570 - October 2016
September 12th, 2016 - October 15th, 2016

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THE 36TH GENERAL CHAPTER

DAY 18: (1 October) Election of the Assistants General

A beautiful day in Rome welcomed the month of October. The capitulars were joined in prayer today by the scholastics in San Antonio, Texas, USA.

With the prospect of having Saturday afternoon free, the capitulars set to work with the task of electing the two Assistants General for the new Central Government. After a period of discussion and a secret straw ballot, they were able to vote on names proposed by the Nominating Committee.

Those elected to the office of Assistant General were Fr. Cornelius NGOKA and Fr. Ramon BERNABE.


Fr. Ngoka has served as Assistant General for the past six years. Born in Ihiteowerri, Imo State, Nigeria in 1969, he professed his first vows in 1993. He completed his philosophy in Yaoundé, Cameroun, and theology in Rome, making his perpetual vows in 2000. He was ordained to the priesthood in 2001, after which he studied Biblical Theology in Yaoundé. In 2007, he obtained a licentiate in Sacred Scriptures at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome. After his ordination, he became the socius at the novitiate (2001-2003). Later, while continuing his studies, he served as formator at the scholasticate in Yaoundé (2003-2004) and at the International Scholasticate in Rome (2004-2007). In December of 2007, he was named Provincial Superior of Cameroun. The Province of Cameroun includes the Oblates in Chad and the Mission of Nigeria. After his election as Assistant General in 2010, he was given responsibility for the Formation Portfolio in the Central Government. He speaks Igbo, English, French, Italian, German and Spanish.


Fr. Bernabe was born in 1964 in the Philippines. His first formation took place in his native country where he made first vows in 1985 and was ordained a priest in 1992. His studies took him to various places: Philosophy at Notre Dame University, Cotabato City; Theology at Loyola School of Theology, Ateneo de Manila University, in Quezon City, where he achieved a Masters Degree in Pastoral Ministry. He also did special studies in Peace and Conflict Resolution at the European Peace University, in Stadtschlaining, Austria. Besides serving as the provincial of the Philippines (2005-12) he had a variety of assignments, including parish ministry, but primarily in the field of education and formation. Among these, he was President of Notre Dame University in Cotabato (2002-2005) and prior to coming to the 36th General Chapter, he was Director of Notre Dame of Greater Manila School in Caloocan City. He speaks English and Tagalog.

 

 

 




DAY 20: (3 October) Election of the General Councillors

We began the last full week of the 36th General Chapter with 83 capitulars. The number increased because upon his election as General Councillor, Fr. Ramon Bernabe left this role as moderator to become a member of the Chapter itself.

The scholastics at the Yves Plumey Philosophy scholasticate in Cameroon joined the capitulars in prayer today.


During the morning session, the capitulars met in regional groups in order to finalize the list of names of those whom they will nominate for the office of General Councillor. Elected were the following Oblate priests: Guillaume MUTHUNDA HENGELELA (Region of Africa-Madagascar); Peter STOLL (Region of Asia-Oceania); Warren BROWN (Region of Canada-United States); Antoni BOCHM (Region of Europe); Alberto HUAMÁN (Region of Latin America). A brief Curriculum Vita of each of them will be published at a later date.

Fr. Peter Stoll is not present at the Chapter so his acceptance had to be through a telephone call from Father General. With his acceptance, he automatically became a member of the Chapter and is expected to arrive in Rome within days.

The afternoon was spent in giving final approval to amendments to several Constitutions and Rules. The changes to the Constitutions will need the approval of the Holy See.

There was also a lengthy discussion about the contents of the final document on the theme of the Chapter. That will be the topic of further discussions in coming days.

 

 

 




DAY 21: (4 October) Discussing proposals

On this feast of St. Francis of Assisi, the capitulars began the day with Morning Prayer in the garden of the Chapter site, close to nature, reflecting on one of Jesus’ parables about the seed. Each one received a small seed as a reminder of our own call to be sowers of the seed of God’s Word. Then they went in procession to the Chapter Hall singing "Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est.” ("Where there are charity and love, God is present.”)


The morning was spent studying and amending some proposals that had been made by the members of the Central Government.

In the afternoon, Frs. Mario AZRAK and Liam GRIFFIN presented the report of the Chapter’s Finance Committee. The committee had also written some proposals for the Chapter which were discussed at length.

 

 




DAY 23: (6 October) Preparing final documents

On the previous evening, the community of the Oblate General House welcomed the 36th General Chapter participants for a fraternal meal. Even the staff of the kitchen and dining room joined in the sing-along at the end.

Joining the capitulars in prayer on this day were the young Oblates at the De Mazenod Scholasticate in Yogyakarta, Indonesia.


It was serious work all morning and afternoon. Every General Chapter "articulates our missionary vision, determines general policy for the Congregation, and makes whatever decisions are required.” (Oblate Constitution 126) To accomplish that task, proposals have been made and documents have been written to animate the Congregation for the next six years, especially regarding the theme of the 36th General Chapter: the Oblate Mission. Most of this day was spent reading, discussing and making suggestions for what is presently being called simply the "final document” of the Chapter.


Before the evening meal, there was a Mass commemorating the 200th anniversary of our founding. Fr. Paolo ARCHIATI, Vicar General, presided and preached. He entered the chapel carrying a relic of the heart of St. Eugene de Mazenod. Preceding him was Brother Jason ROSSIGNOL who carried the original copy of the "Supplique” (Petition), signed by St. Eugene and his very first companions. They were asking the Vicars General of Aix for permission to begin a community of missionaries and it explained the goals of that venture they launched on 25 January 1816. The Region of Africa-Madagascar made the liturgy memorable with beautiful songs in several languages.

 

 




DAY 24: (7 October ) A visit with Pope Francis


The Sala Clementina in the Vatican was completed by Pope Clement VIII in 1595. To get there this morning, the Oblates had to climb many, many stairs. But the climb and the wait for Pope Francis were well worth the effort. The smiling and gracious successor of Peter first greeted the Superior General, Fr. Louis LOUGEN, with a fatherly embrace and then he spoke to the Oblates gathered there, including the capitulars, the auxiliary personnel, scholastics from the International Roman Scholasticate and the Mediterranean Province Scholasticate and Oblates from the General House.


Among other things, he reminded us of the canonization homily of 1995: "On the day of his canonization, St. John Paul II defined Father de Mazenod a ‘man of Advent’, docile to the Holy Spirit in reading the signs of the times and aiding the work of God in the story of the Church. May these characteristics be present in you, his children. May you also be ‘men of Advent’, capable of discerning the signs of the new times and guiding your brothers on the paths which God opens in the Church and in the world.”


Perhaps the pope was thinking of his own letter, ‘The Joy of the Gospel” when he said to the Oblates: "May the joy of the Gospel shine above all on your faces and make you joyous witnesses. Following the example of the Founder, may ‘among yourselves practice charity’ be your first rule of life and the premise of every apostolic action; and may ‘zeal for the salvation of souls’ be the natural consequence of your fraternal charity.”

The entire talk can be found, in English, on the Vatican website.


Before the Holy Father spoke, the Superior General addressed him in the name of the Congregation. The pope was particularly amused when Fr. Lougen pointed out that the Oblates are having a General Chapter just like the pope’s fellow Jesuits. Pope Francis was also happy to greet his fellow Argentinian, Fr. Antonio MARIANGELI, the provincial of the Province of Argentina-Chile. All of the Oblates who were present were able to greet the Holy Father personally and receive the gift of a rosary.


In the afternoon, it was back to work for the capitulars as they discussed and sought consensus on the missionary orientations of the Congregation for the next six years.

 




DAY 25: (8 October) The finale is in sight!

Only the morning of this final Saturday of the Chapter was used for work. The rest of the day was free. The José Gerard scholasticate community in Paraguay joined with the capitulars in prayer today.

As always happens at a General Chapter, the final days are spent in discussing proposals on various issues that are related to the Chapter’s theme: the Oblate Mission. Drafting committees are hard at work preparing the final versions of what will go down in Oblate history as the offering of the 36th General Chapter at the beginning of the third century of our existence.

To round out the day, some of the capitulars participated in the Marian Vigil for the Year of Mercy, led by Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Square.

 

 




DAY 27: (10 October) Some final votes and more discussion

On Sunday, 9 October, many of the capitulars concelebrated a Mass with Pope Francis at St. Peter’s Square. The occasion was the Marian celebration during the Jubilee Year of Mercy. At the end of that Mass, the Holy Father announced the names of 17 new Cardinals. Among them is one of our Oblate Confreres, Cardinal-elect Sebastian Koto KHOARAI, Bishop-emeritus of Mohale’s Hoeck in Lesotho.

By coincidence, it is the community of the Mater Jesu Scholasticate in Lesotho that accompanied the Chapter in prayer on this day.

Joining the Chapter from Indonesia was Fr. Peter STOLL, elected last week as General Councillor. That brought the number of capitulars present in Rome to 84.

Fortunately, the electronic voting equipment in the Chapter Hall was working well since the capitulars voted on a large number of proposals in the morning. All of the proposals were adopted and will appear in the Acts of the Chapter.


Following the traditional Chapter group photo, the capitulars met in regional groups to express their gratitude to the outgoing General Councillor and to welcome the new one. They also discussed the future of their region.


In the afternoon, there was ample time to discuss a document that summarizes the principal missionary orientations of the Chapter. Then there was a moment of theological reflection on the Chapter experience as a whole. During Oraison, the Oblates at the Chapter had the opportunity to renew their vows of poverty, chastity, obedience and perseverance.

 

 




DAY 28: (11 October) The 36th General Chapter has ended!

At approximately 3:45 in the afternoon today, the Superior General, Fr. Louis LOUGEN, asked the 84 capitulars to raise a hand if they were in favor of bringing the 36th General Chapter to a close. The response was enthusiastic and affirmative, as was the ensuing applause. And so this Chapter became a part of Oblate history.


In the morning, however, there was work to be accomplished. After Morning Prayer in communion with the Colombo Province scholasticate in Kandy, Sri Lanka, the capitulars voted on the final documents that complete the Acts of the Chapter. Once the new Central Government meets, Fr. General in Council will oversee the preparation of the Acts for publication. Since there were some changes to several Constitutions, it will be necessary to await the assent of the Holy See before they can be published.


The afternoon session was primarily for the closing of the Chapter. That was followed by the celebration of Eucharist in the main chapel of the General House of the Brothers of the Christian Schools where the Chapter had taken place. Oblates from around Rome and friends of the Oblates joined the capitulars in thanking God for His presence. As Fr. General had said in the Chapter Hall before the official closing, "We welcomed God who is always among us.”

 




DAY 11: (23 September) A funeral Mass for Fr. Katongo

The members of the 36th General Chapter participated in the Funeral Mass for Fr. Kennedy KATONGO who died on 14 September at the General House. For two years, he had served as the Director of the General Service of Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation. Fr. Gilberto PIÑÓN, Assistant General in charge of the Mission, presided at the liturgy, next to Fr. Louis LOUGEN, Superior General. Fr. Freeborn KIBOMBWE, the Superior of the Delegation of Zambia, where Fr. Kennedy had his origins, preached the homily. Fr. Freeborn has known the Katongo family for many years. Besides the capitulars, the General House chapel was filled to overflowing by the General House community and many other men and women religious, especially those who worked with the deceased in the JPIC ministry. The scholastics of the International Roman Scholasticate led the singing. The ambassador of Zambia, Her Excellency Gertrude Mwape, thanked the Oblates for allowing Fr. Kennedy’s remains to be returned to Zambia for burial, a great consolation for a family grieving the loss of so young a son.


In the afternoon, Fr. Roberto SARTOR, former Procurator General and now the bursar of the General House, spoke to the capitulars about departures from the Congregation and some of the canonical issues involved in this. It was a very enlightening presentation, including statistics from his time as Procurator, as well as the canonical distinctions related to various types of departures, whether from religious life or from priestly ministry.


General Councillor Fr. Warren BROWN spoke about some of the proposed changes to the Constitutions and Rules, especially those concerning the mandate of the Holy See to assure that at a General Chapter, the elected delegates are to be more numerous than those who are members of the Chapter "ex officio.”

 

 

 

 


 



DAY 13: (26 September) Mission: Formation and Inculturation Committees

After a Sunday of relaxation and tourism, the capitulars began the new week with Morning Prayer prepared by the scholastics of the Mediterranean Province scholasticate in Vermicino, Italy. Fr. Raymond WARREN, Provincial of the Anglo-Irish Province, delivered a brief spiritual conference on the vow of Obedience and the exercise of authority.

The capitulars continued listening to the preliminary reports of the various focus groups on the general theme of "Mission.” In the morning, it was the turn of the group on "Formation for the Mission.” Three members of the group made the presentation: Pierre-Olivier TREMBLAY, Gennaro ROSATO and Ferdinand OWONO NDIH.

After the pause for lunch and, for many, the obligatory siesta, the presentation was about "Mission and Inculturation.” The speakers were Vincent GRUBER, Miguel FRITZ and Mokone RATHOKOA.


There was time for questions and comments after each of the presentations. The afternoon session continued with a discussion of and presentation of amendments to proposed changes to the Constitutions and Rules.


A big and sometimes amusing moment in the afternoon was the testing of the electronic voting system that will be used at later stages of the Chapter. It is an old system with a variety of non-functioning switches, but all of the capitulars do have a desk with a functioning switch!

 

 

 




DAY 14: 27 September 2016 Mission: Social Media and Finance Committees

Scholastics from Karachi, Pakistan, prayed with the capitulars today and provided the material for the Morning Prayer. Also, prior to the morning session, Fr. Pierre-Olivier TREMBLAY (Notre-Dame-du-Cap Province) gave a brief spiritual conference on "Chastity and the Mission of Charity.”

Since electing leadership for the Congregation is one of the duties of a General Chapter, the capitulars approved the slate of candidates for the Nominating Committee:

· Fr. Bruno FAVERO Africa-Madagascar

· Fr. José Luis CASTILLO Latin America

· Fr. Lauro DE GUIA Asia-Oceania

· Fr. William ANTONE Canada-United States

· Fr. Raymond WARREN Europe

The last of the six focus groups on the Chapter theme, "Mission,” made their presentations during the plenary sessions of this day. "Mission and Social Media” and "Mission and Finances.” As always, there were comments and suggestions from the capitulars to help the focus groups finalize their documents.


In the afternoon, the chairman of the Steering Committee, Fr. Luc TARDIF, introduced the process of nominations and elections. This process will be proposed on Wednesday for the approval of the Chapter. Of course, it will include prayer and discernment. The entire Oblate family is asked to unite in prayer on Thursday, 29 September, asking the Holy Spirit’s guidance for the Chapter.

The plenary sessions ended with further discussion and amendments to proposals for changes in the Constitutions and Rules.



DAY 15: (28 September) Thinking ahead to the elections


This day is not only the birthday of the Superior General, Fr. Louis LOUGEN, but also the sixth anniversary of his election as the 12th successor of St. Eugene de Mazenod. In the refectory at lunch, best wishes were sung in English, French, Spanish and Polish.


Joining the capitulars in prayer were the scholastics in Obra, Poland. After Morning Prayer, Fr. Edouard DAGAVOUNANSOU gave a challenging spiritual conference entitled: "Boldly imagining the future.”


The Steering Committee explained its proposal for the process of nominating and electing the Superior General. After some discussion and amendments, the proposal was accepted. Then the capitulars went into their focus groups to fine-tune their various documents on the Chapter’s theme, "Mission.”

In a certain sense, the election process for the Superior General then began in earnest as forty-four capitulars named qualities they would expect to find in the leader of the Congregation. Of course, there was repetition in the qualities named, but they demonstrate the hopes in the hearts of the capitulars in this very important moment of the Chapter.

The afternoon session began with the capitulars being in Skype contact with some of the scholastics in Obra to pray a decade of the rosary together.

More discussion of proposed changes to the Constitutions and Rules took most of the rest of the afternoon.

The evening Oraison was organized to include veneration of the Oblate cross of St. Eugene de Mazenod, all a preparation for the day of retreat to be held on Thursday, 29 September.




DAY 16: (29 September) A day of retreat


Father General had asked that Oblates throughout the world join the 36th General Chapter in a day of prayer and reflection on the eve of the elections for leadership in the Congregation. This retreat day began in Rome with prayer at a Lourdes Grotto in the garden of the Chapter site. The capitulars from the Canada-USA Region led the prayer in the garden and then led the capitulars to the chapter hall singing the Lourdes hymn.


 

Fr. Wojciech POPIELEWSKI, Superior of the International Roman Scholasticate, presented a meditation which is also available on the homepage of the Congregation’s website. He began: "To have faith means to be on a journey. The experience of a journey is a fundamental dimension of faith. When a person responds to the inviting call of God, he or she begins a journey of faith. All people of faith can discover the faith of Abraham in their own experience.” Then he went on to develop how the Oblates and, in particular, this General Chapter are on a journey of faith which has many dimensions.

The day of retreat took on a new flavor during the afternoon session when the capitulars were invited to enter into prayerful dialogue with as many each other. This famous "murmuratio”, as it is called in the language of our General Chapters, has little to do with the original Latin meaning (gossip, grumbling). It has much to do with the meaning often found in poetry: "a low, continuous sound” (for example, the "murmuring of the brook.”) For the capitulars, it is simply a quiet, honest and charitable conversation about the qualities Oblates see in those of their confreres who might serve in the roles of leadership for the next six year.


By late afternoon, the capitulars were cast a straw vote to indicate their preferences before the official vote on Friday, 30 September. "Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Your faithful and enkindle in them the fire of Your love.”




Fr. General’s opening homily

The feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross is a wonderful occasion to begin our 36th General Chapter dedicated to "Mission.” "The cross of Jesus Christ is central to our mission. Like the apostle Paul, we preach Christ and him crucified… Through the eyes of the crucified Savior we see the world which he redeemed with his blood, desiring that those in whom he continues to suffer will know the power of his resurrection.” (C#4) The cross of Jesus reveals who we are, how we live, and what we do as Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate.

The cross is the great sign of faith. We might forget this. When we look at the cross we no longer see the horror, the scandal, the humiliation and the absurdity of the Son of God who died this way. Our faith brings us to see the Resurrected One who triumphed over sin, death and violence. The cross proclaims the unbelievable love of God. Yet, surrounded by so many images of the cross, often cheap and simple decorations, we can forget its awesome mystery of love and the victory over sin, evil and death.

I invite us to look on the cross and to ask God to strengthen our faith, and to make us more aware of faith in our lives. We take faith for granted, and it becomes mundane, an automatic reflex. Our life can become plans and calendars; we live, move and have our being as though we operate like the automatic cycle on a washing machine. The button is pushed and off we go. Part of the cycle is daily prayer and Eucharist, and then we go to work, a separate compartment from prayer. We might believe in ourselves more than in God! We think we are "the movers and shakers” and God is far away, remote and invisible. We carry the weight of the world on our shoulders. We have to save the world!


I invite us to ask God for the gift of faith as we open this General Chapter, the Chapter of our jubilee. We come here, first of all, as men of faith, and this means men who have vision, who see deeply what is not evident and who possess wisdom. We believe that Jesus brought us here as his missionaries. He desires to breathe the newness and power of the Spirit on us, this special body of Oblates called the General Chapter.

This is not just another meeting, one more General Chapter. We cannot be here wondering "will this Chapter be useful!” We know the Spirit of Jesus is among us and will speak to us. WE have to make the General Chapter an event that will touch the Congregation!

I was at a Province assembly where a large group of Oblates solemnly processed to the chapel and intoned the Veni Creator Spiritus. It was powerful and beautiful. After this beautiful prayer to the Spirit, we walked to the meeting hall and I heard these comments: "Another useless meeting.” "What a waste of time and money!” "We hear the same people talk all the time and then nothing happens.” Let me use the words of Jesus to his disciples, "Among you it cannot be like this.” The feast of the exaltation of the cross calls us to faith. We cannot disbelieve in God’s presence and activity among us.

  • We will invoke the Holy Spirit and the Spirit will be among us. We MUST have faith; we must LISTEN, watch, pray, share, and work hard to be faithful to the Spirit.

  • In the light of the triumph of the cross, I believe that the Risen Lord is among us, truly present!

  • In the light of the triumph of the cross, I believe that the Father and the Risen Lord send the Spirit as our consoler and advocate, as well as to shake us up. I hope so!

  • In the light of the triumph of the cross, I believe that God will speak to us through our work. He will reveal his missionary plan and our participation in it.

  • In the light of the triumph of the cross, I believe that old and young Oblates are valuable and important for the mission and the future of the Congregation.

  • In the light of the triumph of the cross, I believe that the Oblates of Mary Immaculate have much to give for God’s kingdom and to the Church, and this is not the time to lay down and die.

The first days of our General Chapter, we will be hearing many hours of reports. My brothers, we are not here to be entertained! We are invited to see the works of the Lord in the missionary work of our Congregation. An image to motivate us in these first days is to see our General Chapter as the return of the 72 disciples in jubilation after being sent out on mission. The disciples come and tell Jesus all they have done. Our reports will be like that, relating marvelous signs and wonders, and also the challenges that can only be faced with fasting, penance and prayer.

In this passage we are told that Jesus exulted in the Spirit upon hearing about the missionary zeal of his disciples. Brothers, Jesus is among us and will be exulting before the Father in the Spirit as we witness the missionary wonders we have accomplished! We, friends of Jesus, gather around Him, rejoicing to be together. We want to tell of the good things we have done in his name. Let us believe and see more deeply into the "reports.” "Do not forget the wonders of the Lord!”

Again, I invite us all to believe that the Risen Lord is here among us. We know he comes to us in Word and Sacrament. Let us frequently make an act of faith during these days, to see Jesus and hear Him in our assembly, this motley group of missionaries who are so in love with the poor! I invite us to have the eyes to recognize Jesus in our midst, breathing the Spirit upon us in the Chapter hall, and in the corridors, breaking bread with us at table and in our small groups. By the power of the cross, may we allow the Spirit of Jesus to inspire us, sending us on mission to the poor.

As we speak of mission, we have the great question burning in our hearts, "Lord what you will have us do?” Let this be our focus throughout the General Chapter. "Lord, where do you want to send us in faithfulness to the Oblate charism which is so necessary today?” We open ourselves to the Spirit to receive Mazenodian courage, audacity and creativity, to bring the Gospel to the world today. This Good News is stronger than any other force in society and it is this Good News that people are seeking. The Father is drawing all people to the fount of life.

As we contemplate the cross, we remember that faith is the certainty of things hoped for; the conviction of things we do not see (Heb. 11:1). My brothers, let us enter the General Chapter of 2016 under the sign of the cross, with great faith in the Risen Lord who is among us, who gifts us with his Spirit, and who wishes to send us forth, on mission.

 

 




DAY ONE : 36th General Chapter begins

In a sure sign that the electronic age is upon us, the opening session of the 36th General Chapter was electronically streamed live to the computers of Oblates throughout the world. Fr. Louis LOUGEN, the Superior General, officially opened the General Chapter on 14 September 2016 at the Casa LaSalle in Rome. This is a "Jubilee Chapter” in two senses: the Oblates of Mary Immaculate are celebrating the 200th anniversary of their founding; and it is taking place during the extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy for the universal Church.


Prior to the official inauguration of the Chapter, the 82 members of the Chapter and the 38 priests, Brothers and scholastics who are serving as Auxiliary Personnel, gathered with Oblates from various communities around Rome and with invited guests to celebrate Eucharist and call down the blessings of the Holy Spirit on the assembly. "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.” (OMI Constitution 125)


The Chapter began with the liturgical celebration of the Exaltation of the Cross of Jesus. In his homily, Father General invited the Oblates "…to ask God for the gift of faith as we open this General Chapter, the Chapter of our jubilee. We come here, first of all, as men of faith, and this means men who have vision, who see deeply what is not evident and who possess wisdom. We believe that Jesus brought us here as his missionaries. He desires to breathe the newness and power of the Spirit on us, this special body of Oblates called the General Chapter.”


He further stated: "This is not just another meeting, one more General Chapter. We cannot be here wondering ‘will this Chapter be useful!’ We know the Spirit of Jesus is among us and will speak to us. WE have to make the General Chapter an event that will touch the Congregation!”


Following the liturgy, the capitulars chanted the Litany of the Saints as they went in procession from the chapel to the meeting room. Once there, the traditional "Veni Creator Spiritus” was intoned. Fr. Claudio BERTUCCIO, the Commissioner who led Chapter preparations took roll call. One capitular had not yet arrived because of issues with his visa. Fr. Christian FINI is serving as substitute for the provincial of Australia who was not able to fly to Rome at this time because of a health issue.

As the Chapter began, Fr. General announced the sad news that Fr. Kennedy KATONGO, the Director of the Oblate JPIC Service, had been found dead of an apparent heart attack at the General House. The Chapter members offered prayers for his eternal rest.

In the afternoon session, the capitulars broke into small groups to get to know one another better.

For more photos: omiworld.org/general chapter

 




DAY TWO: (15 September) Theme of the day: Reconciliation

The session began with Morning Prayer for the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows. Fr. Bonga MAJOLA explained that the prayer was composed by the scholastics in Manila, Philippines. Scholasticates throughout the world have prepared the prayer for each day of the Chapter, with the exception of five days prepared by the Regions. It is a means for the young Oblates and the capitulars to have a sense of being part of a larger community as they pray for and with each other.


The theme of the day was "Reconciliation”. In the afternoon, there was a penitential service led by the Latin American Region, followed by Eucharist. All were encouraged to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation in the course of the day.

After the brief Plenary Session in the morning, the capitulars met in regional workshops to give a final look at their regional reports.

Each regional group chose one of its members to be presented to the Chapter for required committees: Steering, Finance, Nominating, and Drafting.

At the afternoon session, Father General presented the nominees for two of the committees and asked for a show of hands to confirm them in their roles.

STEERING COMMITTEE

Africa-Madagascar: Freeborn Kibombwe (Zambia)

Latin America: Jorge Albergati (Uruguay)

Asia-Oceania: Edwin Selveratnam (Jaffna)

Canada-USA: Luc Tardif (Notre-Dame-du-Cap)

Europe: Pavel Zajac (Poland)

FINANCE COMMITTEE:

Africa-Madagascar: Mario Azrac (Kenya)

Latin America: Alberto Huaman (Peru)

Asia-Oceania: Slavomir Kalisz (China)

Canada-USA: Christopher Pulchny (Assumption)

Europe: Liam Griffin (Anglo-Irish)


Fr. Paolo ARCHIATI then presented a brief spiritual conference or reflection entitled "Looking at the past with gratitude.” He explained that the inspiration for his talk was the letter of Pope Francis at the beginning of the Year of Consecrated Life when he invited religious men and women to look to the past with gratitude; to live the present with passion; and to embrace the future with hope. He also referred to a letter from Fr. General to the Congregation at the beginning of the 200th Jubilee of the Oblates. He then went on to name some of the many things for which we Oblates are grateful and invited the capitulars to continue reflecting on that theme and adding their own reasons to be grateful.

For more photographs:go to the Image Gallery




DAY THREE: (16 September) Looking back with gratitude: Regional Reports

After Morning Prayer prepared by the Region of Europe, the Chapter began the important phase of listening to various reports. These reports are meant to show not only what is happening in the Oblate world, but to help us look back with gratitude at the many ways that God has blessed the Congregation.

First on the agenda was the report of the Region of Africa-Madagascar. The president of the Region, Fr. Edouard DAGAVOUNANSOU (Cameroon) presented the report which he entitled: "Continent of Hope.” He stated at the end of his presentation that the Region of Africa-Madagascar wishes to make a gift to the Superior General -- the services of young Oblates for the mission throughout the world at the time of their first obedience. In the question and answer session after the report, there was considerable focus on the issue of collaboration in and financing of formation as well as financing of the works of the mission.


The Region of Latin America’s report was offered by Jose Ariel MARTINEZ (Mexico) and Jorge ALBERGATI (Uruguay). The Region is geographically vast, a factor which makes the needed restructuring difficult to achieve. Immigration also poses major challenges in the Region, not only as people leave their homelands to try to find a better life but there is also migration within the countries themselves.

Fr. Lauro DE GUIA (Philippines) presented the Asia-Oceania Region’s report. This too is a very diverse region with many cultures but a long history of Oblate presence. The questions and comments focused very much on interreligious dialogue and the problems inherent in carrying on the mission in the midst of Islamic fundamentalism. It was very moving to hear Fr. Lauro talk about the Oblates and other religious working in the southern island of Jolo who cannot go out of their houses without two marine guards as escorts. "But we cannot leave our people!” he said.

Both Fr. William ANTONE (United States) and Fr. Luc TARDIF (Notre-Dame-du-Cap) presented a video that focused on gratitude for past and present missionary challenges and accomplishments in the vast Canada-US Region. It was exactly 175 years ago that St. Eugene de Mazenod sent six Oblates to North America. The Oblates in the Region are aging and there are few younger Oblates to carry on traditional ministries. As Fr. Luc put it, "We live in constant mourning as we leave long-established ministries.” But there is a very concerted effort in vocation recruitment and the Region has received from other Units some very dedicated young missionaries.


After supper, the capitulars were invited to listen to a presentation by the superior of the International Eugene de Mazenod Centre in Aix, Fr. Christoph ZIELENDA. He spoke about the programs offered at the Centre which is, in reality, the cradle of our Congregation.

For more photographs:go to the Image Gallery




DAY FOUR: (17 September) More reports

It was the scholastics in Sao Paulo, Brazil, who prepared the Morning Prayer for the fourth day of the 36th General Chapter.

And it was the turn of the Region of Europe to present its report to the Congregation. Five provincials took turns in identifying the reality and challenges within the calls of conversion from the 35th Chapter in 2010: Mission, Community and Formation.


Fr. Raymond WARREN (Anglo-Irish) gave a general introduction to the report. Fr. Alberto GNEMMI (Mediterranean) spoke on the Mission in Europe. Fr. Antoni BOCHM (Poland) focused on the challenges and problems that face the Oblates. Fr. Stefan OBERGFELL (Central European) spoke of formation; Fr. Vincent GRUBER (France) talked about community life.

Three of the five Oblate Brothers who had been invited by the Superior General gave a report on the vocation and reality of the Brothers in the Congregation today. Bro. Jean-Marie DIAKANOU (Cameroon) spoke on the history of Permanent Committee of Oblate Brothers. Bro. Jason ROSSIGNOL (United States) introduced some proposals to the Chapter from Brothers’ Committee. Bro. Ivar RUIZ (Bolivia) followed with some reflections on the vocation of the Brother.


Each report was followed by questions and comments from the rest of the capitulars.

The morning session was concluded by three capitulars who were invited to give their personal reflections on what they have seen and heard in these first days of the Chapter: Fathers Calixto MAMANI (Bolivia), Vlastimil KADLEC (Central European) and Chinappan Sandhappan (India).

In the afternoon, the chapter community warmly welcomed our former Superior General, Bishop Guillermo Steckling, now the Bishop of Ciudad del Este in Paraguay. He spoke of the transition from being Superior General to once again being a missionary in Paraguay and then a new transition to being bishop in a diocese where there had been a period of tension and conflict. He has had to learn how to be bishop to his diocesan clergy and to the many ecclesial movements that have started in the diocese. But he finds much hope in the faith of the people. He finds an atmosphere of hope also at this General Chapter as he has listened to the regional reports of the past few days.

For more photographs:go to the Image Gallery

 




DAY SIX: (19 September) Father General’s Report to the Chapter

Sunday, 18 September, was a day of rest for the members of the 36th General Chapter. For many of them, it was the opportunity to visit some tourist attractions. Groups were organized to visit Subiaco, Assisi, or the Catacombs, and there was a visit of Rome "in the footsteps of St. Eugene,” led by Fr. Fabio CIARDI.

But on Monday, it was back to serious business. Rule 126a states that "During the Chapter, the Superior General presents a report on the state of the Congregation and on its financial situation; the report is then examined by the Chapter.”

The Superior General, Fr. Louis LOUGEN, indeed reported today on the "state of the Congregation,” giving a summary of his sixty-six page written report which the members of the Chapter had received and were able to study before their coming to Rome. The part on the "financial situation” will be presented on 20 September by the Treasurer General, Fr. Marc DESSUREAULT.


After Fr. General’s report, the Capitulars moved into regional groups to discuss what they had heard and to formulate some comments and questions to be presented to Fr. General at the afternoon session.

The prayer that opened the afternoon session was a particularly touching moment of encounter between the capitulars and the scholastics in Cedara, South Africa. Through the wonders of Skype, the scholastics and capitulars were visually and aurally present to one another to pray a decade of the rosary.

For that afternoon session, Fr. General had divided questions coming from the five regional groups into various categories: Mission, Specific Ministries, Leadership, Apostolic Community and Formation. His responses touched on many themes that he has experienced and reflected upon during his six years as Superior General. The topics included such things as restructuring; the role of the Superior General in transferring Oblates from Unit to Unit; the priority of the mission in every aspect of our Oblate lives, and many others.

An optional evening session focused on the ministry of Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation and the new edition of the JPIC Vademecum that had been directed by the late Fr. Kennedy KATONGO.

For more photographs:go to the Image Gallery




DAY SEVEN: (20 September) The General Treasurer’s Report

On the previous day, Fr. General presented to the capitulars the names of proposed members of the Drafting Committee: Fr. Rémi LEPAGE (Notre-Dame-du-Cap); Bro. Noel GARCIA (Philippines); and Fr. Loudeger MAZILE (Haiti). The capitulars approved their nomination by a show of hands. These Oblates will have the difficult task of drafting the final documents of the 36th General Chapter.

On this seventh day, the scholastics in Melbourne, Australia, prepared the prayers and joined the capitulars in spirit from a distance of 16,000 km.


In the name of the Superior General, the Treasurer General, Fr. Marc DESSUREAULT gave a comprehensive report of the state of the Congregation’s finances. He also explained how the Central Government has responded to the mandates of the 2010 General Chapter concerning financial matters. Then the capitulars went into regional groups to discuss the report and formulate questions to be answered by Fr. Marc.

During the afternoon session, Fr. Marc answered many and sometimes complicated questions related to his report, before making a presentation on the OIP Investment Trust. And so ended the first week of the 36th General Chapter.

For more photographs:go to the Image Gallery




DAY EIGHT: (21 September) Beginning to work on the Chapter theme

Morning Prayer included a procession from the main chapel to the aula; it opened the second full week of the 36th General Chapter. Oblates from the Region of Africa-Madagascar came into the aula with rhythmic dance and carrying a small tree as a symbol of Africa, "the cradle of life.” The tree is a symbol of the rich history of the Oblates in Africa which continues to branch out in order to show the way to the poor of our times.


The chairman of the Steering Committee, Fr. Luc TARDIF, explained how it is a day of transition, from looking at our past with gratitude through the reports of the previous week, to beginning to chart our future. He quoted Oblate Constitution 126 that states that a Chapter "articulates our missionary vision, determines general policy for the Congregation, and makes whatever decisions are required.”

To begin that process of articulating that missionary vision, representatives of each of the five regions were invited to convey what the regional capitulars see as the three most important issues to be considered during the Chapter. Afterwards, the floor was open for the identification of convergences that appear from those reports.

Each week, one of the capitulars gives a spiritual conference to help the capitulars sharpen their focus on the Gospel values that underlie their discussions, discernment and decisions. Today, Fr. Rohan SILVA, the provincial of the Colombo Province in Sri Lanka, based his words on the Oblate charism as found in our Constitutions and Rules; on the Holy Father’s letter to religious at the beginning of the Year of Consecrated Life (November 2014 – February 2016); and his Apostolic Exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel (2013). The parable of the Good Samaritan served as the principal scripture background to the talk. Afterwards, the capitulars were given the rest of the morning for personal reflection.

The capitulars warmly welcomed a special guest for lunch, the Archbishop of Cotabato in the Philippines, our Oblate Cardinal Orlando QUEVEDO, who had come to Rome to participate in the World Day of Prayer for Peace in Assisi on 20 September.

During the afternoon plenary session, several capitulars gave brief reports. Fr. Vlastimil KADLEC, Bro. Jason ROSSIGNOL and Fr. Christian FINI spoke about the Congress on the Mission with Youth that took place in Aix in March 2016.

Frs. Cornelius NGOKA, Hipólito OLEA and Bonga MAJOLA told the capitulars about the Congress on Oblate Vocations, also held in Aix in July 2016.

The beatification of the Martyrs of Laos was the topic of a presentation by Fr. Vincent GRUBER, Provincial of France, and Fr. Alberto GNEMMI, Provincial of the Mediterranean Province. They spoke not only of the 17 martyrs themselves but also of the special Oblate celebrations that will take place in France and Italy. The beatification ceremony will be on 11 December 2016 in Vientiane, Laos. The Holy Father has designated Oblate Cardinal Quevedo as his personal delegate for the ceremony.


Two members of the Steering Committee explained the proposed program for the next several days: a focus on the Chapter’s theme of Mission. Frs. Luc TARDIF and Pawel ZAJAC announced that the capitulars will be invited to sign up for one of six working groups that will study various aspects of the theme with a view to making some concrete proposals for the Chapter to consider as part of our "missionary vision.” 

The themes are:

1) The new faces of poverty.

2) The mission with youth.

3) Formation for the mission.

4) The mission and Interculturality.

5) The mission and social media.

6) The mission and finances.

There was a lengthy discussion on the choice of topics and how other themes of importance might be dealt in conjunction with the discussions of the six designated elements. In the end, the capitulars accepted the Steering Committee’s proposal and agreed to move forward into this new phase of the Chapter to articulate our missionary vision and determine general policy for the Congregation.

For more photographs: go to the Image Gallery


DAY TEN: (23 September) Discussing reports on the theme

The scholastics from Madagascar prepared a beautiful Morning Prayer, together with a video, for this 10th day of the General Chapter. The video featured not only the scholastics singing and praying but also lovely pictures of the famous baobab trees of Madagascar. During the prayer, Fr. Gilberto PIÑÓN, Assistant General, gave a meditation entitled: The Future of the Oblate Mission depends on our common discernment.

 
(from L to R) Frs. Rémi LEPAGE (ND du Cap), Derrick WARNAKULASURIYA(Pakistan), Dilip SARKAR (Bangladesh)

This day was principally for beginning to listen to and discuss reports from the six focus groups that were created to treat the theme of the Chapter: the Oblate Mission. The first group talked about: "The new faces of the poor.” They had divided into subgroups so their presentation was made by: Fr. Rémi LEPAGE (Poverty in family life; Spiritual Poverty); Fr. Dilip SARKAR (Migrants, refugees and the homeless); Fr. Derrick WARNAKULASURIYA (The poor confronted by injustice or violations of their rights); Fr. Gilberto PIÑÓN: (Ecological sustainability -- "Mother Earth” as a face of the poor).

 

Following each presentation, there is a period for silent reflection, small group exchanges, and comments or questions from the rest of the Chapter members.

 

In the afternoon, it was the turn of the second group whose topic was "The Oblate Mission with Youth.” Making the presentation on this topic were Frs. Ismael GARCIA-MORENO, Lukas MOSEMEDI, Andrzej JASTRZEBSKI, Vlastimil KADLEC and Charles NABWEJNE. The discussion session showed that ministry with youth has taken a very important place in the Oblate heart and spirit, just as it was for St. Eugene de Mazenod, even before he founded his Congregation.




DAY 22: (5 October) Meet the General Councillors

Before they settled into a long day of discussing and amending various documents, a normal part of the work of a General Chapter, the capitulars were joined in spirit by the community of the St. Eugene de Mazenod Scholasticate in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, for Morning Prayer.

Here is a brief introduction to the newly elected General Councillors:

AFRICA-MADAGASCAR


The new General Councillor is Fr. Guillaume MUTHUNDA HENGELELA, from the Province of Congo, currently serving as Treasurer in the Angola Mission. Born in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1967, he pronounced his first vows as an Oblate in 1989 and was ordained a priest in 1994. His ministries have included parish work in both Congo and Angola, formation and teaching in the scholasticate and superior of the Angola Mission (2009-15). He speaks French, Portuguese and English.

ASIA-OCEANIA


The Chapter elected Fr. Peter STOLL, an Australia-born missionary in Indonesia for over 30 years. He accepted his election over the telephone. Born in 1953, he pronounced his first vows in 1973 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1978. He became a citizen of Indonesia where he has served in a variety of ministries including parish work and formation. He was also secretary for the Asia-Oceania Region for several years. At the time of his election, he was a member of the provincial council of his province and pastor of a parish.

CANADA-UNITED STATES


Fr. Warren BROWN has been elected to a second term as General Councillor. He was born in Fort Worth, Texas USA, in1955 and made his first profession of vows in 1978. After his ordination in 1982, he spent ten years in parish ministry. He has a doctorate in Canon Law from St. Paul University in Ottawa and has served on the Marriage Tribunal of several dioceses. He has also been active in the ministry of Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation. From 1995 until 2010, he taught Canon Law at Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, Texas and he was also the Vice-President of that institution. He serves as chairman of the Association of Oblate Institutes of Higher Studies mandated by the Chapter of 2004. He speaks English, French and Spanish.

EUROPE


Newly elected General Councillor Fr. Antoni BOCHM was the Provincial of his native Poland prior to his election by the General Chapter. He was born in 1969 and professed his first vows as an Oblate in 1993; ordination to the priesthood was in 1999. He served as a parish priest for two years before pursuing higher studies to prepare him for formation ministry at the scholasticate in Obra. There, he served as spiritual director and professor, as well as superior until he became provincial in 2014. He speaks Polish, English and Italian.

LATIN AMERICA


Born in Peru in 1970, Fr. Alberto HUAMÁN CAMAYO is the new General Councillor for the vast continent of Latin America, as well as the Caribbean country of Haiti. He pronounced his first vows in 1997 and was ordained a priest in 2001. His ministry has included various parish assignments and superior of the BOLPER scholasticate in Cochabamba, Bolivia. While in Bolivia, he also worked in prison ministry and as a professor. Back in his native Peru, he was Treasurer of the Delegation and, until his election, he was a member of the General Finance Committee as well as Superior of the General Delegation of Peru. He speaks Spanish, English and Italian.

 




DAY 28: (11 October) The 36th General Chapter has ended!

At approximately 3:45 in the afternoon today, the Superior General, Fr. Louis LOUGEN, asked the 84 capitulars to raise a hand if they were in favor of bringing the 36th General Chapter to a close. The response was enthusiastic and affirmative, as was the ensuing applause. And so this Chapter became a part of Oblate history.


In the morning, however, there was work to be accomplished. After Morning Prayer in communion with the Colombo Province scholasticate in Kandy, Sri Lanka, the capitulars voted on the final documents that complete the Acts of the Chapter. Once the new Central Government meets, Fr. General in Council will oversee the preparation of the Acts for publication. Since there were some changes to several Constitutions, it will be necessary to await the assent of the Holy See before they can be published.


The afternoon session was primarily for the closing of the Chapter. That was followed by the celebration of Eucharist in the main chapel of the General House of the Brothers of the Christian Schools where the Chapter had taken place. Oblates from around Rome and friends of the Oblates joined the capitulars in thanking God for His presence. As Fr. General had said in the Chapter Hall before the official closing, "We welcomed God who is always among us.”

 




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