CALLED TO GIVE OUR LIVES FOR PLENTIFUL REDEMPTION

1
215

Communicanda 1
Prot. N° 0000 110/04
Rome, 8 April 2004
Holy Thursday In coena Domini

INTRODUCTION

  1. Dear confreres,

Our most cordial greetings to you who are called together with us to give our lives for plentiful redemption!

  1. Over five months have elapsed since the conclusion of the XXIII General Chapter. With this Communicanda we want to focus on two important concerns that the Chapter defined in broad terms, while entrusting their implementation to the General Council and the other structures of government in the Congregation. These subjects are the theme for the sexennium and the process of restructuring in the Congregation. It is our intention that other issues raised by the Chapter, for example, redemption, [1] will be addressed during the sexennium by means of other Communicanda.
  2. A circular letter sent to the Congregation on February 2, 2004 reminded us that “the theme, Giving our lives for plentiful redemption, is a call to conversion, a summons for each of us to change our minds about God and our lives while, at the same time, considering how the structures of our Congregation need to be transformed in order that Redemptorists might be more faithful, creative and audacious in carrying out the mission that has been entrusted to us.” [2]
  3. The relationship between “giving our lives” and the transformation of structures [3] may appear to many as forced, perhaps illogical. In the portion of the circular letter cited above, what unites the two ideas is precisely an urgency to change: our ideas about God and about our life on the one hand, and our structures on the other. For its part, the General Chapter did not say much with regard to this connection. However, in our opinion, there are two solid motives which justify this link:
  • first, we find that the journey of the Congregation since Vatican II has finally challenged the Redemptorists to honestly explore the place Christ has in our life. So the call to give our lives may be a further development of the theme of spirituality, calling into question every aspect of our commitment to the mission that includes the structures in and through which we must realize the mission;
  • second, we are aware of the tremendous speed with which the world changes, and of the fact that our structures find it hard to keep pace with such transformation. If the present structures in the Congregation have served our mission in earlier chapters of our history, today, in the face of a changing world, we have to question to what extent they still have a reason to exist. “To give our lives for Redemption” cannot be reduced to the domain of a “private” spirituality, rather, it must take into account the challenges that today’s world sets before us.
  1. In the light of these reasons, we wish to make two further clarifications:
  • in connecting “giving our lives” to a change of structures, we do not start from scratch. Already the last several General Chapters have addressed in some way the issues mentioned in this Communicanda by calling into question the usefulness of our structures. The experience of the Congregation in recent years gives further impetus to change;
  • the intention of this Communicanda is, above all, to stimulate a reflection. Hence, in the first and second part of this document, the theme of spirituality and mission are not developed systematically or exhaustively. Our hope is rather to prepare for the subsequent consideration of our structures and to begin an ongoing process of transformation in the Congregation. With that purpose in mind, the third part receives greater development and should be seen as the central message of this Communicanda.

I. GIVING OUR LIVES TODAY

A courageous theme

  1. The General Chapter has not entrusted to us an easy theme for the next six years. Giving our lives for plentiful redemption is an ambitious and, perhaps, unfashionable program, since it runs counter to a contemporary suspicion of anyone who gives himself unreservedly to anything.
  2. At a time when it is so difficult to commit oneself fully and definitively to any vocation, the Chapter urges us to the apparently impossible project of giving our lives for ever. At a time when many see unshackled personal freedom as a criterion for a successful life, the Chapter invites us to make our life a gift. At a time when salvation risks passing from being a locus theologicus to simply a manifestation in economic or political spheres, the Chapter proposes anew that the promise of plentiful redemption is something worth giving our lives for.
  3. If “giving our lives” calls into play the very structures with which we realize our mission, then the choice of the Chapter appears to us as a daring response to the challenges of our time. We are increasingly aware that ours is a globalized world, where the problems of one region have immediate repercussions in others, and where one culture risks dominating others; one has only to think about the influence of the Internet. In this world, where communications and the speed of change form the foundation of a new anthropology, where the massive migrations of whole peoples allow us to glimpse a mosaic of different groups living and relating side by side, the Chapter takes up the challenge to consider our structures and to revise them to face the new demands of mission. At a time when the collapse of ideologies has left the oppressed with even less hope for a better future and increasingly creates an unmistakable chasm between the poor and the rich, an epoch in which the exploitation of the labor of the poor nations by multinational corporations reaches scandalous dimensions, the Chapter pushes us to take a stand and to give our lives – not just a part of us – to the most abandoned.

What mission justifies new structures?

  1. In the midst of a world that changes so quickly, many of us might wonder if our Redemptorist mission still has some relevance that really justifies it. Is it in fact at the service of the true redemption of humanity and, above all, does it have prospects for the future? At times we can be doubtful whether the spiritual, missionary and theological intuition of St. Alphonsus, together with the whole tradition that has followed, still has a place in the world today. We know well that much depends on the answer to these questions: our fostering of vocations, our formation of young people; our missionary preaching, our projects for social development, our involvement in movements for justice and peace and finally, the service we render to our elderly confreres. Only a convincing and positive answer to these questions can justify the serious work that is involved in a change of our structures.
  2. Many readers might expect this document to propose a comprehensive solution, which is not the principal aim of this Communicanda. Others would prefer a naively optimistic declaration. We are well aware that we are still in a time of searching, trudging through a difficult and often sterile exodus as we struggle to mark out a credible future for our mission, even for religious life in general and for the Church itself. Nevertheless, we should call to mind in these pages, however briefly, some features of an investigation that is being carried out by our theologians as well as by our confreres working on the front lines of the apostolate. In reality, more than a superficial overview, this examination allows us to glimpse some of the essential elements which have to be considered. These form the void created by the contradictions of the world and are quite often our own contradictions that however cry out for salvation, which is an appeal to which we must respond.
  3. For example, how do we assess the ever increasing dominance of the rights of the individual? What kind of world is being created by this movement? In what measure do these individual rights risk a progressive erosion of a foundation for solidarity, a unique reason for hope in the future?

If, especially in the wealthier nations, consumption and pleasure dictate the real reason for living, one must wonder: is there still room for compassion in the hearts of the people of our time?

Furthermore, we consider the field of morality, where today a sense of guilt is rendered practically meaningless by a false understanding of personal freedom, yet in public life there is a forceful call for ethics, political correctness and transparency in political morality. How does one reconcile personal freedom while safeguarding the common good? And in the face of the revelation of past offenses, to what extent is one capable of compassion and forgiveness for the offender? If pardon and rehabilitation are provided for, are not these seen somehow as a shortcut to impunity?

  1. If we look at the organization of the world today together with the fact that we are faced with the constant fear of terrorism, we must ask whether this is really an invitation to address the prevailing need for peace on the one hand as well as the right to justice.

If we move to the field of communications, we can see an abundance of contradictions. To the extent that mass media proliferates, isn’t there frequently a lack of a meaningful sharing, which produces an impoverished and distant communication? What is more, how many lonely and troubled lives hide behind the incessant chatter of the internet and cellular phones? Can’t we glimpse behind the cult of communication the need for a greater love that is capable of giving meaning to life? And doesn’t this invite us to announce afresh God’s love in a way that overcomes the fears and false images people have in approaching God?

Christ the Redeemer, the only response to many questions

  1. We are aware that we have simply posed some questions because we know that an answer is available only in the person of Christ. Frequently we do not succeed in deciphering either the questions, because of the rapidity of change, or the answers, because of our lack of faith. Yet we believe that only Christ fully reveals the mystery of man and makes his supreme calling clear. [4]
  2. Christ does not cease being the path on which we walk in carrying out our mission today and tomorrow. Rather, he is the one and only way; to do without him, to give less of our lives at the service of redemption, is a betrayal of humanity today. We admit that what is threatened today is the vocation of human beings, their very nature, the image and likeness in which they have been made. It is in the face of this threat that our mission finds its raison d’être for the present and its prospects for the future. It is against this scenario that we discover an even stronger exigency for our mission, together with the prerogative of inviting young people and laity to share our own vocation.

II. ALLOWING OURSELVES TO BE SEDUCED BY GOD’S LOVE IN CHRIST

An appreciation of the journey of the last years

  1. The last decades have been a great occasion for the Congregation to review and reflect more deeply on our own charism. Much has been said about the biblical foundation and the theological riches of copiosa redemptio. Voluminous texts, articles in historical and theological journals as well as masters and doctoral dissertations have addressed the proper nature of our mission.
  2. We consider this search as a foundation for our identity. This document does not intend to summarize or discuss such research, especially when we take into account the divergent interpretations that still exist among our scholars. Perhaps in the future it may be necessary to offer an evaluation or a synthesis, but at this time we prefer not to dwell on this issue.
  3. However, the latest stages of the journey call our attention to an essential point, one which we have already noted at the beginning of thisCommunicanda and which should inspire any restructuring in the Congregation. The 1997 General Chapter had already called us to evaluate “….how we nourish and express our relationship in faith with Jesus.” [5] The circular letter sent to the Congregation at the beginning of this new sexennium emphasized the “…need to allow ourselves to be seduced again and again by the utter bounty of God’s saving love that is given in Jesus Christ, the Redeemer.” [6]
  4. In other words, if “Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever” (Heb 13:8), what really changes is our relationship with him, the ‘idea’ we have of God and therefore our very life itself. [7] The examination of this relationship is at the basis of any transformation, even that of our own structures.

Therefore, the crucial question is: where do we find ourselves in the search for the face of Christ? How do we think about him? Have we given up trying to understand him? Do we coexist with him as with an illustrious stranger or, in the best of cases, according to the images fashioned by others?

Our pilgrimage to discover the face of Christ

  1. Even Alphonsus de Liguori frequently had to correct his own ideas about Christ and, as a consequence, change his relationship with him. His childhood and adolescence were shaped by the religious ideas of his time: on the one hand was a God who was a severe judge and on the other, a Christ who was closer to humankind than to the Father. It was Christ who established peace between humankind and God and calmed the divine wrath, thanks to his expiatory suffering. This is the lacerated Christ whom we see painted by Alphonsus in 1719.

Beginning in 1723, the year of his ‘conversion’, Alphonsus comes to realize that his life is a call to love, and therefore, a call to self-giving. He begins to discover the importance of the heart in his relationship with Jesus Christ and then, especially as a result of his first missionary experiences, he discovers room for hope and joy. When, after much consultation and searing doubts, he finally decides to found our Institute, one thing becomes clear to him: ‘to make of the city of Naples a total sacrifice to Jesus Christ.’ [8] But his spiritual journey does not end on the hills of Scala. There followed the missions, teaching moral theology to his students, the writings of works like the ‘Visits to the Blessed Sacrament’ (1745) and ‘The Practice of the Love of Jesus’ (1768), all of which would lead him into a more mature and biblically founded Christological synthesis. It was a synthesis that can be defined as follows: the love of the Father finds its maximum expression in giving us his Son, who in turn is the faithful image of a loving God. Therefore, the mysteries of the Incarnation, the birth, the passion and death, and the Eucharist are necessary passages to understand the infinitely loving tenderness of God, even though other aspects of the image of Christ, dear to the theology of his time, are not totally obscured, such as the idea of the sacrificial victim.

  1. All this could be considered undisputable and accepted on a theological level. In any case, it is part of how we understand our founder. Yet, what is difficult to imagine is the historical, existential and spiritual journey that Alphonsus accomplished over the course of his long life. In the presence of Christ, whom he discovers in ever-new ways, he does not adopt the attitude of a speculative theologian. His objective is above all pastoral. He listens, reads, gathers texts, reflects and above all preaches that which he discovers. Everything is aimed at carrying this Christ, discovered by him, to those who need him, that is, to the abandoned, who are excluded from the theological and intellectual circles, deprived of the normal pastoral care of the Church and impervious to sophisticated preaching. Before all else, he shares the image of Jesus that he has discovered with his own Redemptorist community, since the community is the first sign of plentiful redemption and the place to which the poor can freely hasten to experience this discovery.
  2. It is not by chance that the General Chapter has decided that the Congregation should live the theme “Giving our lives for plentiful redemption” first and foremost in continuity with the theme of spirituality, chosen for the last sexennium. [9] And it is not by chance that – in addition to restructuring – religious profession and our proper way of living it today[10] were among the great concerns of the Chapter. Although some would want to add solidarity as a central concern, after studying the documents of the General Chapter, we have come to believe that solidarity represents one of the dimensions and part of the rationale that should guide the Congregation towards a process of restructuring, rather than an end in itself.

Religious profession is another theme that we hope to reflect upon during this sexennium with the cooperation of the Center for Redemptorist Spirituality. Right now, we want to develop the theme of restructuring, a process in which every confrere is called to participate and anchor it on a constantly renewed relationship with Christ, which provokes the question: how to give our lives for plentiful redemption today?

III.  RESTRUCTURING AT THE SERVICE OF OUR MISSION

Called to Conversion

  1. We are called to conversion. We are called to examine anew the journey that we have made until now and to review our response to the present demands of our Redemptorist mission, calling into question our lifestyle, our mentality and our organization. We are invited to respond with creative fidelity to the challenges of mission in today’s world. We are called to be faithful to the charism of the Congregation in the spirit of our founder. We are invited to deepen the search for new ways of responding to the demands of proclaiming the Gospel and the witness of the “plentiful redemption” that we find in Jesus Christ. This is not done by means of a new vocabulary but rather through the witness of a renewed life.
  2. Since Vatican Council II, our own Congregation and religious life itself has embarked on a process of conversion. We revised our Constitutions and Statutes, made efforts to establish priorities and, with the grace of God, have tried to seek coherence between our profession of faith and our life, between religious profession and a community life dedicated to apostolic charity. We have tried to respond with apostolic charity to the demands of our shared vocation.

An impetus which began long ago

  1. Already in 1965, the decree Perfectae Caritatis stated clearly that “the adaptation and renewal of the religious life includes both the constant return to the sources of all Christian life and to the original spirit of the institutes and their adaptation to the changed conditions of our time.” [11]But the Council also issued a stark warning that “… the best adjustments made in accordance with the needs of our age will be ineffectual unless they are animated by a renewal of spirit. This must take precedence over even the active ministry.” [12] It confirmed that, “an effective renewal and adaptation demands the co-operation of all the members of the institute.”[13] And that “the manner of living, praying and working should be suitably adapted everywhere, but especially in mission territories, to the modern physical and psychological circumstances of the members and also, as required by the nature of each institute, to the necessities of the apostolate, the demands of culture, and social and economic circumstances. According to the same criteria let the manner of governing the institutes also be examined.” [14]
  2. Many years have passed since Vatican Council II. Circumstances, culture, mentality and human self-understanding have changed tremendously and continue ceaselessly to change. This means that we cannot simply tread the beaten path. The following of Jesus Christ and fidelity to the charism of the Congregation demand of us a new evaluation of our lifestyle, our missionary response and the way in which we organize ourselves. The structures that we have, the ones from the beginning and those of today, are only instruments that help us to better fulfill the goals of our mission.

The path proposed by previous General Chapters

  1. Since 1979, General Chapters have insistently called us to conversion, always linking successive themes and the need for coherence to a review of the structures through which we fulfill our mission. We could say that these Chapters have represented for the Congregation a persistent search for identity and a way of accentuating a principle already codified in our Constitutions, that “…[Redemptorists] cannot allow themselves to settle down in surroundings and structures in which their work would no longer be missionary.” [15]
  2. If we were to take into account only the last decade, it is sufficient to recall the General Chapter of 1991, which asked the General Government to start a process of restructuring, so as: a) to help units that have fallen below the personnel requirements of General Statute 088, as well as groups of units that are showing serious signs of decline in personnel; b) to stimulate renewed pastoral initiatives not easily managed by single Units alone”. [16]
  3. The XXII General Chapter (1997) affirmed: “We, the members of the XXII General Chapter, affirm our commitment as a Congregation to the themes of recent chapters. This is a gradual development still in process for all Redemptorists. […] We believe that the living out of this theme demands a contemplative outlook on life, which helps us to read the signs of the times. This is not easy, and requires a conversion which is a gift of the Spirit. For this reason, we ask that Redemptorists concentrate on our Spirituality as foundational so that the work of the new Evangelization may be built on rock and not on sand”. [17] To explain the sense of this option, the Final Document recommended that “…the Congregation take Spirituality as the theme of the next Sexennium. […] That attentive to the spiritual hunger of so many in our society, we seek new and creative ways to share our spiritual heritage with others”. [18] Even this Chapter insistently asked the General Government to continue the restructuring process which was initiated in 1991. [19]
  4. The XXIII General Chapter chose as its sexennial theme Giving our lives for plentiful redemption. [20] The Final Message says: “We see this theme in continuity with the theme of Spirituality adopted by the last General Chapter. […] We believe that there is no Redemptorist Spirituality which is not missionary and no Redemptorist mission which is not rooted in the ‘depths of God’”. [21] It insists: “We would like to draw attention to some of the implications and challenges which Giving our lives for plentiful Redemption raises”. [22] It also confirms the need to examine our lifestyle, our community life as well as the witness that we give and to review our structures, ascertaining whether they serve our mission: “As the Chapter progressed it became clear to all that the Congregation should take up the challenge of restructuring for the sake of our mission. Solidarity may provoke many imaginative new structures at every level in the life of the Congregation, especially in the field of formation and pastoral initiatives. Fr. General challenged us to think along the lines of new international communities and new forms of Regional government. Giving our lives for plentiful redemption will make unexpected demands of us all”. [23]

The need to review our present structures

  1. Historically the structures of the Congregation were created in order to respond to a concrete expression of the Redemptorist mission. By their nature our structures are different and more dynamic than the structures of monasticism. Hence, they should be periodically reviewed and changed, when necessary. We are all aware that the demands of the mission today are unprecedented and therefore we must ask ourselves whether the present structures respond to the needs of the mission. This important question was raised during the last General Chapter and the capitulars detected a number of new challenges and wanted to respond. In the decision regarding restructuring, the Chapter said: “The government structures of the Congregation are not an end in themselves but rather a support for the mission. There is at present a general agreement among Redemptorists that the structures of the Congregation at times prevent a creative and effective response to present-day pastoral needs”. [24] The Chapter asks “the General Council to continue the restructuring of the Congregation”. [25] At the moment we are in the phase of reflection, analysis, openness and research with a view to the decisions we must take.

What do we mean by “restructuring”?

  1. It is not our intention to give an exhaustive definition of restructuring; what we propose here is only a description, the way we comprehend it. We see restructuring as a process, a dynamic of personal and corporate transformation, which examines our present situation, evaluates the structures we have and is ready to change, if necessary, for the sake of faithfulness to the charism and at the service of our mission. Restructuring fundamentally consists in finding new ways of organizing ourselves through new structures in order to respond with greater fidelity to the charism of the Congregation. It demands a new sensitivity to the present challenges. It calls for a new mentality, a way of proclaiming the Gospel afresh and a new way of giving witness to “copiosa redemptio”. Obviously, in this process we need to consider the spirit of brotherhood that must characterize our structures, the fact that our structures must be places of fraternal living rather than simply a boarding house. We should evaluate our interpersonal relationships and the method of leadership in communities. We need to reexamine the anthropological foundation for our structures, which are meant to be at the service of the person and his vocation. In any case, we cannot conceive restructuring except as a serious process of discernment that signifies an attitude of conversion and a profound search for the will of God.
  2. Restructuring cannot be simply a reaction to the situations we face, especially since some situations tempt us to provide an immediate solution or a knee-jerk response. The process of restructuring requires a proactive attitude. It does not make sense to consider restructuring as merely an administrative procedure. Its urgency is not linked to the reduced number of vocations or the uncertainty of the future. Nor is it motivated by the fact that there are diminishing numbers of Redemptorists in some Regions and an increase in others. Restructuring is not a solution for units who judge themselves to be near extinction or a decision to allow existing structures simply to subsist without any reference to the mission of the Congregation. Restructuring is not meant to save a house or a ministry to which we are particularly attached by asking another Unit to send confreres to shore it up. Restructuring is not an antidote to our fears or a way of adapting in order to make us feel more comfortable. It is not simply a redistribution of personnel.
  3. Restructuring is a process that permits the Congregation to better respond to the challenges of today’s world. To enter into this process, we need to ask ourselves seriously whether our present structures are effective and efficient means to serve our Redemptorist mission. How do these structures function? Do they really help us fulfill our charism and to respond to the urgent pastoral needs of today’s world? What are those urgent pastoral needs to which we are called to respond as a Congregation? What sort of structures would serve better to answer these urgent needs? What criteria do we employ to evaluate our commitment to the poor and most abandoned? What helps us discern the true pastoral urgencies?
  4. If these questions seem to be abstract and far removed from real life, we offer some examples to help us understand the urgency of the restructuring process. Let us consider initial formation, which is one of the main priorities of the General Government and the entire Congregation. The latest Ratio Formationis CSSR properly applies a principle, already written in our Constitutions, and underscores the value of collaboration among (Vice) Provinces [26] in order to ensure the requisite quality in formation: “….if a Unit lacks the necessary personnel to build communities of formation, or the appropriate structures needed to guarantee the adequacy of a formation process with all its essential elements, it should seek the help of other Units in the region”. [27] How can we address this urgent need in the restructuring process?
  5. Let us also think of the new scenarios represented by the migration of peoples. More and more ethnic groups from the South or East of the world are coming to the countries of the North and West. These peoples find themselves in the need of pastoral assistance. Let us also think of the present situation of Africa, which is abandoned not only from a socio-economic point of view but also by the Church and Redemptorists. Some of our Units, which in the past have worked generously in Africa, now see themselves to be limited or needing to withdraw from their earlier commitments. Do these situations represent a cry for salvation that calls out to us? How do we show ourselves to be heirs to the generosity and creativity of the Redemptorists of past centuries?
  6. What is more, in the northern hemisphere there are Redemptorist Units which for years have not received or accepted any new candidates; even in (vice)provinces which have received new confreres, the overall number of confreres continues to decline. Some of these Units have resigned themselves to fading away. Others interpret their own situation as sign of the death of the Congregation or religious life in their region. Is there a danger of adapting ourselves to this feeling of defeat and to judge that the Redemptorist mission in affluent countries is impossible? Doesn’t all this provoke us to search for new ways of presence and proclamation?
  7. A final example is the economic disparity that we find in the 77 countries where the Congregation carries out its mission today. There are some Units which have no economic problems while others are forced to refuse new candidates because they do not have the necessary resources. Is this situation an appeal to create new structures for sharing and for fostering a more effective and permanent solidarity among us?

Some criteria for restructuring

  1. It seems decisive to determine, with as much clarity as possible, criteria for evaluating our fidelity to the charism. This fidelity is not measured by our talents, our personal interests or our ability for this or that type of ministry. It is not personal or corporate success or the brilliance of what we do. It is even less our personal tastes or doing that which is most convenient for the community that defines us as faithful. The criterion of fidelity in the Congregation is the following of Christ in the evangelization of the poor and most abandoned. Therefore, we ask ourselves: are we where we should be? Are we where there are most urgent pastoral needs?
  2. Furthermore, it is vital to ask ourselves: what does the restructuring process concretely mean for each Unit and Region of the Congregation? What types of structures favor a better relationship between the General Government and the Units of the Congregation? Is it necessary to create new intermediate structures between the (V) Provinces and the General Government?
  3. We are aware that we are posing a good number of questions but we also are convinced that the reflection on the steps of this process should involve all Redemptorists: each Unit, every Region and the whole Congregation. Restructuring is a result of a process of conversion and a concrete expression of the conversion of the community but it is also a journey towards conversion. And this process cannot be imposed from outside. It must be born out of a missionary mysticism, a new way of witnessing to the love of Christ.
  4. The last General Chapter said: “The broad objective for such restructuring is to positively direct in a spirit of solidarity the apostolic dynamism of the Congregation in fulfilling its mission in the Church. The Congregation exists for the mission and it should adapt its structures accordingly.” [28] With this restructuring, we look for “a more effective functioning of General, (V) Provincial, and regional structures; greater solidarity in initial and ongoing formation; a more effective exchange of personnel between Units of the Congregation in order to address new challenges which present themselves to our mission; greater coordination of financial resources; and greater ease to respond to provinces faced with specific crises of whatever kind.” [29] Other proposals that emerged before and during the Chapter will be taken into consideration at the opportune time; for instance, new criteria for representation at the General Chapter, the number of the General Consultors and the kind of their relationship with the Regions, a new division of the Regions, etc.

A deeper change

  1. Restructuring clearly demands a change of mentality, attitudes and our own standards. We cannot stay forever attached to present structures. The Congregation existed for many years without provincial structures. In the first century of our history great efforts were made to form international communities. At a later date the structure of provinces was implemented and enjoyed rapid growth. Vice-provinces and missions were born as expressions of the missionary spirit of provinces. In the past few years, we have been working with continental Regions as a sort of intermediate structure between the General Governments and the (V) Provinces. Certainly, we should not fall into the trap of narrow provincialism. We cannot consider the Congregation as a simple confederation of provinces. Redemptorists constitute a great international community of missionaries, whose purpose is to “follow the example of Jesus Christ, the Redeemer, by preaching the word of God to the poor, as he declared of himself: ‘He sent me to preach the Good News to the poor‘” […], a community which “does so by responding with missionary thrust to the pressing pastoral needs of the most abandoned, especially the poor”. [30]
  2. It is obvious that anything new, any invitation to change, produces a certain fear and insecurity within us. It is certainly much easier to live with timeworn habits. We have a natural inclination to avoid questioning a mentality or way of life in which we have grown very comfortable over the years. We should not deny our fears nor should we allow them to paralyze us. We are called to dialogue with trust and hope. The invitation to think about restructuring is really a call to conversion to plentiful redemption. It is a means to grow in solidarity within the Congregation in order to show an outward-looking solidarity in apostolic charity and thus give witness to the love of God and plentiful redemption.

A process that involves all of us

  1. We believe that the entire Congregation, that is to say, every Region, every province and vice-province and every community should begin this process of restructuring. In many cases, it is a question of appreciating the structures that still remain valid and put into practice those decision making processes that the Constitutions and Statutes already provide, but which often are not used (e.g. the principle of subsidiarity, a review of life that is more than simply a planning exercise, etc). Furthermore, we need to discover ways to identify the new challenges and then determine the steps which we must take in this process of personal and corporate conversion. Each of the Regions should determine a process to identify the most urgent pastoral needs and the obstacles, which impede us from giving a prompt and generous response to such challenges.
  2. The process of restructuring is meant to be, at the same time, global and local. During the process of discernment we should be very attentive to global criteria, taking into account the great changes that the world is going through so as to design a worldwide response for the future. But the Redemptorist mission must always be inculturated, recognizing and consciously responding to the local situation in accord with Constitutions 8-9; 17; 19. In the same way, the search for the situations of great need on the global stage cannot lead us to forget the obligation to look for the most urgent pastoral needs at the level of each Region.
  3. A change of mentality requires time, yet we believe that some attempts have already begun. We ask everyone to follow the steps indicated by the XXIII General Chapter. We are invited to rethink the structures of initial formation and community life. We need to become willing to learn the languages that are most used in the Congregation. We are urged to grow in solidarity and to make serious efforts in the creation of international communities; every Region should attempt to start at least one such community during this sexennium. There is some way to go in developing economic solidarity. Redemptorists should be available to respond to the pastoral needs at the international level without necessarily resorting to bilateral and exclusive agreements between Units. There is an urgent challenge to think in more global terms by putting our resources at the service of an international cooperation that springs from a more expansive vision.  We are not proposing a new centralization, and we should be very careful to avoid falling into an extreme type of decentralization which leads to dispersion. We propose a path of sharing, dialogue, solidarity, inculturated evangelization and a prophetic and liberating community witness, without forgetting that our present unity within diversity is already an important testimony in the eyes of the world.

How do we proceed with the process of restructuring?

  1. The General Chapter has indicated a path. It says that “the General Council will set up a commission that will offer models and strategies to enhance or realign present congregational structures”. [31] The Chapter also defined some of the criteria for the work of this Commission: how it is to be formed, the need for constant dialogue and close collaboration with the General Government, the value of consulting the confreres and other Congregations so as to learn from their experience, the reports to be presented and the possibility of creating new structures “ad experimentum” even while the Commission is still working. [32]
  2. Many details remain to be clarified, e.g., the precise responsibilities of the Commission and the relationship between it and prospective delegates of the Superior General for the Regions and sub-Regions. [33] The different competencies and specific deadlines in the process of restructuring as well as strategies for involving the different Regions are still to be defined. We continue our reflection on these concrete details and we hope to communicate our progress by July 2004.
  3. In the face of such an imminent challenge as restructuring, there is always the risk of discouragement, to say nothing of direct resistance to change. It is good to remember that the first “restructuring” is redemption itself, and that Christ himself participates in our process. It is he who draws us into one family and who gives a salvific meaning to the structures with which we work. Together with him, we shall be able to look more confidently to the new horizons that history throws open before us and be able to determine which road we should follow. With him and through him, we also shall be able to give our lives so that the world may have life in abundance (John 10:10)

CONCLUSION

  1. We repeat our most cordial greetings which we extend to our Redemptoristine sisters, to all religious who share our spirituality, to young people who feel called to our Institute, to the laity who are in close partnership with us in our mission, to the people of God, and above all to the poor and the most abandoned.

In the name of the General Council
In Christ the Redeemer

Joseph W. Tobin, C.Ss.R.
Superior General

(The original text is the Italian.)

[1] XXIII General Chapter 2003, Orientations, 7.3.

[2] TOBIN, Joseph W., Superior General, Letter to the Congregation (prot. 0000 010/04), February 2, 2004.

[3] By the term” structures” we mean the general organization that the Congregation employs for carrying out its mission and for the best coordination of its resources, principally, the grouping into Provinces, Vice-Provinces, Regions, Missions, etc. In a broader sense, we also are thinking of the greater or lesser degree of centralization of such elements. For example, it seems undisputable that our Congregation is among the most decentralized in the Church today, having favored during its history – but especially since Vatican Council II – an ever greater autonomy for local situations.

[4] VATICAN COUNCIL II, Gaudium et spes, 22.

[5] XXII GENERAL CHAPTER 1997, Message, 3.

[6] TOBIN, Joseph W., Superior General, Letter to the Congregation (prot. 0000 010/04), February 2, 2004.

[7] Ibidem.

[8] TANNOIA, Antonio Maria, Della vita ed istituto del venerabile servo di Dio, Alfonso Maria Liguori, Napoli 1798, I, 66.

[9] XXIII GENERAL CHAPTER 2003, Message, 3.

[10] XXIII GENERAL CHAPTER 2003, Message, 4.

[11] VATICAN COUNCIL II, Perfectae Caritatis, 2.

[12] Ibidem.

[13] Ibidem, 4.

[14] Ibidem, 3.

[15] Cfr. CONSTITUTIONS C.SS.R., 15; e.g., XXI GENERAL CHAPTER 1991,Final Document, 11.

[16] Ibidem, 62.

[17] XXII GENERAL CHAPTER 1997, Orientations on the Subject of Spirituality;Introduction.

[18] Ibidem, 1.1; 1.2 and 1.3.

[19] XXII GENERAL CHAPTER 1997, Postulata 9.1.

[20] XXIII GENERAL CHAPTER 2003, Final Message, 2.

[21] Ibidem, 3.

[22] Ibidem, 7.

[23] Ibidem, 11.

[24] XXIII GENERAL CHAPTER 2003, Orientations, 11.

[25] Ibidem, 11.1.

[26] CONSTITUTIONS C.SS.R., 141.

[27] RATIO FORMATIONIS C.SS.R, Rome 2003, 53.

[28] Ibidem, 11.2.

[29] Ibidem.

[30] CONSTITUTIONS C.SS.R., 1.

[31] XXIII GENERAL CHAPTER 2003, Orientations, 11.3.

[32] Ibidem.

[33] Father General spoke about delegates in his Report to the XXIII General Chapter.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email