35TH GENERAL CHAPTER: A YEAR LATER
Paolo Archiati, OMI, Vicar General
A year ago, our last General Chapter concluded in an atmosphere of joy and brotherhood because of the work accomplished, the new Superior General, his Council, and the positive outlook of the Congregation as it looked to its future.
What’s left of this experience a year later?
The key word that guided the chapter itself and which the whole Oblate family worked on is surely the word conversion. It is the first document from a Chapter that has a single word as its title! It is a word that perhaps we struggle with a bit in order to find focus as Oblates, but gradually it draws us together and unites us, a word that continues to speak to us and inspire us, inviting us to go deeper in order to understand the challenges that our life and our mission today present us.
The biblical image of the Chapter’s final letter continues to accompany us: that of the disciples of Emmaus who are walking the road alone, discouraged and disappointed because their world is shattered. Two disciples who are joined by a traveler, a pilgrim like themselves, who by his words relights a fire in their hearts until the moment when they recognize him; he disappears, but they find themselves filled with fresh courage, so as to go back to their lives with a new way of looking at things, with new hope and new energy.
“This General Chapter,” we read in the last paragraph of the letter, “has been an Emmaus walk. We have examined our crucified worlds, met the resurrected Christ on the road, and leave here with our hearts burning with new vision, new hope, and new energy.” This, in brief, is the message and the hope that the Chapter wanted to offer the whole Congregation.
Conversion. To translate this word into a realistic and feasible call, the Chapter proposed five areas in which it asked us to go deeper, starting with our commitment as disciples of Christ, determined to follow him and to form a community around him.
What is the heart of the Oblate community? With this question, as old as the Congregation but always new, we are offered a first area for work and conversion. The second is that of our mission, centered on the person of Christ, and aimed at bringing the Gospel to the poor; today, this mission is facing one of the most important challenges of our time: to overcome the various barriers that continue to arise between individuals, between peoples, and between cultures. The service of authority is an area of conversion that involves every Oblate, within and beyond the limits of the community to which he belongs; we are called to live this service with courage and joy, keeping in mind the changes happening in our family today. Formation too, first and ongoing, is another area for conversion, one calling for a new excellence. Profoundly rooted in Christ and animated by the Oblate charism, it will be open to the needs of the community and of the mission. According to Constitution 47, formation involves us in a continual conversion to the Gospel and requires us to be ready to learn and to change in order to respond to new challenges.
Gathered around the teaching of the apostles and the breaking of bread, the first Christian community was of one heart and one mind. This ideal of life fascinated Saint Eugene and he wanted to pass it on to his Oblates, right from the beginning. The communion of goods in our family is an essential prerequisite for the communion of minds and hearts. Even regarding our worldly goods, we are called to be faithful and humble stewards and this requires a change of mentality that can lead us gradually from independence to interdependence and finally, to communion.
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