(Ghent, Belgium) As is known, the extraordinary visits of the General Government are organized according to language areas. The province of St. Clement is in fact bilingual (officially, even trilingual, but the number of French-speaking confreres is very small and they speak and understand German). That is why in this province there was a visit in the German language area as well as in the Dutch language area, which includes Flanders (North Belgium) and the Netherlands. The visit took place on 8 and 9 May 2018 in the city of Ghent, at the Clemenspoort, a brand new and dynamic pastoral project of Redemptorists and lay groups. De Clemenspoort also guaranteed a good liturgy and a surprising gastronomy with authentic Flemish recipes. There were a total of 34 participants, 15 Redemptorists and 19 laypeople, mainly associates. The visitor was Fr Alberto Eseverri.
Fr Alberto was pleased with the great participation of lay associates and co-workers in this visit: “It is good that you are there. Please, challenge us.” To start, Father Alberto took the participants back to the General Chapter in November 2016 in Pattaya. He started with the message of the chapter and the theme of this sexennium. He emphasized the significance of solidarity: “Redemptorists sometimes forget that they are doing their profession for the entire congregation. One is inclined to think only of his own province, country and language. That is historically explicable. Solidarity in the mission, however, also means being available where one is needed. We are missionaries, across borders. “
On the first day, Fr Alberto presented all 52 decisions of the General Chapter. He underlined the intention of the General Government to involve the base as much as possible in the implementation of these decisions. Then there was time for discussion and reflection in groups. That became lively gatherings. There seemed to be sufficient agreement for the need of restructuring and that we must re-think our mission as Redemptorists. Young and old Redemptorists, as well as the many lay people, brought in their past and present pastoral experiences. Among others, experiences from the mission (in Congo), in pastoral care for elderly and in hospitals, education, community life, family life.
On the second day, Communicanda 1 was central, with its framework for an apostolic plan and a restructuring plan. The discussions focused on the fundamental, missionary and apostolic priorities. A wide range of priorities emerged. Frequently named were: young people, the elderly in the fourth stage of life, ethical issues concerning life and death and the role of open and welcoming spiritual centers and communities from which a versatile and focused ministry can be done.
Finally, Father Alberto outlined the next steps at the European conference level and thanked for all the valuable input. The attendees were impressed by the courage of the general government and the conference, to involve the entire Redemptorist family in the apostolic planning and restructuring process. The provincial, Fr. Jan Hafmans, underlined the words of thanks and appreciation.