GENERAL ADMINISTRATIONInterchapter Meeting begins in Thailand
About 70 Oblates
have gathered from all over the world for the 2013 Interchapter meeting of the
Congregation at the Pastoral Center of the Archdiocese of Bangkok, Baan Phu
Wan, in Samphran, Thailand. Besides the Central Government and the Provincials,
also all the Delegation Superiors of the Congregation and the three Mission
Superiors from the Asia-Oceania Region have been invited to attend.
meeting which lasts for two weeks began unofficially on April 21, with an
opening celebration of welcome and traditional dances, followed by a festive
dinner organized by the Delegation of Thailand-Laos.
On the morning
of April 22, with an Oblate and Asian flavor, the opening liturgy started the
official work. It was centered on the theme of the meeting: Missionary Oblates,
what kind of Men? It followed the welcome of the participants by Fr. Paolo ARCHIATI,
the Vicar General, who, recalling the calls to conversion given at the last
General Chapter and the letter written by Father General to the Congregation
last February, helped the group to understand better the meaning of this
gathering and its theme. As it is stated in our Constitutions and Rules, its
main purpose is to evaluate how the mandate of the previous Chapter has been
accomplished till the present and also to start the remote preparation for the
next General Chapter. It is a time for sharing and listening to the Spirit and
to each other.
Later in the morning, the life of the Oblate Martyrs of Laos and of the Oblate Martyrs of Spain was presented to the assembly as a contribution towards the answer to the question of the theme. Although in a diversity of time and contexts, the similarity of their witness was evident. They are all models of the radicalism of the oblation lived in their daily lives and even in the offering of their lives in fidelity to Christ and his Church, for the service of the people entrusted to them. We felt proud of belonging to the same family and also challenged by the quality of our lives.
of the Eucharist presided by Father General closed the morning activities. In
his homily Fr. Louis Lougen led us deeper in the meaning of the main theme of
In the afternoon Fr. Oswald FIRTH helped the group to reflect on the difference between hearing and listening. As a practical exercise of listening, all were invited to share with their peers first and later in small groups, guided by three questions:
The sharing of the groups was synthesized in short prayers that were offered to Jesus present in the Eucharist during our common evening Oraison. (Claudio BERTUCCIO)
The Interchapter meeting has now reached
its fourth day. The participants are getting acquainted with the heat of the
weather in Thailand and especially with the big changes of temperature every
time that one moves from the air-conditioned rooms of the pastoral center to
the outside. Finally today, April 25, 2013 all those that were expected to
attend have arrived. A few members were indeed late because of problems with
flight schedules and visas.
During these past days, the main activity
of the meeting was listening to the reports of the Regions and of the Treasurer
General in the light of the five calls to conversion given by the General Chapter
of 2010. The reports were introduced by a reflection on the theme of the
meeting (Oblate: what kind of man?) given by Fr. Oswald FIRTH, who helped us focus
on the challenges of our time in relationship to our identity. A big richness
of experiences and diversity of situations has been presented by the five
regions; however, for everyone the Chapter message has been a powerful tool in
awakening the conscience of the Oblates about the need for conversion in the
five areas to which the calls were addressed, namely community life, mission,
governance and leadership, formation and finances.
Small group meetings were then tasked with sharing on the reports, trying to focus on common elements with the aim of moving towards a synthesis. Successes, challenges and opportunities were shared among all the members. Many things were said on all the calls, with a particular stress on community life, formation and mission. Generally speaking, awareness about community life has grown in all regions, but the challenge of individualism is still the greatest difficulty all over the Oblate world. The importance of a solid formation, both initial and ongoing formation, was emphasized. The necessity of clarifying our mission in a changing world was also stressed. We must acknowledge that we are still quite far from a synthesis! More work is to still to be done.
This morning Fr. Marc DESSUREAULT, our Treasurer General, presented a report on finances, stressing the efforts made by the Congregation and the administration in answering to the calls. At the same time, he made also clear that many challenges are still in front of us, especially concerning the responsibility of all at the financial level. A new mentality is needed. He finally presented some general concrete proposals for the reflection of the participants towards an answer to those challenges. Group discussion followed.
In the afternoon a new plenary session was aimed at gathering of more commonalities in all what has been shared in these days in order to have a clearer focus in the work of next week.
Tomorrow we are all invited to bring this material to prayer in the presence of the Lord during a day of recollection, allowing the Spirit to work more deeply in our hearts. (Claudio BERTUCCIO)
In the evening, the new edition of the Constitutions and Rules was given to each Oblate present at the Interchapter, during a simple but touching community liturgy prepared by Fr. Alfredo FERRETTI. It started in the meeting room with an introduction by Father General, emphasizing that the CCRR are for us not a cold law, but a rule of life that tells us who we are today in front of God, the Church and the world. In a context of praise and gratitude to God, we moved in procession to the chapel where, after listening to the Word of God and of our Founder, St. Eugene, we received from the hands of Father General the new edition of the Constitutions and Rules that includes the changes made by the last two General Chapters. It was an occasion to renew our commitment to live them in our life and ministry.
On April 27, we listened to Frs. Oswald FIRTH and Paolo ARCHIATI who, from different perspectives, made a synthesis of the work of this first week of the meeting. Fr. Oswald, in the context of our identity, used a managerial tool to help us match the challenges with the capabilities that have surfaced in the discussion of these days, especially concerning community life, mission and formation. The process could help us towards the practical concretization of the contents of our sharing.
Fr. Paolo, using various images, pulled together the many ideas of our sharing around the theme of our identity in connection with Jesus Christ and St. Eugene. Quoting the homily of Pope Francis on the occasion of his feast day, he also stressed that the living out of our own identity cannot be separated from the sense of belonging. Both interventions were followed by a sharing of insights and reactions among the participants. (Claudio BERTUCCIO)
Sunday, April 28, was a time of rest for all the participants, an occasion to visit some important places in Thailand and to learn a bit of the culture and history of this country.
Monday, April 29, was dedicated to the
report of Father General to the Interchapter. Actually he stressed that it was
a presentation, not a report, sharing with us some thoughts that he has
developed after almost three years as Superior General.
First of all, he showed his appreciation for the work of the major superiors in the Congregation, a work done with dedication and generosity in spite of the many challenges that they have to face.
Then, after sharing about the many signs of hope that he sees in our Congregation, he shared what he sees as unfinished work for us in light of the call to a profound personal and community conversion to Jesus Christ in each of the five dimensions of the chapter. About community life, he stressed that the entire dimension of our life as vowed men is at risk and the call to conversion, personal and communal, is urgent. Analyzing each single vow, he showed the challenges we are facing in living them out. He pointed out that often our living in faith is eroded by activism and our apostolic community is compromised. He concluded this point with a strong statement: “I believe that one of the reasons the vocation of the Oblate Brothers has diminished among us and sometimes we seem unconcerned about it is because we are losing the sense of what it means to be consecrated men whose lives are based on the evangelical vows, on a life of faith and on apostolic community. We risk being reduced to a loose association of priests”.
Speaking of Oblate mission, he emphasized that we need to continue our communal discernment of missionary commitment, preaching Jesus Christ in communion with the Church and full of love for her. A commitment to the ministry of peace, justice and the integrity of creation is a constitutive element of our preaching the Good News to the poor.
About the service of leadership, Father General stressed the importance of continuing in the path of restructuring, consolidation of formation houses, good administration, care for the vocation of Brothers and sharing of personnel at all levels.
Concerning formation, he spoke of the need to work more for the permanent formation of all members, with cooperation among units, especially for first formation, and also adequately preparing formators for their ministry.
Finally, referring to financial stewardship, he emphasized the necessity of preparing treasurers and wisely appointing them to face the difficult days that lay ahead of us.
For almost the whole day, the participants took time to reflect on this input, both in small groups and in plenary session. Father General’s intervention was felt as a deep call to renew our commitment to conversion in line with the invitation offered by the Chapter.
On April 30, in the morning we first listened to the Chapter calls on leadership as presented by the committee and we also shared our experiences on the matter in small groups. It was a time of fraternity and encouragement among the superiors.
The members of the Thai-Lao delegation
joined us for the Celebration of the Eucharist and lunch in a climate of
Finally, in the afternoon we were updated on the development of the new community in Aix-en-Provence and the new Administrative Directory and Policies. (Claudio BERTUCCIO)
The last day of our Interchapter has
arrived and it was a time for wrapping up all the work of these last two weeks.
On Wednesday, May 1, we spent the whole day speaking of the next three years in
preparation to the celebration of the 200th anniversary of the
Congregation. The Central Government has suggested a Triennium of preparation,
in which every year a theme would be stressed in order to lead the Congregation
on the way of conversion as requested by the last Chapter, renewing its life
During the first year, the whole congregation would be invited to stress life in apostolic community; during the second, formation; and during the third, a renewed mission. In each year, we would also focus on one of our vows (chastity, poverty and obedience). A community process would be required on a regular basis with material prepared by the General Administration. After discussion, both in small groups and in plenary, all the participants gave their support to this plan, seeing in it a special occasion for deepening our life as religious and missionaries.
We concluded the day with a time for
prayer and faith sharing in small groups, as an opportunity to start
experiencing the process that will be proposed to the entire congregation
starting this coming December 2013. Many were impressed by the quality of the
sharing of our faith in these small groups.
On May 2, after an introduction on
remote preparation for the General Chapter of 2016, the whole day was spent on
brainstorming on possible themes to suggest to Father General for the next Chapter.
Many themes surfaced, but we focused more on about 5 of them. In continuity with
the former chapter, all of these themes
focus on the renewal of our religious life and our mission, though with
different stresses and with a call to return to our roots. It is clear to all
that a new life and a new mission cannot be separated. If we don’t renew
ourselves, our mission cannot be renewed; on the other hand, there is no real
renewal of life if it is not shown in a renewed focus for our mission.
On the final day, May 3, we wrapped up all our work and prepared a final statement to share the experience of these days with all our brothers in the Congregation. It was the work of the whole morning. In the afternoon, we gathered in the Chapel for the celebration of the Eucharist presided by Father General, to thank God for all the blessings that we have received in these days. Father General brought to the chapel the Oblate Cross of St. Eugene for the veneration of all the participants and for blessing us all as a sign of unity and continuity with our Founder. (Claudio BERTUCCIO)
They told me they would give me a kaleidoscope of 200 years. You know, that gadget made of mirrors and crystals which lets you create an infinite number of images at the twist of the wrist. This is very special. They told me that gazing through the hole, one should be able to see the fascinating story of the Oblates in their ministry with youth, since Eugene began it up till today. They want to give it to me on April 25, because that day marks exactly 200 years since the founding of the Association of Christian Youth of Aix. But I could not wait, so I got it and am playing with it. Turn by turn, year after year, until today. Such beauty!
How I would like to turn it forward to see the future! For example, to see how it will go, that next meeting of Fr. General with the youth and the Oblates in Aparecida, Brazil. To see how the Oblates and the youth will celebrate, pray, reflect on and live the charism. To listen to the call to live intensely and as a family the next three years, until 2016. To see the missionary fruits... To see how we accept the challenge Pope Francis gives us to be missionaries, to go to the margins, accepting a life of poverty and with the poor. But I'm told that you cannot do that; if you try to make the kaleidoscope get to the present day, with the next turn, it goes back at the starting point. I tried ... and it's true.
This going back and forth has been fascinating, revealing many details at every turn. I confess also that this exercise has left me with mixed feelings: joy at what has been done with such generosity, but also concern about what lies ahead, especially if we compare today with that initial momentum. And I continue to be impressed by the daring of Eugene in contrast to our excessive caution, always calculating, perhaps with unwarranted fear.
For Eugene was a risk taker. Two hundred years ago in France, religious youth groups were banned; young people were not educated in Christian values, ??and within the Church, they felt abandoned. He took a chance and swam against the current of his time... He took the risk, yes, by accepting into his group, youth from all stations in life, trusting them and giving them responsibilities; being a father to them, a brother and friend, loving them, devoting all his time to them, putting his health at risk, leading them to stand with the most poor... Eugene took the risk of presenting them to Christ as a friend and the Gospel as a rule of life, demanding of them a generous life, helping them to grow in human and Christian attitudes, and finally leading them to become saints...
In 1816, Eugene opened his house, the Carmel of Aix, to his youth. When I think about it, it moves me to see how, in the early days of our history, the two groups walked hand in hand, the small group of Missionaries of Provence and the youth of the Association, sharing time and space, sharing life and prayer, sharing the desire to be holy missionaries for the renewal of the Church and the world...
I too wish for more daring in our mission with youth. That we not just be satisfied with what we did in our wonderful history. Let us have the courage to take action. Lots of words have already been spoken! Let us have the courage to fulfill the mandates of the General Chapter of 2004 (it’s going on nine years!) Or the suggestions of the Oblate Congress on the mission with youth in 2008. Let us have the courage to devote our very best, like Eugene, to be with the young missionaries to the poor...
I think this gadget, the kaleidoscope, is a bit dangerous because it is making me dream. I dream of a new missionary momentum that is truly our own, because it comes from Spirit that was given to Eugene de Mazenod as an element of our charism. It makes me dream of so much beauty, so many challenges... Yes, I want to invite the Oblates and the youth to dream. How can we renew ourselves in this mission entrusted to us: to proclaim Christ and his Gospel to the most abandoned and with youth? Two hundred years and still we dream ... (Chicho ROIS, General Councillor)
Our new Pope Francis gives us one surprise after another. Today, 28 March 2013, the beginning of the Paschal Triduum, he surprised us with a beautiful “Easter egg:” the publication of the Decree on the heroic virtues of the Servant of God, Anthony KOWALCZYK, who henceforth is called Venerable.
Brother Kowalczyk was born in Dzierzanów, Poland, on 4 June 1866 and, known for his holiness, died on 10 July 1947, in St. Albert, Canada.
The process of his Cause for canonization began in Edmonton many years ago. On 1 June 1979, it was opened in Rome and in 1984, Fr. Eszer Ambrosio, O.P., was named its Relator. Fr. Nicola FERRARA, after a long and arduous work as collaborator of the General Postulator, developed the Positio super Virtutibus and was able to deliver its second volume in 1993. On assuming office, the current General Postulator was told that this case had been “abandoned.” “Abandoned? Who wrote that? We are actually studying an alleged miracle attributed to his intercession!”
The Cause was “revived” and the apostolic process resumed rapidly. The theological Consultors met in Congress in June 2012, and, after the Postulator responded to some objections, they gave their unanimous favorable vote. The Cause went to the Congregation of Cardinals and Bishops, who also gave the green light, and so on 27 March 2013, the Pope signed the Decree.
What is lacking now for his beatification? Only a miracle that endorses what the Holy See has approved. There are several graces and favors attributed to the intercession of the new Venerable, as seen in: http://goo.gl/WJDNi, but they are not enough. We are studying a supposedly miraculous healing in Minnesota in the United States.
I want to express my gratitude to Fr. Ferrara for his hard work, perseverance and enthusiasm for this Cause. Thanks also to the Oblate provinces of Assumption and Lacombe who are generously willing to assume the inevitable expenses that all this will entail. Fr. Miroslaw OLSZEWSKI of Assumption province has accepted the position of Vice-postulator to complete the process, and with zeal, he has dedicated himself to the Cause. (Fr. Joaquín MARTÍNEZ, General Postulator)