Pope Francis received participants in a pilgrimage promoted by the Sisters Disciples of Jesus in the Eucharist, and encouraged them to let their love of the Eucharistic Lord inspire care for “the poorest, the most despised, and the most marginalized members of the Body of Christ.”
Pope Francis greets participants in the pilgrimage organized by the Sisters Disciplies of Jesus in the Eucharist (VATICAN MEDIA Divisione Foto)
Pope Francis encouraged the Sisters Disciples of Jesus in the Eucharist to be “vasa Domini, ‘welcoming chalices’, kneeling before the Tabernacle and with your arms always open wide to your brothers and sisters,” as he received them in audience at the Vatican.

The Sisters Disciples had undertaken the pilgrimage on the occasion of the centenary of their founding, in October 1923, by Venerable Bishop Raffaello Delle Nocche and two young women, Linda Machina and Silvia Di Somma.

Poor servants of a poor people

Recalling the foundation of the group, Pope Francis said, “The Holy Spirit inspired their action through the concrete and pressing call of a local Church: that of Tricarico, in the heart of Lucania,” which had suffered for long years without a pastor and in 1923 still bore the scars of the First World War and the outbreak of the so-called “Spanish” flu.

Without male or female religious in his diocese, Bishop Delle Nocche, with the approval of the reigning Pope, founded an institute “that could help him in his service to the least.”

“Thus were born the Sisters Disciples of Jesus in the Eucharist,” Pope Francis said, “poor servants of a poor people, supportive in sharing their labours and prophetic in promoting their human and religious redemption.”

Love, unity, and charity

The Pope noted that the Eucharist – “the sacrament of love, sign of unity, and bond of charity”, as Vatican II says – was at the heart of their lives: “Love, unity, and charity; to adore, serve and repair, that is, to fill with tenderness the wounds and voids produced by sin in man and society, beginning by kneeling before Jesus in the Consecrated Host, and remaining there for a long time.”

By the world’s standards, spending time in Eucharistic adoration when there are so many pressing needs might seem absurd; however the Pope noted, the Sisters’ time in prayer “generated a contagious force, which soon led them to undertake and and promote works of material, cultural, and spiritual redemption far beyond all expectations.” Pope Francis explained that the Sisters “unleashed a different kind of ‘war’, a war against poverty, against  injustice; and spread a different kind of epidemic, an epidemic of love.”

‘Welcoming chalices’

The Holy Father then called on the pilgrims, the “witnesses and heirs, but also the continuators” of the original Sisters, saying that, “starting from pausing in the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist – the Bread broken and the Master Who washes the disciples’ feet, you also learn to look upon your brothers and sisters through the magnifying glass of the consecrated Host.” The Eucharist, he said, “urges you to care… especially for the poorest, most despised, and most marginalized members of the Body of Christ.”

And recalling their founder’s call for the Sisters Disciples to be vasa Domini “vessels of the Lord”, Pope Francis concluded, “This, seems to me to be a beautiful image of your mission: to strip yourselves of self, to have ‘your purse always empty, as your founder often repeated, in order to be open and spacious ‘vessels,’ ready to welcome everyone and to carry everyone in your hearts before God, so that each, in turn, can make a gift of his or her life.”

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