Towards the end of October, a gathering of confreres from four North-European units aged fifty or less was held in Neustadt an der Weinstrasse in Germany. The Provinces of St Clement, Dublin, London and Vienna-Munich were represented. The venue was Kloster Neustadt, a guesthouse run by the Sacred Heart Fathers. Also present were the Provincial Superiors of the units involved (with the exception of that of one unit, whose Provincial had to pull out last minute due to illness). The Coordinator of the Conference of Europe joined the group midweek to participate in the process.
The meeting was proposed by the team of Provincial Superiors as part of the process of becoming a Federation of Units. The Provincials facilitated a process of reflection, sharing and feedback regarding the missionary identity of the confreres as Redemptorists and engaging with the question of future collaboration. The fact that the Provincial Superiors had already spent a good amount of time working together previously was most evident in their good-humoured teamwork.
Although a handful of confreres had crossed paths before, there were numerous introductions to be made. Communication happened in German and English, with excellent translation skills from the Provincial of Vienna-Munich and other participants. If there was any awkwardness to begin with, the group would soon gel in fraternity.
At the heart of each day was the celebration of the Eucharist and gatherings for prayer. God was praised fittingly with hearty singing voices and talented musical accompaniment, particularly from some of the confreres from Indonesia currently working in the St Clement’s Province.
Sessions took on an air of synodality in its spirit of openness, both in the sharing and attentive listening. There were some occasions which would appropriately be described as “Kairos” moments.
Afternoons were spent taking opportunities to visit key historical and religious locations in the area. Quirky highlights included seeing a display of a momentous historical event using Playmobil toys; discovering pretzels etched in church architecture; and the opportunity to enjoy the delicious local wine. Evening recreation was filled with further bonding, storytelling, and spontaneous song.
The autumnal grey skies and rain that prevailed during most of the time spent in the week did not dampen the spirits of the confreres. The sun shone on our last morning as we bid each other adieu, heading back to our respective ministries with renewed hope.
Fr Peter Morris CSsR