221 - may 1998

The District Community

This third number of the Chapter Papers 1998series presents two texts on district communities written at the requestof the Precapitular Commission by Thomas Cassidy (St. Peter'sCanada)and Martin Wolf (Germany). Fr. Cassidy presented and defended a doctoralthesis "Districts and District Superiors..." in September '97at the Faculty of Canon LawSaint Paul UniversityOttawa. The text ofMartin Wolfa German scholasticis an extract from an article basedon a dissertation presented to the Faculty of Theology at the JohannesGutenberg University in Mainz (cf. OMIInfo#363Jan. '98).

Reflections on Oblate district communities and mission

By Martin WolfOMI

1. Points of view concerning districtcommunities

The local communitya necessary condition of Oblatelife

According to Canon Law (canon 608)"a religiouscommunity is to live in a lawfully constituted houseunder the authorityof a Superior designated according to the norms of law". In the Codethere are three exceptions to the obligation of common life: "forreasons of healthstudies or an apostolate to be exercised in the nameof the institute" (canon 665para.1 ).Thereforereligious who livealone because of their apostolate are exempt from the obligation of commonlife. The Instruction Congregavit nos in unum Christi amor underlinesthe necessity of a common life which is realized in living in the samehouseparticipating in common exercises and collaborating in a commonservice. The Instructionhoweveralso considers the possibility of livingoutside the common residence (CNn 3).

The Constitutions and Rules attempt to harmonize thetwo aspects: on the one handthe obligation of common life andon theother handthe legitimate possibility of a life outside the common residencein view of the apostolate. They prescribe that every Oblate should livein an apostolic community (CC 137). Thuslocal communities are thenecessary condition for Oblate life. Even when Oblates must live alonebecause of the apostolic activity which they exercise through a mandatefrom the communitythey are assigned to a house or a residence or gatheredtogether in districts (C 77). These units which the Constitutions call"living cells" are parts constituting the whole of the Congregation.The Congregation flnds its consistence and its reality in each and everyone of these local communities. The house and district communities havethe same purpose: to promote community life through relationships andreciprocal help and to authentically realize the mission in a varietyof geographiccultural and ecclesial contexts.

The principle of equivalence among the differentforms of community

Constitution 88 clearly states that the local communitymay take the form of a housea residence or a district. Hence we mayconclude that the diverse forms of community are juridically equivalenteven if some particular statutes or specific norms apply exclusively tothe house community. In other wordsthe community where Oblates liveunder the same roof is given the same rank as the districtin which communitylife is realized in physically distant places. There also is a quasi-equivalencewith the canonically erected religious house regarding erectionsuppressionor change of apostolic goals or superiors. Constitution 77 explicitlyplaces district and house superiors on an equal footing.

Having established this fundamental juridical equivalencewe must not forget howeverthat there is an intrinsic hierarchy of thedifferent forms of community. In his report on the state of the Congregationat the Chapter of 1992Father Zago indicates indirectly the priorityof the house community over the district community. He shares with themembers of the Chapter the following wish: "It should be possibleand normal for young people and those who so desire to live in residentialcommunities. Both individuals and the mission would benefit thereby"(n 32d). Howeverthe two last Chapters have expressly underlined theprinciple of equivalence. The Provincials are asked to "support districtcommunities as real Oblate communities having a special purpose"(MTW131). It was also reaffirmed "that district community isan authentic and important expression of local community" (WACn 235).

The district superior

The district community is directed by a district superiorappointed by the Provincial in Council for a definite term (C 90R 92).In the Constitutionsthe same title of "superior" is givento the person in charge of a house or a districtwhereas the person incharge of a residence is designated as a "director". Whateveris stated about superiors in the Constitutions and Rules applies fullyto district superiors"saving exceptions foreseen by the Church'scommon law or by the particular statutes of the district" (C 77).The canonical conditions to be a superior and the qualities required bythe Constitutions and Rules are the same for district and for house superiors.Both have the same obligation to take part in meetings for their own formationand renewal (R 78). In many casesthe district superior is always a memberof the Provincial Council in order to facilitate the link between hisconfreres and the Provincial authorities. But the opposite situation alsoexists: the district superior is asked not to be a Provincial consultorin order to avoid the plurality of offices (cf. OMI Documentationn 168p. 5).

Oblate communion and common mission

If apostolic community is an essential condition ofOblate lifeit is also necessary for the district community. The questionremains as to the way in which it is realized. The two constitutive elementsof apostolic community areon the one handthe unity among Oblates andon the other handthe common mission. Constitution 3 expresses it inthe following way: "The community of the Apostles with Jesus is amodel of our life. Our Lord gathered the Twelve around him to be his companionsand to be sent out as his messengers" (cf Mk 3:14). To be "companions"and "to be sent out" are the two key concepts of Oblate life.Oblates are called upon to realize unity among themselves and then tobe sent for a common mission (cf. Districts as Expression of ApostolicCommunityin Vie Oblate LifeVol. 53n 2p. 111). In this respect"Jesus and the Apostles" must be their model.

The unity of Oblates and their common mission are anintegral part of the legacy handed down to the Oblates by the Founderas we see in Constitution 37: "The Founder left us a legacy: "Amongyourselves practice charitycharitycharity- and outsidezeal forthe salvation of souls. In fidelity to that testamenteach member's zealis sustained by bonds of fraternal charity." Fraternal charity andmissionary zeal presuppose and support one another. This legacy must alsobear fruit in district communities since they are called upon to be communitiesby virtue of the law itself. Fraternal life in community is an expressionof this unity which is realized by the love of God and must bear an essentialwitness to the service of evangelization and apostolic activity (OMIDocumentation n 197p. 5).

Interdependence of life and mission

Constitution 37 explicitly affirms that Oblates fulfilltheir mission in and through the community to which they belong. Theircommunity life must witness to Christ whom they proclaim. This communalwitness can only be realized in the framework of apostolic communities.In their life and missionary workOblates are inter-related even whenthey must be dispersed for the sake of the Gospel. What is said here oflife in community holds true for every Oblate even if he does not livein a community. In this senseevery Oblateno matter where he isremainsa member of the community. "Obedience and charity bind us togetherpriests and Brotherskeeping us interdependent in our lives and missionaryactivityeven whendispersed for the sake of the Gospelwe can benefitonly occasionally from life in common" (C 38). This is a new perspective.What is affirmed here is that community does not mean exclusively commonlife under the same roofbut can also be a life lived in reciprocal interdependence.Community life is no longer defined as the fact of living together ina house community but as a network of relationships among members. Thisbroader notion of apostolic community can also be applied to the Province.The relationship and the interdependence within the communities is expressedin the mutual responsibility and the reciprocal emulation.

These reciprocal relationships must be made concreteand become structured in order to produce a lived reality. The daily practiceof community requires a regular rhythm of meetingsspiritual retreatscelebrationverification of activities and personal renewalin orderthat the members may experience interdependence in a concrete way andthat the community may grow in unity. For an active missionary group livingin a districtthis presupposes a common effort at planning.

Financial sharing has a central meaning: it is an importantdimension of interdependence. The members of a district must be readyto account for their use of money and material goodsin order to growtogether in freedom and detachment.

Communion and dependence become a lived experience whenthe community becomes aware of its role in healing and reconciliation.There are also other occasions for thatsuch as celebrating feast daysand anniversaries of the members of the district. This expresses the willto share joys and sorrows with one another. The interdependence of themembers is expressed even more vividly when the missionary district communitytakes on a common missionary project.

The need for a common life program in the districtcommunity

Constitution 38 states that "each communitywhethera house or a districtwill adopt a program of life and prayer best suitedto its purpose and apostolate". Thereforethe district must haveits internal program entrusted to the vigilance of the superior. The programmust include regular meetings during which the members take time to celebratethe Lord and evaluate apostolic activities. The purpose of the meetingsis renewalreinforcement of unity and interior growth of the districtcommunity (C 38). These meetings are the most important manifestationsof the district.

The themes to be brought up at these meetings focuson three main issues: prayerstudy and sharing of life experiences. TheConstitutions and Rules give priority to time spent praying together whichis considered to be the summit of community life and the demands of theministry must not impede this privileged time (C 40). Normally the Eucharistmust be at the center of the meeting. In several districtsthe monthlyretreat alternates with a day of sharing of pastoral experiences. Elsewherethese two aspects are linked together: the day of recollection consistsof prayerreflection and sharing of pastoral and missionary concerns.As regards common studythere exist many approaches to the choice ofthemes. Sometimes the meetings will deal with the themes proposed by thegeneral governmentat other times social or religious questions or mattersproper to the Oblates will be brought up. Meetings will also be used toprepare Province meetingsto reflect on lifestylesto evaluate the apostolicactivity or the internal life of the district. In some instancesthemeetings take place weeklyin other situationsthey are held five orsix times per year. Often Oblate feastsbirthdays and anniversaries willbe the motive for coming together.

The district community as adaptation to the missionaryoutlook

The district community is a reality arising from experience.It appeared in response to a need to adapt structures in such a way asto realize concretely the finality and the objectives of the Congregation.The question arises: is the district community able to reconcile the demandsof the apostolate and of religious lifewhich are often experienced asa permanent tension? And how can this be achieved? The main purpose ofthe Congregation is to preach the Gospelespecially to the poor (CC 125). The structures of the Congregation do not have their finality in themselves. They must always be at the service of the main purpose. Rule 23 clearlyexpresses this: "Apostolic works and the demands of authentic religiouslife will be the determining factors in the design and furnishing of ourhousesas well as in the community's lifestyle and means of support."

In 1989exactly 24.1% of Oblates were living alonein their mission ortheir residence and in the ten years that have goneby since thenthe tendency has grown. In reflecting on this facttheimportance of having district communities that function well becomes evident.Many Oblates have no other way of taking part in a community life. Thedistrict community allows Oblates to undertake missionary tasks that deprivethem of the possibility of life in a community. The Rule requires that"any new forms of community living developed in response to specialmissionary needswill begin in dialogue and will be periodically reviewedat the local and provincial levels" (R 24). In order to remain faithfulto its missiona missionary Congregation must be flexible in its structuresand in its forms of apostolate. The district community is without doubta way of maintaining this flexibility without sacrificing the essentialconditions of the consecrated life.

2. Two conceptions of the districtcommunity

Within the framework of adaptation of the forms of communityto the apostolic mission of Oblateswe find district communities in twodistinct contexts.

When there is a tendency toward decline in our numbersdistrict communities are often established in order to maintain the statusquo as long as possible in the apostolic and missionary activities ofthe Province. Changes occur especially when members die or become unableto remain active because of their age. In these regionsthe districtcommunity appears as a last resort solution to gather together in "community"those Oblates who are isolated or scattered. When this model of communitybecomes the rulethere is a danger for the Provinces concerned to seea strong tendency toward the disappearance of all community life.

In regions where the tendency is towards a growth ofpersonneldistricts have a different function. They are seen more likean adaptation to the growing needs of apostolic activity. Their purposeis to provide a structure for community lifeso that members may facetheir missionary commitment collectively. In this casethe orientationof the district is much more clearly a missionary one. In my opinionthis missionary orientation is what distinguishes these districts fromthe districts of regions which are in regression.

3. A few questions in conclusion

The last two General Chapters have asked that districtcommunities be recognized as authentic communities. Howeverfor manyreasonscertain districts cannot be considered as communities in thefull meaning of the term. Many of them do not live up to the demands ofapostolic community life. A district community can be considered as anauthentic community only if it possesses the constituting elements ofcommunity lifeeven if in a modifled form.

The following questions are intended to promote an authenticdebate on this question.

-Is it possible to follow the last Chapters and theGeneral Administration in recognizing the full equivalence of the formsof communitywhen an intrinsic hierarchy subsists between them? Thereis no doubt that in many situationsa district that works well can attaina better quality of community life than a house community where commonlife is not up to par. But is it possible for a district community toattain the same quality as a community living under the same roof?

-It is necessary to establish strong bonds among Oblateswhobecause of their apostolatelive apart from one anotherin orderto strengthen the esprit de corps and the awareness of sharing the sameideal and to keep alive the Oblate identity of each member of the community.Mutual supportsharing and interdependence are the necessary conditionsof community life in a district. We must therefore raise the questionof the role of the district community superiorof the required formationwithout losing sight of the fact that his mandate also concerns coordinationof the missionary activity.

-For all districtssharing through regular meetingsis of paramount importance. These meetings are often the only possibilityof sharingreflectingplanning together and praying in an Oblate community.If the sharing among members is lacking or is insufficientthe fraternityusually will become weaker. Meetings reinforce the community and the fraternalbonds in the district. Are these factors taken into account when timecomes to establish a district and to proceed to nominations? Are thereany criteria that could help Provincials who must make decisions in thisarea? Beyond territorial criteriashould not the Provincial governmenttake into account other criteria concerning the content when it has decisionsto make concerning the establishment of districts? Would it be possibleto establish districts grouping Oblates who wish to work together in thesame missionary projectfor instance in the area of youth and vocationwork or popular missions?

-In an effort to unify terminologyis not the conceptof "district community" difficult to work with because oftenit does not correspond to reality? This concept may awaken expectationsconcerning community life that certain districts are unable to achieve.Should we not restrict the expression to situations in which it trulycorresponds to a lived realitythat isto use it only if the essentialelements of community life are present?

-The importance given to district communities is basicallya good thing because it gives legitimacy to the situation of Oblates livingalone. Alsodistricts may be an effective response to the demands ofthe mission in certain Oblate Provinces. But can we ignore the fact thatthe present increase of isolated posts presents a great riskeven ifthey are grouped in districts? Does not a Province where house communitieshave become the exception lose an important dimension of the Oblate charism?Should we not consider district communities as a particularbut necessaryand legitimate form of the community as such?

P.S. The present text is an abridged version. Thecomplete text will be available in a forthcoming issue of Vie OblateLife.


OBLATE DISTRICTS

by Thomas M. CassidyOMI

Local communities are the basic living units recognisedby the Constitutions and Rules; they are of two types: houses and districts.At the time of the 1992 General Chapter 25% of the Congregation livedin local communities which were districts. At presentin Canada and theUnited Statesnot counting those who are in retirement or formation communitieswell over half of the Oblates live in local communities which are districts.

Neverthelessin a 1994 survey taken in preparationfor my doctoral thesis in Canon Law19.05% of North American Provincialshaving district local communitiesexpressed the opinion that Superiorsof these communities were an unnecessary level of authority between theProvincial and the members. Also30% of the same Provincials did notfeel that if all members dealt directly with the Provincial on all Oblatemattersthat this would centralise too much power and ignore subsidiarity.Regarding preparation for their office47% of Superiors of district localcommunities said they never had anyand 66% of those who hadsaid itwas inadequate. Although 57% of Provincials said they provided some preparation80% said it was inadequate. One Provincial noted that"if a manis a goodempatheticgregarious Oblateno course is neededif he isnotno course of preparation could help."

Historicallydistrictsas units of local Oblate governmentwere founded in the missions of Ceylon by Bishop Étienne Sémériaand approved by Joseph FabreSuperior Generaland his councilon December11865within a few years of the death of the Founder. These districtswere much more than governmental units. They were functioning communitystructurescharacteristic of their dayand the direct forebears of thepost-Vatican II apostolic communities.

A current opinion has it that district local communitiesas they are found in the 1990'sare the result of post-Vatican II apostoliccommunity religious theology. According to this viewthis new theologyrenewed Oblate religious community life by remaking an outdatedsterilegovernmental concept (districts)left-over from early missionary attemptsto keep control ofand contact withthe missionaries in non-Christianareas. This position is condescending and not borne out by the facts.

Granteddistricts were not in existence in the timeof St. Eugene de Mazenod. Howevergiven his family backgroundhis stubborninsistence on a vibrant community life in his instituteand his dismissiveattitude toward anything which hindered community lifeit is not surprisingthat an innovative solution to the major missionary problem of the impossibilityof establishing canonical houses in mission territorieswas found withinfour years of his deathbefore the problem could become a hindrance tothe growing Oblate apostolate.

With all forms of religious lifecontinued updatingof structures and renewal is necessarylest the life simply become ashell covering a sham. District local communitiesin thisare no differentthan any other. Following the admonition of the Council Fathers of theSecond Vatican Councila complete study and renewal of districts as apostoliccommunities cannot be successfully undertaken without knowing the intentionsideas and implementation of the 'founders'. In this instance of districtlocal communitiesthere were three founders:

-de Mazenodthe charismatic Oblate Founderwho taughtthe primacy of communityto the extent that if community life did notcome before even the ministrythe Congregationas he intended itwoulddie.

-Sémériathe missionary Bishopformedby the Founderwho took an existing structure (diocesan rural districtswith their vicars forane)and adapted it with the help of his missionariesto fit the needs of the Oblate missionary religious lifestyleso thatde Mazenod's intention could continue to be fulfilled in a new milieu.

-Fabrethe Superior Generalimmediate successor tothe Founder and consummate administratorwho saw in that missionary structurea means of preserving de Mazenod's founding concept of the primacy ofcommunity. This was a structurehe foresawwhich could well be of useelsewhere in this rapidly expanding Congregation.

District local communitiesas an active and alternateform of apostolic communityhave been renewedrebornand restructuredin the light of the Second Vatican Councilthe revised Code of CanonLawand the updated Constitutions and Rules of the Oblate Congregation.Howeverthey are no more an invention of contemporary Oblate life thatis the very notion of Oblate apostolic community. Both are creatures ofthe mindspiritlifeand writings of de Mazenod as they have evolvedand are found in the present-day life of his institute and will continueso into the future.

The Code of Canon Law and the proposed Constitutionsand Rules of the Oblates already give to the Superior of district localcommunities adequate authority to fulfil his task according to the law;no additional authority is needed. What he does not havethe survey showsin too many instancesis sufficient power to carry out that mandate.

In the meaning of the previous paragraph'authority'to govern (the formal cause)is given from aboveby the law and theappointment to the ecclesiastical officeindependent of the individualsconcerned. 'Power' (the instrumental cause of governance)is the meansto use that authoritycomes from below. Power is earnedsupra legemby the Superior of the districtbestowed by his brothersthe membershipsupported by his peersand aided by the positive actions of his Provincial.Without that type of powerthe office is nominal and sterile.

Without a Superior with such powerthe districtasa local community will atrophy. If this happens too oftenthe provincein its turnwill dieand so on to the regionand even the Congregation.

This General Chapter must implement concrete measuresto reinforce their vision of the community system as it is communicatedbetween the general and the provincial levels. The 'word' is not gettingdown; too much is filtered out. General Councillors must come and talkto the members of district communitiesand not be hesitant to take theProvincial to task if there are shortcomings. The Congregation dare notsimply presume that a renewed community lifeat times involving fundamentalchanges in life-stylewill come about through osmosis.

Provincials may sometimes have to be reminded that aSuperior of a district local community holds an ecclesiastical officewith ordinary and proper poweras does a Superior of a house local community.They are neither the delegates of the Provincial nor the first among equalswithin the membership.

Apart from the proposed definition of a district localcommunity itselfthree items should become either part ofor strengthenedinthe Constitutions. The necessity of particular provincial statutesfor district local communitiespreparation of Local Superiorsand theholding of district community meetings.

Without particular statutes/norms (present Rule 86)a general one for all district local communities in the province and specificones for those that need themdistrict local communities are like rudderlessships destined to flounder into the night and come to a disastrous end.Through these statutesinspired by guidelines from the general administrationimplemented by the Provincial in counciland based on the experienceof the individual district local communitiesa balance will be achievedbetween over-centralisation and unwarranted independence. Such guidelinesthemselves would be found in the General Administrative Directoryandbased directly on the definition of a district local community.

One crucial needthat has already been widely recognisedis the adequate preparation of Local Superiors. Implementation has alwaysbeen the problem. This can best be done on the regional level. Such aneed calls for the creation at the regionalor inter-regionallevelof the post of 'local superior formator' as part of the ongoing formationdossier of the region. He would have the responsibility of setting upand running such language-based courses on a regular basis. This wouldbe a part-time positionwell suited to a former Provincial with a goodgrasp of the needs of Local Superiorsan excellent administrative backgroundteaching abilitiesand a good working relationship with the general administration.If not considered to be a position which needs to be in the Rulesitought to be in the General Administrative Directoryand not simply leftto the good-will and memory of overworked Provincials. De Mazenod woulddemand no less.

District local communities themselvesand their Superiorsmust see that the success of their existence as apostolic communitieswill come only through internal sharing. The sequence is simple. No sharingno community meetingsno district local community. The initial sharingis on the level of basic human communication: the sharing of storiesboth personal and ministerial/apostolic. In the beginningthis callsfor a minimum of trustand as that trust grows so does the basis fora living community. Afterwardsthe sharing will expand covering lifeaspects: areas of physical and spiritual life and health. Sharing willnaturally expand to cover problem areasin the community and in the apostolate.Financial and other resources will first be shared within the local communitythen with the province. Finallyall of this is held together by the Oblatelife which grows within the members through their sharing in prayerespeciallythe Eucharistrecreationand in the brothership which is the resultof eating a common meal together. This sharing has been the basis of religiouslife since the time of Benedict; it is the essence of de Mazenod's thinkingand it is the point on which districts will live or die. It is calledthe vita fraterna.

Lawby itselfis sterile unless the Oblate Congregationin its General ChapterSuperior GeneralGeneral CouncilProvincialsLocal Superiorsand membershave the vision and the values necessaryto make districts important and workablethat isliving and vibrant.

The Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate were the firstto formally establish districts as units of local community and governmentand to receive the approval of the Holy See for themmaking districtspart of our proper law. The Society of the Divine Word has done likewiseand in more detail. In preparing for the upcoming changes in the Constitutionsand Rules regarding districtswe Oblates ought to read and benefit fromthe experience of the Society of the Divine Word. Not to do so would meana great loss to our institute.

The definitionproposed in my thesisincludes elementsof Canon Law and is according to the norms of the Oblate Constitutionsand Rules (1982/87)and some of the elements of the proposals for the1998 General Chapter. It is recommended that elements of this pivotaldefinition be included in the body of the Oblate Constitutions and Rulesas a constitutionas follows:

A district is a local apostolic communitylawfullyconstituted as a unit of local government with particular norms. It isdistinct from an established or 'canonical' housein that it is an apostoliccommunity of the common lifewherein members live either togetherinvarious separate small residential unitsor individuallyall withina specified geographic area. It is under the authority of its own localsuperiordesignated according to the norms of law. Each district is tobe of a size and membership so that ordinary communication and interpersonalrelationships are possible and fosteredthe vita fraterna is capableof growth and encouragedspecifically through community meetingsandwhere there is at least an oratoryin which the Eucharist is celebratedand reserved.

This definitionas it standsmay appearto an Oblateas containing several self-evident statements. Howeveras it is formulatedin my thesis to be of use to all communitieseven to ones that have nosuch community tradition in their instituteit was felt best not to betoo Oblate- specific in the definition. The intention is to have a definitionin the constitutions which would remain unchangedeven if a future GeneralChapter made some changes in the applicable rules or regulations. Whatare intended to be easily adjustable are the guidelines for implementationas found in the General Administrative Directory or equivalent.

The definition's coreor skeletonis the statement:

'A district is a local apostolic community of the commonlifewherein members live either together in various separate small residentialunitsor individuallyall within a specified geographic areaunderthe authority of its own superior.'

Howevera skeleton without any flesh is quite dead.The definition without its integral components is also quite dead. Theadditional elements in the firstmore completedefinition are not accidentalin the Aristotelian sensebut are substantial. From an Oblate viewpointand taking into consideration present traditionsone could consider omittingfrom the definitionelements such as "a district is a local apostoliccommunity" not simply because Oblates know that all local communitiesare apostolicbut specifically because this has been said previouslyelsewhere in the constitutions. What ought to be remembered is that eachof the above elements is essential and must be either explicitly in thedefinitionor implicitly in the definition because it is already explicitlyelsewhere in the constitutions.

What is newis thatwithin this definitionthe elementsof: particular norms (the statutes of the current R. 86)restrictivesizeand membershipand most especially the necessity of community meetingsare all now constitutive elements (constitutions)rather than usefuladjuncts (rules). The minimum number of members in a district would beaccidental (a rule).

Let us consider 'community meetings' as an essentialelement of the definition. On the one handcommunity meetings are veryuseful for the governing of a houseand perhaps even essential for thehealthy growth of the community life of the apostolic community in thathouse. On the other handcommunity meetingsin a district apostoliccommunityare essential to the very existence of that communityletalone the health of the vita fraterna. Again: no sharingno communitymeetingsno district local community.

A major item flowing from the 1994 survey of North AmericanOblate district communities which calls for further study and researchis one which is beyond my training. In studying the 173 pages of the 79replies to the questionnaire on districtswhich formed the basis forChapter 5 of my doctoral thesis on Oblate districtsit became obviousthat there is a wealth of further information contained there. This deservesa thorough scientific analysis by an Oblate researcher who can apply tothem the tools of the sociology of religious community life. Such a studymust be done fairly quicklybefore the information contained becomesmerely an historical footnote. To such a personthe collected researchmaterial could be made available.

Even if everything enacted by this General Chapter isaccomplished on a structural levelthere is no guaranteenor shouldthere bethat a renewed district community structure will produce asgoodor bettera local apostolic community than did the old-fashionedinstitutional-style house in its day. Such a successtoday as alwaysdepends on how much work and prayer the Superior of the district localcommunityhis council and the members are willing to put into the exerciseon their leveland the same for the two senior levels of government ontheirs. Structures may helpstructures may changebut only individualscan build community. So it has been in the past and so it will be in thefuture.

"You have not only a glorious history to rememberand to recountbut also a great history to be accomplished! Look to thefuturewhere the Spirit is sending you in order to do even greater things."

John Paul II"Post Synodal Apostolic Exhortation:Vita ConsecrataMarch 251996" in AAS88 (1996)p. 484.

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The Chapter reaffirmsthat district community is an authentic and important expression of localcommunity (C.38). This presupposes that it will adopt "a program oflife and prayer best suited to its purpose and apostolate;" that "onceset upsuch a program is entrusted to the vigilance of the Superior."that "regular meetings will be held..." and that there will befinancial sharing. Current experiences are to be evaluated in terms of communionand interdependence. otherwise we may stagnate in the routine and mediocrityof groups that are district communities in name only.

Witnessing as Apostolic Community235

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Note from the editor:

The next issue of OMI DOCUMENTATION will bein October. Have a good summer.

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