Roma, June 15, 2004
Prot. N° 0000 132/04
My dear confreres,
Redemptorists have embarked on a course charted by the XXIII General Chapter towards a restructuring of the Congregation. In the first communicanda of this sexennium, the General Council noted that while the Chapter has traced a path, many details remain to be clarified about the process this restructuring will take (Communicanda 1, 47-48). Together with the other members of the Council, I would like to communicate some of the decisions we have undertaken aimed at implementing the decision of the General Chapter.
The preparation of the first communicanda gave the General Council an opportunity to clarify how we understand the idea of restructuring. This reflection progressed further throughout our extraordinary meeting during the first two weeks of June. At that time we were able to listen to the experience of general superiors from congregations which had already undergone some extensive restructuring, such as the Marianists and theOblates of Mary Immaculate. The General Council spent a great deal of time searching for principles to guide us as we carry out the programme of the Chapter. The most important of these convictions is that our structures must support the mission of the Congregation; if a particular way of organizing the Congregation no longer serves our mission, then we need to discover a better structure.
While we accept that the General Council has a distinct responsibility in carrying out the decisions of the Chapter, we are also convinced that real restructuring is best not imposed from here. Our Congregation is an international body which faces very different situations; hence there is no simple solution that is adequate for all the regions. On the other hand, the process of restructuring should not leave individual groupings of confreres isolated but rather should enhance the bonds which unite all Redemptorists because we share the same charism, whatever the concrete circumstance in which we announce the Good News to the abandoned poor. The General Council recognizes that the process of restructuring needs accurate information from the vast expanse of the Congregation today. Furthermore, we believe that the success of any restructuring is doubtful, if there is not a broad base of support from the confreres.
These convictions have led us to two important areas of decision. First, we have decided how we will form the commission on restructuring that was mandated by the General Chapter (cf. XXIII General Chapter,Orientations, 11.3). Secondly, we put into motion a way of grouping the existing units of the Congregation on a sub-regional basis to engage more effectively units in the search for new structures as well as in new projects of cooperation and solidarity. Let me briefly explain these decisions.
Commission on restructuring
The commission on restructuring will be composed of six members, one from each of the large Regions of the Congregation: Africa, Asia, Europe North, Europe South, Latin America and North America. Over the nextmonths each major superior will be asked to nominate two confreres from their respective region to serve on the commission. At its next extraordinary meeting, August 30 – September 4, 2004, the General Council will consider all these suggestions and then select the six members. The General Council expects to meet with the members of the commission on restructuring in December of this year. At that meeting we hope to develop a working plan for the further implementation of the Chapter decision. Of course, we will keep all confreres informed about the progress.
Secondly, the General Council is proposing to arrange the units of the Congregation in sub-regional groups and name a coordinator for each sub-region. This arrangement is not a juridical structure and the coordinator has no jurisdiction. Nevertheless, we expect positive results from this experiment, believing that this arrangement will give theGeneral Council and the commission on restructuring an accurate picture of the Congregation today as well as an appreciation of the future needs of its mission.
There are sub-regional groups which have already worked together for a number of years. For example, the three sub-regional groups in Latin America have already developed an effective method of working together. While we expect to seek further consultation over the next months, we now foresee fifteen sub-regional clusters:
North America (2)
Canada: Sainte-Anne de Beaupré, Edmonton-Toronto,Yorkton
United States: Baltimore, Richmond, English-speaking Caribbean, Denver, Extra Patriam
Europe South (2)
French-speaking units: Lyon-Paris, Strasbourg, Bélgique-Sud,Lebanon-Iraq, Vietnamiens
Latin units: Roma, Napoli, Madrid, Lisboa
Europe North (3)
West: Dublin, London
Central: Wien, København, Flandrica, Köln, München, Helvetica
East: Praga, Bratislava, Michalovce, Warszawa, Lviv, Russia
East: Tokyo, Kagoshima, Korea
Southeast: Manila, Cebu, Bangkok, Vietnam, Ipoh,Indonesia, P. R. China, Australia, Aotearoa – New Zealand
South: Bangalore, Alwaye, Mumbai, Colombo
Norte: México, Centroamérica, Cuba, San Juan, Haïti, Caracas, Bogotá, Quito, Perú-Norte, Perú-Sur
Sur: Pilar, Asunción, Buenos Aires, Resistencia, Santiago de Chile, Bolivia
URB: Manaus, Fortaleza, Recife, Bahia, Rio de Janeiro, São Paolo, Goiás, Campo Grande, Porto Alegre, Surinam
French-speaking and Portuguese speaking units: Matadi,Luanda, Burkina-Niger, Côte d’Ivoire, Madagascar,Mozambique
English-speaking units: South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana,Zimbabwe, Kenya
We expect the major superiors of each sub-regional group to meet at least once a year with the coordinator, the general consultor from the Region and its member on the commission for restructuring. These meetings will look at the future of the Redemptorist mission in that sub-region, the formation of our candidates and members (i.e.: both initial and continuing formation) and projects of interprovincial cooperation, including international communities. We believe that the sub-groups can play an important role in the process of restructuring and possibly, in the continuing renewal of the Congregation itself.
Over the next months, the general consultors will be contacting the major superiors of each sub-region to consult regarding possible candidates for service as their coordinator. The major superiors of each sub-group will be asked to consult together and then offer the General Council the names of two confreres who could serve as coordinator. The General Council will consider those recommendations before naming the sub-regional coordinators in December of this year.The coordinator need not be a major superior but should be a confrere who is very knowledgeable of the reality of the units of his sub-regional group. He will be expected to give serious attention to this responsibility, although the service may not in fact be a full-time commitment.
The general consultors will also seek the opinion of the major superiors regarding the sub-groupings. The arrangement presently proposed by the Council could be modified.
The selection of the commission on restructuring and the organization of sub-regional groupings may be compared to a project presently taking off in the Church of Sant’Alfonso here. We have begun some badly needed renovation of the roof and foundations of this beloved sanctuary, which venerates the original image of Our Mother of Perpetual Help. The first step of the project is to rig scaffolding, which gives the workers effective access to all parts of the structure. In the same way, the commission and the sub-regional groups will allow the General Council to labor effectively with all confreres towards the ongoing renewal of our Congregation. We are grateful for your unity in prayer and your active cooperation.
Joseph W. Tobin, C.Ss.R.