funchal community taught us the meaning of the words PERSISTENCE and VALUATION; the Salvaterra de Magos community taught us the meaning of the words ACCOMPANIMENT and MISSION. the poet Florbela Espanca says: words are like songs: the wind blows them … nevertheless, the encounters and experiences that are cited here remain as a fire that burns within our heart. In our heart we also hold all those who, in many different ways, made this year more intense and fruitful. We highlight here the Casa Santa Luisa il 24; house of the Daughters of Charity in Turin where the Sisters serve the poorest and where engaged in a morning of service every week; the community Chiesa della Pace and all those who contributed to our formation. We do not travel the road alone nor do we travel with only those who are close to us … but we also travel with those who, even though they might be far away, walk by our side. Thank you all for your patience, your presence and your prayers. With freedom, God makes us aware of the fact that we participate in the process of maturation and, in freedom, we enter into a deeper relationship with God and with others.
Thank you, Lord, for all the times that we have been able to find you during this year in so many different people and experiences. Thank you, Lord, for everything you have done in our life. We particularly thank you for the opportunity to meet Father Gerry (Gherardo Armani, CM), who today is with you. We know that the tears we shed are difficult to dry, but they are a sign of hearts that have been marked forever. Help us, Lord, to say with Frederic Ozanam: Lord, we want what You want, we want it as you want it and for as long as you want it … we want it because you want it.
Translated: Charles T. Plock, CM
Eastern Province, USA
 Vincent de Paul, Correspondence, Conference, Documents, translators: Helen Marie Law, DC (Vol. 1), Marie Poole, DC (Vol. 1-14), James King, CM (Vol. 1-2), Francis Germovnik, CM (Vol. 1-8, 13a-13b [Latin]), Esther Cavanagh, DC (Vol. 2), Ann Mary Dougherty, DC (Vol. 12); Evelyne Franc, DC (Vol. 13a-13b), Thomas Davitt, CM (Vol. 13a-13b [Latin]), Glennon E. Figge, CM (Vol. 13a-13b [Latin]), John G. Nugent, CM (Vol. 13a-13b [Latin]), Andrew Spellman, CM (Vol. 13a-13b [Latin]); edited: Jacqueline Kilar, DC (Vol. 1-2), Marie Poole, DC (Vol. 2-13b), Julia Denton, DC [editor-in-chief] (Vol. 3-10, 13a-13b), Paule Freeburg, DC (Vol. 3), Mirian Hamway, DC (Vol. 3), Elinor Hartman, DC (Vol. 4-10, 13a-13b), Ellen Van Zandt, DC (Vol. 9-13b), Ann Mary Dougherty (Vol. 11-12 and 14); annotated: John W. Carven, CM (Vol. 1-13b); New City Press, Brooklyn and Hyde Park, 1985-2014, volume XIIIa, p. 169. Future references to this work will be inserted into the text using the initials [CCD] followed by the volume number, followed by the page number, for example, CCD:XIIIa:169.