A religious sister from Colombia taking part in the Amazon synod said on Monday that her congregation and other women’s religious congregations play a big role in the life of the Catholic Church in the Amazon.
“The presence of women in the Amazon is very great and very fertile. I do think we are very important as women, as far as our presence in the Amazonian forest,” Sr Alba Teresa Cediel Castillo of the Missionary Sisters of Mary Immaculate and Saint Catherine of Siena told journalists at a press briefing on October 7.
She said that because there are so few priests and bishops in the Amazon, they have to spend a lot of time moving around from place to place to minister to the different communities, but women religious are able to be a more stable presence, contributing to things such as education, healthcare, and development projects.
“What do we do? Well, everything that a woman can do,” Cediel said, explaining that when priests are not available, sisters from her congregation will perform baptisms. She also said that though they are not able to hear sacramental confessions and give absolution, the sisters do their best to “listen to the hearts” of the people they serve. “We accompany [people] when priests cannot be there,” she said.
Cediel also mentioned overseeing marriages, though she did not clarify exactly what she meant by that. According to Latin rite canon law, a couple may validly and licitly exchange consent before other witnesses when there is no possibility, and will not be for a very long time, of exchanging consent before a priest or deacon.
The sister said her congregation and others in the Amazon were very involved in the pre-synodal process and in giving feedback for the creation of the working document, or instrumentum laboris.
Since Pope Francis announced the Amazon synod in 2017, she said they “started working at all levels” to listen to the indigenous people in the communities they serve and to relay this information to the Synod of Bishops.
She said she has high expectations and “infinite hope” for the Amazon synod. “We are a part of this process. Where we work, we have already had significant experiences working with these people and their life environment.”
Contributing to the instrumentum laboris “was an experience that enriched us,” she said.
Cediel noted the richness of the Amazon, saying before it was a “hidden garden,” but now it is under everyone’s eyes. She lamented that people now pay attention to the Amazon not to see the people who live there, but “to understand how they can grab all this richness.”
Having been unable to sell in churches for well over a year due to the pandemic, we are now inviting readers to support the Herald by investing in our future. We have been a bold and influential voice in the church since 1888, standing up for traditional Catholic culture and values.
Please join us on our 130 year mission by supporting us. We are raising £250,000 to safeguard the Herald as a world-leading voice in Catholic journalism and teaching. For more information from our chairman on contributing to the Herald Patron's Fund, click here
Make a Donation
Donors giving £500 or more will automatically become sponsor patrons of the Herald. This includes two complimentary print/digital gift subscriptions, invitations to Patron events, pilgrimages and dinners, and 6 gift subscriptions sent to priests, seminaries, Catholic schools, religious care homes and prison and university chaplaincies. Click here for more information on becoming a Patron Sponsor. Click here for more information about contributing to the Herald Patron's Fund