Synod – “high expectations” and “infinite hope”
At the Vatican press briefing which followed the morning session, Alba Teresa Cediel Castillo, M.M.L., of Colombia, a member of the Missionary Sisters of Mary Immaculate of Saint Catherine of Siena, spoke of the “great joy” she feels in her heart to represent indigenous women, campesino women, women who live in great urban areas and also religious women at the synod. She is one of 10 representatives of the International Union of Superiors General, the leadership organization that represents 500,000 religious sisters and nuns who largely work on the frontiers.
Sister Castillo described the many challenges faced by women in the Amazon: the great distances they cover; forced migration due to drug trafficking, poverty and other factors; and problems related to extractive activities like mining. There are “high expectations” and “infinite hope” that the synod is “ready to listen to the voices of indigenous peoples, campesinos,” including women who will “make their voices heard,” she said.
In response to a question about whether she is satisfied with the way women have been part of the synod process and whether it is enough, Sister Castillo responded that the synod’s preparatory process has been “incredible” since it has involved “the great participation of indigenous people, young children, adults” as well as “young sisters and the eldest sisters” who have worked in Amazonia.
She said there is a “great and fertile” presence of women in the Amazon forests and, since there are few priests, women baptize children and preside at marriages. She added, “Sometimes we also have to listen to confessions. Of course, we cannot give absolution, but we place ourselves in a position of humbleness, listen to the person and give a word of comfort, perhaps before death.”
The role of women in the church “has to become greater,” she said. “We will get there, little by little. We cannot exert too much pressure, but through dialogue and meetings, we will be able to respond to the many challenges.”
This synod session has a wonderful buzz — to see good sensible spiritual Catholics shaped by Vatican II and liberation theology share their insights and aspirations and respond so passionately to the needs of humanity gives me great hope for the future of the Church, powered by the Gospel, which will be very different from its past.