Interview with Sr. Benita Gamallo, Superior General of the Servants of the Heart of Jesus.
Today we are celebrating the Feast of the Annunciation. Why is this day special for your Congregation?
For us it is important because our foundress Oliva, who as a religious was called Mary of the Heart of Jesus, was born on March 25. Moreover, she saw in this date, in this coincidence, a divine sign that already announced the vocation to which she was called. That is why our Congregation, like yours, I believe, is summed up in Ecce Venio and Ecce Ancilla.
Let us speak a little about your foundress whom our founder, Fr. Dehon, always called “la chère mère”, the dear mother. For our Congregation, for Fr. Dehon, she was a very important personality, very strong and very spiritual. How do you see this personality today?
For our Congregation and for each of us, there is a very strong bond with our foundress because everything begins with her experience of faith, which she was able to transmit to us a charism, founding this religious family. We know that the charism is something alive and it can change and develop everything that is alive. We continue to refer to this strong experience of faith of our foundress and we try to adapt this charism to the challenges of today. However, she always remains the point of reference, the starting point.
The evolution of the understanding of the charism can also be seen in the new site of the Congregation that you have recently opened on www.servantesducoeurdejesus.com. Reading the texts on the site, I realize a very strong charismatic closeness between our congregations. Would it be possible to tell us very briefly about the key words of your charism?
I would begin with the spirituality of the Heart of Jesus. For us it is the open heart, in which we see this tenderness of God for man. This is truly fundamental. We are called to share and spread among the people of today, this merciful love of God.
Secondly, it is Adoration. Adoration, for us, is not a devotion, it is a mission. It is the principal mission that the Church has entrusted to us. As long as our Congregation lasts, we must respond to this mission. Adoration is lived in different ways, depending on the community. It can be lived communally, all together, it can be lived in a whole evening, when one sister after another adores, it does not matter. The important thing is that this fidelity be daily. Adoration is the extension of the Eucharist, letting Jesus continue in us the mission of being an offering (oblation) and of presenting to the Father the needs, the joys, the sufferings, our whole humanity. This, in a nutshell, is the meaning of adoration for us.
Thirdly, Reparation, for us, is the attitude of welcoming God’s love, the response to this love, aware that we respond from the love received. This reparation is important for us because we know that there is no mediator, no greater repairer than Christ Himself. This acceptance, this reparation, which is difficult to explain to today’s world, finds its meaning only in the light of the mystery of redemption. Jesus realized this and we enter into this redemptive movement.
However, here enters a very important word, Oblation. This means, as it does for you, this profound union with Jesus, united with him, entering into this movement of redemption that Jesus has already realized for us. We welcome him, we enter into this movement and we share it with those around us. It is from here that our apostolate develops, there would be much to say, and it is very topical.
Listening to you, it seems to me that we hear an introduction to Dehonian spirituality; these words of adoration, love, reparation, oblation, apostolate, are also key words for us in our charism. One last question: Today, do we continue to have relations between the two Congregations?
Yes. It depends a lot, on where we are. For example, I was a formator for 15 years in Cameroon, and I know that in your novitiate, there is a lot of talk about the Soeurs Servantes, and they are our sisters who intervene in your novitiate. Whether in Spain, in France, wherever we are we have a strong relationship with the Dehonians. In Spain, it is very normal to speak of ‘our sisters’ as well as ‘our brothers’ – and we help each other. Now, I would like to take this opportunity to salute the memory of Fr. Bourgeois who helped us so much, Fr. Perroux, and Fr. Conrath who continues to help us – besides so many other Dehonians who are important to us.
I believe that we have a challenge that would be to get to know each other even better, and above all to collaborate more in order to deepen our spirituality and our charism, insofar as it is common to us. This would be an important sign for today.
Sister Benita, thank you for being with us, thank you for this interview and we wish you a very happy feast of the Annunciation.
Thank you as well and know that our Generalate is always open to all of you!