Two very different and very significant experiences characterise the Italian landscape.
La sororità (the Sorority) was born in 1996 in Mantua as ispired by the charismatic figure of theologian Ivana Ceresa (1942-2009) who with her book “Dire Dio al femminile” (Say God to the Feminine) shakes the conscience of many women and invites them to affirm “the symbolic female order” both in the Church and society. The beguinal inspiration for Ivana and her “sisters” is well established already in the introduction of the Rule of the Order of Sorority in which is made explicit mention of the Beguines of the North. The Rule will be approved in 2002 by the bishop of Mantua Mgr Egidio Caporello. This ecclesiastical acknowledgment was strongly desired “not to exist but to give birth to a church with the feminine presence, when at the moment it is still captured by the symbolic male order“. The Rule is secular and also preconceives the presence of women without or with other faiths and religions. At present, Sorority brings together about forty women, socially and culturally successfull, within five territorial units in Mantua and the province (2 in Mantua, 1 in Ostiglia, 1 in Asola and 1 in Grazie) and 1 unit in Milan. Among them we remember the artist Monica Palma who made a theatrical trilogy of the works of Mechthild of Magdeburg, Hadewijch and Marguerite Porete and the iconographer Martina Bugada who “wrote” their respective three icons. Sorority’s “sisters” are generally married, mothers and grandmothers. These women with multiple commitments interact and help each other to become a yeast “in the Church and in society“of the symbolic feminine order through their way of being in the world and the quality of their commitment.
In October 2018, the Sorority inaugurates a new association of volunteers: In the garden of the beguines. Its headquarters is offered by the congregation of the “Little daughters of Holy Mary Crowned” (via Dugoni, 12 – Mantua). In the garden of the beguines wants to be a meeting place and support for all women, of all creeds and cultures, who acts in defense and promotion of women. The primary instrument will be human relations, as a prerequisite for the construction of a humanity of justice, even of gender, and of sorority, thus promoting a new female symbolic order as well
New beguines in popular neighborhoods.
On the wake of council Vatican II, in the 80s, 20 religious women from the Stigmatine congregation, founded by Anna Fiorelli (1809-1860), settle in the degraded urban suburbs where “the stigma of our time is dramatically open“. There are therefore different communities of life: 3 in the outskirts of Naples, 1 in Calabria and 3 in Rome. Of the three Romans, the best known is the one in the sadly famous Tor Bella Monaca district : a ghetto of dreary condominiums whose housing are attributed by the Municipality to poor families only. Here, thanks to a patient and courageous daily commitment since 1986 by Maria Leporini and Tilde Silvestri, a popular community is formed and the EUTOPIA association (etymologically “the good place”) is born, which wants to give voice and space to the resilience of the poor and their capacity of self-liberation. Resilience is this powerful ability to react to adversity, a self-rebuilding force able to reorganize your life positively, despite the difficult situations that might put it into negativity.
No longer supported by their mother-house that requires them to reinstate the convents, for loyalty to Christ and their founder, these courageous women decide to continue living where their vocation had brought them, that is, in the degraded urban suburbs. After a lengthy 6-year negotiation, they are “excommunicated” by their congregation through a formal decree of the Holy See which in 2009 communicates to them the cessation of the institutional bond. Since then, they are defined themselves as “new beguines, free women, and committed to building fraternity in the Gospel and Franciscan model“.
My personal contacts with the women involves in these two experiences.
Metter in ordine la differenza: l’esperienza della Sororità di Mantova, http://www.iaphitalia.org/images/sororita.pdf
The contents of Martina Bugada and Tilde Silvestri at the meeting “Beghine e Bizzoche in Italia: ieri e oggi”, Gargnano, 2016