The first woman ever to be appointed a member of a Vatican congregation explains that “women still have much to give to the Church with their personal charisma.” Sr. Luzia Premoli, superior general of the Combonian Missionary Sisters, was appointed a member of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples on Sept. 13, and spoke recently to CNA. “The appointment took me by surprise, I did not expect it … but I was also joyful, because the appointment is a concretization of Pope Francis’ wish for more women in high ranking positions in the Catholic Church,” Sr. Premoli said. She added that her appointment “shows Pope Francis’ commitment” to having more women as decision-makers in the ranks of the Church. While women served in the Vatican already, as consultants or even under-secretaries and members of pontifical councils, there had never been a woman appointed as a member of a congregation, the higher ranking departments of the Roman curia. A native of Brazil and a Comboni sister from the age of 23, Sr. Premoli spent eight years as a missionary in Mozambique, and another eight in Brazil, where she was appointed provincial. She was elected superior general of her order in 2010. “Our charism is that of evangelizing peoples who have still not received the Gospel, and to help local Churches to be missionaries in their local environment and at the same time to be open to all the missionary challenges in the world,” Sr. Premoli said. Asked what she remembered most about her missionary experience, Sr. Premoli spoke of her time in Mozambique. “I was there in 1989, it was the time of a civil war, and I noticed that people evaluated every little thing they had: a piece of soap, a dress … after four years, I went back to Brazil on a vacation, and I felt just like I was going to another world, where things were wasted, and there was a love for unnecessary things.” She added that her experience “was a lesson to live a more sober life, to be able to evaluate everything we have.” During her experience as a missionary, she was also impressed by the fact that “in the midst of tragedies, women always carried their children on their shoulders, and that children were quiet and calm, as though the mother’s touch let them feel protected.” Motherhood is the contribution women can give to Church’s life, according to Sr. Premoli. “The Church is called 'mother', and a mother must bear the announce ment of this full and joyful life Jesus had given us.” She underscored that “although the Church has given an organization with almost exclusively men in the top ranks, the communities are full of women that give their personal contribution to the life of the Church.” The biggest contribution women can give to Church’s life is “the way women gaze at things, and their being heartfelt. Women have this peculiar passion, which probably come from their being capable of maternity,” explained Sr. Premoli. Sr. Premoli explained that “missionaries are needed everywhere, since mission can no longer be circumscribed to geographical areas. There is a mission within cities, there is a mission in different countries.”
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