" I now begin to know what happiness it is to live and die a Redemptorist. Oh, let us love our vocation and strive to persevere in it! "
Bl Francis Xavier Seelos C.Ss.R
  • main
  • main2
  • main3
  • main4
  • main5
  • main6
  • main7
  • main8
  • main9
  • main12
  • main14
  • main15
  • main16
  • main17
  • main19
  • main20
  • vocations7
  • CSsR Voc Pic

INTERVIEW WITH FATHER GENERAL,

MICHAEL BREHL, C.Ss.R.:


fr general

 

The State of the Conferences...

Editor's note: It has been one year since the General Council

was seated and began to implement the decisions of the

XXIV General Chapter.

SCALA sat down with Father General recently

to receive an update on the progress being made

in one of the major decisions of the General Chapter

– the forming of the 5 Conferences of the Congregation:

 

SCALA: Father General, could you update us on the progress of each of the 5 new Conferences? What are their achievements? What are their continuing challenges?

FATHER GENERAL: I have been at all the first assemblies of the Conferences that have been held so far. I will also be attending the first assembly of the Conference of Latin America and the Caribbean, which has not held theirs yet, because they have been engaged in a great deal of preparatory work.

 

Let's begin with the North American Conference. In March 2010 they had a short meeting that set up a number of commissions to begin working on pastoral priorities, statutes and structures, and formation in the Conference. They met again in September. They had a draft of the Conference statutes prepared and they have provisional approval with more work to be done; their third meeting will be in September 2011. They are trying to make sure the reality of Redemptorist life in North America is reflected in the way they structure the Conference. They have included and will continue to include communities working in the Conference that are directly accountable to units outside the Conference; and because they are a small number of units, North America has increased the representation of the Conference assembly more than stricly necessary by the guidelines for broader representation that reflects their reality.

Conference of Europe: The European Conference had their first meeting in May 2010, another in October 2010 and will meet again in March 2011. Europe has the major struggle of translation of languages and a large number of units. They have the largest number of units in a Conference, which gives them a largest amount of delegates. At the moment, they have tried to find a good balance of representation that is workable and manageable. They have set up the same commissions that North America did, and in addition, one also on theology.

They have more work to do on the commissions concerning "mission", community and formation. They have their statutes about halfway finished. But they have a provisional approval on their organizational parts, which gives them a structure to move forward. They made a decision to reduce the number of languages for translation at their meetings. They chose Italian and English as their official languages.

Their meetings have been very productive, with a good spirit and good participation. They are excited about moving forward. Although they used to be divided into the sub-regions of northern Europe and southern Europe in pre-Conference times, they do not want sub-conferences at this time. They still want to work all-together. They are in the process of electing their vocals from the larger units for their next assembly in March.

Africa & Madagascar: Africa & Madagascar met the last ten days of August 2010. They held the longest meeting to this point. They came with a draft of statutes, which were re-worked at the meeting but they were not ready to vote on them. So they have not come to us for provisional approval yet. Their biggest problem is the distances and how to get people to assemblies. They are the smallest Conference in numbers, but travel is especially difficult. So they are going to plan long meetings to be held less frequently. They also came up with a working paper on pastoral priorities for the whole Conference that is to be circulated to all the units/assemblies/chapters etc. for further reflection.

They have also started to work on a plan for formation for all the Conference, which they hope will improve the quality of formation and bring together the diverse plans of formation and units. They are also doing some study on the vocation of the brothers. And they also did a lot of work on the fund for Africa and Madagascar. How do they assure that they have the resources necessary –financial, manpower, properties and buildings - to enable the pastoral priorities that are being worked on. One very interesting fact about formation in Africa: One out of 3 professed confreres is a student in initial formation. That is the biggest ratio in the Congregation so that is a great need.

Conference of Asia-Oceania: Asia-Oceania met the last ten days of September 2010. They had a lot of energy. They also decided to have a less frequent, longer meeting because of the incredible distances they have to cover to come together. They also came to the meeting with a draft of statutes, which were edited, modified and submitted for approval. The General Council, at this time, has yet to deal with them. So the statutes are in process. They also drew up a draft document on apostolic priorities to take back to the units to be shared and studied and returned to the next assembly with feedback for further work.

They also studied how the different units can make "connections" among themselves. How do you make agreements to support, share and collaborate with one another? Here we're talking about cooperation among a couple of units within a given area on various levels. They adopted English as their official language and are the only Conference that is, in that sense, monolingual. Of course the pastoral languages are quite diverse.

Asia-Oceania has still got pre-Conference structures such as East Asia – which is the two units in Japan and Korea; South Asia, which is the three units in India, along with Colombo and Sri Lanka; and Southeast Asia, which includes Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Australia, New Zealand, These are not sub-conferences per se as they have in Latin America, but will continue to collaborate as they have in the past.

They talked about finances, as all the Conference assemblies have done also. Asia-Oceania also specifically devoted a whole session of how they can develop stronger ties with Africa-Madagascar in light of the priority the General Chapter gave to this. I found that quite exciting that this decision of the General Chapter would animate them to talk and think concretely beyond their own immediate needs.

Conference of Latin America & Caribbean: The process for Latin America and the Carribean is a bit more complex. They have been meeting and doing preparation for their assembly through the existing sub-conferences, URB (Union of Redemptorists in Brazil) URNALC (Union of Redemptorist of northern Latin America) and URSAL (Union of Redemptorists of southern Latin America). They decided at the General Chapter that they would have a meeting of the sub-conferences followed by a meeting of delegates chosen by each of the three sub-conferences to plan the assembly of the whole Conference and to hold the assembly as soon as is possible after the Quadrenniel elections. So this will be held at the beginning of March.

SCALA: What will be the roles the General Consultors and of the Coordinators?

FATHER GENERAL: The General Consultor from the Conference has participated and will participate in the assemblies of their particular Conference. As Superior General, I have gone to the first meeting of the Assemblies. In the future I will participate in those subsequent meetings as is possible and as requested. Each Conference is preparing their slate of official candidates for the position of Coordinator to be submitted to the General Council by March 15th. And we will appoint the coordinators at our spring extraordinary meeting by Easter. The Coordinators will have delegated authority from the Superior General. After they are appointed, we will have a meeting with them here in Rome with the General Council to take a look at what this means in the concrete for each Conference. Then it will be the Coordinator's prime responsibility to move the assemblies of the Conferences forward and to address the very real issues each Conference has raised and that need to be addressed by each assembly at large. Questions such as: "How do we implement the apostolic priorities? What are the next steps to take in formation? What do we do in terms of solidarity in finances and personnel?

This will take the Coordinators time as they will need to work with the Conferences and the General Council in a spirit of collegiality and co-responsibility. The blueprint for the next steps to be taken will be different for each Conference. But the first step will be that the Coordinator is in touch with, knows and appreciates the real concerns and reality "on the ground" in his Conference. Secondly, that the Coordinator knows, appreciates and understands the "vision of the whole Congregation" as represented by the General Council, his authority and the limits of that authority as delegated by the Superior General, and the concerns of the other Conferences as shared by the other Conference Coordinators. From that input each Coordinator can ask what is emerging as priorities in my Conference? That's how I see it unfolding. Editor's note: Father General concluded this part of the interview by explaining how the individual Conference assemblies would theoretically choose their ex-officio and elected vocals, which will be particular to each Conference's statutes.

SCALA: The first-ever Quadrennial elections are almost concluded. What is your impression of them so far?

FATHER GENERAL: There are significant numbers of new superiors in each Conference coming into office through the quadrennial elections. Many units, through the elections, are experiencing brand new leadership, which will necessitate the new superiors coming up to speed in the processes underway. Some have been vocals in their assemblies already and at least there is something they are familiar with; and because the statutes are underway, there is something for brand new superiors to study. It had been our custom in the past to invite new unit superiors to Rome for an orientation. It is our thinking now that the processes underway would be better served if we invite both new and existing superiors, in other words, all the superiors, to this meeting, which is being planned for the fall, so that all can come to know each other better for the sake of forming intra-Conference and inter-Conference networking. If we decide to do this, an official communication about it will go out to them.

SCALA: Father General, thank you for sharing your time with the SCALA readership to bring them up to date on the activities of the Conferences.

FATHER GENERAL: You are very welcome!