Confreres and Partners in Mission gathered at San Alfonso Retreat House in Long Branch, New Jersey, from April 17-26 to celebrate Phase III of the 26th General Chapter. Fr. Rogerio Gomes, superior general, and Br. Larry Lujan represented the General Government. Other confreres were from all the units of North America (Baltimore, Canada, Denver, Extra-patriam, and Mexico), including our superior general emeritus, Fr. Michael Brehl. Three Partners in Mission were from the provinces of Baltimore, Canada, and Denver.
The focus of Phase III of the General Chapter is fourfold: 1) to communicate to the whole congregation, through the conferences, the spirit of the canonical phase of the General Chapter; 2) to discern ways to implement the decisions of the General Chapter in order to revitalize the vita apostolica of the conference and to continue the process of restructuring and reconfiguration for mission; 3) to provide a platform for the General Government to present its plan for the next sexennium (themes for each year of the sexennium, e.g. community life for 2023); and 4) to produce a strategic plan for the conference for the next sexennium.
To achieve these goals, there were three principal parts to the meeting: a) an educational one, where the superior general, the conference coordinator, and others brought people up-to-date on the process and progress of the General Chapter, moving from what happened at Phase I (May 2022-Long Branch, NJ) to the Canonical Phase (September-October 2023-Rome) back to Phase III (April 2023-Long Branch, NJ); 2) an emotional component, which was principally a way to “check-in” or see where people were at the feeling level, recognizing that any excitement, unrest, or anything in between that the participants were experiencing were most likely experienced by the confreres in their units as well. This was to underscore that moving forward in the restructuring process would require attention to the whole person in the various units; and 3) the planning component, which was the bulk of the meeting.
For the planning component, Fr. Rogerio presented the plan for the sexennium of the General Government. Then, five small groups gathered to discuss the themes of Redemptorist Identity, Redemptorist Mission, Redemptorist Religious Life, Formation for Redemptorist Mission, and Leadership/Governance for Redemptorist Mission. Each small group met for two full days to suggest concrete strategic plans related to their area of focus and to the General Government’s plan for the sexennium. On the fifth day, notaries reported their small group material to the plenary assembly and the redaction commission took the input and began their redaction of a Conference Strategic Plan.
The schedule of work was a gift to the whole group because they had two free days in a row while the redaction commission worked on their draft. On Monday of the second week, the redaction commission presented their draft, which was reviewed in small groups and responded to in plenary session. There was an informative Zoom meeting with Fr. Nicolas Ayoube, Consultor General from Africa and Madagascar, in which Fr. Nicolas was able to speak about COREAM as a priority of the congregation and to make a personal connection with those of the conference of North America gathered for Phase III. At the end of the day, the redaction commission went back to work and brought a revised draft on Tuesday, which was again discussed in plenary session. A final draft of the Strategic Plan was approved unanimously on Wednesday morning.
Among the areas of focus in the strategic plan are a renewed emphasis on the PCL for the betterment of community life; continuing the work of restructuring and reconfiguration with the goal of a new configuration by 2026 for the Provinces of Baltimore, Denver, and Mexico, and the Vice-province of Extra-patriam; a commitment to personnel and structure for ongoing formation. Other areas relate to spirituality, evangelization, and communication.
Informal and formal feedback point to a meeting that was fruitful in terms of building bonds among the members of the conference and producing a reasonable and achievable strategic plan.
Fr. Kevin O’Neil, CSsR