The Co-Responsibility of the Confreres in the Designation of Superiors

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Communicanda – 1985-1991

COMMUNICANDA 9

Rome, 1 October 1986
Gen. 327/86

Dear Confreres,

The election of Superiors throughout the Congregation is due in 1987. During that year the Major Superiors, the local Superiors, those in charge of Formation, and many other confreres (those assigned to Secretariats etc.) will be appointed. To these appointees will be entrusted, during the next triennium, the service of directing and leading our Provinces, Vice-Provinces, Regions and communities.

We realize that the occasion for electing Superiors is a time when the exercise of personal co-responsibility comes strongly into play (cf. Const. 92). That is why the General Council thinks it is now opportune to share with you its views on what is expected of every Redemptorist Superior at this precise time in the life of the Congregation and of the Church. Our reflections aim at portraying the mission of the Superior and his style of directing and leading the (vice-) provincial, regional and local community, according to the ideal set out in the Constitutions.

  1. THE MISSION OF THE SUPERIOR

Const. 126 says of the (Vice-) Provincial Superior:

“Let the Provincial Superior exercise his office as a pastor, leader and coordinator of all the communities and members of his province, He should make himself completely available to them, while encouraging them to live worthily the vocation to which they are called, and to confidently undertake and carry through their apostolic enterprises”.

Const. 139 says of the local Superior:

“The Superior of a community must first of all be a spiritual pastor and then a rector and administrator. His chief duty is to serve the community, so that it may be formed and grow in Christ and that all, with united effort, may devote themselves to the work of evangelization. He must likewise look upon himself as being co-responsible, by reason of his office, for the welfare of the whole province”.

Some expressions in these two Constitutions help us to understand the mission of the Superior of today:

  1. The service of leadership (‘animation’),
  2. A spiritual pastor of the community,
  3. Dedication to our work of evangelization.

1.1   THE SERVICE OF LEADERSHIP

The office of Superior is just one among many other services which are necessary for the life of every (vice-) Province or community. And, in the Christian community every form of service should take its inspiration from the person of Christ who “came not to be served but to serve”.

The first service of the Superior is that of searching and discerning, together indeed with his confreres, what is the will of God as regards the members of the community (cf. Const. 73).

This service can be termed “leadership”, “direction”, and “authority”. The important thing is that this service should always find its inspiration in Christ, and manifest the love which Christ has for us (cf. Const. 72). The most important element in a good “servant” is the love he has for the confreres by his acceptance of each one as he is and by loving him as God loves him. This love of God bears its fruits and has its manifestations in everyday life.

The range of the Superior’s service is very wide and covers all the dimensions and needs – human, social, spiritual, religious and apostolic – of our Redemptorist life.

It is not for the Superior to dominate or to impose himself but to serve, guide, give orientation, invite, stimulate, lead and confirm (cf. Pastoral Guide for Superiors n. 11). The Superior serves the community by ensuring that it be – and that it wants to be – in “continual progress through constant interior renewal” (cf. Const. 40).

1.2   SPIRITUAL PASTOR OF THE COMMUNITY

A pastor is one who helps the Christian community incessantly to be “Church”, that is to say, to be more arid more a community in Christ. That is also the central point that gives meaning to the office of Superior at every level In the Congregation: to bring our communities to grow in Christ and become a really living cell of the Church (cf. Pastoral Guide for Superiors n. 8 ff). The mission of the “spiritual pastor” is all the more necessary nowadays, especially where the influence of a secularized world is felt also within our religious life. “Activism” is a characteristic of our age and it leads at times to frustration, to loss of heart, to pessimism in regard to the future. It can cause an absence of reflection in planning our life and our work in the way that would be a genuine response to what the Church and the world expects of us today.

  • The spiritual pastor seeks to establish more firmly in the community the unity of our apostolic life by rejecting any form of dualism between our identity as religious and our role as workers in pastoral fields.
  • The spiritual pastor makes every effort to transform his community into a genuine “fraternity” where each confrere can develop his human, Christian and religious maturity, and grow in the total giving of his life to Christ and the brethren. His aim is to form a fraternal communion where mutual respect and acceptance obtains, in spite of natural differences of temperament, of ideology and of age. He envisages a community where the person of each confrere, leaving behind the negative attitudes and disillusionments of the past, contributes to the growth of the whole community (cf. Const. 36).
  • The spiritual pastor never relaxes his efforts to help the community move forward in the way of faith and prayer. The primitive Christian community is said to have “persevered in prayer with one heart together with… Mary the Mother of Jesus” (Acts 1,14; cf. Const. 26). Personal and community prayer is an expression of our common faith and an inescapable requirement of our apostolic life.

Our community of faith has its foundation above all in the Eucharist “the summit and source of our apostolic life” (cf. Const. 29). The Superior should see to it that the community celebrates the Eucharist regularly as a community.

The prayer of the community should be living and committed. The Superior should put forward, and also elicit, such initiatives in regard to prayer as are conducive to living our encounter with God in joy, to nurturing a vigilant hope, and to stimulating our involvement with the world, especially with the poor and the Insignificant people of this world.

The Superior should see to it that every confrere, in organizing his life, should have the time required for personal prayer: “In addition to the celebration of the liturgy and the Hours, the members have the right and duty to devote at least one hour every day to prayer. This prayer can be made either in private or in common” (Const. 30).

In his role as spiritual pastor the Superior should be above all a man of prayer in continual contact with God. He can thus create around him a tranquil atmosphere of prayer, and can, by the example of his life and by fraternal words, inspire the confreres to be faithful to the times of prayer decided on by the community.

  • The Superior is concerned also that the community should know, study and live the Constitutions. These are our guide to personal and community conversion and they particularize our participation in the mystery of Christ, Redeemer of mankind. Each (Vice-) Province and also each community should organize study courses on the Constitutions interspersed with moments of prayer inspired by them.
  • The Superior as pastor of the community should make provision for the continuing formation of the confreres (cf. Const. 82, 90). This formation extends to several areas: human and spiritual renewal, theological and pastoral renewal, etc. The Superior should organize meetings for study and theological reflection in his (Vice-) Province, or in his community. Included among other matters of study should be community examination of the most important documents of the Provincial Council, of the General Council and of the Church.
  • The spiritual pastor of the community should be a man “rejoicing in hope” (cf. Const. 20) who can radiate hope, especially in trying times, and can communicate it to confreres who live in difficult situations, Hope goes hand in hand with involvement. Because Christ was involved with us and because we are involved with him and with our brothers, we have the right to live in hope.

1.3   DEDICATION TO OUR WORK OF EVANGELIZATION

The Constitutions, taken in their entirety, help us to define our charism in the Church and our missionary task.

  • The Superior should above all know thoroughly our apostolic mission as Redemptorists and continually defend it. We are called “to follow the example of Jesus Christ the Redeemer by preaching the word of God to the poor… (cf. Const. 1). This is the way the Congregation participates in the mission of the Church.
  • The Superior is responsible for the renewal of the Institute, a task which should be continually in process. In this process it may be necessary to face up to situations which are not in keeping with our Redemptorist character. Such situations can arise from changes that are not justifiable, as well as from resistance – both passive and active – to changes that are required.
  • The Congregation is going through a process of revision in regard to its pastoral priorities. The MAJOR THEME of this sexennium aims at continuing on the lines of the theme chosen for the sexennium following the Chapter of 1979. “The General Chapter of 1985 wants to continue the theme of the pastoral priorities decided on by the Chapter of 1979. Now we want to put the emphasis on the explicit prophetic and liberating proclamation of the Gospel to the poor, allowing ourselves to be called by the poor (Evangelizare pauperibus et a pauperibus evangelizari), in accordance with the charism of our Congregation expressed in Constitutions 1, 3, 4, 5 and in Statutes 09 and 021″ (Final Document of the XX General Chapter, n. 03). This theme contains some new elements which should be the subject of reflection, of prayer, and of decisions in each (Vice-) Province and community: prophetic and liberating preaching: the poor: allowing ourselves to be called by them. In this process of revision the Superiors are called to stimulate the Province and the communities to dialogue, to community reflection and to decision making. At the end of the process we should be able to say that our life has changed and that we are more faithful than formerly to our charism. This process has to do not only with our activities but also with our life as a Redemptorist community. We cannot promote a dualism that sets a certain opposition between what we do and what we are: “The confreres should apply this theme of the Chapter in the heart of their own community…”, “a style of life in keeping with our common commitment to the poor is asked of all the confreres” (Final Document, nn. 10 and 11; cf. nn. 3, 6, 10, 12, 13).
  • The Superior of today should have a lively awareness of the signs of the times; these are manifestations of the action of the Spirit in the world, and we should be able to distinguish them from those signs that are manifestations of the sin of humankind. Knowledge of the realities that surround us, and a community discernment illumined by faith and the word of God are indispensable requisites for an understanding of the signs of our time.
  • The Superior insists on the community aspect of our missionary activity: to live in community and to undertake our apostolate as a community team is an essential law of our life as Redemptorists (cf. Const. 21).
  • In the Final Document of the XX General Chapter attention is drawn to two pastoral areas that should be the concern of the Congregation, and both Superiors and confreres should place special emphasis on them during these years: namely, the involvement of the laity with us in our apostolates, and the promotion of our apostolate of vocations as an integral part of a dedicated pastoral apostolate with young people (cf. Final Document, nn. 09 and 22-27). The General Council cherishes the hope that in these two areas practical decisions and effective programming will be implemented in the coming years.
  1. MANNER OF DIRECTING AND LEADING THE COMMUNITY

In the Constitutions we find certain general principles which should give its character to the organization of the community by suffusing the style of government with human and apostolic warmth. These principles are:

  • the co-responsibility of all the confreres and of all the communities (cf. Const. 92);
  • decentralization together with communion (cf. Const. 93);
  • the subsidiarity that serves to promote personal and community responsibility (cf. Const. 94);
  • solidarity with a view to genuine cooperation (cf. Const. 95);
  • the adaptation of structures to the various needs of the apostolate (cf. Const. 96).

From these principles should flow a complex of governing values which characterize the manner of giving leadership to the life of one’s (Vice-) Province or community in our times. To direct his community in this style, the Superior:

  • encourages the development of the personality of each confrere by favoring whatever involves personal responsibility and community co-responsibility;
  • tries to become acquainted with each confrere and with his possibilities and his limitations so that he may be in a position to require of that confrere what he can realistically achieve (cf. 049);
  • create a climate where personal relationships can be real and profound;
  • promote unity among the confreres without prejudice to legitimate pluralism;
  • attach great importance to fraternal dialogue by creating the space, as it were, where each one can express himself freely. Dialogue, that is, between individuals and between groups; dialogue that should never have to be cut short even when disagreements are great; dialogue that should issue in results, for the dialogue that never ends in decisions is frustrating for the confreres;
  • the Superior too should make decisions at the opportune time. He wins the confidence of the confreres if he is glad to learn of indications and is always open to suggestions, but finally is able to make his own decisions;
  • the Superior demands an active and responsible obedience and fidelity to the decisions made (cf. Const. 75);
  • the Superior “shall protect the rights of the members who are entrusted to their authority and their care. In the same way, with all charity, prudence and fortitude, they shall draw the attention of the confreres to their defects, especially if they cause harm or are a source of annoyance to the community and are injurious to apostolic activity” (Stat. 094).
  • the Provincial Superior should visit the communities frequently, and take part in the life of the confreres. That helps him to get to know his (Vice-) Province and to facilitate continuing dialogue with the confreres (cf. 0155);
  • the Superiors, true to the principle of solidarity, should consider themselves responsible for the whole Congregation. Thus they actuate a helpful cooperation both with the General Council, among the communities of the Province itself and with the other Provinces of the Institute. The Congregation is a “missionary body” (cf. Const. 2) which requires a great measure of availability and collaboration at a general level, and at inter-provincial and provincial level, in order to develop its apostolic enterprises and to extend its presence to other countries where people in poverty and in spiritual abandonment are calling out for our ministry.

In conclusion, we want to stress again the spirit of “collegiality” which should always motivate every Superior in his undertakings and decision making. This spirit of collegiality is very strongly emphasized in our Constitutions and it extends beyond the mere obligation to consult the community or the Councilors in the cases prescribed. Collegiality includes good cooperation, a fraternal spirit in the process of arriving at decisions, esteem, trust, and communication with the members of the community. Reciprocal trust is the fountain-head of the well-being of a community, of familial intimacy, and of the undertaking of new apostolic initiatives. The spirit of collegiality, based on this mutual trust, is what guarantees the harmony which is indispensable in the community life of every day.

These are some reflections of the General Council which we offer to you all, and especially to the Superiors to be designated for the next triennium. We hope that the service of leadership and direction in this sense may effectively contribute to the continuing conversion and growth of our Congregation.

These reflections, hopefully, should influence the voting and the elections which are to take place in the (Vice-) Provinces and communities. May God grant that such confreres may be designated as can give a genuine lead to the life of the Congregation in our world.

In the name of the General Council
I salute you fraternally in Christ the Redeemer.

Juan M. Lasso de la Vega, C.Ss.R.
Superior General

The official text of this Communicanda is the Spanish text.

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