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Fr Franz Damen was the principal celebrant at the Mass which was celebrated in Spanish.
Fr Franz Damen was the principal celebrant at the Mass which was celebrated in Spanish.
The morning session was chaired by Fr Denis Travers. It was preceded by a prayer reflection; the theme was ‘The Passion of Jesus – The bridge which unites us’, based on no. 5 of the Constitutions.
Fr Michael Mullins introduced the day’s work. It is difficult to deal with matters ad experimentum. Here we need to suspend judgement, particularly canonical judgement. This is a new way of acting, a systemic way. The future of the configurations will largely depend on the quality of leadership, particularly at local level. A key element is dialogue at and across the different levels; in this area we learn by doing. Reports on yesterday’s questions and reflections were then heard.
The Sacred Heart Configuration report spoke of uncertainties about the future and the fear that the Synod has not gone far enough but has seemed to be going backwards. We want to continue on the road chosen at Cuernavaca. This configuration wants to become a single province with zones. The configuration has a list of initiatives, including a formators course in Rome next January, provincial chapters in the three provinces and an assembly in the vice-province, and various inter-provincial events, including the World Youth Day. The configuration intends to keep the same co-ordinator.
PASPAC suggested that, during the Synod, more time should have been spent in general assembly discussing restructuring. The focus for our restructuring is solidarity in the three areas of personnel, formation and finance. A key characteristic of all three areas is Mission. Some vicariates no longer need their mother province. More concrete decisions are needed, especially regarding situations of real need such as Africa. The process is essentially an experience of conversion. Our religious in general are not so interested in the process, as it doesn’t touch their everyday lives. Communication, especially at the time of Visitation, can help. The new website, with its blog possibilities, will be useful. There is a need for younger members of the configuration to gain international experience. The configuration is considering uniting the personnel and formation commissions. It was recommended that the roles of General Consultor and co-ordinator be united.
The Configuration of Passionists in Africa (CPA) affirmed that the overall environment and organisation of the Synod had been good; the JPIC workshop was appreciated. It was good to have time to meet as a configuration and to hear from the other configurations. It is important to follow up on the Synod and not repeat the same things the next time. At this Synod some agreement was reached on solidarity in finance, but progress needs to be made at this level on the other two areas. In Africa, the challenge of communication is because of distance and the lack of infrastructure. However, the configuration is committed to embracing the new means of communication.
The report from the Configuration of Eugene Bossilkov (CEB) expressed the view that some of the Synod programme was not clear or well structured; there had been some confusion in the Synod. When we discuss restructuring, there is a tendency to become lost in structural or canonical details. We have to work at communicating the reasons for restructuring: not who we are as Passionists but what we want to do in today’s world. We need to reflect on how to bring life to our communities and deepen their theological, spiritual and cultural awareness. The commissions in this configuration will have to be recreated, as ASSUM and VULN have left the configuration. The configuration is now more viable than before, but we cannot be sure of the viability of other configurations. Africa will be viable, but is still on the way, particularly in relation to financial autonomy. The configurations have been strengthened with decision-making powers. Our Congregation has members who are skilled in the new means of communications. The four Provincial Chapters which will be held next year will be opportunities for communications. Enthusiasm comes from the Charism and from new projects. The Congregation has two different paths of restructuring, because one part of the Congregation is growing and the other part is in decline. With the new norm for configurations, where is the role of the co-ordinator now?
The Configuration of Jesus Crucified reported that they found the methodology of the Synod tiring, with many themes being opened up, put aside, and brought back. In addition, there was a general tiredness in the Synod itself. Voting on the spirit of things, rather than on specific texts, was not helpful. The talks by Fr Aquilino were useful and clear. The configuration has various assemblies planned. Exchanges of information about each entity in the configuration would be good. Video conferencing will be helpful for this configuration. Next year, there will be three Provincial Chapters within the configuration. The commissions will continue their work. This configuration has five vicariates, three of which are attached to provinces outside of the configuration.
NESP have reached a satisfactory agreement and have welcomed ASSUM and VULN into the configuration. They are happy that their model of living solidarity has been respected and well received in the Synod. The configuration sees itself as viable; it will be focussing on solidarity in formation. It was felt that the way of conducting business in the Synod, particularly in relation to proposals, was not helpful. The input received, particularly the workshop on JPIC and the panel on sexual abuse, was helpful. (Other configurations agreed on this point.) The group expressed its thanks for the hospitality extended and for the work of the Liturgy Commission.
Sr Christine then responded to the reports: In her opinion, this Synod was an opportunity to make changes to the configurations. The General Chapter will not be the time to do so. We should ask ourselves what our mission requires in our own area. There will be differences of style for configurations because not all areas are the same, so we need to learn to live with difference. We should look first at charism, then at finances and resources, and then at structures. This group is a leadership group working on behalf of the whole Congregation; we need to remember that most of the others will not be interested in this process. We must not presume that we know what is happening in a particular configuration or situation; there is a need to check it out.
Other comments on the reports included the following : We need to have enthusiasm for our charism in a changing world; the Church today is looking for ways of announcing the Gospel in a world marked by poverty and the absence of God; in France the province is disappearing but the charism is strong, so another structure is needed to continue to strengthen the charism and to give enthusiasm and hope. This is still a time of experimentation; there needs to be the opportunity to move from one configuration to another; we should not close that option down too soon. This discussion is about the fear of change, of doing what we have decided; this process is not about obligation, but an open door; it is about possibility, not structure: the possibility to live together, work together and go forward together.
Fr Denis asked the Synod to indicate if it agreed that the configurations should continue until the next General Chapter. A show of hands indicated that all were in favour.
Sister Christine then presented a text on ‘Aims and Objectives for the next two years in preparation for the General Chapter 2012’, after which Fr Ottaviano, the Superior General, asked for an indication from the Synod on the preferred place and theme for the General Chapter. Most of those who spoke on the place for the Chapter suggested Rome, with Karungu, Kenya, in second place. Suggestions for a Chapter theme focussed mostly on our Mission today and its relationship to our charism, although some suggested that continuing the work of restructuring should take precedence over any theme. It was suggested that participation of the laity in the General Chapter should also be examined. It was suggested that, in preparation for the Chapter, a panel of canonical experts should examine the juridic aspects of the new structures, for example, the status of the council of a configuration and its relationship with the entities which compose the configuration and with the General Council, and the question of whether the Constitutions need to be changed in order to take into account the existence of the configurations.
The number of General Consultors also needs to be examined in the light of the needs of the configurations. It is important to examine new ways and look at our options; it could be helpful to set up a commission to study the configurations and to look at new apostolic initiatives. The General Chapter has the task of setting up three commissions for the areas of solidarity; only one (Solidarity in Finance) exists at present; these commissions could help with the preparation of the General Chapter. A request was made for some kind of protocol book for provincials to assist them with procedure; an alternative would be the workshop for new major superiors recommended by the last General Chapter.
Having heard all the responses to the reports from yesterday’s meetings of the configurations, Fr Denis moved the session towards its conclusion. Sr Christine Anderson and Fr Michael Mullins thanked to Synod members for their hard work during these days and expressed their appreciation for what Fr Mullins called ‘the privilege of being invited into that sacred space which is the inner workings of a religious congregation. Fr Ottaviano gave a warm vote of thanks to the two facilitators for their guidance. The session was then adjourned until tomorrow.
Evening Prayer was celebrated in the Retreat House Chapel.