“WE'VE ONLY JUST BEGUN.”
A few moments before he asked the capitulars of the 35th General Chapter for a vote to officially close the month-long gathering at Casa LaSalle in Rome, the newly elected Superior General, Fr. Louis LOUGEN read to the assembly Oblate Constitution 125, the same passage which his predecessor, Fr. Wilhelm STECKLING, had read 30 days previously: “The General Chapter is the highest authority within the Congregation. It meets regularly to strengthen the bonds of unity and to express the members’ participation in the life and mission of the Congregation.
“United around Christ, the Oblate family shares the lived experience of its communities as well as the challenges and hopes of its ministry. The Chapter is a privileged time of community reflection and conversion. Together, in union with the Church, we discern God’s will in the urgent needs of our times and thank the Lord for the work of salvation which he accomplishes through us.”
“We have accomplished what this constitution called us to do,” said Fr. Lougen. But then he quoted a song from the 1970’s: “We’ve only just begun.” While the Chapter was an exhilarating and challenging experience for the participants, the real work began only with the final “Praised be Jesus Christ” on 7 October 2010.
Now the ex officio and elected members of the Chapter will carry a message to the whole Oblate Family. As soon as possible, a document will be published that contains the essential ideas from the Chapter discussions. The five “Calls to Conversion,” which the capitulars reflected on and discussed for many days, will be presented. It will contain some concrete challenges and invitations to experience conversion in the areas of Community, Oblate Mission, Formation, the service of Leadership and Authority and Financial Stewardship. This document will be available to the Oblate Family once it is given its final form by an editorial committee.
Shortly after the official end of the Chapter deliberations, all those who took part in the 35th General Chapter, capitulars together with auxiliary personnel, gathered with approximately 150 Oblates and friends of the Oblates in the chapel of the Brothers of the Christian Schools for a Mass of Thanksgiving. The new Superior General preached a brief homily:
1 – We come to thank God for the experience of the Chapter.
God is the source of all good gifts. The Chapter for us was a great gift as we heard expressed in our last session in the Aula Magna: the gift of fraternity, of Oblate charism, of missionary spirit, of solidarity with one another, of concern for the poor, of interest in the world and its joys and sorrows, of spiritual sharing, of communication among us, with our brother Oblates and with our Associates, friends, collaborators and families.
2 – God’s Word in this Liturgy: it calls us to see more deeply.
In Isaiah, we heard of the watchmen who see God face to face and are able to recognize God’s presence. “Your watchmen raise a cry, together they shout for joy, for they see directly, before their eyes, the LORD restoring Zion.”
In the First Letter to the Corinthians, Paul sees the cross as God’s power to save. We are called to have ‘inner vision’, to see more deeply, to recognize God in our midst, to “read” the signs of the times and to proclaim the Good News: God is with us! This is a contemplative perspective. It is similar to Constitution #4 which expresses a very Oblate quality of seeing: “Through the eyes of our crucified Saviour we see the world which he redeemed with his blood, desiring that those in whom he continues to suffer will know also the power of his resurrection.”
3 – The Gospel celebrates Jesus’ commitment to preach the Good News to the Poor.
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor.” We renew our commitment to this same call, originating in Isaiah 61, the prophet of hope. This passage of Luke shows Jesus of Nazareth opening that scroll of Isaiah, In 1816, Eugene de Mazenod commits his missionaries to the same call; and now, we here have received the call of this 35th Chapter to bring Good News to our brother Oblates and to the poor. We continue to live as missionaries, always in the dynamic of conversion. We recognize that it is God’s power anointing us to bring this Good News to the world. We renew our faith that we have been given the Spirit to go forth to evangelize. We could remember an old song, “We’ve only just begun…”
4 – We recognize the gift this Chapter has been for us and for the Congregation.
As we thank God for the grace of the Chapter, we express deep gratitude to the out-going Central Government: our Superior General, Fr. Guillermo STECKLING; the Vicar General, Fr. Eugene KING; the Assistants General: Fr. Oswald FIRTH and Fr. Paolo ARCHIATI; the General Councilors: Fr. John Bosco MUSUMBI; Fr. Federico LABAGLAY; Fr. Luis Ignacio Rois Alonso, Fr. Loudeger MAZILE, Fr. Marcel DUMAIS; and to Fr. Thomas COUGHLIN, Secretary General and Fr. Rufus Whitley, Treasurer General.
Following the Superior General’s words, Fr. Paolo Archiati gave a brief summary in French and Fr. Luis Ignacio Rois Alonso did the same in Spanish.
Before the end of the Mass, each of the capitulars and auxiliary personnel came forward to receive from Fr. Lougen a small replica of the Oblate mission cross.
During the week of October 11-15, the outgoing Central Government met with the newly elected Central Government to plan the transition that will become final with the installation ceremony on January 6, 2011.
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