Pope Francis meets with the Salesian Sisters of St. John Bosco in Rome on Oct. 22, 2021. / Vatican Media
Rome, Italy, Oct 23, 2021 / 08:30 am (CNA).
Pope Francis paid a visit to the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians on Friday and asked the religious sisters to pray for him as they live out their mission of service to the young and the poor.
“Thank you for who you are and what you do. I am close to you with prayer and I bless you and all your sisters in the world,” Pope Francis told the Salesian sisters on Oct. 22.
“And I ask you to pray for me; it is not easy to be the pope!”
Pope Francis spent the morning at the General House of the Salesian Sisters of St. John Bosco, as they are commonly known. He encouraged the sisters to imitate the Blessed Virgin Mary, who “always points to Jesus.”
“Openness to the Holy Spirit enables you to persevere in your commitment to be generative communities in your service to the young and the poor,” Pope Francis said.
“These are missionary communities, going out to announce the Gospel to the peripheries with the passion of the first Daughters of Mary Help of Christians.”
The religious congregation, founded by St. John Bosco and St. Mary Mazzarello in 1872, has grown to become the largest congregation of women religious in the world with 11,000 sisters in 97 countries, according to their website.
Pope Francis encouraged the sisters to work to ensure that their community life is intergenerational, so that the elderly are never separated completely from the younger sisters.
“It is true that old people can sometimes become a little capricious — we are like that — and the flaws in old age are more visible, but it is also true that the elderly have that wisdom, that great wisdom of life: the wisdom of fidelity to grown old in one’s vocation,” the pope said.
“Yes, there will be homes for the elderly who cannot lead a normal life, they are bedridden, … but go there all the time to visit the elderly, to spend time with them. They are the treasure of history,” he added.
Pope Francis shared a story from the life of St. Therese of Lisieux as recorded in her autobiography, “The Story of a Soul.”
The pope said: “I am so helped by that experience of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, who accompanied an old nun, who could hardly walk.”
“The poor old woman, who was a bit neurotic, complained about everything, but she [St. Therese] looked at her with love,” he said.
“And it happened once, in the walk from the sanctuary to the refectory, that a noise was heard from outside … there was a party nearby. And little Therese said: ‘I will never exchange this for that.’ She understood the greatness of her vocation.”
The Salesian sisters have held their 24th General Chapter in Rome from Sept. 11 to Oct. 24 focused on the theme: “Communities that generate life in the heart of the contemporary world”
Pope Francis told the congregation to go forward with enthusiasm, accompanied by the Virgin Mary, on the path that the Holy Spirit proposes with a watchful eye to recognize the needs of the world.
He asked the sisters to have “a heart open to welcome the promptings of God’s grace … and a heart always in love with the Lord.”