" Make me forget myself, so that I may remember only Your goodness! "
St. Alphonsus Liguori
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Messages from Fr. General

Fr General CSsR writes - 9th November 2013...

 

 

 

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CONGREGATIO SS. REDEMPTORIS

 

Superior Generalis

 

November 9, 2013

Prot. No.

FEAST OF THE DEDICATION OF ST. JOHN LATERAN

FOUNDATION OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE MOST HOLY REDEEMER

 

Dear Confreres, Sisters, Lay Missionaries and Friends,

 

1. Greetings from Rome! It is with joy and gratitude that I write to you as we celebrate the 281st Anniversary of the Foundation of our Congregation on November 9, 1732 in Scala. In the Second Reading for this Feast, we read these words of St. Paul:

 

“According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building on it. Each builder must choose with care how to build on it. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ… Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? … For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.” (1 Corinthians 3:10-11, 16, 17b)

Fr General writes - Oct 2013...

 

 

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CONGREGATIO SS. REDEMPTORIS

 

Superior Generalis

0000    225/2013

Roma, October 5, 2013

Memorial of Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos, C.Ss.R.

 

Beatification of the Redemptorist Martyrs of Cuenca

 

Dear Confreres, Sisters, Lay Associates and friends,

 

            “Rejoice insofar as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed…Therefore, let those suffering in accordance with God’s will entrust themselves to a faithful Creator, while continuing to do good.” (1 Peter 4:13, 19)

          

  On Sunday, October 13, 2013, the beatification of 522 martyrs of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) will take place in Tarragona, Spain. Among those to be beatified are the six Redemptorist Martyrs of Cuenca:  Fathers Javier Gorosterratzu Jaunarena, Ciriaco Olarte Pérez de Mendiguren, Miguel Goñi Áriz, Julián Pozo Ruiz de Samaniego, Pedro Romero Espejo, and Brother Victoriano Calvo Lozano. This beatification is an historic and important event, not only for the Province of Madrid and the Church of Spain, but also for the entire Congregation.

 

 

It is important to remember the context in which these martyrs to be beatified gave their lives. There were many casualties of the Spanish Civil War. Approximately 270,000 people died, including soldiers and civilians. Many died from acts of war, but many also died from acts of reprisal, from disease, and from hunger. Approximately 6,850 died as a direct result of religious persecution. Of these, 13 were bishops, and over 6,000 were priests and religious. Among these, almost 1000 have already been canonised or beatified. Another 2000 cases are in process. As the Year of Faith draws to a close, the beatification of these 522 martyrs celebrates the witness of martyrdom as an act trust in our faithful Creator, as well as sharing the sufferings of Christ. Without neglecting the importance of the collective witness of all these martyrs, the Redemptorist family remembers in a particular way the six Redemptorist Martyrs of Cuenca in a particular way. We also remember that the cases involving fourteen other Redemptorist martyrs are still in process.

Fr General writes 1st Aug 2013...

      

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CONGREGATIO SS. REDEMPTORIS                                  Superior Generalis

Roma, August 1, 2013

Prot. Nº:    

Year for the Promotion of the Redemptorist Missionary Vocation

Dear Confreres, Sisters, and Lay Redemptorist Missionaries,

Greetings from Rio de Janeiro, where we have just celebrated World Youth Day with Pope Francis and millions of young pilgrims! Many Redemptorist Missionaries, Lay Missionaries, and young people joined in the celebration of the Alphonsian Day in Aparecida and the World Youth Day in Rio. Accompanied by Frs. Enrique Lopez, Alberto Eseverri, Noel Londoño and Ulysses da Silva from the General Government, it was a great joy to live these days together. In a special way, I would like to thank the Provinces of Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, all the (V) Provinces of URB, as well as all the volunteers who contributed so much to this experience.

On Thursday, August 1, 2013, in the Church of St. Alphonsus in Rio de Janeiro, I will officially inaugurate the Year for the Promotion of the Redemptorist Missionary Vocation which was proclaimed in April. The General Government encourages each Province, Vice-Province, Region and Mission to begin celebrations of this year on August 1, or as soon afterwards as you can. During the year, we urge you plan events, celebrations, prayers, catechesis, community retreat days, and other ways of promoting this Year in creative ways.

Fr. General writes - April 2013...

Read the General's Letter by clicking here-

  

Year for the Promotion of the

Redemptorist Missionary Vocation

Feast of St. Alphonsus, August 1, 2013 -

Foundation Day of the Congregation, November 9, 2014

 

Fr General's Easter Greetings...

 

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CONGREGATIO SS REDEMPTORIS

 

Superior Generalis

 

Prot. N. 0000 070/2013

Rome, March 31, 2013

 

Dear Confreres, Sisters and Lay Associates,

 

On this Easter 2013, I greet you with the words of the Risen Jesus to his disciples: “Peace be with you!”

 

As we celebrate the power of the Resurrection this Easter, we listen again to the words of the angels to Mary Magdalene and the other women at the empty tomb: “Why look among the dead for someone who is alive? He is not here, he has risen” (Luke 24:5b).

 

This message from the Easter Vigil finds an echo in our Constitutions and Statutes: Redemptorist Missionaries “must, therefore, become signs and witnesses before people of the power of his Resurrection, proclaiming the new and eternal life” (C. 51). As St. Paul makes clear, the power of the resurrection is experienced and witnessed in the new life which we live and proclaim. As Jesus himself proclaimed: “I have come that they may have Life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10b).

 

Fr General's Letter - March 2013...

 

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CONGREGATIO SS. REDEMPTORIS

Superior Generalis

LETTER FOR THE FEAST OF ST. CLEMENT MARY HOFBAUER

Prot. N. 0000 064/2013 Rome,

March 15, 2013

Dear Confreres, Sisters, Associates and Friends,

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Clement Mary Hofbauer, often referred to as our 'second founder' as well as the Patron Saint of Vienna. His life as a Redemptorist Missionary tells an amazing story. It is always relevant to us, but never more so than in this sexennium when the XXIV General Chapter chose our theme inspired by his words and his life.

"To Preach the Gospel Ever Anew:

Renewed Hope, Renewed Hearts, Renewed Structures

For Mission."

I would like to begin this reflection on St. Clement with the following quote from the biography of St. Alphonsus by Fr. Antonio Maria Tannoia:

These good Germans [Clement Hofbauer and Thaddeus Hiibl] burned with a holy zeal, and ardently wished to see a house of the Congregation established in Vienna. The ardor of their zeal was so great that they could perceive no difficulties in the way, and looked upon the thing as if already accomplished. This projected German house was laughed at amongst the fathers. But when Alphonsus heard the pious object of these fervent novices he thought differently, and it caused him extreme joy: "God," said he, "will not fail to spread his glory in that country by their means. The suppression of the Jesuits has caused those populations to be nearly abandoned. The missions, however, ought not to be like ours; instructions are more useful there than sermons, as the people are living among Lutherans and Calvinists. At the commencement they should be made to say the Credo, and then the faithful should be prepared to abandon sin. These priests will do good, but they will require greater lights than they have. I would write to them, but God does will that I should have anything to do with it. My Jesus! Humble me more and more, and reap there from thy glory."

I am sure you all know this story of the reaction of St. Alphonsus when he heard about these novices - Clement and Thaddeus. Tannoia tells us that in Pagani, the confreres were laughing about these two strange Germans with big plans! Surely they were just naive dreamers! But Alphonsus, filled with great joy at the news, stilled their laughter with what appeared to be a prophetic quote: "God will not fail to spread his glory by their means... their missions however ought not to be like ours... These priests will do good, but they need greater lights ..." Alphonsus himself understood the need to adapt and change according to the context in which the Redemptorist missionary lives and works. It seems that the way to the first restructuring of the Congregation - inspired by the dreams of two German novices - was prepared with the blessing of St. Alphonsus himself!

 

Clement was convinced that we need to learn to preach the Gospel ever anew. This quote, which he repeated in different ways many times, has become the inspiration for our sexennial theme as we enter more deeply into a process of restructuring for the sake of our Mission. The XXIV Chapter took place at the end of the Centenary year of the Canonization of St. Clement, and perhaps this also influenced our choice of theme. However, I believe that this theme was chosen in continuity with the last three General Chapters. And it is a direct consequence of the experience shared during the XXIV General Chapter about our missionary vocation today. It was not just a sentimental appreciation of St. Clement during his jubilee year.

As Alphonsus prophetically announced when he blessed the dreams and hopes of Clement and Thaddeus, the changing context in which the Congregation lives requires a new approach to evangelization, and a renewal and restructuring of our Vita Apostolica, always in line with the Constitutions and Statutes. Of course, as the first reading for the feast of St. Clement insists, the foundation is still and must always be Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 3:6-11). Like Clement, we are builders continuing the work already well begun. The foundation remains our personal and communal encounter and mutual relationship with Jesus Christ. This was also underlined by the Synod on New Evangelization which was celebrated in October, 2012.

The preface for the Mass of St. Clement underlines three important aspects of St. Clement Hofbauer which make him especially appropriate for Redemptorist missionaries today as we continue the process of restructuring not only our external structures, but also renewing our hope and our hearts. The preface tells us that Clement's life is an example for us, that he is our friend, and that he is a man of prayer who continues to help us.

The example of his life: reading the signs of the times

Clement lived at a time which was not much different from our own age. He established the Congregation in Poland in the tumultuous days just two years before the French Revolution. It was a time of massive change on the European continent -in politics and religion, in society and education, in economics and communication. Boundaries and borders were shifting. Nationalism, secularization and the movements which led to militant atheism were taking root. There was a massive movement of peoples, with the kind of reactions and xenophobia, often violent, which migration often brings. In this context, Clement faced challenges, and at times persecution, from both civil and church authorities - especially in the Diocesan Church structure, often infected with nationalism.

Clement not only remained personally faithful to his vocation, but invited others to similar fidelity. Through his commitment to the abandoned and the poor, as well as to Jesus   Christ and j the   Redemptorist apostolic community,   he   established the Congregation in the soil of Northern Europe. All the communities he established were international, bringing together members of different languages and cultures - Polish and French, German and Bohemian, Austrian, Swiss and Belgian. He dreamed of still more distant and diverse missionary activity - in Romania and Yugoslavia, in the Russian Empire, and even in Canada. Big dreams? Certainly. I wonder how those confreres in Pagani would have laughed if they had known just how big his dreams really were! The example of his life is still relevant for our experience today.

 

The experience of his friendship: stability in the midst of chaos

The preface for his feastday reminds us that Clement is our friend. He had a remarkable gift for friendship. During his lifetime it was not possible to successfully establish the Congregation in northern Europe with the canonical structures which would ensure its survival. Because of this situation, it was primarily friendship with Clement which gathered and held together a remarkable group of men and gave them identity: Thaddeus Hubl, Emmanuel Kunzmann, Martin Stark, and so many others who would become Redemptorist missionaries themselves. Friendship with Clement gave this nascent community stability even when the future of that community could not be assured by a common Rule and official recognition by both Church and State. Clement's gift of friendship challenges us today to live more authentically the Gospel friendship to which we are called (Const. 34).

Friendship with Clement was not inward-looking, merely establishing community support for the common search for God. Clement was chiefly concerned with apostolic community, after the example of Jesus (Const. 21-22). In his Gospel friendship and apostolic dedication, we can see incarnated the ideal missionary vocation described in the Gospel for Clement's feastday Mass (Luke 10:1-9). The disciples are sent out two by two. They are sent as a missionary community to bring the Good News to the abandoned and the poor. There is no 'star system', no focus on individual, charismatic personalities, neither in the missionary plan of Jesus, nor of Clement. The disciples are sent as a community, in order to build communities (Const. 12). Together they became "one missionary body" (Const. 2), composed of many members from many lands, cultures, and languages.

This friendship of Clement extended also to lay men and women whom he called to share this missionary vocation. These men and women, many of whom became Oblates, were not only the objects of his apostolic activity. Much more than this, they became partners in his great missionary project: they were "sent as helpers, companions and ministers of Jesus Christ in the great work of Redemption" (Const. 2), and he offered them the formation they required to do this effectively. Through catechesis and publishing, through peer ministry and proclamation, they brought the Gospel to education, health care, politics, youth pastoral ministry and every possible forum in public life.

When I was a young Redemptorist student, the life and personality of St. Clement captivated and inspired me. For me, he made our missionary vocation seem real and possible. He made j it come alive! And Clement had a warm sense of humour and approachability. Perhaps it is enough to remember the story of his response to the man who spat in his face as Clement begged alms for his work in Warsaw: "Thank you. That was for me. Now perhaps something for my orphans?"

 

His life of prayer: contemplative in action

St. Clement Hofbauer is a man of prayer. My novice master described him as a clear example of a contemplative in action. His contemporary and friend, Fr. Martin Stark, spoke of the "tabernacle" which was Clement's heart. Wherever he went, usually by foot, he carried Jesus with him, and communed with that divine presence he carried within. Completely dedicated to the service of the abandoned and the poor, his deep and permanent communion with God brought them much more than only material relief from their difficulties. The abandoned and the poor recognized that when they encountered Clement, they encountered the living presence of God.

Clement reminds us of the spiritual dimension of our missionary vocation without which we cannot continue the mission of the Redeemer. As Redemptorist missionaries, following the teaching of St. Alphonsus, our call to holiness and our missionary vocation are one and the same invitation to share in the very life of Jesus the Redeemer. Once again, the Liturgy for the Mass of St. Clement reminds us, Jesus Christ is the foundation, and we are merely builders. We walk by faith. All depends on God. To paraphrase words which St. Clement himself prayed, may our faith awake as the sun rises, and never set till all has been accomplished. Perhaps no picture better describes this attitude of Clement than the painting of him knocking on the door of the tabernacle in a moment of great need, certain that his prayer had already been heard.

St. Clement Mary Hofbauer. C.Ss.R.: a man for our times

The example of Clement's life, and his response to the signs of the times, remind us that restructuring arid international communities, challenges and failures - these are not something new for Redemptorist Missionaries. They never have been. Rather, these are an integral part of our missionary vocation. Such dreams and hopes were blessed by St. Alphonsus himself. Oh yes, they require greater lights than our own to bring them about. We understand what Alphonsus meant by that! We will face as many failures as successes, as many challenges as opportunities. This has always been our story - from St. Alphonsus to St. Clement to the present moment. The choice before us is "how" to renew and restructure, not "if we will engage in this process.

Clement's friendship incarnates our apostolic life in real human relationships transformed by gracfe: relationships with one another in apostolic community, with lay associates and collaborators, with the abandoned and the poor. This Gospel friendship calls us to a renewal of heart and a more mature authenticity. It points to the affective dimension of our lives which we must integrate, and which we cannot ignore. This Gospel friendship promises that "whoever follows Christ, the perfect human being, becomes more human" (Const. 19).

Clement's prayer was intimate, concrete and all important. Jesus Christ was indeed the foundation on which he built his life and his ministry. He faced incredible losses and failures, challenges and struggles. We remember that every single foundation he attempted failed. And yet he never lost hope. The source of his hope was the presence of Jesus whom he carried within and with whom he was in constant conversation. He said that prayer was the furnace in which his hope was daily renewed. All depended on God. He knew this in the depths of his being.

Clement said that "we must learn to preach the Gospel ever anew". No wonder the secret police of Napoleon's Empire wrote, "This man's preaching is dangerous". So dangerous that he kindled a fire which continues to burn in Redemptorist missionaries across the globe, in nearly 80 countries, in diverse cultures and nations, all for the sake of the mission, so that the abandoned and the poor might hear the Good News.

To think it all began with the dreams of two German novices in Italy! As we celebrate the feast of St. Clement this year, I pray that we may dare to dream such big dreams, work together in Gospel Friendship, and renew our hope in the furnace of prayer. Perhaps then our preaching will just as dangerous as his!

As we follow the Redeemer in the spirit of St. Alphonsus, may St Clement accompany and inspire us today. May our renewal and our restructuring continue to build on the one sure foundation with faith, friendship and prayer.

I wish you all many blessings and much happiness on this feast.

Your brother in the Redeemer,

Michael Brehl, C.Ss.R.,

Superior General

 

 

 

 

 

Fr General writes 16/xii/12...

 

Rome, Italy

December 16, 2012

 

Dear Confreres, Sisters and friends,

As you receive this December edition of Scala, we are more than halfway through Advent and about to begin the Novena for Christmas. I would like to take this opportunity to reflect with you on the meaning of this season. For St. Alphonsus, the Incarnation that we celebrate at Christmas is the first ‘Mystery of Redemption’. During the Season of Advent, and especially during the Novena, we wait in joyful hope, praying that God will increase our appetite for the great feast to come.

For Alphonsus, the Incarnation is a celebration and affirmation of life. He writes, “Justly does the Apostle call Jesus Christ our life. Behold our Redeemer, clothed with flesh becomes an Infant, and he says to us: ‘I have come that you may have life’.” We celebrate this life in our families and in our parishes. The bright lights and decorations, the hymns we sing, the joy of our liturgies, and the welcome we share with others – all these are signs of the life God shares with us. Alphonsus continues: “From the first moment of the Incarnation, Jesus embraced our redemption with enthusiasm. He rejoices like a stag to run his course, and he comes leaping over the mountains and skipping over the hills.”

And why such joy? Alphonsus writes that God became human so that he might converse with us as a friend. He longs that we converse with him, and that we find him in the manger - that we recognize him in the world among the poor and the abandoned – and that we welcome him and all those he brings with him. It is a mystery of friendship.

May you experience all the joy and blessings of Christmas! May the mystery of the Incarnation draw you more deeply into the mystery of friendship with Jesus the Redeemer as well as communion with the least of his brothers and sisters. I wish you a Merry and Blessed Christmas.

In Jesus our Redeemer,

Michael Brehl, C.Ss.R.

Superior General

 

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Fr General writes...

 

Rome, Italy

November 16, 2012

stemma7cssr

Dear Confreres, Sisters, Associates, and friends,

Last week, on November 9, 2012, we celebrated the 280th Anniversary of the Foundation of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer. Once again, we gave thanks to God for the audacious hope and courage of St. Alphonsus. In the spirit of distacco that brought freedom to his whole life, he left Naples, family, comfort, reputation, and a fruitful ministry to give his life for copiosa redemptio as a missionary and evangelist. From the small seeds planted in November 1732, God has brought forth our Congregation. And what a gift it is to be a Redemptorist Missionary!

In this Spirit, I wrote a letter which I hope that every Confrere has received. All of us are called to give our lives for copiosa redemptio as Redemptorist Missionaries. The theme of this Sexennium calls us to the renewal of our apostolic life and our Congregation so that, in the words of St. Clement Hofbauer, “we may preach the Gospel ever anew”. It is my heartfelt prayer that as we remember our first beginnings 280 years ago, this call will resonate ever more deeply in our own hearts and lives.

Last week, we also finished the last of the five Mid-Sexennial Meetings. Over the past five months, I attended each meeting, in each of the five Conferences:

· July – Conference of Latin America and the Caribbean in Alajuela, Costa Rica;
· August – Conference of Africa and Madagascar near Antananarivo, Madagascar;
· September – Conference of Asia-Oceania in Minburi and Pattaya, Thailand;
· October – Conference of North America in West End, New Jersey;
· November – Conference of Europe in Krakow, Poland.

These meetings were important opportunities to review the progress we have made since the XXIV General Chapter three years ago (October-November, 2009). More information will be communicated to you through the Conference Coordinators and your (V) Provincial and Regional Superiors. After prayerful reflection on these mid-term meetings, some decisions will be taken at the General Council in December, 2012 – and these will also be shared with the Congregation in early 2013.

I wish you every blessing and grace necessary for our missionary vocation. May we joyfully follow Jesus the Redeemer, accompanied by Mary of Perpetual Help, and inspired by the example of St. Alphonsus. May the privilege of our vocation as Redemptorist Missionaries continue to be a source of hope and courage not only for us, but especially for the abandoned and the poor to whom we are sent.

Your brother in the Redeemer,

Michael Brehl, C.Ss.R.

 

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CONGREGATIO SS. REDEMPTORIS

Superior Generalis 

A Message from the Superior General

On the Occasion of the Feast of St. Gerard Majella – 2012

 

My fraternal greetings to my dear confreres, sisters, lay associates and friends,

 

For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1)

1. Again we celebrate the feast of our saintly Brother Gerard Majella. For us members of the Redemptorist family, the liturgical memorial of St. Gerard is a happy, festive day because we celebrate the holiness of God manifest in the life of our confrere. We must not forget that every celebration of our sainted and blessed confreres is an occasion for us to renew our joy in being able to continue the Redeemer in the announcement of the Gospel to poorest and most abandoned. That is how they lived and how we are called to live.

 

Fr. General's Latest letter...July 2012...

 

MESSAGE FROM THE SUPERIOR GENERAL, MICHAEL BREHL, C.SS.R.

To Redemptorist Missionaries,

Lay Associates,

Sisters and Friends

of The Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer

 
    Dear Confreres, Brothers and Sisters,
 

The Alphonsian Academy and Moral Theology

Greetings as we anticipate the August 1st celebration of our founder and father, St. Alphonsus Maria Liguori. There are so many dimensions of his life, witness, spirituality and theology to remember with joy and to imitate with fidelity. In this message, I would like to highlight his great legacy as a Moral Theologian and Pastor.

1. St. Alphonsus, Moral Theology and the Alphonsian Academy

St. Alphonsus claimed that he learned his moral theology primarily from hearing the confessions of poor, country people. It was his commitment to the abandoned, and especially the poor which formed and shaped his missionary spirit. This commitment urged him to continue to research, study and write on moral theology as bishop of Sant’Agata and even after his retirement to Pagani. His concern for a pastoral moral theology permeated his spiritual and doctrinal works, as well as his praxes for confessors, missionaries, bishops and pastors.
When Fr. Leonard Buijs founded the Alphonsian Academy on February 9, 1949, he implemented a decision of the 1947 General Chapter to continue this tradition so vital to the Charism of our Congregation – to research, study and reflect on moral theology in the context of a changing cultural and historical reality. For St. Alphonsus, the study and teaching of moral theology was a service to the Congregation, and especially to the whole Church. Not only did his work help prepare our confreres for the ministry of preaching, reconciliation and pastoral guidance of people – his research provided concrete assistance to bishops, pastors, confessors and seminarians. The Alphonsian Academy continues this tradition in our age.

2. The Academy as Congregational Priority: Decision of the XXIV General Chapter

The XXIV General Chapter (November 2009) reflected on the mission of the Alphonsian Academy today. The President, Fr. Martin McKeever, invited the Capitulars to face the challenges confronting the Academy and this ministry. His presentation provoked a reflection on the necessary and mutual relationship of the Congregation with the Academy, which involves the professors, the Redemptorist and other students, and the financial stability of the Academy.

The XXIV General Chapter subsequently declared that. “The Alphonsian Academy is one of the common apostolates and priorities of the Congregation with which all Units must collaborate generously and effectively. This collaboration includes the choice and composition of the body of Professors and financial aid” (Decision 13)

Over the next few months, each Conference of the Congregation will gather in the Mid-Sexennial Meetings to consider, among other matters, how we are effectively implementing the Decisions of the XXIV General Chapter. In this context, I am writing this letter to the whole Congregation. As we continue the process of restructuring the Congregation for the sake of the mission, I am convinced that the Alphonsian Academy has an important role to play – not only for the Congregation, but for the sake of the Universal Church.

3. The Bologna Process and the Strategic Plan for the Academy

At the present time, countries in Europe are engaged in a process of developing uniform standards for accreditation of academic institutions. This process has been accepted by Italy. It has also been affirmed by the Vatican for all pontifical universities and academies. Thus, it must be embraced by the Academy as well. Without going into the details of this complicated process, it is important to know that the Academy must prepare a Strategic Plan as part of its participation in this process. The appropriate authorities in the Academy will prepare the plan for the areas in which they have competence, involving the program, policies, etc.

At the same time, the Congregation together with the Academy must address the major challenges of ensuring financial stability and a qualified corps of Redemptorist professors. It will be impossible to address these challenges without the full support, collaboration and partnership of the Congregation. When the XXIV General Chapter decided that the Academy is a common apostolate and priority of the Congregation, it insisted on the responsibility of all the Units to collaborate in the mission of the Academy.

4. Collaboration of the Congregation and the Academy

Recognizing that the Alphonsian Academy exercises its mission and ministry in relationship to the Lateran University and the Congregation for Catholic Education, I am also aware that the care of the Academy has been entrusted to the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, and in particular to the Superior General who assumes the responsibility of Moderator General of the Academy. Among my responsibilities is the task of promoting the relationship of the Academy and the Congregation, especially in relationship to the choice and composition of the body of Professors, as well as ensuring financial stability.

It is also important to strengthen this relationship between the Congregation and the Academy by recognizing and appreciating what the Academy offers to the Congregation, as well as to the Universal Church, such as:

· Regular courses leading to the Licence and Doctorate degrees. 
· The journal Studia Moralia with articles for study and reflection. This journal is now available online as well.
· Moral Theology Congresses, which are open to the confreres.
· Short renewal courses for the confreres, such as “Moral Issues in Pastoral Ministry”, the two-week course in English offered in Thailand, June 17-30, 2012. Another course is being planned in Spanish for 2013.
· Individual professors from the Academy are always willing to offer talks, workshops, or short courses in different Units and Conferences.

4.1 Redemptorist Professors and Students

As a common apostolate and priority of the Congregation, it is important that the Academy is served by a body of Professors which includes a significant number of Redemptorists committed to its mission. When a Redemptorist Missionary is called to exercise his ministry as a Professor at the Academy, he does so for the sake of the mission of the world-wide Congregation. It is not a question of personal preference and choice. Confreres such as Fr. Capone and Vereecke, Häring and Hitz, as well as many others too numerous to mention, have formed part of this body of Professors committed to excellence in Moral Theology. This tradition of excellence has continued. However, as we look to the future, the Congregation must make important choices and decisions so that the next generation of Professors will be ready to respond to this call.

It is only be possible to assure that there will be Redemptorist Professors available for the Academy by ensuring that confreres are prepared now. I am convinced that we must encourage more Units to send Redemptorist confreres to study at the Academy and elsewhere not only to provide excellent professors for the initial formation of our students, but also to develop the pool of candidates available to teach and undertake research at Academy. I urge the Conferences and the individual Units to carefully consider how they can collaborate in this area.

4.2 Financial Stability

As you are aware, the whole Congregation has experienced the effects of the financial crisis of recent years. This crisis has also affected the Academy. Over the years, many Units have contributed financially to support this ministry which is a priority for the Congregation. Some of these Provinces are no longer able to contribute as generously as in the past. We are certainly grateful for the financial commitment they have carried out, which is a sign of real solidarity and a service to the whole Church. I am also aware that different ways of ensuring this solidarity must be found today in light of our changed situation.

The Commission for Economic Solidarity, the General Financial Secretariat, and the General Government are exploring more effective ways of ensuring the financial stability of the Alphonsian Academy. This will only be possible in solidarity with the Congregation on many levels. Long-term solutions to the financial challenges must be found. However, in the short-term, we must also find sources of new income to sustain the present quality of the Academy.

4.3 Promotion of the Academy in the Conferences and Units of the Congregation

The relationship between the Congregation and the Alphonsian Academy must go beyond providing a body of Professors and financial stability. Recognizing the Academy as a ‘common apostolate and priority’ of the Congregation requires a renewed vision of this relationship and collaboration. This vision and mind-set challenges the Congregation to promote the study of moral theology and the Academy within the Congregation. It also encourages us to promote the Academy in the local Church, both as an institute to prepare moral theologians – diocesan priests, religious and lay people – and as a resource for research in moral theology and ongoing formation. At the same time, it invites the Academy to continue its initiatives to assist the whole Congregation and the Universal Church in serious moral reflection through writing, workshops, and other programs.

5. Conclusion: The Academy, the Redemptorists and St. Alphonsus

Missionary and pastoral experience convinced St. Alphonsus of the importance of Moral Theology as an integral dimension of the Charism of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer. He devoted time, study, and enormous effort to his Theologia Moralis. His spirituality is founded on a deep conviction that the Christian moral life is based on and shaped by the practice of love of Jesus Christ and uniformity with the Will of God. These lead to sanctity. For St. Alphonsus, moral theology is not merely an independent theological discipline, but a vital and integral praxis for the effective proclamation of the Good News of ‘Copiosa Redemptio’ in Jesus Christ – and this proclamation is directed to the most abandoned and the poor.

The XXIV General Chapter affirmed this fundamental conviction of St. Alphonsus, and identified the Alphonsian Academy as a concrete priority in order to realize it today. As part of the ongoing process of renewal and restructuring for the sake of the mission, the Congregation must also examine and renew the vision and role of the Academy as a means of proclaiming the Gospel ever anew.

May the wisdom and commitment of St. Alphonsus inspire us to continue his vision of study, research, teaching and writing on moral theology so that all who are called to redemption and holiness may find the inspiration and hope they need in order to do God’s will in all things.

As we celebrate his feast with joy and hope, let us follow the example of his life with confidence and fidelity. May our Mother of Perpetual Help always accompany us.

Your brother in the Redeemer,

Michael Brehl, C.Ss.R.
Superior General

 

 

 

Fr. General's Easter Message...

 

Click here to read Fr. General's Easter Message

 

Fr. General's Easter Message

Message from Fr General C.Ss.R...

 

Rome, Italy
January 16, 2012


MESSAGE FROM SUPERIOR GENERAL MICHAEL BREHL, C.SS.R.

Dear Confreres, Sisters, Associates and friends,

I would like to wish you a blessed New Year filled with the hope, peace and joy which are signs of the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives and ministry!

In the first two weeks of January, we celebrated the feasts of two great Redemptorist missionaries – St. John Neumann and Blessed Peter Donders. Their lives and their example continue to inspire us in our mission to preach the Gospel ever anew. Through their prayerful intercession, they continue to accompany us as we live our missionary vocation today.

 

Christmas Message from the Superior General...

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Fr General and the Immaculate Conception...

Rome, Italy
December 8, 2011

Feast of the Immaculate Conception

Patroness of the Congregation

 

Dear Confreres, Sisters, Associates and friends of the Redemptorists,

On December 8th, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Mary. Under this title of the “Immaculate Conception”, the Redemptorist Missionaries honor Mary as the Patroness of our Congregation. During this Season of Advent, the Immaculate Conception of Mary reminds each one of us of the destiny to which we are called in Christ. Like Mary, “God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless, to live through love in his presence” (Ephesians 1:4). Mary stands as the shining witness of the glory and life to which we are all called.

 

St. Alphonsus was an ardent defender of the truth of the Immaculate Conception. He was convinced of Mary’s special role in the mystery of our Redemption, and the honor we should have for her as the brothers and sisters of her Son, Jesus. But St. Alphonsus was also convinced that the Immaculate Conception is a most eloquent witness to the power of God to redeem and save our human nature. To honor the Immaculate Conception is to praise the God whose will and power to redeem embraces all humanity.

Fr General writes to the C.Ss.R., community in Vietnam...

CONGREGATIO SS. REDEMPTORIS                                               

Superior Generalis

November 16, 2011


V. Rev. Vincent Pham Trung Thành, C.Ss.R.

Provincial Superior,

Redemptorist Province of Vietnam

 

Dear Fr. Vincent,

Greetings in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ our Redeemer! As you know, we are presently meeting with all the English-speaking Redemptorist Provincials Superiors in Rome, Italy (November 11-19). Today, we are at our house in Materdomini, at the Shrine of St. Gerard. All of us will remember you and the Province of Vietnam in our prayers today.

We are very sorry that you are not able to be present with us because the Vietnamese government has prevented you from leaving the country. This is most unfortunate. Many of the Provincial Superiors would have liked to speak with you directly.

I want to assure you that we keep you in our prayers, and hope that the government will soon permit you to participate again in meetings outside Vietnam. This is important for all Redemptorists because we are an international Congregation. These meetings strengthen the bonds of brotherhood among us, and provide an important means of communication. However, let me assure you that your absence actually deepens our fraternal bonds, especially in prayer.

We admire the commitment of the Province of Vietnam, and your own personal commitment, to support all efforts for justice and peace, especially for those in Vietnam who suffer from violence, from injustice, and from the efforts of those in the communist regime who do abuse or ignore human rights. We have read the articles published about the recent attacks on the Redemptorist house in Hanoi. We pray that true justice will prevail and that the rights of all confreres and parishioners will be fully respected.

May Jesus our Most Holy Redeemer, the prayers of Our Mother of Perpetual Help, and the example of St. Alphonsus bring you strength and hope, today and always.

Your brother in the Most Holy Redeemer,

(V. Rev.) Michael Brehl, C.Ss.R.

Superior General

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C.P. 2458 – 00100 ROMA – ITALIA                 Via Merulana, 31 – 00185 ROMA – ITALIA

Father General's Letter...

fr general

Dear Confreres, Sisters and Lay Associates,

Greetings in the name of Jesus Christ who calls us to preach the Gospel ever anew and sends us with joy to the most abandoned and the poor!

I write this letter to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the birth of John Nepomucene Neumann. He was born on March 28, 1811 in Prachatitz, Bohemia. In his homily on the day of John Neumann’s beatification, Paul VI summarized his life in a few significant words:

He was close to the sick, he was at home with the poor, he was a friend to sinners, and today he is the glory of all immigrants, and from the viewpoint of the Beatitudes, the symbol of Christian success.

I invite each of you to remember and celebrate during this year the gift God has given to the Church and to the Congregation in the life of this remarkable Redemptorist, the glory of all immigrants, in the context of the call from our last General Chapter.

The XXIV General Chapter challenged us to respond to the contemporary reality of the mass movement of peoples and to revise our apostolic priorities. As the XXIV General Chapter reflected on this in plenary session, our then Superior General, Fr. Joseph Tobin, commented that Redemptorists have an excellent and inspiring patron and model for pastoral ministry to migrants in St. John Neumann, who was himself an immigrant. He went to the United States precisely to work with and among immigrants.

John Neumann was keenly aware of his missionary vocation. He signed his first letters home “John Nep. Franz Neumann, Missionary”. He inquired about and thought about a proposed Society of Missionaries, which never came to birth.

Once in the United States, he was fully at home with the abandoned and poor immigrants he encountered and gave himself totally to accompanying and serving them in love. He was aware of their needs and of their spiritual hunger. He knew from personal experience what it was like to be an immigrant in the United States: to arrive in New York harbour with no one to greet him on the docks, with no place to stay for the night and almost no money in his pocket. He did not even have the assurance that he would be welcomed by the Bishop and accepted for ordination! His experience mirrored the experience of countless other immigrants setting out toward the unknown, arriving unannounced and often unwelcome on foreign shores.

He had left his home country in February, 1836, and would only return nineteen years later. He missed his family and his home. Some of his letters show a great longing for news from Bohemia since communication was very difficult. After fifteen years in the United States, he wrote to his father in 1851 that “no day passes that I do not imagine myself with some longing to be in my father’s home and in the midst of my dear relations and friends, still I have never regretted that I devoted myself to the Mission in America”.

The reality of emigration and immigration today is certainly different from that of the time of John Neumann. But the missionary challenge is fundamentally the same. We learn several very important lessons from John Neumann that will throw light on our present situation.

A life of missionary dedication is a call from God received through the abandoned and the poor. This call will be best understood and our response will be most authentic if we are close to those who call us. The seeds of this vocation may be sown while we are still at a distance. But the vocation itself will grow and mature as we live close to those to whom we are sent. Our vocation is both to evangelize and be evangelized by the poor. We continue to grow and learn as we walk with the poor. A life of missionary dedication calls us beyond our areas of comfort and opens new horizons, compelling us to face sacrifices and complex challenges.

A life of missionary dedication will not necessarily put us in the spotlight. It calls us to explore new avenues and ways of proclaiming the Gospel, often on the margins and fringes of society. The Redemptorist missionary is not only the effective and dynamic preacher in the pulpit! Redemptorist missionaries also work in alleys and slums, in rural settings and cities, wherever the abandoned and the poor are found.

Although John Neumann grew up in a German-speaking home and learned Czech during his studies, he knew that these languages would not be enough to prepare him for a missionary vocation. Even if he worked primarily with German-speaking immigrants, he knew he would need English and he believed French would be very helpful. He also learned Italian, impressed by the beauty of the language, and aware that it might prove useful for his missionary work.

John Neumann was aware that it would be helpful to have a broader cultural experience than the one his own country could provide him. This would prepare him for the cultural complexity of the United States, a nation of immigrants from many cultures. He felt the need for a larger world to expand his own perspectives and open him to a broader experience, a sharper outlook on life, in other words, a broader contemplative outlook. As the Congregation prepares for greater collaboration and restructuring that crosses the boundaries within a Conference and between Conferences, we ourselves will experience the challenges of language and communication as well as inter-cultural dynamics.

The last two General Chapters have stressed the importance of learning languages. Particular stress has been placed on Spanish, English and Italian for communication within the Congregation. The mission calls us to become fluent in the languages of the people among whom we serve. The goal is not simply to learn a language but to be able to “inculturate” our missionary dedication, to help us empty ourselves and “restructure” our lives prophetically for mission.

Formation – both initial and permanent – must take seriously the challenge of inter-cultural living and ministry. Pastoral experience outside our own culture, especially at some point during initial formation, is an important element of this process. Experience of languages and cultures requires a spirit of openness and freedom. This openness demands personal initiative and commitment as well as structured opportunities within the ongoing or continuing formation program.

On arrival in United States, John Neumann embraced the ministry entrusted to him by the Bishop of New York with apostolic zeal and generosity. Shortly after ordination, he was sent to the fringes of the Diocese and entrusted with the care of several parishes. The needs were great, and so were the pastoral demands and the distances to be traveled each week. John Neumann began to consider the benefits of belonging to a missionary community. He believed a missionary community could provide greater missionary effectiveness and also personal support. By 1839 John Neumann had met the Redemptorist, Fr. Prost, and had begun to consider a vocation to the Congregation. In 1840, he left for the Redemptorist novitiate.

johnneumannJohn Neumann had a keen sense of the intimate and mutual relationship between mission and community. His experience led him to a deep appreciation of the value of community commitments in mission, rather than individual projects – especially for the stability of the ministries. As Superior of the North American mission, he stressed this community dimension, and tried to establish good foundations on which the confreres could build together.

His experience of apostolic community was not without its struggles. Each Redemptorist community was “international” and “intercultural” in nature. The confreres came from a variety of European nations, languages and cultures. The first vocations in the United States came from diverse backgrounds. At times, there were personal difficulties, which on occasion led to confreres returning to Europe or leaving the Congregation.

He also experienced some of the struggles of growth, and changes in administrations in Europe. Responsibility for the Mission in the United States passed from Belgium to Austria before a North American Province was created in 1850. At times this led to conflicts of approach and mentality with the “Mother Province”.

John Neumann realized that structures and communities need to be renewed to ensure continuity and effective ministry. The confreres need conversion and renewal for the same reason. On January 30, 1850 he wrote in a letter to Francis Xavier Seelos:

Our great mistake is that we allow ourselves to be deceived by the spirit of worldly shrewdness, the desire for fame, and the love of comfort. We ought to fight the temptation to make spiritual things a means of temporal advancement. The principles of faith fade out of our hearts in proportion as we allow the principles of the world to come in. We place our confidence not in God but in our own intelligence and experience. This, my dear Father, in my opinion is the cause of all unhappiness.

As the Message from the XXIV General Chapter reminds us: “The more radical our conversion, the more radical and prophetic our Vita apostolica”. This conversion will move us from seeking personal or community comfort to accompanying the abandoned and the poor. Radical conversion broadens our perspective so that we can begin to see as God sees. To see as God sees mirrors the biblical role of the prophet, who then proclaims the vision. This contemplative outlook will move us to witness and action for the sake of the Reign of God, not only as individuals, but above all as a missionary community. In this way, we will incarnate more fully the theme for this sexennium: to preach the Gospel ever anew: renewed hope, renewed hearts, renewed structures for mission.

As one studies the life of St. John Neumann, it is impossible not to be impressed by his availability for mission. Even during his novitiate, he preached missions and was sent to different communities in response to pressing pastoral needs. As a confrere, Neumann made himself available to others for the sake of the mission. He was always ready to learn and to use whatever means were necessary so that he could preach the gospel anew.

In his availability for mission, Redemptorists find a model for living the principles of restructuring adopted by the XXIV General Chapter:

Principle 2: “Restructuring for Mission should stimulate a reawakening of our Vita apostolica. It should prompt a new availability for mission.” This availability for mission, so evident in the life of John Neumann, needs to be cultivated and promoted in our contemporary Apostolic Life as essential to our prophetic and missionary vocation.

Principle 3: “Restructuring for Mission should seek out and accompany the most abandoned, especially the poor.” Missionary availability will call us to re-examine our apostolic priorities, always with pastoral concern for those who suffer because of the mass movement of peoples and human trafficking.

Like Neumann, we are called to learn to preach the gospel ever anew. The theme for this sexennium is inspired by a saying of St. Clement Hofbauer. It is important to remember that St. John Neumann’s mission and ministry is in continuity with the spirit and example of St. Clement, even though they never met. Like both of them, we need to be open to new methods of evangelization, new experiences and new languages if we are going to interiorize the sexennial theme both personally and as apostolic communities. Above all, we need to make their spirit of missionary availability our own.

It is no surprise that only a year after his arrival in the United States, Neumann felt the need to evangelize the “Indians”, the native population who often lived, not only in poverty, but also alienated from a North American society now dominated by European immigrants. The mass movement of peoples affected not only those who emigrated and the family and friends who remained behind. It also had a significant impact on native or aboriginal populations in the United States, much too often oppressing them and excluding them from the new society that was taking shape, encroaching on their territory, and impoverishing them. Neumann’s pastoral ministry to immigrants opened his eyes to the native populations who had been displaced and were often living in poverty. His desire to serve peoples of many cultures extended beyond the different European cultures of the immigrants who were his first parishioners. It included all who experienced abandonment, marginalization and poverty. However, by 1840 Neumann came to believe that there was more urgent pastoral need among the immigrant population and thus opted for that mission.

John Neumann admired many of the principles on which the young democracy of the United States was founded. He also appreciated the opportunities open to poor immigrants, many of whom were fleeing oppression and poverty in their homelands. However, he realized that there were other elements at work in this society and he could not condone them. He had a number of battles with wealthy lay people regarding parishes, schools and properties. He also encountered the prejudice of citizens who had been part of earlier colonization and who now wanted to deny to new immigrants – especially Catholics – the rights and freedoms their ancestors had appreciated when they first arrived in North America.

The XXIV General Chapter reminded us that missionary conversion will call us to deepen our reflection on culture. “We are missionaries who come together from various cultures to form communities based on faith in Jesus Christ. This faith calls today’s Redemptorist to esteem and embrace the cultures of others while at the same time recognizing cultural limitations and giving countercultural witness, where appropriate” (Decisions, 1.4).

Regardless of age or origin, in today’s world we need to enter into dialogue with peoples, cultures and traditions very different from our own. This challenges us, as it challenged John Neumann, to move out of our provincialism and parochialism, even when we are not sure where it will lead.

I would like to suggest some practical conclusions to honour the memory of St. John Neumann by incorporating dimensions of his spirit into practical decisions for the Congregation today.

In the spirit of missionary dedication of St. John Neumann, I urge every Conference and Unit to consider at least one concrete pastoral project to respond to the needs of those affected by the mass movement of peoples. Such a pastoral project could well be an ideal situation for an international community. Information about any such decisions and plans in the Conferences and in the Units should be sent to the General Government.

Provincial and Conference Secretariats of Formation should examine their programs of initial and ongoing formation to ensure that they include experience of different cultures, as well as formation in issues of culture and inter-culturality; language training, especially in Spanish, English and Italian, but also in other languages helpful and necessary for the mission; the study and integration of obedience and missionary dedication as key elements of our Redemptorist identity as proposed by Fr. Tobin in A Letter to the Confreres (September 8, 2009 – in Analecta C.Ss.R. 2008-2009, pp. 170-200 in English and pp. 201-233 in Spanish).

Some have said that John Neumann was a very ordinary man who did ordinary ministry very well. That may well be true. He did not draw attention to himself and he often he served in the background. His very ordinariness means that he is a confrere with whom most of us can easily relate. However, John Neumann did ordinary things with extraordinary love and extraordinary dedication. I think that this is what makes all the difference. Then and now.

In conclusion I would like to recall words from a letter by Fr. Joseph Tobin, written for the twenty-fifth anniversary of John Neumann’s canonization (April 11, 2002):

In an age when spirituality is sometimes proposed as a strictly introspective journey into the self, Saint John reminds us that service of the poor and forgotten is a clear way to God. And, in the face of an ethos that urges us to consume and possess, the Saint advises us to travel light, suggesting that simplicity makes the pilgrimage of life more joyful.

As we celebrate the 200th anniversary of his birth in 2011, may the example of his life inspire and encourage us all. Above all, may his spirit continue to find an echo in our spirit and renew our hope, our hearts and our structures so that we may continue to preach the Gospel ever anew!

Your brother in the Redeemer,

 

Michael Brehl, C.Ss.R.

Superior General

Rome – March 28, 2011

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