A new Religious Institute at the Service of Christ and the Virgin of Matará: Interview of the General Superior, Mother Maria de Anima Christi van Eijk.

(Our translation from the original interview published in Spanish by ZENIT.)

ROME, Tuesday 9 January 2007 (ZENIT.org).- Mother Maria de Anima Christi van Eijk, general superior of the Institute Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matará, reveals in this interview the priorities of this new religious institute and recognizes that she often finds more spiritually poor in her own country (Holland) than in other countries of mission although “today every country is a mission country.”

Mother Maria de Anima Christi van Eijk was born in 1970. After studying Art History in the University of Nimega, in Holland, she moved to Rome to continue her studies. At the age of 25, she entered religious life and moved to Argentina. Since 1998, she has been the General Superior of this new Institute.

The Institute Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matara, (www.servidoras.org), together with the Institute of the Incarnate Word (IVE), form the Religious Family of the Incarnate Word (www.ive.org), founded in Argentina in 1984, by Father Carlos Miguel Buela.

Both Institutes are composed of an apostolic and a contemplative branch, as well as the Third Order Secular.

At present there are approximately 750 religious in 22 countries such as Egypt, Tajikistan, Russia, Ukraine, Argentina, Iceland, Spain, Italy, USA, Papua New Guinea and Taiwan.

This Institute is of diocesan right and was approved on March 24, 2004, by Monsignor Andrea Maria Erba, then Bishop of the Diocese of Velletri-Segni (Italy).

Mother Maria de Anima Christi received Zenit at the Procuria Generalate of this Religious Institute in Rome, dedicated to “John Paul the Great.”

To today’s world, the “Incarnate Word” must be difficult to understand, just as “to prolong the Word” as well as other phrases that characterize your charism. How can we explain this in another way?

Mother Maria de Anima Christi van Eijk: In Holland, my place of birth, I almost always have to explain it. The Incarnate Word is Jesus Christ, God made man. When we say, “to prolong the Word,” we refer to a way of life according to the Gospel following the example of Jesus Christ. The Gospel is not only for us religious, it is for everyone and we have to make this known, to bring it to the world. Where the world speaks of hate and war, Jesus Christ speaks of forgiveness and peace.

Today many people still do not know Jesus Christ and His message: that is where the urgency of the mission is, to prolong the Word in the cultures of man, in all the manifestations of man, especially in this culture where death seems to prevail.

We are first of all missionaries and we can say that we have three main lines of apostolate: the first is the proclamation of the Word, to catechize.

The second is the works of mercy: to know Jesus in the poor, the elderly, the orphan, and the handicapped. In the gospel we see the value of life, the love for life from its conception to natural death, love of our neighbor and the love of God.

The third is contemplation, to obtain graces by means of prayer. Our contemplative sisters remind us that God is the only necessary thing; they teach us to raise our minds towards Heaven.

Why do you insist on the “breathing with two lungs,” the Latin and the Eastern?

The two lungs are always present in the Church, this is an expression that John Paul II used, whom we feel very united to having been born under his pontificate and having been illuminated by his example and doctrine.

Our founder desired that we have in our Institute an Eastern Branch in order to help our brothers in the Eastern Churches, as they are part of the undivided patrimony of the Universal Church.

The Eastern Rites are a great treasure; they are different expressions of the same faith. Thanks be to God we have this great patrimony in our communities in Egypt, where not only do we have sisters in the Roman right but in the Coptic as well; and in the Ukraine with the Byzantine Rite. In both places God has brought forth vocations called to evangelize through their own rite.

Can you explain the fourth vow of Marian Slavery (Consecration)?

This is beautiful, is it not? This vow is the logical consequence of the Incarnation of the Word. Jesus became man in the womb of the Virgin Mary. By means of Mary we go to Him. This is part of the spirituality of St. Louis Marie Grignon de Montfort written in His “Treatise on the True Devotion to Mary.” Mary is a natural presence in our lives, through Mary we want to reach the heart of Her Son. Together with the traditional formula of the three vows (poverty, chastity, obedience) we have a fourth Marian vow. We are missionaries and Marian.

What is your dream for your congregation?

The holiness of the members and of all the people that are in contact with us. What value would our works have without holiness? I don’t like to reduce religious life to merely exterior acts. We have to be “salt of the earth and light of the world,” to help augment the life of grace in people. I don’t feel called to great material works, to buildings and walls, without a deep interior life of grace. I come from a society that is not Catholic; I am conscious of the great gift that God has given me to be able to know Him, and I think of how many people are how I used to be, before knowing and loving Him.

In your travels as Superior General, what impression have you gotten from the new missions?

I consider it a great grace to be able to visit our missionaries in the many places of mission and to be able to spend time by their side and to serve and work with them. Because of this, I meet many people. This contact has made me conscious of what St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus said, that in every person we can find “Jesus hidden in the depths of their soul.” The missionary missions, and at the same time is missioned to, because “the faith grows by giving it.”

It is necessary to proclaim the Gospel, so that Christ can reign in souls. Not only should we live the life of Christ seeing in all God, but also we should diffuse the life of Christ in others.

You know, I often find people more spiritually poor in my country than in places traditionally called places of mission. Even though today every country is a mission country.