Echoes from the Plenary Council – 19th November 2019

Echoes from the Plenary Council - 19th November 2019

Yesterday and today we have been working in groups. After sufficient time for personal reflection we were able to look at various questions concerning our identity.  The chapter had set in motion a whole process of renewal both for our personal and community life. We spent time therefore seeing just in what measure such renewal had taken place and how those in leadership were able to foster such renewal. This involved also looking at issues like our prayer life, availability, generosity, our spirit of self-giving and sacrifice. Are such attitudes present in our communities or at times are they in short supply? The chapter also spoke about joyful radiant and supportive communities; thus together we were able to share on just how we feel this is being achieved or is not being achieved. For many of us and, for many years now, the community project is all important. It was a moment, therefore, to share on just how this is put into practice in our provinces and sections. IN many of our provinces the community project is well done.

As regards the methodology our main concern was to identify all that has been achieved positively in our communities and also in our personal lives. From there to be aware of what might have hampered such community and personal renewal to be able to see together how to move forward for even greater consolidation and growth.  There was a feeling that many of the events that had taken place this year had indeed energised our personal and community renewal. These were events that created an enthusiastic dynamism about identity and mission. The question remains how to reap the fruits of such events and the visibility thus generated. Some of these events were:

    • The jubilee celebrations at all levels creating a welcome visibility.
    • The meeting of our two institutes with pope Francis
    • The booklets printed in the jubilee year such as “15 days with Lavigerie 
    • Take the community project seriously
    • The beatification of our confrères has intensified the renewal that we were looking for with the jubilee
    • The creation of Michael Fitzgerald as cardinal
    • Collaboration with our sisters, with the Church, lay people, with other institutes 

Some provincials mentioned the renewal enhanced by regular visits, newsletters, possibility of ongoing formation, recollections and retreats. Spiritual inputs during the plenary council.

As regards the obstacles (to such personal and community renewal) or what is lacking here are some of the points raised:

    • Lack of stability at the personal level but also at the level of community. Lack of endurance and communication. Growing individualism
    • Issues of transparency and accountability. Coming and going as we like without informing. Spirit of entitlement 
    • Lack of missionary zeal. Lack of interest in what is taking place in the Society. Do we belong? Is there a sense of belonging? In that sense it comes down also to the problem of communication from leadership downwards – the need of formation. How do those in leadership exercise their leadership how can they be helped in their task? 
    • Young confreres tend not to read as much as previously for so often communication comes down to the use of WhatsApp. (Maybe some invest far more time in social media rather than in the written word)

Francis Barnes

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