Fr. Michael Brehl: “Pope Francis is an example of the spirit of Saint Alfonsus”


The Superior General of the Redemptorists analyzes his congregation, the Church and this pontificate in an interview given to The New Life.

The nearly 5,000 members that make up the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer are currently present in more than 80 countries in the world. “The situation is different in each continent,” explains, superior general, Fr. Michael Brehl, to New Life. While in Asia there is a moment of great growth due to the increase in the number of vocations, in Europe and North America the vocations are declining. “There are many older confreres and few young,” he says. Meanwhile, in Latin America, the numbers remain stable. “Brazil, for example, is the country with the biggest number of Redemptorists in the world,” says Brehl. “But if something is common to all continents, it is the clear commitment of the congregation to collaborate with lay people, women and men, prepared and trained to do the mission with us.”

QUESTION.- How do the Redemptorists carry their mission out today?

ANSWER.- It depends on the place. For example, in Latin America and in Europe, which are cultures with a very strong Catholic tradition, we can preach the popular missions and form the communities. But not in Asia, because of various cultures there are fewer Christians. Our mission in Asia is carried out much more in the dimension of witness and social apostolate. However, there is a link between all continents, and we work a lot in the field of youth ministry. In fact, during my recent visit to Spain, I participated in a meeting in the Monastery of Espino (Burgos) with more than 350 young people and confreres involved in the youth ministry in our congregation.

The other reality is the shrines, as it is the case of Aparecida in Brazil. Many of them are dedicated to Our Lady of Perpetual Help. They are very popular pilgrimage destinations and represent another opportunity to evangelize and encourage many people to live more deeply their relationship with God and Jesus in their own parishes after the pilgrimage. Also, each shrine develops social projects to deepen relations with the abandoned and the poor.

Q.- Focused on youth ministry, has the post-synodal exhortation “Christus vivit” already begun to be put into life?

A.- It is wonderful for us to see the emphasis that Pope Francis puts on youth ministry. Above all, because it is not approached from the perspective that it is a pastoral “for” the young people, to instruct or give them something, but rather it is an apostolate “with” them. It is a youth ministry that involves young people in the Church, in the mission of Jesus.

With young people, who are longing to be part of many social projects, who want to volunteer, we have built many schools and orphanages in Africa, for example. We have also sent volunteers to work with children with special needs. It is a pastoral that wants to involve young people in our mission to those excluded from the world. It is not just about making retreats and reflecting, although this is also important, it goes about working together in the mission. This summer, 80 young Spaniards volunteered to other parts of the world. In other countries, such as Germany, it is very common for boys to go for one year as volunteers before starting college. Young people also want to be agents of change, not just recipients.

Q. – Pope Francis has completed six years as Pope. How do you see this pontificate?

A. – When we listen to Pope Francis, when we read his exhortations, that what we see is a redemptive spirit. The spirit of the Church on the way out, on a permanent mission to bring the good news to others, especially to the peripheries, but not only in words, but also in gestures, in witness, in concrete actions of charity and reception. For us, Francisco is an example of the spirit of Saint Alfonsus. (…)

( – published on 09/15/2019)

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