The 2023-2024 series of ongoing formation sessions for the Lay Missionaries of the Most Holy Redeemer and professed Redemptorists of the Conference of North America continued on Sunday, February 4, with Superior General Fr. Rogerio Gomes, CSsR presenting. Fr. Rogerio led participants in reflection and discussion on the topic of: The Redemptorist Family: Hopes, Dreams, Challenges and the Paths to be Followed.
Fr. Rogerio began with an invitation to expand our understanding of “family”, saying that “Today, the concept of family has expanded from being simply a group of persons linked by blood (biological relations) or by ties of kinship independent of biological relations.” Rather, he asked us to view family as “a micro-society of people who come together for a specific purpose and provide emotional, social and economic support to its members”, a reality whose expression differs from continent to continent and society. This paved the way for an exploration of “The Redemptorist Family: Hopes, Dreams, Challenges and the Paths to be Followed.”
1. Redemptorist Family
Fr. Rogerio described the Redemptorist family broadly as “people who drink directly from the charism or who have a very strong charismatic relationship with the original source, St Alphonsus, or with an institute founded by a Redemptorist in which traces of the charism and of the Redemptorist spirituality and charism are present.” It is a Charismatic Family with spiritual and missionary bonds, encompassing the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, the Order of the Most Holy Redeemer, the Congregations founded by Redemptorists, or which are linked to our charism, and all the lay faithful who drink from our spirituality. Fr. Rogerio then posed several key questions.
What support do we give one another as a Redemptorist family? What is the nature of the relationship between the professed members and the lay people who are drinking from our spirituality? Do we provide formative, spiritual and emotional support as a missionary body? From his perspective, we have a long way to go, not only as a Congregation but as an ecclesial community.
Read more – PIM: Insights from Fr. Gomes, C.SS.R.
Next, Fr. Rogerio explored the invitation of the XXVI General Chapter, calling us to be missionaries of hope in the footsteps of the Redeemer. The participants were moved by this call: “As Redemptorist Family, the horizon of hope is a challenge to us to open other windows in the reality in which we find ourselves. If it’s not possible to open windows, then at least to open a hole through which a breath of hope can enter by means of creative fidelity.” This requires professed Redemptorists and Partners in Mission to work together, engaging in dialogue and looking for new ways to serve evangelization, taking into account everyone and the principle of harmony, which he described as “… a gift of the Spirit. It doesn’t make people uniform, but it makes symphony possible.”
Turning to Dreams, Fr. Rogerio reminded us that the concept “Redemptorist family” is new. The XXVI General Chapter urged us to “re-imagine” how we might continue the mission of the Redeemer. He recalled n. 78 of the working document for the first phase of the XXVI General Chapter, which said: “We are “agents” of the mission. But we are not the only agents of the mission. We have heard many calls for increased cooperation with the laity, particularly with our Partners ln Mission (PIM). We have also heard a call to collaborate with other religious congregations and secular groups that share our goals.”
Fr. Rogerio then briefly shared his thoughts on the challenges of clericalism and an emphasis on sacramental ministry at the expense of exercising our prophetic role. He urged us, as a Redemptorist Family, to work together to develop new ways of formation for mission, leadership that is open-minded and shared, and creative expressions of common mission. Lastly, he movingly challenged us to feed our dreams, rather than our nightmares, saying “Dreams allow us to see beyond the mountains, to see horizons. Nightmares frighten and paralyse us.”
4. Challenges and the Paths to be Followed
In Fr. Rogerio’s assessment, creating a new language to communicate with today’s society is perhaps the greatest challenge we face today.
A second challenge is that, in the Church and in our Redemptorist Family, “We are still islands; we have to admit that we find it very difficult to work together. We don’t dialogue with other charisms. We still have difficulties in involving the laity in our mission.”
A third challenge identified by Fr. Rogerio lies in our ability and commitment to think together about the mission. He reminded us that this “requires a change of mentality, missionary methods and horizons, and overcoming the omnipotence complex that we have.
So, what directions can we take?
Fr. Rogerio offered five directions:
– To deepen our charism, identity and mission as a Redemptorist Family and to see where we can meet. In this meeting lies a common mission.
– To identify the Congregations and Institutes that draw from our charism and to promote online meetings through conferences and, at some point, face-to-face meetings.
– Reflect on areas of missionary collaboration between the Redemptorist Family and the laity people.
– Improve communication among us as a Redemptorist Family.
– Invite members of other Congregations and Institutes of the Redemptorist Family to participate in the Secretariats and Commissions of our (Vice-)Provinces.
Fr. Rogerio then spent some time taking questions and engaging the participants in conversation. It was a valuable, enlightening encounter, and we are grateful to our Superior General for his generosity and openness in making himself available for this time of encounter.