As the Poor Handmaids have grown as an international congregation, so have their prayer. Prayer styles from all the different countries enriched their prayer experience at GPR.
They have become very clear about the importance of internationality as a basic part of their congregational culture. As many externals may change, they are also convinced of the importance of deep-rooted spirituality grounded in prayer—prayer that often needs to be expressed in multi-cultural ways. Within a few days, the GPR participants experienced prayer in the different languages, sometimes with many words; prayer with many images, such as the feathers of St. Hildegard’s “feather blown by the breath of God,” incense, flower petals; the Arathi from India and dance to the rhythm of the drum from Africa. Several participants expressed their reflections on these experiences.
Sister Arntrudis (Germany) says: “I was present at World Youth Day in Cologne and thus experienced international prayer with youth. I am fascinated that we can now do this in our congregation.”
Sister Magna (Brazil) states: “For me, it is experiencing the diverse faces of God, united in one prayer, diversified in the cultures of all people.”
Says Sister Sushma (India/Kenya): “Having different forms of prayer was a wonderful experience. The use of symbols and expressions revealed the mystery of God beyond words. The language, understood or not, did not disturb me because God is above all languages. The forms of prayer which we had during GPR also helped us to understand better and appreciate our internationality.”
From Sister Petricia (Germany/Nigeria) who also lives internationality in her everyday life, we heard: “It is a great gift to share in the prayers of an international group of Poor Handmaids. The elements of other cultures enrich my prayer life and also help me to develop my relationship with God, to grow deeper and stronger roots in our PHJC spirituality. When I have difficulties with an unknown language—I still know that God understands and accepts my struggling.”
A young Sister in her first GPR experience, but not her first international experience, says, “During the days of the GPR, sharing with PHJCs from nine countries, I could appreciate the manifold richness of expression as Poor Handmaids. There is mutuality as Sisters bring life experiences to our congregation through prayer, and as the Sisters show their openness to know new forms of prayer. I thank God for the diversity in the unity in our prayer, unity in the same charism which God called our foundress to live, and which we now continue and share in our prayer.” (Sister Elvia, Mexico)
Sister Jacqueline (Kenya) summarizes well what was expressed above with her own reflection. “The organization of prayer by different groups of Sisters and cultures was enriching and nourishing. It showed a gradual integration in internationality. The participation and expressions show true joy and enjoyment by all present. It would be boring if it were all the same. I love the different cultures but one spirit, the PHJC spirit that brings us all together as one.”
- Sister Edith Schneider, PHJC