On the day when we celebrate the feast of Brother Saint Gerard Maiella, I would like to invite the whole Congregation to pray, meditate, reflect and work for the vocation of the religious Brother – writes Fr. Rogério Gomes, Superior General, in his Letter, entitled “Missionaries of Hope in the Footsteps of the Redeemer”.
Rome, October 16, 2022
Prot. N.: 0000 193/2022
Feast of Saint Gerard Majella
MISSIONARIES OF HOPE IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF THE REDEEMER
To the Brothers,
To the Priests,
To the (vice)Provincials,
To the Formators,
To the Vocation Secretariats,
To the Vocation Candidates,
To the Formandi,
Greetings in Christ, the Redeemer!
- Two hundred sixty-seven years ago (267), on October 16, Gerard Majella lived the Pascal Mystery in Caposele, Italy, at the age of 29. A brief life, but intense in prayer and penance, in caring for the poorest, in counseling women religious, and in service to the Congregation. Beyond the hagiographies that made him a miracle-working saint, the great miracle of Gerard was that he was profoundly human and therefore sanctified himself in the school of prayer and life. Gerard was, above all, a disciple of the Redeemer!
- On this day, when we celebrate the feast of Brother Saint Gerard, I would like to invite the whole Congregation to pray, meditate, reflect and work for the vocation of the religious Brother. It is important to remember that “the first ministry that the brothers carry out in the Church as religious is ‘to keep alive in the baptized awareness of the fundamental values of the Gospel’ and ‘the need to respond with holiness of life to the love of God poured into hearts through the Holy Spirit (cf. All the other services and ministries that the different forms of consecrated life perform find meaning and reason for being from the beginning with this first ministry.” In this way, the vocation of the religious Brother leads us to the first foundation, as baptized persons, of being good news and missionaries of Hope in the footsteps of the Redeemer. Such a vocation takes up the essentials of Consecrated Life, making us pass through our hearts (remember) that we are all brothers. In our Congregation, clerics, before ordination, are called Brother or Frater. In other words, it makes us think that a ministry that does not pass through the foundation of fraternity is empty. And this we can never forget in our Consecrated Life.
- Our Constitutions state that we are a clerical institute (cf. Const. 1). Beyond the canons, there is the Spirit which gave Alphonsus, from the origins, the inspiration to found a Congregation with two lungs: clerics and brothers. These two ways of being merge into one single way, the Redemptorist being with its vitality, to form one single missionary body (cf. Const. 2). To forget this principle is to disregard the fact that Redemptorist life is complete only because it breathes with two lungs and this way of being gives us vitality and qualifies our Consecrated Life. In this way, there should not be any difference among us: we are Redemptorists, and we differ only in the ministerial service we render in the Church and the Congregation on behalf of the poorest and most abandoned (cf. Lk 4:16-18).
- In the Congregation, few Units have a reasonable number of Religious Brothers. In many of them, the number is disappearing, while in others, there are no vocations at all. There are situations where there are young men who want to be Brothers, but are coerced by superiors or formators to get ordained. Facing this context, isn’t it the right time to critically ask ourselves what is happening: the low birth rate in families and, consequently, the lack of vocations; the lack of vocation promotion that presents the vocation of the Religious Priest and Brother (Ratio Formationis updated (2020), n. 90); greater focus on priestly ministry than on consecrated life; the lack of formation structures?
- The lack of Vocations for Religious Brothers could be a sign that the Redemptorist Consecrated Life is focusing too much on doing and forgetting its being, which has a witnessing dimension and, consequently, qualifies missionary action. This balance is fundamental if we are to be missionaries of Hope in the footsteps of the Redeemer. Therefore, it is healthy that we reflect throughout the Congregation in the light of the themes – identity, mission, consecrated life, formation, and leadership – discussed in the XXVI General Chapter (2022), and consider the vocation of the Religious Brother.
- It should be remembered that even in those situations where there is no specific formation for the Brothers, the updated Ratio Formationis and the Document of the Commission for the Brothers offer guidelines for this. Besides the formation concerning the Consecrated Life, the Religious Brothers are to be given the possibility of studies in various areas which contribute to our charism. According to the Ratio Formationis, n. 81: “Whenever possible, Brothers should acquire an education, culminating in a diploma or degree, in whatever area is suited to the individual´s talents and according to the charism of the Congregation, and the Priorities of each Unit and Conference. The formation of Brothers should include basic education in theology and pastoral experience (cf. C 89; PC 18), so that they can exercise co-responsibility in leadership according to their talents (cf. 25th Gen. Cap, 2016, Decision 27).”
- In addition, it is always possible that (v) provincial superiors dialogue about the Brothers sharing of formative, pastoral experiences, reside in a house of formation proper for Brothers, and have a pastoral year in Units of the Congregation that have the presence of Brothers. It is important to learn together!
- In pastoral terms, there are many possibilities for the Religious Brothers to exercise their missionary spirit (catechesis, counseling, liturgical formation, justice and peace, etc.). First, however, we must have a pastoral conversion to welcome them. A pastoral that focuses only on Priestly Ministry and the Sacraments does not make room for the Brothers and lay people to be inserted in our mission.
- Dear Confreres, Religious Priests, and Brothers, those in formation, laity associated with our mission, formation secretariats, vocation promoters, and pastoral secretariats: may we together promote the beauty of the vocation of the Religious Brother, as well as that of the Religious Priest, within the beauty of ministerial service with the laity and their pastoral creativity. May we drink from and share our charism from within their own lives. In the Congregation, there is space and mission for the Religious Priest, Brother, and laity. We are a missionary body with an incredible force of evangelization if we unite our strengths with the necessary creativity to announce the copiosa apud eum redemptio in this historical moment that God has given us.
10. May Brother Saint Gerard watch over the Congregation and, with his example of prayer, humility, and fidelity, arouse many vocations to strengthen our missionary body of Religious Brothers and Priests. So be it!
In Christ the Redeemer, fraternally,
Fr. Rogério Gomes, C. Ss. R.
 CONGREGATION FOR INSTITUTES OF CONSECRATED LIFE AND SOCIETIES OF APOSTOLIC LIFE. The Identity and Mission of the Religious Brother in the Church, and, “You are all brothers” (Mt 23,8). 2015 – Libreria Editrice Vaticana 00120 Città del Vaticano, 2015, n. 7.
 CONGREGATION OF THE MOST HOLY REDEEMER. Document of the Commission for the Brothers. Rome: General Curia, 2020 [Prot. n. 0000 055/2020].