Phase Three 26th General Chapter Meeting of the European Conference, 11th – 19th September 2023
16th Assembly CRE, 20th – 22nd September 2023
Towards the end of July, Brendan O’Rourke CSsR (Provincial of Dublin) informed me that I would be going to both these meetings as a supplens, I had mixed feelings about this and was really conflicted. I knew that these would be historically important meetings for our Congregation. Yet two weeks away from ministry and work in Belfast – and the heavy catch-up on return – had me intimidated. I am so happy that I came, for indeed it was a meeting of historic significance. Before I go into the details of the meetings themselves, let me say that the preparatory work undertaken by the General Preparatory Commission with his chair Brendan Kelly CSsR, and Johannes Römelt CSsR (Coordinator CRE) and his Team, was simply excellent.
Each day began with a celebration of the Eucharist and concluded with an Evening Prayer. Rógerio Gomes CSsR (Superior General) presided at the Opening Eucharist and later on offered a reflection on “Missionaries of Hope in the Footsteps of the Redeemer.” Once the work of the Chapter began, we spent two days listening to a series of reports, with a view to setting the context and offering information, particularly to those who were new participants. In the second two days we moved into Group Work. Five groups were formed and each assigned one of the five themes of Phase 2 of the Chapter: Redemptorist Identity, Consecrated Life, Leadership, Mission and Formation for Mission. Each group was tasked with taking one of these themes and developing an Action Plan for the period 2023-2028 in the areas of community, formation, mission, leadership, spirituality, and review of life. This group work was shared in the plenary meeting and discussed thoroughly. Much gratitude goes to Piotr Chyla CSsR (Province of Warsaw) and Giovanni Congiu CSsR (Province of Rome) for their good-humoured and effective moderating of this process. A Redaction Group consisting of Johannes Römelt CSsR, Martin Leitgöb CSsR (Provincial of Vienna-Munich), Desiré Zanté CSsR (Province of France) and Jaroslav Stelbasky CSsR (Vice-Province of Michalovce) then produced a first draft of the Action Plan. More discussions in groups and in plenary followed. Some issues were complex and the Chapter listened sensitively to different perspectives. These issues centred around consecrated life, formation and a presence in a situation of poverty. Yet the Chapter worked through these issues and was able to produce an Action Plan that received universal approval. Rógerio Gomes CSsR then formally closed the Third Phase of the Chapter.
Then the Assembly CRE met for the final two days of our gathering. There was a wide range of business on the agenda. Reports were taken from the various Secretariats (Evangelization, Finance, and Formation). The CRE expenses for 2022 and the Budget for 2024 were approved. Andrzej Michon CSsR (Albania Mission) gave a most interesting account of the Redemptorist presence in Albania. The missionary presence in Africa-Madagascar was discussed at length. Reports were taken from the three Zones of the Conference. Names were proposed for the various secretariats and working groups of the Conference. And there were elections! Piotyr Chyla CSsR was re-elected as a consultor and Martin Leitgöb CSsR was elected as a new consultor. Ciarán O’Callaghan CSsR (Province of Dublin) was elected as a supplens, in the event that either Piotyr or Martin is appointed as Coordinator. The three names proposed to the General Council for appointment as Coordinator are: Johannes Römelt CSsR, Janusz Sok CSsR (Province of Warsaw) and Francisco Caballero CSsR (Provincial of Madrid). After various words of thanks to all who helped make the Assembly a success, Rogério Gomes CSsR closed the meeting.
But it was not all work! Sunday, 17th September was a free day. Some participants stayed in Tuchów and rested. Others went on a tour of Krakow and had a most amazing lunch in the main square. Dariusz Paszynski CSsR (Provincial of Warsaw) took three hardy confreres on a 700 km, 22-hour trip to Ukraine!
Much thanks must go to the confreres of the Warsaw Province and of the Tuchów Community for their warm welcome, outstanding and generous hospitality and their efficient, patient help with so many practical things. Particular thanks must go to Sylwester Pactwa CSsR (Rector of Tuchów) who was untiring in his help to us all.
Finally, to Ukraine, our confreres there and its people. Ihor Kolisnyk CSsR (Province of Lviv) updated us on the situation in Ukraine and the response of the confreres to the crisis caused by Putin’s war. He also expressed gratitude for the financial support received from the various Zones of the Conference. I was specifically asked to mention in this report that the Chapter expressed its support and solidarity with Ukraine, its people, and our confreres there. This was accompanied by loud acclamation and applause. During Ihor’s presentation, he showed us many pictures from Ukraine. One moved me deeply. It was of a group of young priest-chaplains to the Ukrainian Army. They were in the military fatigues. They were willing to accompany the army into harm’s way. And they were smiling. Among them were a few of our confreres. What courageous and committed disciples!
As I said at the beginning, I was conflicted at the thoughts of coming here. I was not just happy that I came – I was blessed. It was a grace-filled, Spirit-directed, transformational event in our journey as missionary disciples in the footsteps of the Redeemer.
Ciarán O’Callaghan CSsR