WITNESSES OF THE REDEEMER: In Solidarity for Mission to a Wounded World
We have no right to proclaim Jesus as our Lord and God if we do not touch his wounds (cf. Jn 20:27).
1. In an atmosphere of joyful hope, the canonical phase of the 25th General Chapter, the first ever to be held in Asia, was celebrated at the Redemptorist Center in Pattaya, Thailand. The 101 members of the Chapter, including seven Brothers, lived among the most disadvantaged and vulnerable people of the city to whom our Redemptorist confreres minister. At the opening of the Chapter, Fr. Michael Brehl, our Superior General, invited us to allow ourselves to be touched by the presence of the Holy Spirit challenging the Congregation to go out to the peripheries.
2. We are in a process of discernment. During the First Phase of the General Chapter we identified areas of serious concern. At this Second Phase we recognized that the Congregation continues to experience the same call heard by St. Alphonsus, our saints, blessed and martyrs, and those who have gone before us, to leave our comfort zones and let go of anything that keeps us from being free and prophetic. The Third Phase of the Chapter will be our opportunity to discern in each Conference the concrete application of the decisions taken here.
Attentive to the Wounds of the World
3. Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, Archbishop of Manila, while preaching the retreat of the Chapter, invited us to live in solidarity, attentive to the wounds of the world. Many confreres feel wounded by the difficulties they face. Others feel the wounds of dissatisfaction or awareness of their own poverty. Like Thomas in the Gospel (John 20:27), we are invited to touch the wounds of Jesus in those who suffer today (LG 8.3), and encounter in these a healing of our own wounds (1 Pt 2:24).
4. It is important for us to develop a listening attitude. Let us listen to God, who continues to speak to people’s hearts. Let us listen to our confreres in community who are our companions on the journey, and to the most abandoned, especially the poor, to whom we are sent. Let us live in an attitude of continuous dialogue with the cultures and religions in which our communities are inserted.
5. We must not fear the secularized world. It has offered us many important insights that we can use in carrying out our mission. All our theological reflection, especially Moral Theology, should be open to dialogue with these realities (Cf. C. 19).
The Renewal of our Consecrated Life
6. Consecrated Life is one of the most precious treasures in the life of the Church. Pope Francis invites us to “live this ministry with gratitude and joy, certain that there is nothing more beautiful in life than belonging forever and wholeheartedly to God, and giving one’s life in the service of your brothers and sisters” (Address of Pope Francis to Formators of Consecrated Men and Women, April 11, 2015). Even though Consecrated Life is going through a period of serious crisis, we believe that this is a privileged moment in which to witness to the beauty of a life built upon the Evangelical Counsels. People everywhere search for authenticity in their relationships. Through our Consecrated Life, we can incarnate the authenticity of Gospel friendship (Cf. C. 34)
7. Let every confrere carry out a serious examination of his consecrated life, and recognize those areas where conversion and renewal are needed. Doing so requires an intimate communion with Christ the Redeemer, who touches and heals our personal and community wounds and strengthens our spiritual life, making us available for mission. Indeed our vision of the Redemptorist apostolic community would not be complete without the joyful promotion of our vocation. We call on all confreres to rediscover the beauty of our Redemptorist vocation and to become the primary agents of vocation promotion in their Units, and to create a culture of vocation so that many people will be inspired to join our Redemptorist family.
A Congregation Sent Forth
8. During the Chapter, the call of Pope Francis resounded strongly to “go forth from your own comfort zone in order to reach all the ‘peripheries’ in need of the light of the Gospel (EG20),” and to evaluate our structures because such structures “can hamper efforts at evangelization” (EG26; Cf. Cons. 15). In this context, our missionary vocation in the Church takes on new and timely significance.
9. Our Constitutions remind us to respond “with missionary thrust to the pressing pastoral need of the most abandoned, especially the poor” (C. 1). Will we have the courage to ask ourselves where are these peripheries in our Units that need our presence and our evangelizing activity? Are we ready and willing to demonstrate our missionary availability? Each Unit should be attentive to these areas of urgent need, paying special attention to young people, migrants, and the most disadvantaged people.
Missionaries of Mercy and Joy
10. Redemptorists today are called to tell the story of redemption, the story of a God who became one with us in Jesus of Nazareth; the unique personal story of each one of us. We believe that “a renewal of preaching can offer believers as well as the lukewarm and non practicing, new joy in the faith and fruitfulness in the work of evangelization.” (EG 11). This task requires that we enter into a lifelong process of ongoing formation, a life project of conforming ourselves to Christ. We call all Redemptorists to be a living testimony to God’s love, by their closeness to and love for all persons. It is not enough to experience God’s mercy in our own lives: we must become an instrument of mercy for others.
As One Missionary Body
11. “In carrying out its mission in the Church, the Congregation unites members who, live together and form one missionary body (Cons. 2).” And so all Redemptorists know themselves to be members of a common project shared by all in the Congregation. We encourage all to nurture this sense of belonging and thus cultivate a true community life. The community we long for is a place where all confreres, old and young, with their gifts and wounds, are included and where co-responsibility becomes a reality.
12. This community reads the signs of the times, is creatively faithful to the Gospel, and constantly promotes new initiatives that enliven the spiritual and community life of the confreres. Since it is an essential law of life that the members of the Congregation live in community, and carry out their apostolate through the community, we must always consider this community aspect when taking on any missionary project. (Cf. Cons. 21)
In a Shared Mission
13. Five Lay Redemptorists, representing the Conferences were present at our Chapter. We recognized in them the richness of our charism, which the Lord gives to the Lay Persons so that a prophetic word and presence can exist in the world. We feel called to build the Reign of God together with the wider Redemptorist family, formed by the Order, many Congregations and Associations with whom we share our charism.
New Leadership for Mission (John 10:11ff)
14. In order to more effectively respond with a renewed missionary presence in the world, the General Chapter has chosen to continue the process of restructuring for mission. The Conferences, which the General Chapter has decided will continue, are a valid instrument to make this new missionary presence effective.
15. The Congregation needs leaders in the style of Jesus Christ, communities and persons: who exercise leadership in the mission, who have a vision of the future, who show us the direction to follow, who are authentic and persons of integrity, who are capable of teamwork and obedient to the mission.
Building the Reign of God on the foundation of solidarity
16. We issue an urgent call to all Redemptorists, especially to those in initial formation and our younger confreres, to embrace the present with hope and go to the peripheries so that the freshness of the Reign may reach everyone, especially the most vulnerable and the abandoned. We encourage our older confreres, who have so generously given their lives proclaiming the Gospel, to support through their solidarity, efforts and prayers (Cf. Cons. 55), the new initiatives that the Holy Spirit inspires in the coming years.
17. Let us take up the challenge of building and living solidarity: solidarity with our world, with creation, and with the men and women of our age; solidarity with the most disadvantaged of our society.
18. We extend the practice of solidarity to every dimension of our lives:
• Solidarity with the General Government in the sharing of resources and personnel;
• Solidarity between Units in helping those Units which are most in need;
• Solidarity within our communities by encouraging co-responsibility for common tasks and services and by taking on concrete commitments in favor of the most abandoned;
• Solidarity at the personal level, as each of us examines whether our lifestyle is consistent with our calling, and by carrying out concrete actions which incarnate the option for the poor (Cf. Cons. 92-96).
19. Let us be prophetic in our world through our lifestyle, denouncing all sinful structures and proclaiming the plentiful redemption that comes to us in Jesus Christ who liberates and dignifies every human being.
20. We share this message in the missionary spirit of St. Alphonsus with his moral approach of pastoral kindness and mercy. May our Mother of Perpetual Help, the Mother of Mercy, accompany us in our proclamation of plentiful redemption and new life.
Pattaya, November 23, 2016