Growing old whit our elders, French-speaking confreres

Meeting of French-speaking confreres in charge of elderly communities

Four days of sharing, four days trying to learn and understand, and finally, four days of facing up to our individual responsibilities. This is the feeling that remained with me after this meeting in Rome between the various superiors of retirement homes in the province. And what did we learn? … solutions? … methods? … new ideas? None of this, except the observation that no two retirement homes are alike, no model is ideal, our elderly confreres are all different, and none of them ages according to the rules, but they all deserve respect and recognition for all they have achieved in their long missionary lives out in their missionary territory. It is also true that each one of them still feels they are missionaries and will be missionaries until they “return to” the Father, even though it is the same Father that each one of them has made known in their own way and who has always supported them throughout their lives. But can we speak of ” returning to… “?

This is why all our discussions were marked by respect, even affection, but never by certainty. This is perhaps also why Gérard Chabanon let us talk a lot without looking at his watch, because in the end we all came to this slightly guilty realisation: if our elderly confreres each have problems – and they do – it is we, the people in charge, who feel them the most. 

That is why this meeting has been so important. It has allowed us to assume our responsibilities in a new light, thanks to the sharing of our fears and doubts, and sometimes our disillusionment, to our informal meetings which are often more fruitful than the common meetings themselves, to the common prayer in which our elderly confreres have pride of place and finally to our poverty, which is a source of infinite richness. The Superiors of the Society in Rome did not get it wrong, as they did everything to welcome and thank us; but none of them ventured to give us the slightest advice and it was much better that way. On the plane back to Paris and to “my” community, I felt a little disoriented but happy and at peace. I felt much more “responsible” since I discovered that I would no longer have to accompany elderly confreres but rather in union with all the confreres in charge of retirement homes in the province, we would have to grow old together with our “old people” just as our novice masters had tried to grow with us. This is perhaps the only conclusion that, unconsciously, we came to seek in Rome, a source of hope and comfort.

Clément Forestier

 

Growing old with our elders, English-speaking confreres

Meeting of English-speaking confreres in charge of elderly communities

This meeting was held in Rome from Sunday 6th March to Friday 11th March 2022 and was hosted by the Provincial, Gerard Chabanon, and the Assistant Provincial, Georges Jacques.

Unlike previous meetings there was no outside invited speaker or animator.  This had not always proved to be beneficial.  Instead, the meeting would proceed at the pace and in the interests of those present with guidance from Gerard and Georges.

We met on Monday morning for a recollection led by Francis Barnes in which he reminded us that, especially in old age, we come to realise more fully our total dependence on others but above all on God.  The Nunc Dimitus of Simeon in the temple reminds us the peace and beauty of “letting go” and placing the past, the future and all in the hands of the Lord.

Frank led our Eucharist that day and on other days we celebrated together in the chapel of the Uganda Martyrs. It was a special moment to pray for those entrusted to our care.

In the afternoon we began our sharing on the different experiences we are living which would take us through until lunchtime on Tuesday.  There was no hurry and each was allowed time to present their report.  It is clear that the setup of our houses differs in each country.  In the Netherlands and in Germany there are opportunities for collaboration with other organisations, lay and religious.  In Ireland and in the UK this is more difficult.  However, our confreres are the same and the joys and challenges of caring are the same. It was clear that we are all happy in our ministry and enjoy what we have been asked to do.

On Tuesday we spent time, with the help of videos, discussing the signs, causes and effects of dementia which is on the increase everywhere.  This led to a discussion on the importance of every confrere having in place all the legal paperwork needed when one is seriously ill or has died. The decision when to move a confrere from our care to more professional care is a delicate one.

A special mention was made of those living outside community and our duty of pastoral care for them.

On Wednesday time was given to our life in community and how to energise and motivate our communities. Clearly our community and personal prayer is the mainstay of our life together and is well practised everywhere.  It was noted that visiting individuals is an important role of the one in charge and listening to them and their life stories.  Outings and community games are a way of drawing us together and relaxing.  Special mention was made of inviting confreres to write their memoirs, which is not only therapeutic but which can also contribute to the archives of the Society.

The group put relaxing into practice on Thursday by taking a day out together.  We visited the church of Cardinal Lavigerie, Basilica di S. Agnese.  His name and crest are clearly to be seen in the church.  The church stands above the smallest catacombs in Rome and we were able to visit them with the help of an excellent guide.  In the evening we joined the community for the Eucharist and after supper the tradional serata romana.

In conclusion the meeting was one of the most relaxed and positive I have attended.  There were no solutions or striking ways forward but an open and honest sharing of the joys and challenges of our ministry.

We thank Gerard and Georges for their support and their encouragement clearly felt throughout the meeting.  And finally, of course, we thank the community of the generalate for their warm and fraternal welcome.

Jozef de Beeker

Synodality

You said ... SYNODALITY ?

It was in his mind for a long time, we read about it, talked about it, discussed about it… Now Pope Francis declared the process active. But are we clear about what is that Synod on Synodality ? Here is a selection of three videos, quite enlightening on the topic. The first one is proposed by the Jesuit Conference of Africa and Madagascar and AMECEA. Parts of it are in English, parts in French. The second one, dating back to 2018, is a documentary of the French Catholic channel KTO, which discusses very clearly the concept of Synodality. It is obviously in French. The third video is made by a famous British Catholic journalist and author, who presents also very clearly the mind of Pope Francis on the process of Synodality. And obviously, that video is in English. 

Pope Francis has inaugurated the path towards the Synod on #Synodality. “It is a process that involves the local Churches, in different phases and from the bottom up, in an exciting and engaging effort that can create a style of communion and participation directed to mission.” – Pope Francis To enrich our “journeying together” as the pilgrim and missionary People of God, the Jesuit Conference of Africa and Madagascar (JCAM) is partnering with the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa (AMECEA) to provide resources that will enable the local churches, in the region and the entire Africa, to engage fruitfully and constructively in this synodal process. In this edition, we asked some African religious and youth what Synodality means for them.

“La Foi prise au mot” proposes to evoke a theme that we would not have spoken of a few years ago and which is becoming more and more important in the Church: synodality. This is a traditional form of government in the Church, called for by the Second Vatican Council, and widely promoted by Pope Francis, with increasingly strong demands from the faithful, those who are sometimes called “grassroots Christians”. This is the theme that the Church’s theologians are currently discussing, while dioceses and their bishops are trying to put it into practice. So what is synodality? Why is it a topical issue? How does it correspond to the mission of the Church? To talk about this subject, Régis Burnet will welcome Arnaud Join-Lambert, theologian and professor at the Catholic University of Louvain, and Isabelle Morel, lecturer at the Catholic Institute of Paris and deputy director of the Institut supérieur de pastorale catéchétique. (“La Foi prise au Mot” of 18/11/2018.)

Austen Ivereigh is a UK-based Roman Catholic journalist, author, commentator and biographer on Pope Francis. In this very good video, he explains and comments on Pope Francis’ vision for a synodal Church. (24 June 2021)

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon at the Generalate

On 25th May 2021 Fr. Stanley Lubungo, Superior General, hosted at the Generalate in Rome a meeting presided by Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, Minister of State at the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office and the Prime Minister’s Envoy for Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict and Minister for Human Rights  who was accompanied by the British Ambassador to the Holy See, Sally Axworthy. Were also present Sr. Sheila Kinsey, FCJM, Executive Co-Secretary JPIC Commission, John Dardis, SJ, and a few other people. Lord Ahmed gave an overview and update on the Declaration of Humanity by Leaders of Faiths and Leaders of Beliefs and the UK priorities in terms of the effort to end sexual violence in conflict. Our confrere Bernard Ugeux has been actively involved in the campaign Preventing sexual violence in conflict and contributed to the drafting of the above mentioned declaration.

Message of the Holy Father Francis for Lent 2021

Message of the Holy Father Francis for Lent 2021

“Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem” (Mt 20:18)

Lent: a Time for Renewing Faith, Hope and Love.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Jesus revealed to his disciples the deepest meaning of his mission when he told them of his passion, death and resurrection, in fulfilment of the Father’s will. He then called the disciples to share in this mission for the salvation of the world.

In our Lenten journey towards Easter, let us remember the One who “humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2:8). During this season of conversion, let us renew our faith, draw from the “living water” of hope, and receive with open hearts the love of God, who makes us brothers and sisters in Christ. At the Easter vigil, we will renew our baptismal promises and experience rebirth as new men and women by the working of the Holy Spirit. This Lenten journey, like the entire pilgrimage of the Christian life, is even now illumined by the light of the resurrection, which inspires the thoughts, attitudes and decisions of the followers of Christ.

Fasting, prayer and almsgiving, as preached by Jesus (cf. Mt 6:1-18), enable and express our conversion. The path of poverty and self-denial (fasting), concern and loving care for the poor (almsgiving), and childlike dialogue with the Father (prayer) make it possible for us to live lives of sincere faith, living hope and effective charity.

    1. Faith calls us to accept the truth and testify to it before God and all our brothers and sisters.

In this Lenten season, accepting and living the truth revealed in Christ means, first of all, opening our hearts to God’s word, which the Church passes on from generation to generation. This truth is not an abstract concept reserved for a chosen intelligent few. Instead, it is a message that all of us can receive and understand thanks to the wisdom of a heart open to the grandeur of God, who loves us even before we are aware of it. Christ himself is this truth. By taking on our humanity, even to its very limits, he has made himself the way – demanding, yet open to all – that leads to the fullness of life.

Fasting, experienced as a form of self-denial, helps those who undertake it in simplicity of heart to rediscover God’s gift and to recognize that, created in his image and likeness, we find our fulfilment in him. In embracing the experience of poverty, those who fast make themselves poor with the poor and accumulate the treasure of a love both received and shared. In this way, fasting helps us to love God and our neighbour, inasmuch as love, as Saint Thomas Aquinas teaches, is a movement outwards that focuses our attention on others and considers them as one with ourselves (cf. Fratelli Tutti, 93).

Lent is a time for believing, for welcoming God into our lives and allowing him to “make his dwelling” among us (cf. Jn 14:23). Fasting involves being freed from all that weighs us down – like consumerism or an excess of information, whether true or false – in order to open the doors of our hearts to the One who comes to us, poor in all things, yet “full of grace and truth” (Jn 1:14): the Son of God our Saviour.

    1. Hope as “living water” enabling us to continue our journey.

The Samaritan woman at the well, whom Jesus asks for a drink, does not understand what he means when he says that he can offer her “living water” (Jn 4:10). Naturally, she thinks that he is referring to material water, but Jesus is speaking of the Holy Spirit whom he will give in abundance through the paschal mystery, bestowing a hope that does not disappoint. Jesus had already spoken of this hope when, in telling of his passion and death, he said that he would “be raised on the third day” (Mt 20:19). Jesus was speaking of the future opened up by the Father’s mercy. Hoping with him and because of him means believing that history does not end with our mistakes, our violence and injustice, or the sin that crucifies Love. It means receiving from his open heart the Father’s forgiveness.

In these times of trouble, when everything seems fragile and uncertain, it may appear challenging to speak of hope. Yet Lent is precisely the season of hope, when we turn back to God who patiently continues to care for his creation which we have often mistreated (cf. Laudato Si’, 32-33; 43-44). Saint Paul urges us to place our hope in reconciliation: “Be reconciled to God” (2 Cor 5:20). By receiving forgiveness in the sacrament that lies at the heart of our process of conversion, we in turn can spread forgiveness to others. Having received forgiveness ourselves, we can offer it through our willingness to enter into attentive dialogue with others and to give comfort to those experiencing sorrow and pain. God’s forgiveness, offered also through our words and actions, enables us to experience an Easter of fraternity.

In Lent, may we be increasingly concerned with “speaking words of comfort, strength, consolation and encouragement, and not words that demean, sadden, anger or show scorn” (Fratelli Tutti, 223). In order to give hope to others, it is sometimes enough simply to be kind, to be “willing to set everything else aside in order to show interest, to give the gift of a smile, to speak a word of encouragement, to listen amid general indifference” (ibid., 224).

Through recollection and silent prayer, hope is given to us as inspiration and interior light, illuminating the challenges and choices we face in our mission. Hence the need to pray (cf. Mt 6:6) and, in secret, to encounter the Father of tender love.

To experience Lent in hope entails growing in the realization that, in Jesus Christ, we are witnesses of new times, in which God is “making all things new” (cf. Rev 21:1-6). It means receiving the hope of Christ, who gave his life on the cross and was raised by God on the third day, and always being “prepared to make a defense to anyone who calls [us] to account for the hope that is in [us]” (1 Pet 3:15).

    1. Love, following in the footsteps of Christ, in concern and compassion for all, is the highest expression of our faith and hope.

Love rejoices in seeing others grow. Hence it suffers when others are anguished, lonely, sick, homeless, despised or in need. Love is a leap of the heart; it brings us out of ourselves and creates bonds of sharing and communion.

“‘Social love’ makes it possible to advance towards a civilization of love, to which all of us can feel called. With its impulse to universality, love is capable of building a new world. No mere sentiment, it is the best means of discovering effective paths of development for everyone” (Fratelli Tutti, 183).

Love is a gift that gives meaning to our lives. It enables us to view those in need as members of our own family, as friends, brothers or sisters. A small amount, if given with love, never ends, but becomes a source of life and happiness. Such was the case with the jar of meal and jug of oil of the widow of Zarephath, who offered a cake of bread to the prophet Elijah (cf. 1 Kings 17:7-16); it was also the case with the loaves blessed, broken and given by Jesus to the disciples to distribute to the crowd (cf. Mk 6:30-44). Such is the case too with our almsgiving, whether small or large, when offered with joy and simplicity.

To experience Lent with love means caring for those who suffer or feel abandoned and fearful because of the Covid-19 pandemic. In these days of deep uncertainty about the future, let us keep in mind the Lord’s word to his Servant, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you” (Is 43:1). In our charity, may we speak words of reassurance and help others to realize that God loves them as sons and daughters.

“Only a gaze transformed by charity can enable the dignity of others to be recognized and, as a consequence, the poor to be acknowledged and valued in their dignity, respected in their identity and culture, and thus truly integrated into society” (Fratelli Tutti, 187).

Dear brothers and sisters, every moment of our lives is a time for believing, hoping and loving. The call to experience Lent as a journey of conversion, prayer and sharing of our goods, helps us – as communities and as individuals – to revive the faith that comes from the living Christ, the hope inspired by the breath of the Holy Spirit and the love flowing from the merciful heart of the Father.

May Mary, Mother of the Saviour, ever faithful at the foot of the cross and in the heart of the Church, sustain us with her loving presence. May the blessing of the risen Lord accompany all of us on our journey towards the light of Easter.

Rome, Saint John Lateran, 11 November 2020, the Memorial of Saint Martin of Tours

Fratelli Tutti

Fratelli Tutti

It was on the feast of St. Francis of Assisi that Pope Francis signed this encyclical letter, which he entitled “Fratelli tutti”, an expression in Italian taken from a writing of the Saint which was addressed “to all his brothers and sisters, to propose a way of life to them in keeping with the Gospel”. It is an “open fraternity that allows each person to be recognised, valued and loved…” that the Pope will talk about throughout the 216 pages of this encyclical.

Website of the French Catholic Church

In Memoriam Covid-19 Times

In memory of Father Gotthard Rosner and other deceased confreres

At the beginning of the pastoral year 2020-2021, in memory of Father Gothard Rosner, Superior General of the Society of Missionaries of Africa from 1992 to 1998, who passed away on 2nd September 2020, and in memory of all our confreres who have returned to the Father from the period of lockdowns, a Mass will be celebrated in the Chapel of the Generalate of the Society in Rome on Wednesday 16th of September 2020 at 18:00 hours.

Join us on this day, wherever you are, in praying for our confreres.

Stan Lubungo,
Superior General

Confreres who died since the beginning of the lockdown in Rome (March 9th, 2020)

Gotthard Rosner 02/09/2020
Bernhard Pehle 01/09/2020
Jean Chardin 26/08/2020
Maurice Gruffat 21/08/2020
Wolfgang Büth 20/08/2020
René Ledeul 19/08/2020
Marc Deneckere 10/08/2020
Paul Tremblay 09/08/2020
Jean-Bernard Delannoy 29/07/2020
Eugenio Bacaicoa A. 21/07/2020
Pierre Landry 13/07/2020
Wlly Delen 04/07/2020
Alois Reiles 21/06/2020
Gerald Stones 21/06/2020
Josef Moser 13/06/2020
Bernard Jobin 12/06/2020
Justin Louvard 09/06/2020
Lucen Van Wielendaele 20/05/2020
Ger van Dieten 17/05/2020
Marcel Amport 15/05/2020
Karel Louwen22/04/2020
Jean-Pierre Claude15/04/2020
Bernard Vulkers14/04/2020
Michel Lelong10/04/2020
Bruno Chupin08/04/2020
Peter Kelly08/04/2020
Karl-Heinz Pantenburg07/04/2020
Johannes Tappeser06/04/2020
Paul Devigne06/04/2020
Anton Weidelener05/04/2020
Martínez López Antonio05/04/2020
Joannès Liogier03/04/2020
Fançois de Gaulle02/04/2020
Henri Frouin29/03/2020
Pierre Lafollie26/03/2020
Robert Laberge18/03/2020
Hans Gyr17/03/2020
Jean-Claude Ceillier16/03/2020
Maurice Redouin15/03/2020
Jan van Haandel12/03/2020

Fr Jim Greene: the great privilege of being part of SSS

Fr Jim Greene: the great privilege of being part of Solidarity with South Sudan

Here comes a good interview of Father Jim Greene, M.Afr., on the Project of the Union of Superiors Generals: Solidarity with South Sudan. The interview was published in the Newsletter of USG.