The North American Conference of Redemptorists met via Zoom October 27-29. Present were members from all four Provinces/Units. Also present were representatives from the Province of Mexico and members from the General Government in Rome, specifically Superior General Michael Brehl and General Consultor Jeffrey Rolle.
The meeting was facilitated by Conference Coordinator Jack Kingsbury. There were three Zoom sessions each day beginning with a check-in session for all Provinces/Units on Tuesday morning October 27. The provincials of each Unit provided brief updates about the status of their Units, especially in terms of how the COVID19 pandemic has affected their ministry. All Units have done a good job of adjusting their ministerial outreach through digital media during this time when in-person Masses and other services are limited or forbidden by law all together.
In addition to the four major Provinces of North America there was also a short presentation by Fr. Stanislaw Slaby, C.Ss.R., who represents the Polish Redemptorist presence in North America.
The check-in session was followed by a discussion of the General Chapter report on the Provinces of North America. Prior to the meeting, the General Government had sent questionnaires to all Units asking about their current situations. The General Government reviewed all responses and produced a general evaluation of the status of the North American Conference Units as a whole.
The General Government’s evaluation was not an official document that required approval. It was simply a way for all members of the Units across North America to get a sense of what the overall status of the Congregation is in North America. There was good discussion among members of the Conference around the report and it was helpful that both Superior General Michael Brehl and General Consultor Jefferey Rolle were present to clarify any confusion around the General Government’s assessment.
Afterwards, Fr. Jerry Knapp of the Baltimore Province presented the 2021 budget for the North American Conference. The budget was clear and concise and there was little discussion around it.
On Wednesday morning, October 28, the Conference meeting continued with an overview of the Formation Ratio for the North American Conference. This document provided the liveliest discussion among members of the Conference concerning the boundary line between what the responsibilities of formators are as opposed to the responsibilities of those students in formation. At the end of the session, the Formation Ratio was passed. It will now be sent to the General Government.
The second session on October 28 was a report on the Partnership in Mission Program (PIM) by North American Conference PIM Director Anne Walsh. Anne reported on the progress that had been made over the past year in terms of her weekly Partners in Mission newsletters, the organizations Facebook page and website. Partners in Mission has prepared many wonderful triduum novenas for Redemptorist Feast Days over the past year. She also reported on the success of the North American PIM Conference meeting at the Redemptorist Renewal Center in Tucson, Arizona, late last year.
The afternoon sessions on October 28 were breakout room Zoom sessions: One for the United States and one for Canada. The purpose of the sessions was to allow members from Units within the United States and Canada to discuss possible collaboration of administration offices as well as current and future ministries.
Thursday, October 29 opened with a presentation from Fr. Charlie Wehrley, Communications Director for the North American Conference. The position of Communications Director has been in existence for a year now and Fr. Wehrley discussed the priorities that he and Fr. Jack Kingsbury has set for the Office, which included updating the old North American Conference website, creating a Facebook page for the Conference and establishing a North American Conference Communications Commission.
Fr. Wehrley reported that the Conference website had been updated twice over the past year, including a recent total transformation to an even more professional look than the previous page that was created in October of 2019 had. The Facebook page has been very successful, drawing over 2,000 page “likes” and followers. Post viewership on Facebook has ranged between a few hundred views per post to as many as 239,000 views. Fr. Wehrley also took it upon himself to create a YouTube page for the North American Conference and an Instagram page.
The North American Conference Communications Commission held its first meeting on September 22, 2020. Members include Fr. Ako Walker (Baltimore), Fr. Aaron Meszaros (Denver), Fr. Tony Bidgood (Canada) and Fr. Michael Nguyen (Extra Patriam) as well as Frs. Kingsbury and Wehrley. The Commission will meet again in January 2021.
The meeting continued on Thursday, October 29, with a discussion around the request for Mexico to transfer from the South American Conference to the North American Conference. The OPC of the Mexican Province was present for the discussion, including Provincial Jose Guadalupe Nazarin. The presentation itself was primarily handled by Denver Provincial Steve Rehrauer as he explained the hope that Mexico and Denver could maintain a working relationship between them on a stronger level if Mexico was transferred to the North American Conference. Discussion of the proposal was highly positive and the representatives of the North American Conference voted to support Mexico’s petition to the General Government to change Conferences.
The final business on Thursday, October 29 was the approval of the 2021 Budget for the North American Conference. The budget was approved, and the meeting ended with a prayer by Fr. Byron Miller, C.Ss.R.
Fr. Charlie Wehrley, C.Ss.R.