Common life, prayer, and formation: a testimony from the house of formation of the Missionary Sisters of St. Charles Borromeo.

In Rome, between the verdant park of Villa Pamphili and the scenic overlook on via Piccolomini, one finds the house of formation that welcomes the young women who desire to enter our community. Here, they live a simple daily life which consists of prayer and communion among the sisters based on what Don Massimo called “the monastic skeleton”; this basic structure gives our days a rhythm that is steady and, at the same time, intense. God comes first: the morning begins with Lauds followed by two hours of adoration and silence. After, there are lessons or personal study depending on the courses of our school. In the afternoon, we work around the house: there are those who work as secretary or treasurer, those who take care of grocery shopping, who prepare the lodgings for guests, organize the sacristy. The hour before each meal is dedicated to cooking, cleaning, laundry, and gardening so that everyone can learn to take care of the house and of her sisters. Lunch and dinner, divided between the houses of the novices and that of the professed, are moments of dialogue and sharing. Finally, in the evening, everything converges in Vespers and the offering of the Mass.
A paradigmatic time of our life is the preparation for December 8th, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Mary and the feast day of the house of formation. On this day, we contemplate the beauty of Mary, received by the grace of God. This is the day on which each of us professes our first vows after the novitiate year: a “yes” in front of God, in front of our community, and in front of the world. From that moment we wear the religious habit that identifies us. Those who will take vows first spend nine days in retreat at the Cistercian monastery of Cortona, which has welcomed us now for years for this important moment of preparation. We prepare ourselves in silence and prayer because the most important things happen in the soul, in the dialogue between each of us and God. It is from a heart made new that Christ changes the world.
In the meantime, the house of formation in Rome becomes a beehive of activity: everyone works together so that everything is ready for the big celebration. Our community is divided into teams for cooking, cleaning, logistics, tailoring, and liturgy. A sister’s big “yes” is accompanied and supported by the hidden “yes” of every other sister who, by arranging the flowers, sewing the new habits and veils, preparing the songs, or unfolding the tablecloths, offers her work for that sister’s vocation. Every year we have the same experience: the intense work of those days is carried out with profound joy.
In the end, the vows mark the passage from the house of the novitiates to the house of the professed, where the journey towards definitive profession continues.  By the “yes” of a sister, the novices are reminded to look at the horizon of the journey that they are on, while the professed take joy in being able to welcome a new member into the house. Every time that one of us consecrates herself, she renews in each of us the desire to give our life to Christ. We are struck every time by the radiant beauty of the newly-professed. What is the source of this joy, this beauty? Being in formation means beginning to take on a new form, that of Christ, allowing that our life be conformed to Him. In the years of formation, we discover that our deepest identity is belonging: being women who have chosen virginity and who belong entirely to God and to our community.


In the photo, a moment from the ceremony of simple vows of the sisters

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