From the origins of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, the vocation of the brothers has been recognized as an integral part of our Redemptorist identity. There are now 334 brothers throughout the world, the three provinces with the biggest number of brothers are Sao Paulo, Vietnam and Denver. On the occasion of the feast of St. Gerard Maiella, a coadjutor brother in the Redemptorist Congregation, we asked Brother Marcos Vinícius, CSsR for an interview to find out more about how he lives the vocation of a Redemptorist brother today.
Scala News: What does a Redemptorist brother do in the Redemptorist Congregation? How can you describe your vocation and your role in the community?
In 1982, with Communicanda 64, Father Josef Pfab, CSsR, then Superior General, answered this question by calling attention to the fact that the verb “do” is not the right one to say who the Redemptorist brother is. To have a correct understanding of our vocation in the Redemptorist Congregation we need to use the verb “to be”. Thus, the Redemptorist brother is a missionary: a man who feels called to proclaim the plentiful redemption to all people. The Redemptorist brother lives out his missionary vocation by doing any activity that contributes to evangelization, whether this is pastoral or professional work. His role in the community and in the church is always to be a witness to fraternity, which is the fundamental characteristic of the Christian vocation.
Looking at the history of our Congregation, over the years the number of religious brothers has decreased in proportion to the number of priests. Currently, there are provinces where there are no brothers at all. What could be the reason for this?
There are various reasons because there are external reasons and those within the Congregation itself. Among the external ones, it is worth remembering that lay religious life itself is in crisis since clericalism is a constant threat in the Church. Among the internal ones, it is necessary to recognize the awareness of our consecrated and missionary identity that is not sufficiently clear among the confreres. Suffice it to say that for many Redemptorists our charism is expressed only through the exercise of priestly ministry. I know that there are other reasons, but these are significant reasons that prevent many from embracing and persevering in the Congregation as Redemptorist brothers.
What is the work of the General Brothers’ Commission at the General Curia?
The work of the Commission has been to analyze the present situation of the brothers in the Congregation and to offer concrete programs and suggestions to the General Government to promote the vocation of the Redemptorist brother. The Commission was a decision of the XXV General Chapter.
Two years ago, the Commission produced a document on the vocation and ministry of the brothers in the Redemptorist Congregation. What are the main ideas of this document? To whom is this document addressed?
The document is composed of three parts: the first presents the situation of the brothers in the Congregation today, with the shadows and lights that we can see when it comes to their vocation; the second presents a reflection on the identity of the Redemptorist brother, recalling his missionary characteristic; and the third part presents concrete suggestions for vocation promotion, formation and mission. The document is addressed to all Redemptorist confreres because promoting our missionary life requires the commitment of all of us. It is important to know that the lack of brothers in the Congregation is not just a problem for Redemptorist brothers, but a challenge to our own survival as consecrated persons in the Church. So, the document is for all Redemptorists and it is up to us to know and apply it.
How can we promote the vocation of the Redemptorist brother?
I believe that the best way to promote the vocation of the brother is to live our missionary vocation joyfully and faithfully. When one is 100% Redemptorist, that is, when one lives the missionary identity as the priority of Redemptorist life, many young men will discover that one does not have to be a priest to proclaim the Gospel. Another way, a bit difficult, is to combat the clericalism in the Church that still produces the mentality that there are first and second class Christians. That is why it is worth remembering the novelty of Jesus’ message which tells us that we are “all brothers and sisters” (Mt 23, 8).
Looking at the person of St. Gerard Maiella, how can he inspire us today, both as Redemptorist brothers and as Redemptorist priests?
St Gerard Maiella inspires us to live our missionary vocation with simplicity and joy. From him, we learn that holiness consists in doing the will of God, wanting what God wants and loving those whom God loves, the poor. Gerard’s closeness to the poor, sick and suffering teaches us how we should live as Redemptorists. Perhaps we can be as close to people as our brother Gerard still is today.
Thank you very much!
(Interview by Scala News)
Marcos Vinícius Ramos de Carvalho has been a Redemptorist Brother since 2004 and is a member of the province of Goiás, Brazil. He has worked with different commissions, such as catechesis, formation, he was provincial secretary and personal secretary to Father General. He currently works as a professor of philosophy and is director of the Scala publishing house, in Goiânia (Brazil).