Echoes from the Plenary Council - 15 November 2019
The morning was taken over by introductory matters, concerning the plenary council itself. There were welcome words by Aloysius Ssekamatte the provincial of EAP who, as provincial, welcomed us into his province for this important event. Then Stan began by warmly welcoming each one of us to this special occasion. Indeed, he pointed out that for the next few days, with the presence of all the provincials, the section superiors, the coordinators, the secretaries and the General Council, Lourdel house has become the headquarters of the Society. Our main concern is the plenary council but it will be concluded by a pilgrimage that will officially close our 150th jubilee year of our two Institutes. So, for all of us it is a unique occasion.
Stan took the opportunity to share with us also the sad events of the last few days for between the 7th and the 12th of November we lost three confreres. On the 7th we lost Maurice Aduol Odhiambo (I don’t know if this is the right spelling?) in a tragic accident in Mozambique, a confrere with barely two years of missionary oath. On the 11th we lost our American confrere Joe Braun (I don’t know if this is the right spelling?) aged 88 after many years of missionary life. Then on the 12th we heard of the terrible loss of the passing of Darek Zielinski aged 53, after a few days of illness. He was at the height of his missionary life. He also reminded us of the sad loss of our Stagiaire Bruno Ruzizi in Ghana after a motorbike accident earlier in the year. All very sad events that were painful for us all. We duly observed a minute of silence to remember them.
In the afternoon Stan gave the opening keynote address which served somehow as an evaluation of what has been achieved so far since the last chapter of 2016. Yet, the plenary council is also a way of looking together to reflect on the means that we can still put in place to consolidate even more the process that the chapter began; a process hopefully that will bear even more fruit for the whole Society and, being attentive to the Spirit, to open us up even more to the future and where our charism might lead us. That process is somehow the growing awareness that is there concerning the three pillars of spirituality, community and mission. We have been enriched also by some special events, the beatification of our four confreres last year on the 8th of December in Algeria, the moving pilgrimage for the opening of the Jubilee year in Tunisia also in December. The meeting with Pope Francis in February, all the many and various publications concerning Lavigerie (one of them being ‘Prier 15 jours avec le Cardinal’ by Bernard Ugeux). All these events and encounters in our various sections and provinces have enhanced our own sense of identity; they were moments of grace and blessings for the whole Society. Such events were also important moments of missionary animation that will certainly bear fruit in the future.
In all of that there was also a heightened awareness of inter-culturalilty and its importance for us at all levels; the importance of our communities of three, the importance of the community project and of course a new and profound look at our charism today so that we might be even more prophetic in all our endeavours. This will take us into areas of great concern; migrants, human trafficking – inter-religious dialogue, the peripheries of where we live and work and of course in those areas which are becoming more and more insecure. What is sure is that the plenary council offers us a new start to once again own the decisions of the chapter and place those decisions on the agenda of our leadership role in order to galvanise our drive and energy into a more dynamic and prophetic society.