First Canonical Visit in the Europe South Province

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On 28 and 29 February, in the Roman community of San Gioacchino in Prati, headquarters of the new Unit, the provincial superior began the canonical visit of the 50 communities and approximately 300 confreres who make up the new Province of Southern Europe. An arduous task and demanding that will require a few months, with a fast pace of travel and meetings, both community and personal.

We met with the members of the communities of Rome (S. Maria in Monterone, S. Gioacchino, residence of S. Giovanni Neumann in Montespaccato), Frosinone-Scifelli, and San Sperate (CA). The prayer of the Third Hour in the domestic chapel of the house opened the Visit, which is fraternal and canonical.

The meeting took place in one of the parish halls, in which the provincial superior addressed what we can consider his speech to those present.

Starting from the reading and commentary of the passage from the Acts of the Apostles (15,1-35), Fr. Gennaro presented in broad terms the work that awaits the new Council, “which will be completely dedicated to the animation of the communities.” The events that marked the first assembly of the Church were examined and proposed to the brothers present as a model of community research into the will of God, underlining the criteria that guided the first Christian community in its complex discernment.

Aware that the questions that emerge are more than the answers “that we will build together, in a climate of mutual listening”, the provincial superior outlined the first steps of the itinerary of discernment and reorganization that will affect the new Province. This first starting phase requires everyone a sincere search for the Will of God and a conversion of mentality to move from the “vision of the Province that we all have to a new vision according to God.” He also specified that “the new Province will take on the face that we want to give it and build our future together.”

Community discernment

Community discernment, to which the new Unit is called, must necessarily carefully evaluate the individual traditions of our past, “retaining what is still good and valid today” and leaving what is no longer useful to the historical moment we are experiencing and to the mission. Aware that each previous Unit brings a rich wealth of identity, pastoral work and customs of community and missionary life, the provincial superior expressed the desire to “enhance what is there”, making it clear that after “a close but serene dialogue,” it is necessary to reach concrete decisions, the final end of all discernment.

In his detailed speech, Fr. Gennaro underlined that “all discernment takes place in community”, involving everyone actively. The new reality that we have just established, after a long preparation process, asks us to return to the fundamental values ​​of our Redemptorist consecrated life. The value of the community, “subject of our Redemptorist apostolate,” was reaffirmed several times and forcefully, without hesitation, reiterating that “we must overcome individualism and personalization, to move “from I to We,” aware that we are “a body missionary.”

Importance of spiritual life

Another topic to which the attention of the confreres was drawn is the importance of spiritual life, nourished by community prayer, “strength for living the apostolate.” It is fundamental for the Redemptorists to “give thanks together for the gift of the vocation” and avoid “the apostolate taking over the spiritual life.” Fr. Sorrentino began, highlighting in several passages of his speech, “the need for prayer for consecrated people, and especially for us who are children of Saint Alphonsus, considered the doctor of Prayer.”

Starting from these non-negotiable assumptions, an appeal was made for co-responsibility in the valorization of all the confreres, respecting and protecting the most fragile and, at the same time, encouraging the work of those who have received particular charisms at the service of the mission. Fr. Gennaro recalled that we are all called to cooperate in missionary life, “with prayer, the offering of suffering and with the willingness to leave our small horizons, to open ourselves to broader perspectives.” Our charism – he further highlighted – is “a living organism, which must be continually enriched with experience” and with a realistic vision of the context in which we live, in the footsteps of Saint Alphonsus who lived the original charism as a response to pastoral urgencies of his time, addressing the most abandoned.

The last reflection contextualized the path just outlined in the liturgical season of Lent: “This new experience is requiring us to sink into the Paschal mystery of death and resurrection,” and to face with a spirit of faith the tensions, changes, and urgencies that they present themselves before us.

The clarity with which the provincial superior addressed the assembly met with the interest and attention of all those present. Some questions and practical considerations were shared at the end of the meeting, in a frank and open discussion.

The meeting concluded with some communications. Among these, the next constitution and convocation of the first Provincial Chapter assumes substantial importance, in which the first draft of the Provincial Statutes will be examined and approved in view of their drafting and definitive approval.

The Eucharistic celebration, carefully prepared by our deacons and professed students, and presided over by Fr. Sorrentino, was the central moment of the visit. Before dismissing the assembly, the celebrant thanked those present and asked everyone for prayer support.

In the afternoon, meetings took place with the individual communities, listening and gaining more detailed knowledge of the individual local realities, evaluating difficulties, solutions, and pastoral prospects.

Individual confreres also had the opportunity to dialogue with the provincial superior in personal meetings.

A special thanks goes to Fr. Massimiliano Guardini, provincial councilor of our area, who with discretion and efficiency, organized and managed the various moments of the Visit, remaining at the disposal of the confreres, and ensuring that everything took place in a serene and constructive atmosphere.

The Community of San Gioacchino, as usual, gave us a thoughtful welcome, which fostered the spirit of brotherhood and sharing.

With our prayers we accompany Fr. Sorrentino and the councilors who will support him during the continuation of the visit, asking for the intercession of the Mother of Perpetual Help and of Saint Alphonsus.

Fr. Vincenzo La Mendola C.Ss.R.

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