By Vatican News
It was Saint Paul VI, when still Archbishop of Milan, who had the intuition of involving consecrated women to assist him with his pastoral ministry. His decision shows an affiliation with the saint whose name he chose as Pope: the Apostle Paul who, in his letters, speaks of both men and women collaborators who played significant roles in the early evangelization.
Women’s presence in the Church
In prepared remarks, handed to a group of Collaborators and Auxiliaries from Milan and other dioceses in Northern Italy, in the Vatican on Saturday, Pope Francis acknowledged their history and identity, saying it was “significant as a form of women’s presence in the Church”.
The Pope highlighted the importance of their history as Collaborators and Auxiliaries, born “from life… from collaboration with priests in parish and diocesan pastoral work”. He cited the example of Mary Magdalene, “Apostle of the Apostles”, and her “particular charism of the faith and love for the Lord”. But the other women Jesus welcomed among His disciples also had “a decisive presence in the stories of the Resurrection”, said Pope Francis.
The contribution of lay people
The Pope went on to address the contribution of lay people and the experience of collaborating directly with pastors in serving the people of God, in parishes, oratories, prisons and among the poor. “In those who live this sometimes hard and tiring work, the Holy Spirit sows special gifts of dedication, which can also become consecration in the Church”, he said.
Collaboration with the Bishop
Pope Francis said there are common factors connecting the different pastoral experiences and diocesan realities: “the essential one is that the Bishop is attentive to a gift that is found in the community, a gift that corresponds to a pastoral need, not only to a function, it is not a functionalism, and then makes a discernment”. In this way, the Pope continued, “the charism is evaluated, accepted and recognized, and receives its own form in that diocesan community”. Close collaboration with the Bishop is essential, he added.
Charism, mission and passion
Those present at the Audience in the Vatican on Saturday collaborate with their Bishops in a variety of pastoral activities: from education and counseling, to providing health care, serving the poor, the sick and the elderly, accompanying prisoners, migrants and refugees.
Pope Francis said he appreciated that, in presenting their charism, they referred to a passage from Evangelii gaudium: "Mission is at once a passion for Jesus and a passion for His people. He takes us from the midst of His people and He sends us to His people; without this sense of belonging, we cannot understand our deepest identity”.
“For you”, concluded Pope Francis, “this people has the concrete face of your diocese”.