From its earliest times, our Society has cultivated the praiseworthy and noble custom of cherishing the memory of its deceased members. Long before our days, many men heard the Lord’s call and Lavigerie’s invitation to the African mission. They became the ancestors to whom our Society owes the present.
As nobody fails to notice, their list is growing rapidly. In the edition of the Necrological Calendar of 2004, the Alphabetical List of Deceased Confreres required 43 pages, 48 pages were needed in 2012, and 52 in 2017. We are approaching the day when increasing numbers will impose a revision of the traditional practice. Here are a few suggestions that could be considered:
1) The first recommendation pleads for reversing the order of reading the names. Instead of starting with the 19th century, we could start with the most recent ones. They were personally known to many confreres, and in many cases their departure caused a deeply felt loss and the rupture of a wonderful friendship. Why should these men be mentioned at the end, after a list of twenty or more unknown names has lulled the listening confrere into a state of decreased attentiveness? Moreover, only a few of us are acquainted with Dutch, Kinyarwanda, the numerous West African languages, as well as Polish, Basque and other tongues. No wonder names and places are often mispronounced to the point of being hardly recognisable. Reading such a long litany of names can put one to sleep.
2) To facilitate reading in the reverse order, the necrology could be organised in a new way; printing the oldest names on the bottom line, then filling the page from below, always keeping an empty space on top to allow the entry of the most recent deaths that will occur before the publication of the next edition.
3) In any case, the daily list of the Necrological Calendar should always remain complete. However, we should not overlook the fact that our communities differ greatly concerning the living memory of their members. Some of us joined the Society several decades ago, others much more recently. Hence, communities may only have a limited chance of knowing the deceased confrere whose anniversary occurs. Each community could be encouraged to discuss freely the extent of their collective memory. Nevertheless, some of our ancient forefathers, pioneers, founders of churches and leading personalities in their time, are well known to everybody and should never be allowed to drift off into oblivion. Their position in the Society undoubtedly differs from that of a novice or scholastic who was called home to the Lord before his active apostolate ever began.