Prot. N°: 0000 067/2023
Rome, 15th March 2023
Feast of St. Clement Mary Hofbauer
Missionaries of Hope in the footsteps of the Redeemer
A YEAR DEDICATED TO COMMUNITY LIFE
Const. 21-75; GS 026-049; Lk 6,12-16
Dear Confreres, Formandi and Lay Associates of our Mission,
- With joy we celebrate the feast of St. Clement Maria Hofbauer, a Missionary who evangelised with enthusiasm. “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel” (1 Cor 9:16). From children to adults, from the poor to the nobility and the intellectual, all were attracted to his beautiful liturgical celebrations and homilies. Clement teaches us persistence and creative fidelity. From failure and through failure, full of enthusiasm, he managed ably to carry the Redemptorist missionary project forward. Clement, a man of action who crossed the Alps, provokes us today in our history: How can we cross our “Alps” in our parishes, in our churches and shrines, in popular missions, in using media, in education, in formation, in celebrations and care for the most abandoned and most of all in the process of restructuring for mission? Hofbauer is a guide for us in this complex time in which we live, not only for the Congregation but also for consecrated life and for the Church.
- Under the inspiration of St. Clement, we open this Year dedicated to Community Life. Our Constitutions dedicate two Chapters to Community Life: The Apostolic Community and the Apostolic Community Dedicated to Christ the Redeemer (Const. 21-76). The corresponding General Statutes will also be the basis for deepening the theme during the year. May they be prayed over, meditated upon creatively in all the Redemptorist communities of the Congregation. As a Biblical icon for our prayer and reflection we have: Lk 6,12-16: The Lord who calls to be with Him.
- I ask (V) Provincial, Regional, Mission, Community Superiors and Formators to encourage the communities to reflect, pray and meditate on this important topic for Redemptorist Life. I exhort every confrere to live it intensely and to deepen it throughout the year. We need to improve the quality of our community life in the
Congregation. This does not mean that we are doing badly but we need to recognize that it is very often a weak point in our vita apostolica and surely, we can improve it, if we want to be Missionaries of Hope in the footsteps of the Redeemer. The bodies tasked with the animation of our vita apostolica, such as the Secretariats and Commissions, the Spirituality Centre, among others, can, with creativity, produce prayer aids, days of recollection to deepen this theme, animate and offer encouragement and help for communities to nourish their apostolic spirituality and missionary dynamism. I offer this letter as an aid for a community retreat day or for a community meeting.
- We must, with open hearts, without fear, without guilt, but with great sincerity and maturity, ask ourselves the following questions: What is the quality of community life in my (V) Province, Region, Community and Mission? Do we know the personal and vocational history of the confreres with whom we live? Does the community in which I live have a Plan for Community life? How do I feel in the community where I live? Is it life-giving or are there only tensions and divisions? How can I personally contribute to improving community life? Is community life a priority in our personal agendas? How can we improve the quality of our community life, both as an affective resource and for the support of our missionary work? Are our communities an attraction for new vocations? How can we intensify our community life in order to live the process of restructuring? What is our capacity to resolve our personal conflicts? How do we work on our resilience? How do we incorporate lay people into our community and mission? These and other questions should help us to become aware of the reality of our community life, to respond honestly and to take concrete steps to improve it. Community life must be a space to strengthen our vocation, our intimacy with the Redeemer, our missionary spirit and our sense of belonging to the Congregation.
- The XXVI General Chapter left us with 5 important themes to reflect on during this sexennium: identity, mission, consecrated life, formation and leadership. We should reflect on these themes, as they are the essence of the Redemptorist missionary community, in a very honest way, asking ourselves personally and as a community: What is the identity of our Redemptorist community? What is the mission of our community? What is quality of the consecrated life of our community? How do we form ourselves in our communities and how do we exercise leadership for mission in our community? The Final Document, Decisions and Orientations of the XXVI General Chapter can help us to deepen our understanding of our community life.
- The identity of the Redemptorist community is made up of three fundamental aspects: Christ the Redeemer as the centre and reason for our consecration, the people who consecrate themselves to him in order to continue his mission, and the people to whom we are sent and with whom we are sent. We are a community of persons: the person of Jesus, the person of each of our confreres, and the person of the most abandoned. Hence, the place par excellence, according to our Constitutions, for communion and the exercise of the missionary spirit is community life… (cf. Const. 21). The community is the place where we share our existence, our history of salvation and our memories of redemption. It is the place where communion (koinonia), service (diakonia), witness (martyria), and the proclamation (kerygma) are lived. In the Congregation there is no individual as such. The mission is carried out in the name of the Redeemer and of the community He sends us in His name to go to the most abandoned (cf. Lk 4:16-19). Thus, each confrere in himself is a mission that expresses the beauty of mission in the mosaic of the faces of the communal work of art through which shines forth the Redeemer’s mission in this world. If this is true, then Redemptorist consecrated life makes sense and continues to be a sign when the presence of Christ is at the centre of the community, and when personal and communal spirituality is cultivated, when the community is in constant conversion, and when each member is co-responsible for his work and, finally, when the vows are lived as an expression of love for Christ, for the confreres and for the people of God. What kind of Redemptorist consecrated life do we want for ourselves and for the Church? How does our community help to strengthen us in all these aspects?
- All our formation is at the service of the mission, of unifying our life with Christ the Redeemer and with the most abandoned. This historical moment in which we live demands that we take our ongoing formation seriously. Without it, we will continue to give old-fashioned answers to new problems and we will become entrenched in our own world and enter into the dangerous spiral of a shipwreck. The formation of a Redemptorist ends definitively with his union with the Lord at the end of our life’s journey. That is why, in this year of community life, each community should study topics that will help it to carry out its mission. Ongoing formation involves listening deeply to the Spirit who gives us wisdom, the skills necessary to listen carefully, discernment, daily conversion and help to serve the People of God. This extends to our commitment to the formation of lay partners in our mission. What is the nature of my personal ongoing formation? And what is the level of my community formation?
- Finally, the community has its organization and leadership. Each confrere must exercise his mission with a sense of co-responsibility. The community is not
different from an orchestra which has its maestro (the local superiors) and the musicians with their instruments (the confreres, who possess particular talents and enjoy a wide range of creativity). Let each confrere be a shepherd, animator and administrator of his life according to the Constitutions and help the local superiors in this challenging service today (cf. Const. 73, 92). The superiors should serve the community so that it may be formed and grow in Christ, and so that all in unity may dedicate themselves to the work of evangelization (cf. Const. 139). How are we exercising personal and community leadership in our community? It is a journey we make together! “Courage, the Lord is the Master” (St. Clement).
- May St. Clement inspire us to live with intensity this year dedicated to our community life, so that we may joyfully proclaim Christ the Redeemer as we follow Him in His footsteps being missionaries of hope! May Mary, Mother of Perpetual Help, help us in this journey! Amen.
In the name of the General Council
Fraternally in Christ the Redeemer
Fr. Rogério Gomes, C.Ss.R
Original text: Spanish