We offer a brief summary of the main news of this first week of the 26th General Chapter that takes place in Carmel, near Rome.
The Canonical phase of the XXVI General Chapter of our Redemptorist Congregation was officially opened on Monday, September 11, by the Superior General, Father Michael Brehl, C.Ss.R. at “Il Carmelo” near Ciampino, near Rome. Around 110 confreres, priests and brothers were present, 91 of whom were capitulars, and the rest were collaborators in the various work teams such as the Moderators, Secretaries, Office staff, Translators and Interpreters, Notaries and a canonist. This Kairos moment in the life of the Congregation, which will last until October 7, is of singular importance for us as a Congregation since as capitulars we will have to evaluate the present state of the congregation and indicate the way forward, at least for the next six years. We will also have to elect the new General Government, which will animate the Congregation during the coming sexennium and promote the implementation of the projects that will be approved.
This first week of the General Chapter began with the opening Eucharistic Celebration presided by the Superior General Fr. Michael Brehl, C.Ss.R. where he underlined the importance of being open to the Holy Spirit to listen and discern the way forward. After the Inaugural Mass the rest of the first day was devoted to the practical matters regarding living in the House, and more importantly the presentation of the delegates, the support staff, commissions as well as to go through the Norms of Procedure which will guide the General Chapter. Then the capitulars voted unanimously to open the Chapter. The time table for the first two weeks was presented and the day ended with a warm celebration and gaudeamus.
The next two days were spent in retreat guided by Fr. Daniel Huang, SJ, a missiologist and professor at the Gregorian University in Rome with vast international missionary experience as a Jesuit working in the Philippines and in other countries of Asia, as General Consultor of the Jesuits and now as professor at the Gregorian. His main focus was to present Pope Francis’ call to us today to be Missionaries of Hope. He dealt with significant themes, such as our present time of ‘Liminality’ underlining the insecurity we all experience, the end of Christendom and so the call to be signs of hope in this wounded world. Our hope needs to be brave and courageous. It should be the hope that dares to face reality, even if it is difficult, that believes and trusts in the God who is always present, and manifests the audacity to LOVE without distinction. He also highlighted, in the dimension of Pope Francis’ thought, the importance of being missionary disciples at the service of the joy of the Gospel. The prayer sessions both morning and evening adoration, the Eucharist together and the time for quiet and personal interiorisation and the atmosphere of silence maintained right through were highlights of these two days.
The fourth day of this first week was dedicated to the Report of the Superior General, Fr Michael Brehl, on the current state of the Congregation, in which he highlighted the challenges and hopes that are present at this time in our Congregation. Starting from these challenges and hopes, the Chapter will seek ways for Redemptorist life and mission in the future. In small linguistic groups, the capitulars considered the Report of the Superior General, raising their own concerns especially around the challenge of Redemptorist Identity today as well as noting other signs of hope. Fr. General in the last session spoke very personally sharing his own personal experience of 13 years as the head of the General Government. He also shared his concerns around certain areas like Redemptorist Vita Apostolica and Redemptorist Identity, the crying need for closeness to the poor, the challenge of leadership at the service of mission, the Apostolic community and its challenges today, the challenges of the digital world and finally the relationship of the General Government and the entire congregation. The entire Chapter gave him a long and enthusiastic applause and a Standing Ovation in recognition of his dedication and generous availability to serve the Congregation for 13 years as Superior General.
On Friday the fifth day, the Chapter took up the Economic Report presented by the Econome General Fr. Vicente along with a financial balance sheet for the past six years. The strong negative influence that the Covid-19 pandemic had on the economy of the Units and, consequently, of the entire Congregation, was highlighted. Therefore, it was suggested that it would be necessary to rethink, at the general level and in the Units, ways to improve our sources of income and the deeper sense of economic solidarity necessary for the growth of our apostolic Life and Mission. The Commission for Financial Administration presented its report and certain suggestions for financial management in the Congregation.
The afternoon saw Fr Gerry O’Connor the Procurator for Africa and Madagascar present the Report of the Fund for Africa and Madagascar, which is a priority of the Congregation. Considering the almost non-existent sources of income in the African Units, it is up to the other Conferences of the Congregation to raise funds by various means for the missionary projects of Africa and Madagascar, especially for the formation, in various stages, of the numerous vocations of that Conference. A very lively discussion followed his very detailed presentation along with sharing at each of the language groups. The need to continue to support the Conference of Africa and Madagascar was expressed along with the gratitude for the work of Fr Gerry and his team managing the Finances of the Conference.
The final session saw the election of Fr. Kevin O’Neil, C.Ss.R, one of the three moderators along with Fr Joaquim and Fr Gianni, as the permanent Secretary of the General Chapter. Fr Kevin then presented the work ahead for the 2nd week and presented a paper that placed in context the discussions ahead which will revolve around reimagining our future as Redemptorists and renewing our life and mission. The 5 themes of Redemptorist Identity, Redemptorist Mission, Redemptorist Consecrated life, Redemptorist Formation for Mission and Redemptorist Leadership will be the subject matter of the discussions ahead. Fr Kevin also sent by email to all the capitulators a document for reading and reflection for the weekend.
Many of the capitulars chose to stay back for the weekend and rest while others chose to go to Rome and tour the city. The next week will see the 5 lay partners for mission joining us.
Joseph Ivel Mendanha, C.Ss.R.