Provincial's Latest Letter...
2nd April, 2012
Dear Confreres and friends,
As we begin this Holy Week, I know that many of you will be heavily engaged in the liturgy and have many other calls on your time and energy. I often reflect that as ministers of the gospel, it is at times very challenging to be able to enter fully into the spirit of these days in the midst of so much (holy) activity.
The Office of Readings this week from Hebrews, however, invites us to enter into a very personal relationship with Jesus and to share that with the our various communities And I am aware that finding time for focused prayer in the days that lead up to Easter can be difficult. However, this is at the heart of the gospel and Redemptorist living.
I pray that each of you will be very blessed this Easter time. Those who are elderly or ill can also take heart from Constitution 55 which reminds us that “all Redemptorists are truly missionaries, especially when they are advanced in age, sick or incapable of external work, or dying for the salvation of the world”. It is a very encouraging thought for me as I see so many of our older confreres witness to a belief in the gospel of Jesus.
This week I finished a book by Bishop Richard Holloway, the former Primate of the Episcopalian Church in Scotland. The book, “Leaving Alexandria", is a chronicle of his faith journey and his subsequent loss of faith. The book brings up many real and authentic challenges about the way the Church lives out its mission and ministry. For me however, what Richard lost was his faith through his strong focus on intellect and reason. Having read recently, “Faith Interrupted" by Eric Lax, an American Episcopalian who has lost his faith but hopes that it might one day return, I am struck by the honest struggle of both men. In particular, the intellectual arguments of Richard Holloway are very convincing – but the faith dimension (which cannot be blind faith - but rather for me the faith of mystery) is what lies at the very heart of the historical events of this week, the death and resurrection of Jesus. If you manage to struggle through the first four or five chapters of Holloway’s book, you will be ‘disturbed’ in the best sense of the word, by his honesty and spiritual journey.
Part of the spiritual journey of the Province of London has been trying to be a presence of redemption for people in this country and also in other countries. I am aware that we tend to think of ourselves as having a bit of an ‘island mentality’. However, our history belies this myth. This month I will be travelling to South Africa for the centenary of the foundation by our Province of a new mission there in 1912. I have been graciously invited to represent the Province at the celebrations by Fr. Kaufmann – and Fr. Andrew Burns will also attend as the first Provincial of the South African Province, founded in 1989.
I recall that moment in a special way, as I gave 3 workshops in the former Vice Province of Pretoria to prepare the confreres for the inauguration. I gather that all the former Provincials of South Africa will be present, and also Mgr. Tobin from the Congregation for Religious. I append a message which I sent on behalf of the Province which will be inserted into a new history of the South African Province which is to be published for the event.
Perhaps this is a good time to recall that this missionary spirit continues in our Province through our Region in Zimbabwe. However it has always been a feature of life in the London Province. In 1882 the Australian Province was founded from Clapham and then in 1898, the Irish Province was founded from this Province. Since then, the formation of Fr. Bernard Lubienski who went from Clapham to Poland to assist in the refounding of our Congregation after its demise following the expulsion of St. Clement, was highly significant in the history of the Warsaw Province.
I also think of the confreres who went to assist other Units – to New Zealand where we sent four confreres for some years; to Canada, where we sent three missioners to assist with preaching popular missions; to the West Indies where we worked with the Belgian confreres for some years, and to other areas that I may have forgotten.
I share all of the above, because when I reflect on the history of our Province, it seems that it is one of generosity, commitment and apostolic zeal. And when one thinks of the 'knock-on effect' – the wonderful work done in many parts of the world by the Provinces of Ireland and Australia, we can be so grateful for those big hearted Redemptorist confreres who went out in a spirit of faith to share the gospel of Jesus and the charism of St. Alphonsus.
I also call to mind that when these foundations were made from this Province, we did not have huge numbers. And so the challenge is: How do we, with our ‘new found smallness’, act realistically and prophetically to continue the work of sharing plentiful redemption where it is most needed?
This seems to me to be an invitation (which requires a response) from the crucified and risen Jesus who emptied himself for the world, but whose mission and ministry are as vital as they were in the early Church. And so in wishing each member of the Province a Happy Easter, I also invite each one to reflect on our generosity of heart in the continuing work of the Province and Region. I also extend these greeting to our families, benefactors and co-workers who make our missionary endeavours possible.
During the past month the OPC, EPC and RPTC have met and discussed some of the challenges that do indeed lie before us. We will continue to look at the areas of restructuring, both within the Province and within the Congregation, and also prepare for the second session of the Provincial Chapter which will take place in Hawkstone from the evening of June 10th until the morning of June 14th.
Please continue to remember the sick in your prayers. Brother Glynn is back in Christopher Grange and is visited regularly by the confreres from Bishop Eton. On Easter Monday we shall celebrate the first anniversary of the death of Brother Malachy.
Fr. Corrigan and our students are in Hawkstone this week on retreat with Fr. Baragry and Gavin from the Dublin Province. Fr. Richard continues to be active in the field of Vocations' recruitment.
Please find attached my letter for the centenary of the commencement of the mission in South Africa and also the Easter communication of the Coordinator for Europe.
Here, I might just reiterate what I have said in the Centenary Letter, and thank those confreres at present working in the Province who served in South Africa, as well as the confreres from the Province who have joined the South African Province. God will, I am sure, reward their labours abundantly.
Birthdays this month: Fr. Dominic O’Toole 6th, Fr. Francis Dickinson 10th, Brother Anthony 11th, and Fr. Tom McCarte 29th.
With best wishes,
In the Risen Saviour,
Ronald J. McAinsh, C.Ss.R