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First international meeting of Little Sisters, Laity and Associates of Our Lady of the Assumption

With the participation of laity and of AOLA delegates from Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Spain, USA, France, Ireland, and the Republic of the Congo, the “first international Assumptionist meeting of Laity” took place together with the International Commission for the Laity, and Little Sisters of the Assumption. The theme of this meeting was: The “Charism, source of life and shared mission”. This, more than being a mere phrase, was a call to see in a new way the union in the mission between laity and Little Sisters.

 The meeting was an opportunity to get to know personally the laity and LSA from other countries, their work, their life, and to discover that we, laity and Little Sisters, have truly a “Shared Mission”: to work for the Reign of God, each one with distinctive talents and abilities, but united in heart to bring about the salvation of human beings.

One of the highlights of this meeting was the opportunity the laity had to make a pilgrimage retracing the paths of our Assumptionist founders: Etienne Pernet and Antoinette Fage. During this pilgrimage, we were able to sense their efforts, joys and worries and, in this way, go more deeply into the origins of our community, that of the Little Sisters of the Assumption. Also, it was the occasion to rediscover that their efforts were worthwhile because they are still bearing fruit long after the foundation of the community. The fruits of the Assumption come to us year after year in the poorest and most vulnerable communities, as in every place where an Assumptionist brother is to be found. 
We had the joy of listening to the talks given by a Little Sister of the Assumption from Spain, Pilar Trillo, and the Marianist Father José María Arnaiz, from Chile, who led us in the reflection on the themes of “Justice, Peace and the integrity of Creation” and “Shared life and mission” respectively. 
During those days, there were very special moments because of that encounter of so many different cultures, languages and countries, but having much in common: The Assumptionist Charism. Love for the service of those who need us most, the immense desire to imitate Jesus Christ, Servant and Saviour. The immense desire to help the weakest because in them we encounter God, and the feeling of great happiness when everything contributes to the building of the Reign of God. 
The diversity that was experienced in that first meeting represented the union of a variety of cultures, languages and different ways of being. Everybody gathered together in the same spirit and the same charism. It was a symbol of peace and joy among the laity with no account taken of where they come from because the world is for all. That is why the Assumption should be expressed in each gesture, in each word and in each work, no matter how small it may be. It is necessary to succeed in having a common and fraternal sharing between all the persons in the places where we are because the joy of sharing this world represents the solidary quest for peace, for a world that is more just and better for all. The inclusion of each person everywhere will be the result of working to overcome the barriers that separate us, building together a world that will be more human and accessible for all. 
We should emphasise the fact that it was the first time that we laity from all over the world met to share our experiences and express our ideas as “A Charismatic Family of the Assumption”. 
We arrived for this meeting as a group of unknown persons from different parts of the world, full of questions and also of curiosity to know what each one would have to say concerning his/her country. We arrived without knowing what mission would be presented by each one of us, but in each presentation of the mission made by our lay sisters and brothers the Holy Spirit was working in our heart until there was a real transformation and union, a real communion of sisters and brothers in Christ. 
In using the word transformation, we are referring to the trans-formation that is like a fire in your soul, that changes you for life. It was truly a privileged moment for meeting together again with Jesus through the presentations on the reality and mission of each of the countries participating, and through our own lives. We learnt from each of the presentations. The one by the brothers from the USA reminded us that we bear the light of Christ within us and that we must transmit this light to others; the brothers from Canada reminded us that we lay persons can continue the mission of the Little Sisters there wherever we may be, the brothers from Colombia reminded us that war will never extinguish the joy we have, those from France reminded us that the fraternities are an open space for sharing sincerely with our brothers. Each delegation brought with it a little miracle that continued nourishing our Assumptionist charism. 
It was marvellous to listen to one another and know that we share the same charism, to discover that we were a family and that we had the same parents: Etienne Pernet and Antoinette Fage. In each word spoken we could feel the simplicity, the commitment and the love of each lay participant and see in them the face of Jesus. 
Each person who spoke at this meeting did so from the heart and helped in the transformation of all of us who participated in that First International Meeting of the Laity. The intervention of Father José Maria Arnaiz was fundamental, making us remember where we come from and reminding us that we have a great mission ahead of us as laity of the Assumption; we have many things to give, and there is a lot of work to be done. 
During the meeting, we also attended the mass during which three participants: Solange Da Silva Galdino, Maria Do Carmo Da Silva (Brazil) and Diana Nevière (France) made their commitment as Lay Associates of the community of the Little Sisters. It was a moment of deep emotion for all and it was beautiful to be able to share this marvellous time as a family. Also, the lay persons who had come from Colombia, the USA, Belgium and France were able to renew their commitment. 
This first meeting commits us as laypersons to follow Jesus, to take this step that will enable us to go beyond ourselves in order to build the Reign. It made us realise that, alone, we can do nothing, but if we lean on Jesus and on our founders, we can succeed in everything. It was a moment to renew our strength, and our faith; this meeting reminded us that each one of us has a talent that must not remain hidden but must be placed at the service of our brothers and sisters in each one of our countries. 
We end this article in the same way in which we ended the meeting – sending to each one of the persons who might read this article a mission, from each one of the countries in which they may be. Let us imagine that it is our founders who are sending us on mission: “(your name), we send you …. Go, and may your actions speak Jesus Christ.” 

Luzmarina Giraldo and Diana Nevière, Paris, July /August 2016
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