Who are we and what we do?
The ACI Family is a “family” of lay people with a universal heart. It consists of people and groups following the Ignatian spirituality and wishing to spread in the world the charisma of Saint Raphaela Mary. They ache and suffer with a divided world and want to live committed to Jesus and take care of His interests, collaborating with Him in the reconciliation of injustices and sufferings they encounter. Full of hope, they strive to attain the “more universal good”.
In adoration of Jesus in the Eucharist, they learn to see the world with a compassionate heart; striving to be the bread that is broken and shared and, thus, live reparation in daily life.
How were we created?
The Handmaids of the Sacred Heart of Jesus have always lived in close and fraternal relations with those whom they were accompanying. Eventually, both groups felt the need to deepen the ties that united them: the Handmaids felt the call to share the gift of their charisma, and the lay people had a strong desire to deepen this charisma and make it part of their lay life.
“To be universal as the Church” was a strong desire of Saint Raphaela Mary. Therefore, the ACI Family was born rooted in an international body, crossing borders and welcoming all groups regardless of race, culture and language. Belonging to this international family will help its members to live unity in plurality, the richness of inculturation and to nurture a big heart that embraces the whole world.
In 1997, during an International Assembly of the Handmaids, the ACI Family was born bearing the Latin initials of the Congregation: Ancilla Cordis Iesu.
In 2008, Sr. Inmaculada Fukasawa summoned the first International Assembly of the ACI Family in Rome, from the 20th to the 25th April 2009. Thirty-eight people (thirty-two laity and six handmaids) from sixteen countries met the General Team, at the XX Settembre house, where Saint Raphaela Mary lived and died. The goal of the Assembly was to consolidate the identity of the ACI Family, to strengthen the feeling of belonging and to find ways to be organised, to provide formation and develop communication.
On the 27th February 2014, the second International Assembly of the ACI Family was held, at the “Casa de Espiritualidad Martínez Campos”, in Madrid (the first house of the Institute), that ended on the 2nd March in Cordoba, with a Eucharist, in the church where Saint Raphaela made her vow of celibacy, when she was 15 years old. The theme of this meeting was “ACI Family, gift of the Spirit… for the world”. The General Team was present, as well as representatives from four continents: 6 handmaids and 28 lay people, who during these days deepened the meaning of the ACI Family and the way it gives life to the charisma in different places.
International ACI Family
The International ACI Family keeps growing, scattered through the four continents. It is present in 24 countries, both near the Handmaids Communities and where they are no longer present, but where the wish to live and spread the charisma of reparation in all places of the earth, remains.
The International Day of the ACI Family is celebrated on the 2nd March, the anniversary of the baptism of Saint Raphaela Mary. For Saint Raphaela, the day of the baptism is the day we are registered in the Book of Life; it is the day we enter the large family, that is the Church, and each of us is sent, through his/her vocation, to collaborate in the building of the Kingdom, with the same spirituality and a joint mission.
Our ACI Family Group, based in Bournemouth, was formed in 2007 and we chose the name ‘Links of Love’. We felt called to immerse ourselves in the spirituality of St Raphaela Mary – her love of Jesus present in the Holy Eucharist and open to the whole world -, to adore, to celebrate, and to unite ourselves with others, particularly with those in need.
We have been encouraged, supported and inspired by the teaching and example of the Handmaids we know who have lived, and those who continue to live the charisma of St Raphaela Mary with great joy and fidelity, and we feel privileged to share so rich a charisma. Enriched too in belonging to the Universal ACI Family and to have been represented at both International Assemblies.
We meet monthly as a Family for Adoration, to pray, share and deepen our knowledge and commitment, and to celebrate. Some of our members work in various ways and ministries in our parishes and communities. As ACI Family we ensure that First Friday Adoration is available for the people. We also have a special Prayer Mission in our Community and beyond, undertaking to pray before the Blessed Sacrament for the intentions of all those who ask for our prayers. In reaching out we have so far made a special link with Handmaids in the Cameroons, and support them in simple ways, providing them with spectacles for the needy and with some financial support for pain relief for the terminally ill.
We give thanks that a community of Sisters has now returned to Bournemouth, and we pray for them and for new Family members.
How can I join?
As we gathered , sang and prayed together it was wonderful to experience a renewed sense of joy , of belonging and of gratitude for all that we are and all that we have received over many years through the commitment and generous service and sharing in the charism of the Handmaids with Sisters we have known and loved. We have prayed hard for the presence of the Sisters once again in Bournemouth and so now, as the Handmaids return, our joy is deeper, our gratitude heartfelt , and our hope and desire is that we will continue to grow in fidelity to the Eucharistic charism of St Raphaela Mary and extend our links of love in our families, our communities, and especially to those in need both here and throughout the world. Our ACI Family Day spent together with Sisters Janet, Frances and Jo has given us a renewed ‘spring in our step’ and commitment in our hearts.
St Raphaela Mary desired that we be united ‘like the fingers of the hand’ and ‘Universal like the Church’ . As we celebrate Mass on 2nd March for the Universal ACI Family , we ask her once again to intercede for us all.