“I left Italy feeling that I had somehow touched into the spirit of St. Alphonsus”:  Fr. David Louch, C.Ss.R.

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(There was an error from the part of Scala News in mixing up two articles when we published this for the first time. We are sorry for the mistake. Here is the right version.)

In February 1977 I participated in the first course on Redemptorist History and Spirituality offered in English in Rome. It was organized and led by Fr Joe Oppitz (Baltimore Province). In the years since then the General Government of the Congregation has established the Centre for Redemptorist Spirituality at our motherhouse in Rome. There has been much ongoing research into our Redemptorist origins and charism since 1977, and for several years the Spirituality Centre has offered in English and in Spanish a 3-week course to share the fruits of that research with confreres from around the world.

Having come to a point in my life where my enthusiasm and zeal for Redemptorist Apostolic Life has begun to wane, I needed to be rejuvenated in my Redemptorist vocation. I thought the spirituality course might provide the needed stimulus, so I asked the Provincial if I could attend this summer. I also suggested that it would be good for Anne Walsh who co-chairs the North American Redemptorist Secretariat for Partnership inMission to attend with me. Fr Mark agreed to both requests.

So Anne and I were in Italy July 11-31 along with 30 other confreres from 12 units: Baltimore, Lviv, Thailand, St Clement (Germany), Oceania (Sri Lanka, Australia, Samoa), Vietnam Extra Patriam (U.S.), Indonesia, Manila & Cebu (Philippines) and Majella & Bangalore (India). This was the first Redemptorist Spirituality Course to be led by the new Director of the Spirituality Centre – Fr Piotr Chyla (Warwaw Province) – and he did a terrific job! His passion for Redemptorist Apostolic Life and for the Congregation permeated everything in the three weeks we were together. From the start, Peter reminded us that this was not just a course – it was a pilgrimage! Peter was assisted by Fr George Pathenpura (Bangalore Province) – a gentle and humourous confrere and an excellent teacher.

I learned many new things and appreciated all the presentations. My favourite ones were Fr Peter on the Four Founding Personalities of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer and Fr Enrique Lopez (General Consultor from Paraguay) on Moral Theology as a Constitutive Element of the Redemptorist Charism. The four founding personalities, of course, are Alphonsus Liguori, Gennaro Sarnelli, Maria Celeste Crostarosa and Tomasso Falcoia. I had never before considered the important part Sarnelli played in our founding; and, for me, Peter’s presentation was a rehabilitation of Crostarosa. After Enrique’s presentation I told him that if I were 20 years younger I would go for a licentiate in Moral Theology!Redemptorist Spirituality 3

Even more important than the input was visiting the places of our beginnings (Scala, Ciorani, Deliceto, Muro Lucano, Materdomini, St Agatha of the Goths, Naples and Pagani). To see and get a feel for the ‘abandoned’ country places and the people. It was a moving experience to walk in the footsteps of St Alphonsus, St Gerard and the first Redemptorists – to feel their presence. That was especially true in Deliceto (St Gerard), at the grotto in Scala where Alphonsus had the vision of Mary, and most profoundly in Pagani at the tomb of St Alphonsus and in the room where he spent the last years of his life and where he died. Normally visitors can only look into that room, but the rector (Fr Luciano) allowed us to actually go into the room (as long as we didn’t touch anything, since it’s all very fragile). As soon as I crossed the threshold tears came to my eyes. It was the first time I have ever felt close to Alphonsus.

Perhaps most important and significant for me was simply being with all those younger confreres. There were only three of us over 60 – Norbert Meinerzhagen of the St Clement Province at 75, myself at 69 and John McKenna of the Baltimore Province at 64. The rest ranged from 28 to 47 (I think), with most in their 30s, and Anne is in her mid 50s. During the last week each of the units represented in the course told the rest of us about Redemptorist life and work in their unit. Seeing and feeling the vigour, joy and energy of the confreres from Asia and Extra Patriam was most uplifting; it gave me renewed hope for the Redemptorist mission – maybe even in Canada. But whatever might happen at home, I have the consolation of knowing that the Congregation is alive and well in the Church and Redemptorist Apostolic Life will continue to thrive for the foreseeable future at least in the southern hemisphere.

So the Redemptorist Spirituality Course 2016 fulfilled my hopes and expectations. I return to my life and work in North America feeling renewed and rejuvenated – and praying for the gift of zeal.

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Community Connections, Volume 15, Issue 8

Edmonton and Toronto Province