Chapter Communication - 23 May 2022
The dynamic of listening continues at the beginning of the second week of the Chapter, this time with the different secretariats: Justice and Peace, Integrity of Creation, Initial Formation, the Brothers’ Forum, the sharing of our charism with the laity and tomorrow the integrity of the ministry. I remind you that the capitulants are still in the process of “seeing” and sharing both in groups and in plenary. No decision is taken at this stage.
JUSTICE AND PEACE / INTEGRITY OF CREATION / DIALOGUE
Justice and Peace, Inter-religious Dialogue, Integrity of Creation and Ecumenism have always been essential elements of our charism, and sometimes of course with other names. It is good to consider the current trend inspired by the spirituality of Pope Francis with Fratelli Tutti, Laudato si. Fraternity and care for creation (ecology) are realities that are addressed to all humanity today. The efforts made for dialogue are due to bear fruits of peace for us all.
Religious institutes and congregations are now collaborating with each other and with many civil organisations in a daily life dialogue in order to create bridges between people. It is no longer a question of working alone, each on his own. The platform “Laudato si”, requested by the Pope and encouraged by our Superior General, invites all persons, groups and congregations to unite around the Pope’s initiative for the good of creation.
INITIAL AND SPECIALISED TRAINING
In recent years, the number of entries has been relatively constant, with perhaps a slight decrease due to insecurity and covid. The figures show that the perseverance rate is holding. The challenge of creating a good core group of formaters, while preparing them in advance for formation, remains a priority. Spiritual care remains a major formation theme. We also note that the first cycles are collaborating with each other better than before.
Specialised formation is in view of the mission and the needs of society.
THE BROTHERS’ FORUM
For a long time now, our Society has felt the need for a deeper reflection on the brothers. To this end, the General Council asked the brothers to meet, which they did at the end of last year. The Chapter was able to hear the result and I share with you some of the main ideas.
In our missionary Society, the common missionary vocation unites us all and there are two ways of living this missionary vocation, as a brother and as a priest. The two ways are meant to be complementary and not in competition. The vocation of a missionary brother teaches us that all the people of God are missionaries and that mission is not only a matter for priests. We see the need to explain the vocation of brothers to candidates who want to join us, to their families and to the Catholic Christian community. The place of the brother in our Society is not limited to the material aspect of the mission. At times, the brothers did not receive all the respect they deserve.
Much attention has been given to the formation of the brothers. Today it requires a “case by case” approach, because the gifts and backgrounds of the candidate brothers are very varied. The elaboration of formation programmes must keep a balance between the gifts and interests of the candidate and the needs of the mission and Society. There is a need to review and harmonise the formation of the brothers and come up with better formation programmes for them, while ensuring some common formation for brother and priest candidates. Such an exercise would greatly help the formators in accompanying the brothers.
It is very relevant to note that the majority of brother candidates have discerned their vocation as a brother from the life witness received from a brother.
In this area, the capitulants have not remained with the sessions in Jerusalem and Rome, sessions which are always very much appreciated by all those who participate.
Ongoing formation is intended to make us love our vocation and lifestyle, to nourish it and to cultivate it. It must respond to the needs of the missionaries to be truly relevant. It also takes place in collaboration with other missionary religious congregations.
Because of the growing insecurity in Africa, ICOF (Inter-congregational Ongoing Formation) has prepared sessions on the theme of resilience. What does a missionary need to live mission in insecure conditions? How to accompany him/her? Our Society is involved in this.
These sessions will be held at the end of 2022 in Tanzania and Ivory Coast.
SHARING OUR CHARISM WITH THE LAITY
Does the future of our missionary charism depend on the laity? Many religious and missionary congregations today notice that many lay people approach them, to live their charism and dedicate themselves to it. These lay people are attracted by the charism of a congregation without feeling a call to join that congregation, without becoming a religious sister, brother or priest. They wish to form a spiritual family receiving an appropriate formation to live the charism in depth and to collaborate in the apostolate of the congregation whose charism motivates them.
We, the missionaries of Africa, are no strangers to this reality of collaboration with the laity. We have the experience of catechist doctors and catechists. Would it be possible to do something in this direction today? How can we do it? Could we come to see the emergence of a lay Lavigerian family?
The exchange that followed showed the inspiring successes of some religious and missionary congregations in this field.