The closing session began with a prayer reflection led by Fr Orven Gonzaga. The session was chaired by Fr Luigi Vaninetti, who began by saying that the session would consist of four parts: the reading by the Synod Secretary of the decisions taken by the Synod; a statement from the General Econome on the expenses of the Synod; a verbal evaluation of the Synod on the part of the Synod members; the Superior General’s concluding remarks.
Fr José Luis Quintero then read the text of the six proposals which had been agreed by the Synod. These are: the proposal on the Solidarity Fund from the Commission on Solidarity in Finance; the proposal to study the question of criteria for the viability of provinces and the situation of the vicariates in preparation for the 2012 General Chapter; the proposal on giving decision-making powers to the configurations; the proposal that the General Council consult our own religious and the members of the various Passionist lay movements and examine the situation of the various groups, with a view to including references to our Passionist lay movements in both the Constitutions and the General Regulations; the recommendation to provinces regarding the eligibility of Passionist Brothers to the role of First Consultor; the proposal that the configurations continue to operate until the 2012 General Chapter.
The General Econome, Fr Battista Ramponi, then gave the Synod members a detailed breakdown of the costs incurred during the Synod, including travel to Rome for Synod members, food and lodging, rental of equipment for the secretariat and translators, costs for facilitators and invited speakers. He compared these to the costs of the last General Synod in Cuernavaca and the last General Chapter in Rome. He explained how the costs, including travel, would be redistributed around the provinces, vice-provinces and vicariates according to their ability to pay, following the same percentages used for the annual contributions to the General Administration.
The statement from the General Econome was followed by a time of sharing for evaluating the Synod. The Synod members had already received a form for a written evaluation on the previous day, containing the following questions: What were the three most useful aspects of this Synod of for you? In what way has the experience of this event impacted on your current configuration in terms of solidarity for formation, personnel and finance? Which aspects of the Synod were less helpful? Do you have some suggestions to make regarding content and process for another Synod? What have you learnt personally during this Synod? Do you have any other comments? The written responses to these questions were to be returned today and would be collated by the Synod Secretariat but, as a shared evaluation before the Synod would close, the members were now invited to give their views.
Among the opinions expressed were the following: I want to recall what Fr Michael Mullins said about the role of the leadership group as a resource for moving the process forward and his underlining of the need for us to work in a systemic way. The Synod has been a time of critical distance which has strengthened us for going forward, filling us with hope and expectation as Passionist believers, convinced of the importance of the process. The strengthening of the Solidarity Fund is a very positive step and help our presence in Africa and other parts of the global south. The diversity of cultures and apostolic experiences in the configurations is a blessing, teaching us to live with differences in a changing world; the open mind, open heart and open will referred to by Sister Christine will help us in this. I am glad I was able to bring a translator with me; this helped with understanding what people said, but there is another task to be accomplished: that of understanding the situation and culture out of which people speak. It was good that we made some progress on solidarity but we did not look sufficiently at the question of a common mission at the service of the Kingdom of God.
Some of the remarks were directed at the way in which the Synod was conducted: The method lacked a clear way of proceeding. The timetable did not give the topic for each day, after the initial period of receiving input and reports, so it was impossible to prepare for the day’s session. During the final days we failed to centre on the important themes. Yesterday, Sister Christine gave us tasks for the next two years, but these should have been the main tasks of this Synod. Language was a problem, especially for interaction with people from other regions. The Synod seemed to come to an abrupt ending; the decisions we were asked to take did not flow from our discussions; the reports from the configurations did not influence the drawing up of the norm for the configurations, which ignored the paths already being followed by CPA and PASPAC. The Synod did a good job in agreeing on solidarity in finance, but I hope it does not take ten years to reach agreement on the other two areas of personnel and formation.
Various people were recognised for their contribution to the work of the Synod, including the facilitators, Fr Francisco Ó Conaire OFM and Fr Aquilino Bocos Merino C.M.F. Fathers Don Webber, Patrick Duffy and Robert Joerger who formed the panel for the session on sexual abuse were thanked by members of the Synod for the sensitivity and clarity with which they spoke. The various members of the ‘staff’ of the Synod were also thanked for their work.
Father Ottaviano D’Egidio, Superior General, then gave his concluding remarks. The evaluation has been useful and helpful. There were perhaps some moments of confusion in the Synod, with texts not being sufficiently prepared before being submitted to the assembly. During this Synod we evaluated the viability of the configurations. It was useful to hear the strengths and weaknesses not just of the configurations but also of some of the provinces and vicariates. The General referred to no. 37 of the second part of his report, where he had highlighted the two crucial points which the Synod needed to clarify: 1) the viability of the configurations, and 2) the legislative and executive capacity required by the councils of the configurations. Fr Ottaviano now referred to the four principles of nomads, which can be useful in a time of restructuring: 1) adapt to nature: 2) adapt to other people; 3) practice openness to others; 4) practice reciprocity of life, which means not helping someone so that they will help me, but helping another so that someone in the future will be helped. In one of his novels, Flaubert wrote, ‘Do you love this person enough to give up your happiness for their happiness?’ Jesus did this for us. The General then went on to thank all those who had worked to support the Synod and all the Synod members for their participation.
He said that yesterday had been a disappointing day for him but that now he was more hopeful, and he encouraged the Synod members to go forward in the process of restructuring, without putting a brake on things. It was their task as superiors, he said, to let people know what had happened at the Synod; no one should try to obstruct the move forward, but all should consider themselves bound by what has been decided together. This was the time to go forward joyfully, under the guidance of Saint Paul of the Cross who is smiling down on us.
The session was followed by Mass presided over by Fr Ottaviano, during which he preached the final homily and formally closed the 14th General Synod of the Passionist Congregation.