Witnessing to Hope
Recommenadtions of the 34th General Chapter
This text contains only those recommendations connected with the six main themes studied by the Chapter. Recommendations and decisions on other matters, including some changes to the Constitutions and Rules, will be published later in the official Acts of the Chapter.
In Ecclesiates 3, one of the liturgy’s ure texts during the closing days of the Chapter, it is written: “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven … God has made everything suitable for its time.” This has been the experience of the 34th General Chapter; indeed, it is the experience of the entire Congregation of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate.
The Chapter spent much of its time working in commissions on six themes: Mission and Evangelization; Oblate Community and Religious Life; Formation for Mission; Mission to Youth; Vocations to Oblate Missionary Life; Leadership and Governance.
The commissions and other committees presented several recommendations that were approved by the Chapter for implementation at various levels of the Congregation in the coming years. It is through these concrete commitments, that we Oblates can be “witnesses to, and prophets of, God’s love … men of hope” (EPM 8). 
1. Mission and Evangelization
“Sensitive to the demands of our charism,
as Oblates, our first priority in mission
is to be attentive to those on the margins of society
and to those for whom the Church is most distant.” (EPM 18)
Mission and evangelization carried out today in the Church and the worldby the Missionary Oblates, point to the timeless need for the explicit proclamation of Jesus Christ and the Reign of God as Good News to the poor and the most abandoned. It is a message steeped in hope, as we engage a constantly changing world.
We find ourselves in situations of new evangelization and mission ad gentes; we are confronted by the growth of sects, fundamentalist groups, and spiritual movements that points to a deep hunger felt by great numbers of people today. Dialogue with other cultures and religions is a demand of the times that calls us to develop an attitude of listening to the world. The world continues to be afflicted by violence and injustice in all their forms, to which we must speak words of indignation. At the same time we are called to be the bearers of hope and transformation wherever the poor live and struggle. Diminishment in many aspects is a fact of life in the Church, especially in cultures of secularity, calling us to greater creativity and daring in our missionary presence.
Given these conditions and mindful of the sure and certain hope that we bear, the General Chapter recommends:
Parish Mission Preaching
1. That Oblate Units affirm parish mission preaching and other forms of popular mission preaching as an important ministry belonging to the heritage of the Congregation. This ministry needs to be revitalized with new approaches and strategies. It is to be emphasized also that it is a ministry to be done in community in collaboration with the laity and religious. Given the key place of this form of ministry in our tradition, training for this ministry should be part of our formation programs.
Revitalizing our Missionary Methods
2. That Oblate Units develop a program of evaluating and revitalizing our evangelization, catechesis, pastoral practice, and liturgies, in harmony with the local Church.
This involves ensuring that our Catholic communities are vibrant, where faith and daily life are integrated, where faith is lived and celebrated meaningfully, and where the community is truly present to its members especially in times of need.
Mission and Secularity
3. That Oblate Units develop a program of continuing reflection on mission and secularity in order to engage this complex and pervasive reality, in a way that we let ourselves be challenged by its moral strengths, and that we challenge its moral weaknesses.
3.1 The General Council and Oblate Units would continue to explore and facilitate the establishment of new international pilot communities of Oblates dedicated to meeting the challenges posed by secularity, fundamentalism and sectarianism.
3.2 The network of Oblates in higher education institutions would provide resources and facilitate the conduct of symposia to reflect on this issue of secularity, as part of first and on-going formation.
4. The different levels of the Congregation would facilitate ways in which the younger and older Units of the Congregation could help to revitalize each other’s missionary presence.
Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation
5. That Oblate Units develop a program of community life, formation, and ministry that will promote Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC), particularly in the following aspects:
5.1 Living the values of JPIC in our own personal and communal lives, integrating all our various daily activities towards making an important contribution to the construction of a more just society;
5.2 Acknowledging that the Oblate Brothers have greater possibilities of inserting themselves into the secular context as witnesses to God’s Reign, we encourage and support them in their presence in the Church and in society, particularly in promoting the construction of a world that is more just (Cf. Appendix 1)
5.3 Integrating the study and practice of JPIC in all our houses of formation;
5.4 Forming people towards making an impact in the areas of politics, public policy, and decision-making;
5.5 Invitingthe General Service for JPIC to assist the Units in the task of strengthening the Unit JPIC teams, highlighting the work being done already at the grassroots level, and collaborating more effectively with other groups to achieve greater impact,especially where decisions are made affecting the poor;
5.6 Asking the General Finance Committee, together with the Grant Directors, to seek alternative sources of funding for programs at the service of justice and human promotion beyond Oblate instances.
6. That the General Council and Oblate Units explore, facilitate, and support the existence andestablishment of communities and support groups of Oblates whose focus will be inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue, particularly in Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist milieus, and among autochtonous peoples.
7. That Oblate Units develop a program to foster the training in the appropriate use and evangelisation of mass media. (Cf. Appendix 2)
2. Oblate Community and Religious Life
“Therefore we choose community as a way whereby
we are continuously evangelized
and can be witnesses of the Good News
in this graced moment of today’s world.” (WAC 7)
“It involves for us Oblates a conversion of thought, heart and action
as well as a greater trust, openness and willingness
to share power and responsibility with the laity...
We are not the owners of our charism; it belongs to the Church.” (MTW 74, WAC 40)
Given the importance and prophetic character of the consecrated life for the Church’s life and mission in the world today; given the effects of secularity and other socio-cultural realities; and given the Immense Hope project which has brought much new life and deepened hope to Oblate mission and community, the General Chapter recommends:
The Minister of Hope
8. That the General Council develop an animation process throughout the Congregation, the focus of which would be the needs of the person of the Oblate as a minister of hope.
This effort, as part of on-going formation, would have two main dimensions:
a. the nurturing of the Oblate in his community and religious life; and
b. the formation of Superiors and others sharing in leadership at the local and Unit levels.
The first dimension could include such elements as, among others:
* personal and communal integrity;
* the viability and size of local communities (houses and districts);
* the fostering of transparency and accountability on all levels;
* the acknowledgment and ownership of the ministries of individual persons;
* the possible inclusion of laity and other associates within the community and its mission;
* the reflective feedback from those outside the community;
* the examination of life-giving structures for community life;
* the question of Oblates living alone;
* mutual support in difficult life circumstances which diminish hope.
The second dimension of this process would be formation for Superiors and others sharing in leadership, which would propose different models and practical skills needed for its exercise at all levels.
Given that as Oblates, “we will always be close to the people with whom we work, taking into account their values and aspirations” (C. 8); and given the spirit and directives of Rules 37a and 37b, the General Chapter recommends:
Oblate Life Strengthened by our Associates
9. That all Oblates discover the rich potential of the presence of associates who strengthen us in the Oblate vocation and mission, we recommend that:
9.1 The General Council invite each Oblate Unit to review and evaluate its own experience and commitments to forms of association in the areas of ministry, formation, community life, charism, and to study some possible ways of sharing leadership while respecting Canon Law and the Constitutions and Rules.
9.2 The General Council establish a commission of Oblates and associates to explore structures that will promote the many aspects of association in its various forms.
9.3 The General Council convokea gathering of Oblates and associates (an “Aix Congress 2”). This gathering of associates could coincide with a possible Inter-Chapter Meeting of provincials, and include some time with the participants.
3. Formation for Mission
“Encounter with Christ and interiorization of values
are at the heart of this life-long process.” [WAC 25]
“…to learn, at the level of formation, to love our own culture,
without making it exclusive, and at the same time to open ourselves
to other cultures and languages.” [EPM 34]
Taking into account the heritage of our Congregation as a multicultural apostolic body, we recognize and choose the crossing of cultural and national borders as one of the essential components of our missionary formation.This option acknowledges thatsuch formation requires a certain level of personal maturity and rootedness in one’s own cultural identity.
Thus the General Chapter recommends the following:
New Programs for Formation
10. That the General Council and Oblate Units facilitate the establishment of new programs for the formation of Oblates and other people who share the charism of St. Eugene, that will help them to:
* deepen their living of the Oblate charism;
* understand and live a missionary ecclesiology of solidarity and communion;
* to be in mission within local cultures, especially those marked by secularity.
As much as possible, the potential of the Centre de Mazenod in Aix will be maximized for these programs.
Formation to Internationality
11.The strengthening of formation to internationality. In the post-novitiate stage of formation, creative ways need to be devised to foster internationality in collaboration with other Units. In addition, serious consideration needs to be given to the possibility of Oblates in first formation doing a part of their formationin a culture and a Province other than their own.
Consolidation of Formation Houses
12.The consolidation and regrouping of existing formation houses. Entrusted to the responsibility of the units concerned, these multicultural formation houses will be more suitable to missionary formation and will be established in places which the Region judges to be important and strategic for formation and mission.
International Formation Houses
13. The creation of international formation houses. The preferred aim is the creation, in all the Regions of the Congregation, of international formation houses that gather young Oblates from different countries of the world. The contribution to formation for international mission of the International Roman Scholasticate should be assessed.
14. Some implications and consequences of formation to internationality are:
14.1 The learning of another international language of the Congregation in first formation;
14.2 The cooperation of the General and Regional Formation Committees in the formation of formators;
14.3 The furthering of an international network of available formators that will assist formation teams to become more multicultural and international.
14.4 Those who have received a formation of this kind should be asked to commit themselves for a minimum of five years in first formation ministry.
Institutes of Higher Learning
15. Greater attention from both the General Administration and the Regions be given to formation centres and university level institutions. (Cf. Appendix 3)
General Formation Committee
16. That the General Formation Committee oversee the implementation of the above directives. This would include reporting at the next Inter-Chapter meeting on the progress of consolidation of existing formation houses, and a report at the next General Chapter on the progress of setting-up international houses of formation.
17. The exploring of further ways of sharing financial responsibility for formation across the Units.
4. Mission to Youth
“…The problems of countless young people need to receive special attention…
Seeing no meaning in life, they are without hope for the future…
(yet) youth have a special role to play,
particularly in ministering to each other.” [EPM 5 and 13]
According to our Founder, our presence among youth is crucial for evangelization. The widespread poverty of today’s youth is not just a question of material deprivation, but is also systemic (unemployment, drugs and addictions, manipulation, sexual exploitation, child labour, absence of hope for the future, broken families, HIV & AIDS, etc.). Despite this we believe that youth have enormous capacity to transform the situation through their embodiment of Gospel values, expressed in their generosity, commitment to face challenges, openness to internationality, thirst for spirituality, sense of justice, readiness for change, and much more.
We Oblates are moved by the situation of the youth and, like the Founder, we want to respond to these calls, affirming that mission to youth is a fully Oblate ministry. It is to this purpose that the 34th General Chapter has re-introduced mission to youth into Rule 7b of our Constitutions and Rules. The Chapter further recommends, and invites:
18. Oblates to develop a Youth Outreach, which would include such elements as:
*developing an authentic relationship with the youth;
* knowing, respecting, and being sensitive tothem in their own identity, and in their immersion in a culture of communication and technology;
* promoting the values that help them to grow;
* challenging them to broaden limited horizons;
* winning their confidence and the confidence of their families;
* inventing new ways to reach out to them;
* being creative in our liturgies and celebrations.
19. Each apostolic community to:
19.1 ensure that ministry to the youth be a community endeavor rather than an individual initiative;
19.2 develop a missionary project orientated to youth, with a specific person appointed to animate this.
20. Each Oblate Unit to:
20.1 establish a mission plan for the youth;
20.2 emphasize the personal accompaniment of youth as an important ministry and sensitize and train Oblates for that ministry;
20.3 include mission to youth in the period of regency in first formation;
20.4 collaborate with others working with youth.
21. Each Oblate Region to:
21.1 coordinate Unit youth initiatives; and
21.2 create and support international communities of Oblates in strategic places (as in Lourdes).
22. The General Council to:
22.1 organize, together with the Regions, an International Congress on Mission to Youth (in order to promote sharing of information and dialogue, with youth, especially those who work with us, as our collaborators);
22.2 create a portfolio or service at the level of the General Administration for Mission to Youth.
5. Vocation to Oblate Missionary Life
“We believe in our missionary and religious vocation;
and confident in the generosity of the young people of today,
we declare that they have the right to hear the call
to be Oblate missionaries.” [WAC 29]
Our ministry of vocation recruitment has a natural relationship to our mission to youth, for it is normally among the youth with whom we minister that we will identify young men who will join us in our mission as Oblates of Mary Immaculate.
We are aware of the growth of vocations in some areas while other areas experience a crisis confronting religious life. But as in the time of our Founder, the cries of the poor are heard everywhere. Our charism, following St. Eugene, is to hear these cries and to invite young men, with their natural generosity and idealism, to join with us in responding to the needs of the world in the mission entrusted to the Church: to evangelize the poor (cf. Constitutions 52-53). To this purpose, the General Chapter recommends:
23. That Oblate Units
* develop quality communities and foster regular prayer for vocations;
* make an effort to be present in schools and universities, in juniorates, youth groups and movements, places of pilgrimage, parishes and places that produce vocations, and wherever young people gather,
* invite young people to such occasions as ordinations, profession of vows, and special vocation weeks in order to attract vocations.
24. That Oblates, associates, and those with whom we minister in parishesdare to call young people to join the Congregation.
25. That the leadership of each Unit appoint full-time vocation directors or teams (Oblate and/or lay), for whom this is their main ministry.
26. That Oblate Units meet to plan concrete strategies (e.g. formation of youth corps, etc.) for vocation ministry fashioned and adapted to each unique cultural and ecclesial reality.
27. That individual Oblates and communities favor gatherings of young people who share similar interests and concerns about the Oblate way of life, so as to support each other in their common journey of discernment.
28. That Oblate Units provide special training for Oblates to develop skills for spiritual accompaniment and discernment of vocations.
29. That Oblate Units recognize that young people attract young people, so that Oblate formation houses ought to be visible to youth. The consolidation of these houses should be considered in relation to vocation ministry.
30. That Oblates recognize that ministry to families is essential to vocation ministry.
6. Leadership and Governance
“So that we may continue to be alert and to advance
in communion and interdependence,
we must concretely and in truth
commit our lot to the life of the group.”
“…The fact that we are an international Congregation is a real grace…
However, we have not yet taken full stock
of the promise of internationality.
We are far from having exhausted its rich potential.” [EPM 33 and 34]
The General Chapter recognizes that governance is not an end in itself, but a service to give life and direction to the community. An effective leadership implies being a living sign of hope in a changing world. Faithfulness to the Oblate charism and to the Immense Hope Project contributes to the prophetic dimension of the Congregation.
Furthermore, the General Chapter affirms that the Oblate Congregation exercises responsible and realistic governance through the choice of Superiors and otherleaders (Cf. C. 82):
* who dialogue and collaborate with the communities whom they serve;
* who define its vision with clear objectives;
* who identify and provide the necessary resources;
* who match vision and resources in establishing strategies;
* who are proactive, and respond in a timely manner, without undue haste; and,
* who establish and maintain a just and equitable relationship with Church and State (policies and laws, contracts, ownership of properties, personnel problems, etc.).
Therefore, it is firmly acknowledged that the Oblate mission and community can make its greatest impact when support and value are given to quality leadership and management. In view of this, the General Chapter recommends that:
Call to Effective Leadership
31. The General Council, all Regions and Units provide effective resources on leadership and governance that will include:
31.1 essential training in leadership and management skills to Oblates at all levels, commencing with first formation;
31.2 the provision of Administrative Policies and Procedures which are updated periodically to be relevant and responsive to current needs. The following materials or manuals are an indispensable aid in good governance and must be developed at each level of governance:
a. Vision and Planning or Strategy Document
* describe to others the kind of future that can be created together;
* show how interests can be fulfilled by a common vision; and,
* clearly communicate positive objectives, hopeful outlook and an action plan; and
* endorse that visioning and spiritual animation are central and most important.
b. Directories: Administration, Temporal Goods, Formation, Code of Ethics and Professional Standards, Employment and Personnel Policies.
31.3 support systems to maintain effective leadership, as for example, the use of professional services, facilitators, spiritual directors, researchers, supervisors. A regular meeting and networking of Oblates who are in similar ministries or with common interests can:
* help to create and enhance an atmosphere of mutual respect and support;
* help clarify values and beliefs; and
* enable these values and beliefs to be practiced and lived.
31.4 a regular evaluation process as part of the structure of each Unit.
Looking to the Future
In view of the fact that over the past 30 years the Congregation has moved from expansive growth to overall decline, with some areas experiencing growth and others rapid decline; that the tasks and goals of government in the Congregation have changed; and that given the need for better organizational structures that would facilitate our life and mission, the General Chapter recommends that:
32. A Post-Chapter Commission on Government, representative of the different sensitivities present at the Chapter, be established that would:
32.1 review the structures and functioning of government in the Congregation at all levels; and
32.2 examine the possibilities of establishing structures and functions of government at the Regional level. (Cf. Appendix 4)
33. The General Administration continue the Immense Hope Project by providing that a periodic review of the life and ministry of all Units be carried out, beginning immediately with Units renewing government and covering all Units over a five-year cycle. The review deals mainly with the implementation of the Vision Statement and Strategy Document, using peer visitation as its principal means.
The recommendations of the 34th General Chapter represent the combined Congregational efforts of both the pre-Chapter preparation work and the Chapter itself.
In a world greatly changed since the last Chapter in 1998, during times in which fear seems so prevalent, in which the divisions between rich and poor continue to grow and in which religions all too often seem part of the fear and divisions, we are tempted to ask: what hope might the world receive from our few and often imperfect, incomplete courses of action? Realistically, what effective hope can one Chapter actually offer to its brother Oblates, to the Church and to the world?
Grounded in the Gospel hope, which most certainly has been the Spirit-led experience of the 34th General Chapter, the words of Jesus speak to us with assurance and with power in ways that further deepen our hope: “Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful in much” (Luke 16,10).
It is our hope that the implementation of the recommendations of the 34th General Chapter will help us and all who share our charism to be “faithful in a very little” so that we may also be faithful in much.
The focus of the 34th General Chapter has been to translate hope-filled words into concrete actions. The outcome of the Chapter is in the hands of all Oblates and of those who share in the charism. Through their joint efforts we can move beyond “hopes” to Hope. May Mary, our Patroness and Model of Hope, and Eugene, our Father and Founder, accompany us in our ministry of hope.
MANDATE TO THE SUPERIOR GENERAL IN COUNCIL
CONCERNING A COMMITTEE TO FOSTER THE VOCATION OF THE BROTHERS
The 2004 General Chapter of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate mandates the Superior General in Council to establish a permanent committee of Oblates (R149f), to foster the vocation of Brothers within the Congregation.
The committee would function in accordance with statutes approved by the Superior General in Council. The following elements should be found in the Statutes, although not necessarily in the same terms as presented here.
1. The Committee, to be known as the “Standing Committee for Brothers”, is composed of Oblates, chosen both by the Regions and the Superior General in Council.
Its patron is the Servant of God, Brother Anthony Kowalczyk, O.M.I., 1866-1947.
2. Each Region, through procedures approved by the Conference of the Region, selects one Brother to be a member of this committee.
The Superior General in Council selects up to three additional Oblates – Brothers or priests – for membership on this committee.
3. The members are designated for a three-year term, renewable. If possible, membership would be staggered to ensure continuity. For this reason, two of the Brothers and one of the appointed members would initially be selected for a two-year term, in accordance with procedures confirmed by the Superior General in Council.
4. The primary purpose of the “Standing Committee for Brothers” is to enable all Oblate Brothers to make a significant contribution to the life and the mission of the Congregation, enabling them to become a living expression of that fraternity which is at the very heart of the Oblate charism.
5. Other purposes would relate to the animation of the life and mission of the Brothers. They include:
* theological reflection concerning the spiritual, ecclesiological and missionary reality of the Brothers;
* vocational promotion for Brothers;
* making recommendations relating to first and on-going formation of Brothers in the Congregation;
* the animation of Brothers, especially in those Units where there are few Brothers.
6. In addition, practical matters relating to the life and ministry of the Brothers would be studied and recommendations made, according to circumstances. Such matters could include
* establishing a process for the representation of Brothers at General Chapters;
* making known the Oblate heritage regarding those Brothers who were outstanding in sanctity, and exemplary in their missionary apostolate;
* using modern means of communication to further knowledge of the Brothers and their various missions within the Congregation.
7. The Committee would meet at least annually, in a place to be determined by the membership.
OFFICERS OF THE COMMITTEE:
8. The Committee would elect its President, for a two-year term, renewable.
9. The Secretariate would be situated within the Oblate General Administration, and would operate according to a budget approved by the Superior General in Council.
The Committee, through its President, would be directly accountable to the Superior General.
11. On the occasion of the General Chapter, a written report on its activities will be prepared and submitted to the Capitulars, in accordance with procedures developed by the Pre-Chapter preparatory commission.
12. According to circumstances, expenses related to the activities of the Committee would be the responsibility of the General Administration, with the Regions contributing where possible to cover travel and other expenses related to the holding of meetings.
13. Statutes shall be drawn up for the Committee, after appropriate consultation. Once approved by the Superior General in Council, they may not be changed except in the same manner.
14. The Committee may establish and approve general operating guidelines, provided they are within the parameters of the approved Statutes, and operate accordingly.
If, with time, it becomes evident that another structure would better serve the purposes envisaged for the Committee, the Superior General in Council could, after consultation with the members, suppress the Committee and replace it with another appropriate structure.
RECOMMMENDATION ON MEDIA AND EVANGELIZATION
The General Chapter recommends that the General Administration initiate and find ways to connect those who are involved or interested in media, in greater understanding and use of the media, and that it bring together people to plan future development in this area and to revive and foster media ministry within the Congregation.
RECOMMENDATON ON INSTITUTES OF HIGHER EDUCATION
The General Chapter recommends to the new Central Government that it reflect upon the interrelated questions of:
i) The place of higher education (i.e. the component of academic education beyond the requirements of initial formation) within the charism of the Oblates.
ii) The place of our institutions of higher education within the charism of the Oblates and, more practically, within our life and ministry at this time.
iii) How the Central Government might play more of a role in facilitating more cooperation between our various institutions of higher education.
MANDATE OF THE POST-CHAPTER COMMITTEE ON GOVERNANCE
The 2004 Oblate General Chapter mandates the Superior General and Council, acting collegially, to establish a Post-Chapter Committee on Government with the following terms of reference.
1. The Committee should be a relatively small committee, directly accountable to the Superior General and Council, with the right to consult other Oblates or resource persons. It is to be representative of the various sensitivities of the Congregation.
A member of the Central Government would serve as liaison with the Superior General and Council, and the General Administration would provide the services of a secretary.
2. The tasks of the Committee include:
* reviewing the structures and functioning of government in the Congregation at the level of the General Government:
- the General Chapter (composition, size, representation, preparation, duration, Chapter Directory, etc.)
- the Central Government (Unit expectations, size of Council, composition, job deions, General Administration, place, languages, and so forth)
* examining the possibilities of establishing government structures or appropriate operating mechanisms at the Regional level -
- secretariate, regular meetings
- possibly delegated governmental powers
* examining, where appropriate, the structures and functioning of the various Units (Provinces, Delegations, Missions) especially where these impact upon the General Government
- appropriate size of Provinces, vision and planning, periodic review, performance evaluation, offices, portfolios and services, etc.
- designation of Major Superior and Council (election, appointment) and term of office.
- preparing a text for presentation and study at the 2010 General Chapter.
3. The working method would be established by the Committee itself, but this method should include the following elements:
* an analysis of present structures;
* appropriate consultation;
* review of proposals for change previously submitted;
* provision for periodic exchanges with the Superior General and Council;
* preparation of a draft text, which would be submitted to the Congregation for consultation and revision, before being presented to the 2010 General Chapter for discussion and approval;
* if necessary, assuring that suitable prior arrangements are made with the Holy See regarding the approval in principle of those matters requiring its intervention.
4. The financing of this project is the responsibility of the Central Government and the Committee's budget should include, among other things, provision for travel and meetings, consultancy fees if necessary, secretarial assistance, translations of texts, printing, expedition and postage.
 Previous Chapter documents will be referred to with the following abbreviations: Evangelizing the Poor at the Dawn of the Third Millennium as EPM; Witnessing as Apostolic Community as WAC; Missionaries in Today’s World as MTW.
 In this document “General Council” refers to the Superior General and his Council.