Since May 22, the Consolata missionaries have begun their thirteenth General Chapter in Rome, in their General House, located two minutes walk from St. Peter’s Square. The Chapter will officially end on June 20, on the feast of Our Lady Consolata.
The main objective of this Chapter is to revitalize and restructure our Institute in order to improve our mission. The Chapter is the assembly of the delegates representing the regions and delegations where the Consolata missionaries are working throughout the world.
Father Stefano Camerlengo, Superior General, welcoming the Chapter delegates, reminded everyone that the General Chapter is “a unique moment first in the life of the Consolata missionaries family and then in the whole Church. We have the opportunity to have an overview of our Institute; to make an evaluation of our way of being and living the mission ‘ad gentes’ and to provide energy to offer ourselves to mission, the heart of our life”.
In addition, the General Superior reaffirmed the consecration of the Consolata missionaries to God for the mission. Quoting the Founder of the Institute, Blessed Joseph Allamano, he finally reminded the Chapter members that “the Consolata missionaries are consecrated for mission for the whole life”.
The first day, rich in messages and invitations to back to the sources – Jesus Christ and the charism – was crowned by a Eucharistic celebration presided over by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican Secretary of State. During his homily, the Cardinal recalled that revitalizing and restructuring the Institute is an invitation to keep on testifying Jesus in the world. In other words, it’s simply the call to be Jesus Christ’s witnesses.
The next day, May 23, we were very glad to welcome Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, Archbishop of Manila and President of Charitas International. In his talk, the Cardinal dwelt on the missionary method of Paul and Barnabas. He gave a brief outline of James Krueger’s principles, and, referring to the Christian Community of Antioch, he underlined the need of prayer and fasting as primary means to respond to the needs of the mission.
May 24 opened with the Eucharistic celebration presided over by Fr. Ugo Pozzoli, (General Councillor for Asia and Europe). President Trump’s visit to Rome upsets our plans. The city is blocked and so the scheduled convention with the Consolata Sisters has to be postponed one day. The change is smoothly done. Father Stefano Camerlengo, Superior General, gives his report, prepared and shared with his Council, today – two days ahead of the schedule.
The morning goes by quickly as our General Superior shows to us some beautiful deeds of our Institute and shares also hard and problematic features. Among the achievements, he highlights the solution given to some thorny issues that have been dragging on for years, the grace of having so many young people in formation, the beginning of IMC presences in Taiwan and Angola, the opening of formation apostolic communities (CAF) in Argentina, Portugal and in the near future in Italy, the effort made by everyone to reach a financially self-supporting mission, the journey made by the Continental Councils, the awareness that the mission, today, requires from us not a cosmetic change, but to be “new wine skins”, through listening to the Spirit.
Negative and problematic features have also been put on the floor, without fear of calling the issues by their proper names. They are a great challenge to the whole Institute and require a profound re-thinking of both basic and on-going formation. In spite of all this, however, for us the great belief in the Mission – that is God’s mission – being at the center of everything holds fast.
The exchange at the assembly was frank and constructive, with a positive spirit, a great desire to look ahead with hope and a shared awareness that our future will not be based only on greater organization and efficiency but above all on the quality of our being – in tune with the original charism given to us by Blessed Joseph Allamano.
On may 25 and 26, the Consolata Sisters joined our delegates for a convention on Blessed Irene Stefani, Consolata Sister.
On the first day, Thursday, the presentation is entrusted to the missionaries from Kenya. Sister Joan Agnes Matimu and Father James Lengarin set the figure of Sr. Irene in the context of the beginning of the Consolata presence in Kenya and particularly of the Murang’a Conference that characterized the style of the mission of our first confreres (and consequently also of the Sisters). The input takes the whole morning. After the shared lunch, at 3:00 PM works resume in “mixed” groups, where the message is focused further and updated. The day closes with the Eucharist, chaired by Father Pendawazina, Vice Superior General, attended also by our seminarians in Rome.
On May 26, it is the turn of the missionaries from Mozambique. They lead us to look at the Blessed in the light of her “visit” to the mission of Nipepe during the war, when she performed the miracle of the water. The witness of Father Giuseppe Frizzi, the veteran, as he likes to call himself, makes us relive intensely those days of pain, fear and grace. Father Frizzi showed us how, through that event, Blessed Irene entered powerfully in the lives of the people who therefore welcomed her as the “Pwiyamene” (their matriarch). The way she has made herself present becomes an example for an announcement that enters the life and culture of a people.
The display of several symbolic drawings of Nipepe Makua artists helps us in understanding the impact of the event in the local culture. The synthesis of the work of the eight groups is now in the hands of a secretariat that will prepare a final text.
The day is wrapped up at the Basilica of Santa Maria del Popolo, where one of the original icons of the Consolata is kept. Although the icon had been removed for restoration, our Eucharist was a moment of shared joy and hope among missionaries, (Fathers, Brothers and Sisters), seminarians and lay Consolata missionaries.
The following day, May 27, it was the duty of North America delegation (Canada, Mexico, USA) to lead the prayer. The Mass was presided over by Fr. Jean-Marie Bilwala (Canada) and concelebrated by Fr. Paolo Fedrigoni (delegate superior) and Fr. Daniel Sudamo (Mexico superior). Later, following our agenda, the General Administrator, Fr. Rinaldo Cogliati, gave his report on the ‘financial health’ of the Institute. After a number of questions from the assembly and answers, the Superior General thanks him for his service.
On May 29, the Chapter “working” day begins as usual with the reading and approval of the previous session minutes. Then Father Matthew Odhiambo (Taiwan) and Father Tamrat Defar (Korea) present the project of the Asia continent.
May 29, presentation of the Continental Missionary Project (CMP) Asia
Father Matthew Odhiambo (Taiwan) and Father Tamrat Defar (Korea) present the project of the continent to the assembly.
Here is a synthesis prepared by them.
The Continental Missionary Project of Asia
For many, Asia is a little known and confused reality that arouses fears when are asked to make decisions about the Mission. It is worth remembering that even if Asia occupies only 15% of the planet’s surface, it has almost two-thirds of the world’s population. Religions like Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism and Taoism are followed by the vast majority, while Christianity has only 8.4% of the total population of Asia.
This situation helps understand why the Catholic Church faces a series of challenges:
It is a church that still needs to become truly local;
It is a minority church;
It is a dependent church (from the support of other churches);
It is a church where social work plays a great role;
A church that has to face challenges such as:
The Global market
The world of communication and the media
A world in great transformation
Situations of religious freedom denied or strictly controlled
The presence of migrations
It also faces theological challenges:
It needs a theology “made in Asia”
It needs inter-religious dialogue
The Consolata Missionaries enter this world 29 years ago, with our first presence in South Korea. Then in 2003 we opened in Mongolia, together with the Sisters, and three years ago in Taiwan.
In the spirit of continentality and inspired by the search for “revitalization and restructuring” as desired by our Institute, on March 30, 2016, our presences formed one Region: the Region of Asia (RAS). This new Region has elaborated its continental project that was presented at the chapter.
These are the qualifying points of the project:
1. The Consolata missionaries style in Asia is made up of: first announcement of the Gospel, inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue, strong spirituality, Consolation, community life, close collaboration among all and stability.
2. The priorities are:
a) To announce Jesus to those who do not know him;
b) Inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue;
c) Spirituality; presence of Consolation among young people, immigrants, marginalized people;
d) All this lived in a vibrant, fraternal and multicultural community;
e) Collaboration and communion with the local Church, with other missionary forces, with the Consolata Sisters and with all the forces active in the area (laity, friends of ours);
f) Commitment to communication and information.
In this context, the confreres in Asia have prepared their project, identified strategies and lines of action to achieve the goals set. And they count on the support and prayers of all the confreres.
The long Asia document (45 pages at 237 points) was then examined by all the chapter members divided into continental groups and then debated at the assembly.
May 30, morning: report on IMC Brothers
In the morning, after the Eucharist presided over by Tanzania’s Father Godfrey Msumange, the assembly began with Brother Kenneth Wekesa’s report on the situation of the Brothers in the Institute. A broad debate followed. The report acknowledged the gradual decline of the Brothers in the Institute. It has been pointed out that this is a symptom of a more general crisis that exists everywhere about the meaning and value of Religious Life. We were all invited to be more concerned about the Brothers’ place in our Institute, to promote this vocation, to have a more inclusive language that uses the term “Missionaries” instead of “Fathers”, to envision a more specific training program for them and to have a Brothers’ representative at continental level.
Asia, hope and some requests
In the second part of the morning and part of the afternoon there was the sharing of group work on the continental project of Asia. From the debate arose a hope: a firm commitment by the Institute to Asia and the request to be able to have new missionaries soon to strengthen our presence in Taiwan (where, apart from the language, there are no sort of problems for visas and the local bishop supports us) and possibly even in Mongolia (more complex reality, where it is more difficult to get residence permits).
Asia also shared the dream of being able soon also to have a small theological training center.
May 31-June 1. Africa’s continental project
Father Antonio Rovelli, moderator of the day, invites Father Marco Marini, Councilor for Africa, and Father Matthieu Kazinski, Superior of the DRCongo, to present the African project. Armed with PowerPoint, the two go straight to the points that are at the top of our interest, reminding us the Roman saying: “ex Africa semper aliquid novi (there is always something new from Africa)!”. They also point out that Christianity has belonged to Africa since its origins, recalling the first community founded by St. Mark in Alexandria, without forgetting – I say – the Ethiopian eunuch and the glorious and rich history of martyrs and saints in North Africa before the Islamic invasion.
The Consolata Missionaries are present in 10 nations with 88 communities and about 400 missionaries. They are also ready for a next opening in Madagascar (north of the Ambanja Diocese) by the end of 2017.
The project addresses these areas:
· The Ad Gentes required by the mission
· Missionary and Vocational Animation
· Basic Formation
· The Economy of Communion
· Restructuring and Governance.
The continent has set the mission Ad Gentes at the center: announcing the Gospel to non-Christians belongs to our Identity, with priority to those who are not evangelized, but with attention also to superficial Christians (in whom the Gospel is still not well planted) and to minorities (see the Pygmies). Obviously there are many evangelization fields, however the rapid urbanization in the continent requires new forms of urban presences, often in multi-ethnic and extremely poor situations.
Another element is the basic formation: Africa is the continent where there are about 140 young people in formation from the novitiate onward. It is a very beautiful reality, for which to thank the Lord, but with its problems as well. Among them, the challenge of having a sufficient number of qualified formators, the cost of basic formation that absorbs much of the resources of the Regions, the threat to the continuity of the formation process that comes from the fact that the candidates are shifted from one nation to another and change places, languages and formators.
Another area where we spoke with frankness is finances: the urgent need of finding for Africa the ways to support its missions, of ensuring relationships of trust and fairness with benefactors and foreign donors, of cutting expenses, of empowering every missionary in a responsible use of goods, of bringing about fairness and transparency.
Interesting is the subject on inter-religious dialogue, on which they insist in their project and about which they emphasize more the relational aspect (to create relationships of friendship and respect, “dialogue of life”), rather than the “academic” or institutional one.
On June 1st each group presents its observations in the assembly. First we appreciate the positive aspects such as vocational abundance and commitment to formation; The search for self-support; The great variety and complexity of the areas of missionary commitment throughout the continent; The clarity of setting first evangelization at the center; The effort to find new ways of collaboration and coordination between IMC Regions so different for their history, culture and language.
While we are discussing, at 10.15 here comes the news of the re-election of Sr. Simona Brambilla to be the Superior General of the Consolata Sisters. We share the joy of our Sisters.
Eucharist with Cardinal Fernando Filoni, Prefect of Propaganda Fide
In the evening, at 6.30 PM, on foot, comes Cardinal Fernando Filoni with whom we celebrate the Eucharist and then share the dinner. Nice moment, very fraternal. In the Eucharist, he comments on the readings of the day. He does this by pointing out two key words in the two readings.
In the Acts of the Apostles, Jesus says to Paul in prison: “courage”, that is, trust me, have confidence and be ready to give the final witness as the conclusion of your faith itinerary. In the Gospel of John, Jesus asks Peter “do you love me? You really love me? Do you love me more than anybody? “(i.e.: more than all things). The cardinal stresses how the expression “you love me” is at the basis of the spiritual life, and how Jesus needs to hear Peter say: “Yes, Lord, I love you!” Then he links the dialogue between Jesus and Peter to the theme of revitalization and the word “courage” addressed to Paul to the restructuring.
After the Mass he stays for dinner with us. At the end, he greets us with a passionate message. He invites us to be true witnesses to the universality of the Church, to overcome all cultural closures, all divisions and even tribalism.
June 2, presentation of America’s continental missionary project
We begin the day with Mass presided over by Father Venanzio Mwangi Munyiri who works with the Afro-Americans at Cali (Colombia).
Facilitates Father Father Matthew Owur’s day (Kenyan in Taiwan). In answer to a motion, an ad hoc commission is appointed with representatives of the four continents and of the Brothers to deepen the theme of basic formation, a theme that emerges in all continent projects.
It is almost 9:45 AM when the presentation of the CMP of America is made. The goal of America’s project is to open paths of revitalization and restructuring that lead us to regain true fidelity to our mission Ad Gentes.
The missionaries working in America (North and South America) are 260 and are present in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela, Mexico, the United States and Canada. They are organized in six Circumscriptions. Over the years, America has grown in the feeling of continentality, carrying out the indications of the last three general chapters. In this context, many initiatives have been organized and decisions taken by the Continental Council coordinated by the Continental Councilor. It should be emphasized that at this chapter is the first time South and North America speak with one voice.
It is pointed out that apparently between the North and the South there are very marked differences both from a political point of view (peace against political instability, wars and social tensions), economic (wealth and poverty, domination and exploitation) and religious (Protestant world and Catholic world) and linguistic. But a more careful analysis reveals similar trends that challenge the mission: economic issues, moral crisis, corruption, ecological disasters, genocide of indigenous peoples, etc.
Taking into account our presences and our various missionary commitments, the project analyzes the service of missionaries in three areas:
· Pastoral service (37% of missionaries)
· New evangelization (21%)
· The ad gentes mission (9%)
While 33% of all missionaries are engaged in support services (direction, administration, formation, communication). From these data we can see that only a small minority is engaged in the Ad Gentes mission which is specific to our charism.
The MCP frankly lists the weaknesses, strengths and dangers that affect missionaries who work in the continent. It then highlights the services and preferential options made by IMCs on the continent.
· Services: missionary and vocational animation, youth animation, formal and informal education, communication (information, journals and media) and basic formation.
· Preferential Options:
According to Geographical Areas: Amazon and urban suburbs;
According to the Subjects: African-Americans, Indigenous Peoples, Migrants and Refugees, Youths and Existential Suburbs.
Cross-values have also been presented, covering all areas of commitment: Justice and Peace, Care of Creation, Inter-religious Dialogue and Pedagogy of the Attention to Personal Integrity. These values are not developed directly, but in the context of the other themes.
June 3, PMC analysis of the America Project
The morning Eucharist is animated by Brazil and chaired by Father James M. Mbugua assisted by Father J. Patias and Father A. Fiorentini who holds the homily.
At the assembly, it is highlighted the fact that the CMP of America sets the mission Ad Gentes at the center of our lives; appreciation is given to the attention to the person of every missionary, to the commitment to formation, to frankness in analyzing problems, to the continental dimension of the program, to the journey with the Church, to collaboration with the Lay Consolata Missionaries, to the clarity in roles and much more.
Then, the weaknesses in the CMP are underlined and proposals are put forward in a spirit of constructive collaboration. Here are some: a nice program that does not seem to take into account the human resources; Lack of availability of missionaries for the Ad Gentes options, as in the case of the commitment to indigenous or aboriginal peoples; Many proposals seem expressed more as a desire than as a real plan.
The overall perception, however, is very positive and encouraging. In particular, we appreciate the novelty of the new collaboration between the two Americas, that of the North and South, and we invite the continent to continue on this journey. It is also evident that certain themes and problems (such as missionaries unavailable for Ad Gentes options) are common to all continents and will require a serious reflection and a clear deliberation by the chapter.
June 5, meeting with the Consolata Sisters and Audience with Pope Francis
At 9 o’clock, we were at work with our missionary sisters. An hour passed fast and we approved a common document that synthesized the group work made during the conference on missionary spirituality inspired by the example of blessed Irene Stefani.
We then went to the Vatican. After the usual security checks, we were already in the Clementine Hall by 11.00 AM. After noon, the Pope arrived and time flew. We treasured his message and his blessing on us and all the members of our two Institutes (the message to us can be found on the Vatican Website).
The missionary project of Europe
Finished lunch with our sisters, at 3 PM we resumed the work. Representatives of the continent of Europe present their project with an accurate PowerPoint.
I asked Father Luca Bovio to give us a summary:
“The European project first and foremost has an important goal that could be summarized as follows: What is the best way for us, in today’s Europe, to carry out the mission?
This goal includes a number of issues that challenge us and ask for answers such as: how is Europe changing in the social, religious, economic fields? What are the missionary challenges that we should discern and face? What are the changes the Institute is experiencing?
It is not easy to give an answer to all this, given the complexity of these issues and also the speed with which they occur. However, we believe that the continental missionary project helps us to find those answers that ultimately only mean to qualify our mission. The two key words are: revitalizing and restructuring. While expressing two different concepts they need one another. Revitalizing the life of the missionary who already lives in Europe or who will come to serve on our continent means to put the missionary in the condition of feeling empowered and encouraged to give his best in what he is called to do. Restructuring, in the end, means to provide us with the best means to accomplish today’s mission, with the courage to make the necessary choices to that end.
In its concreteness, the project embraces five general themes and specifies for each of them: the goal, the means, the lines of action, the revision. The themes presented are:
1. Our Ad Gentes,
2. The charism,
3. The formation,
4. Finances and administration,
5. The government of the continent.
They are five great areas that try to embrace the different aspects that make up our lives. Within the project there are also attachments on specific topics on:
· The media
· The year of service
· Missionary cooperation in Europe
June 6, analysis of CMP Europe
The morning Mass is presided over by an unexpected guest, Monsignor Giovanni Crippa, our bishop in Northeast Brazil.
At the assembly, there are many appreciations for the CMP of Europe: accurate, well-organized, attentive to the details, attentive to the missionaries, realistic in the analysis of the situation without giving up, concerned about the formation, with a spirit of collaboration with others Continents, etc.
Then it follows the marking of the points that arise concern. One of the most obvious limitations is that the ability to dream is not match by the strength to carry out the dream, especially because of lack of personnel. Europe is also invited to identify more clearly what is its “Ad Gentes”.
The discussion also calls for clarification on the basic formation and the historical and charismatic heritage of which Europe is guardian.
June 7, 2017
Still a sunny day. The day begins as usually at 9.00, with a short moment of prayer begun with a beautiful Polish song by Father Luca Bovio.
Then the word is given to the president of the assembly, the Superior General, who introduces to us the journey steps ahead. He starts off with a quotation from St. Ignatius of Antioch: “I saw with the eyes of God, I thought with the mind of God. I felt with the ears of God, I loved with God’s heart. I wished with God’s desires, I decided with the God’s decisions! ” A clear invitation to make a journey of discernment in faith and in the Spirit to carry out the two fundamental goals of our missionary life: to become saints and to serve the Mission.
What lies ahead of us these days is the task of giving a face and a program to the revitalization and the restructuring of our Institute. But there can be no real restructuring without deep revitalizing.
Things already said, but always important and never to be taken for granted. A journey to be undertaken with patience, with humility and an attitude of listening, in truth.
After this introduction, each group withdraws to try to come up with a precise proposal about the revitalization of the person of the missionary, of the community, and of the mission. Four groups: each can deepen up to three proposals, one per field. The morning flies away and also the first afternoon. We are in the assembly at 4.30 pm to share.
The groups present the proposals. On the person of the missionary, all four groups underline one single strong point: to put Jesus Christ at the center of our life as as the source and reason for our being disciples and missionaries. In this convergence of views, we see the hand of the Spirit and the blessing of our Founder.
Beautiful is also the sharing on the community. The groups stress the need to rediscover the joy of brotherly life, of family spirit, the sense of belonging and highlight the beauty of the witness of an intercultural community.
And it’s nearly 6:00 pm. Time to break, because we have a special guest for Mass: Mgr. Protasio Rugambwa, president of the Pontifical Mission Societies.
A renewal in the Spirit
Welcomed as a family member by our Tanzanian missionaries and by all of us, Msgr. Rugambwa celebrates assisted by two Tanzanians of value: Father Pendawazima, our Vice Superior General, and Father Godfrey Msumange, Tanzanian superior.
At his homily, here is what he said:
“I am pleased to chair this holy Mass on the occasion of the celebration of the thirteenth chapter of your praiseworthy missionary Institute. Thank you for the invitation that gives me the opportunity to manifest my communion of prayer and thought at this important moment for the life of the Institute.
I have noticed that your work focuses on two essential themes: revitalization as a stimulus for fidelity to the foundation charism and restructuring for an up-to-date and more appropriate organization of your Institute according to the current evolution of the world, both in the society and in the Church.
To achieve these goals and meet the new challenges arising from globalization, you must certainly undertake profound reflection and rigorous discernment to identify some guidelines to deepen your charism and conform more and more to it the missionary activity of your Institute. However, challenges can not be tackled only with human efforts and planned strategies, we must pray and listen to the Spirit, who is the main actor of the mission. He precedes and accompanies the mission; and makes it to bring forth fruits. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Christ. He is the Divine Person who spreads in the world the possibility of joining to Christ, offering Christ to the world and making him live in us. Jesus Christ crucified and risen, is alive thanks to his missionary action in the Spirit sent by the Father at Pentecost.
In listening to the Spirit, you will gather the fruit of unity and communion in the diversity of gifts, cultural and linguistic origins. The Spirit unites and never divides. Let us therefore be led by the Spirit in order to keep in Christ as a united body and one soul, for Saint Paul says, “All of us were baptized with one Spirit into one body” (1 Cor 12). The Apostle also reminds us that our spiritual life must be livened and guided by the Spirit of God leading to sanctity, perfected by charity. “If we live the Spirit, we also walk by the Spirit” (Gal 5:25).
I find it so appropriate that your chapter schedule is marked by the Eucharistic celebrations, the liturgy of the hours, and other acts of devotion. These initiatives help to truly experience the power of prayer as a light that radiates souls, sustains human weaknesses, gives courage and hope to face thee future with trust in divine providence, on which every human action depends: “If the Lord does not build the House, in vain they labor the builders” (Ps 126: 1).
[… I leave out the comment on Tobit and Sara].
Dear Brothers, today’s liturgy of Word, teaches us that in order to revitalize and restructure, we must first acknowledge and humbly confess mistakes, limitations, and then profess faith and trust in the Lord. You will receive from God the healing you need to become free and confident in the future. You will also receive the light that will lighten your path in the coming years. You will then receive life from him who is the God of the living.
As Pope Francis states: “The Church grows by attraction, the attraction of the witness that each of us gives to the People of God” (EG 14). May the Virgin Consolata and the Blessed Founder, Giuseppe Allamano, guide you on the path of fidelity to your charism, may they arouse in you a renewed commitment to the Church’s evangelizing mission in today’s world, so that as “salt and light” (see Mt 5: 13-15), you can always announce Jesus with a beautiful and joyful testimony of life”.
From Mass we then go to dinner, shared in simplicity. Thank you, Msgr. Protasio.
June 8, restructuring: how to reorganize ourselves
There are no special guests today, so we begin the day with the Mass presided over by the superior of Kenya, Father Waithaka. The homely is given by Father Leo Baganda, who is much more fluent in Italian than his superior. I share a quotation from his homily: before we complain about why the community neglects us or “does not love us”, we should ask ourselves whether we “make us lovable!”.
Leo, I hope I mentioned you well!
At nine o’clock, Father Matthew Owuor moderates sharing on the last point of group work yesterday: the mission. Here too, there is an incredible convergence of the four groups. All emphasize the need to retrieve and refocus our mission ad gentes: the reason why we are in the Church. Many elements of this subject are discussed, but these are not the minutes of the chapter. I just mention that we spoke about stability (against the mission as a temporary experience), about the need to leave one’s country (against “the mission is everywhere” as an excuse to stay in one’s own country), about being down-to-earth (we have great dreams, but do we have the strength to realize the dream?) …
After the coffee break, at 11:00 AM we resume, entering in a new stage of our journey. Father Marco Marini outlines to us the document “In Mission, for a Missionary Project for the Revitalization and Restructuring of the Institute” (pages 195-205 of the large volume “Working Documents” which is our companion these days).
The usual four groups work till 4:30 PM when we gather in assembly for the sharing and final synthesis.
June 9, 2017, nineteenth day
We gather as usual at 9:00 AM in the Auditorium Allamano. Moderator is Father Rovelli. Once the minutes have been approved, there is a long debate on the points of the project concerning the economy. Then, finally, at 10.10 AM, Father Ugo Pozzoli introduces the hot topic of the day: the future governing structure of the Institute. He introduces us in the topic by highlighting the proposals of the various continents about the number of councilors, their role and residence. We then are given the opportunity to work in three groups of choice, one in Italian, one in English and one in Spanish. After the necessary clarifications, the groups are made up and the works are adjourned at 3.00 PM to share the various opinions in the general assembly.
Apart from the differences in style (very sober and essential those of English group, and long-winded those in Italian) what immediately strikes all of us is the incredible convergence among the three groups: all three choose the same form of government of the General Direction: five members (General, Vice and three Councilors), all with their main residence in Rome.
As we rejoice inwardly for this new convergence that seems another fruit of Grace (we have already pointed out that there have been some beautiful convergences on the revitalization of the person, community, and mission), we are then trying to focus on the details. The text at the pages 199 to 205 of the “Chapter Working Papers” is rich, but it reveals multiple layers not perfectly fused together. So it’s almost 7.00 PM that finally we reach a (non-definitive) approval of the text.
June 10, 2017, the Canon Layer and the Prefect
At nine o’clock, Father Sebastiano Paciolla, a Cistercian and famous jurist, is among us. After a few minutes, thanks to the impressive presentation of Father Giuseppe Ronco (now our Wikipedia), we know almost everything about him. We are also told that he already quite acquainted with the journey our Institute has undertaken on the path of continentality and that it is not the first time he gives a hand to our General Direction to solve complicated legal issues.
With the code of canon law (CJC) in his hands, he makes us understand one thing: the CJC does not contain definitions (precise, closed and definitive rules) but descriptions (which give guidelines and can be adapted to new and different situations). He then outlines what is the function of the Superior General and of the Major Superiors, reminding us that in the Church the two lines – the hierarchical one and the one of communion – are not mutually exclusive. They coexist, especially in Institutes of consecrated life like ours. Then he introduces us in the difference between a structure of communion and a governing structure. Without entering into details, the main point to grasp is that in order to create a structure of communion there is no need to change our Constitutions, while if we want to make the Cntinental Councils governing bodies, we need to change the Constitutions.
Anyway, since the prevailing orientation is for a structure of communion, Father Paciolla suggests that we should be more precise in the terminology. As words like councilor and council already have their precise meaning in the CJC, he thinks a word like synod would be more appropriate. Likewise, a word like coordinator would be better than councilor.
Moreover, he underscores the fact that creating a new structure should not be an end in itself, but a means of restructuring for a real renewal. A renewal that is achieved through embracing our charism. The charism – he repeats often – needs to be known by each one of us, to be lived and to be handed over.
In the context of a long series of questions and answers, he finally gives us some practical indications:
· Let the restructuring of our Institute be “ad experimentum” – that is project to be reviewed in the next General Chapter (no hurry);
· Let it be made up of few, essential, light rules common to all, to safeguard the unity of our Institute;
· Let it allow for every continent the possibility to adapt the new structure to its context, to safeguard the diversity of the mission according to the place our Institute works in.
At night we gather at Mass with Cardinal João Braz de Aviz, prefect of the Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and the Societies of Apostolic Life. He reaches our house by himself; on foot; with a simple handbag and in short sleeves – it is hot in Rome these days; greeted with joy by everyone, in particular – of course – by the Brazilians.
Father Ronco once again acts as official biographer and reveals the life secrets of this seventy-year-old cardinal with the red skullcap that sits uncomfortably on the still black and thick hair.
In the homily offered to us out of the abundance of his heart, he reminds us that what really counts in life is “Love”, the love in the image of which we have been created. Here are some excerpts:
“You are using two words to show your desire of a new step forward: revitalization and restructuring! Goodness me: Life and Structure! You have taken all the missionary structure of your Institute, so big, in order for it to turn all of itself in what it was founded to be”. “If we think of what is left of life, it seems that the only great value is Love: Everything that does not concern Love is secondary. It is important then to discover the secret of Love”. “We are discovering today with Pope Francis that the first thing we have to do is to shift out of the center. But we have to move out walking with God, acting like God”. He then emphasizes the style of God (great, yet all kindness and mercy), who in order not to lose the human being (his creature) became small (the Incarnation), emptying himself (Phil 2,5). We must assume this same style: “have in you the same mind that was in Christ Jesus”. To be Love, you must empty yourself. God, in order to find us, emptied himself! Out of love. This reason, “Out of Love”, is all that matters.
After the celebration we had dinner and it was a very pleasant moment. An outgoing person full of humanity, who proved to be, first of all, a man of great faith. Before leaving us, he gave us some words of encouragement, reminding us how we are the only Institute that has the courage to try new ways (many others restructure only out of necessity) and to look with hope ahead to live the mission charism with new fire.
Thank you, Your Eminence!
June 11, 2017, Sunday
Today, feast of the Trinity, at 3.00 PM we will have a moment of meditation and of prayer before doing a survey about the election of the superior general which will take place tomorrow (June 12).
June 14, 2017: The Oath
The only significant event of the day happened this morning when, during the celebration of the Eucharist in honor of Our Blessed Founder, after the homily, there was the oath of the new General Direction.
At the homily Father Stefano gave three little thoughts.
– The first is to feel part of a family that is making a journey begun by Blessed Giuseppe Allamano. Each of us joins in this journey giving his contribution, trying to be responsible and active subjects not people who lag behind. Along the journey we meet with many people who have marked our story, simple people, but important to our lives. Therefore, we ought to feel proud of our family: it has enriched us!
– A second thought is the following one: we should not to be passive consumers of holiness but doers of the same. This is the time for us to be protagonists of holiness in order to be faithful to our vocation. We talk about revitalization, how to recover our identity as people consecrated to the Mission Ad Gentes. However this process comes down to this: to be faithful in achieving our own holiness and that of the whole Institute, to be trustworthy people, who curry out the Mission with love. The Founder has shown us a way. It is our way: we need not to look for others, for we can be holy by walking faithfully along this one.
– The last thought is taken from a sentence of Saint Augustine: “be humble to avoid pride, but fly high to reach wisdom” (or, we could say, “to reach holiness”). We do not desire to appear, but we wish to be true to our vocation, to our identity, and to our mission in order to reach the Lord who is wisdom, who is holiness. Actors of a story that has already begun, but that it is up to us to bring forward in the same style of those who preceded us.
After the homily, we all witnessed an event that is repeated every six years: the profession of faith and the oath by which the Superior General, the Vice and the Councilors accepted their service to the Institute. From that moment they entered officially in office. The four previous Councilors and six other confreres signed as witnesses.
A thank you to the confreres who served the Institute in the past six years and our accompanying prayer to the new team.
June 14 – 17 passed by without any significant events.
We joined different groups and had several general assemblies to try to polish and harmonize the texts concerning various topics within the two mega revitalization and restructuring fields: topics like economy, formation, the service of authority, and others.
A specific meeting was held for the individual continental groups to see on how to schedule the “after-chapter” in every continent.
Saturday and Sunday were left free, so a group went to the Passoscuro to the sea and others took the opportunity to visit Rome. Meanwhile, the co-ordination team and the secretaries put together all the comments, amendments and corrections made by the various groups, removed duplicates, harmonized the texts, shaped them into an acceptable Italian, free of English and Spanish echoes.
Monday 19 saw us engaged in a marathon in order to approve the final text.
The procedure was repetitive and sometimes tedious; very challenging for the secretaries and the coordination group. However, section after session we achieved the job. As it was written in the minutes, on Monday June 19 at 6:22 PM the acts of the chapter were approved unanimously.
Today, June 20th, the feast of our Mother Consolata, after having solemnly sung Morning Prayer, at 9 o’clock we met for the final session.
After the usual preliminaries, there was the solemn signature of the Chapter Acts by the Superior General and the Secretary.
Then every continent briefly presented the program for the after-chapter, keeping in mind the provision that the Regional Conferences are to be called within a year from the Chapter (Const. 142.1).
We then concluded the morning with a time of prayer and final thanksgiving, preceded by a moment of spontaneous sharing.
At the sharing some interesting impressions were expressed:
It was very nice to see us together so different and so united. This was the first Chapter with so many different languages and peoples. The risk was that of being divided into opposing blocks, instead we experienced a unity and a deep armony, discovering with amazement to be very close to each other and in the love of all to the same Institute;
The Chapter is we, Consolation missionaries, not the documents we write;
Experience of communion, of acceptance and mutual respect;
The richness of diversity and the beauty of being one;
The strength of the desire shared by everyone to go back to our roots and to place the mission Ad Gentes to the Center of our lives;
It is wonderful to see Africans who have spoken on behalf of Asia, Europeans on behalf of Africa and Latin Americans on behalf of Europe: a truly new face of the Institute.
In the afternoon we went to Bravetta, our seminary, where, together with our theology students and friends, we celebrated the closing Eucharist in thanksgiving to and in honor of our Foundress, the Consolata. Nice holiday climate and fraternity felt and participated.
At the end of the Mass, Father Stefano, the Superior General, gave the mandate to our young people who will do the “year of service” and introduced to everybody the new formation team of the Bravetta seminar: Father Martin Ruiz Josè, Father Victor Kota and Father Afonso Osorio Citora.
(Fr. Gigi Anataloni on behalf of the Communication Team)