January 7 | DAY FIVE: It is good for us that we were here
By Br. Daniele Caglioni, A.A -Secretary of the Chapter
We began our final day with a presentation by Father Alex on the need for us to identify the “stable patrimony” of the Province. Stable patrimony are the real and moveable goods which the Province owns that can help guarantee the economic security of all real and movable goods which are destined to guarantee the economic security of our Congregation. Examples include real estate properties, things we own that speak to our cultural and historical heritage, or long-term investments. As we approach the General Chapter, we need to begin making an inventory of this patrimony, and Fr. Alex clearly and passionately gave us some parameters to follow in this discernment. The Chapter will address stable patrimony in its upcoming rules, and we need to be ready to implement those decisions on a Provincial level. We decided that a committee would be set up to undertake this discernment in the immediate future.
Fr. Alex also gave a presentation about the status of our Mission Co-Operative program, when our priests appeal for support for our mission in various parishes throughout the United States during the Summer months. This program remains one of the most income-generating activities of our Province’s Development Office, and it is a way for us to help grow our mission in Mexico, Africa, and the Philippines. In response to a proposal from Rome that we enlarge participation in the program to include brothers not living in our Province, we raised several issues. The application process is already complicated, we need to ensure preachers have a good command of English, and that they are aware of and sensitive to Church culture in the United States. We agreed that it is good for us to have preachers from the beneficiaries of the program (as “faces of the mission”), but they need to be properly screened. Furthermore, they need to be better prepared: it was suggested that preachers be given a sheet of talking points to use in parishes, so that they can better speak about how generosity has benefited the Congregation (example: personal stories of the financial impact). Local superiors themselves need to be more aware of their sending brothers to these parishes, as they can take the brother away from the community for a time.
We spent another session preparing responses to some questions posed to communities in preparation for the General Chapter. Our General Council has noticed in the Assumption family a great desire learn more about and embrace our history, our spirituality and our charism. We wondered how we might grow in this spirit, and how our charism responds to the different crises the world is going through. Might we engage in a systematic reading of d’Alzon’s Spiritual Writings across the Province, and could there be workshops and encounters for young religious to discuss this heritage? These assemblies would be an occasion for us to deepen our Assumption identity and our sense of belonging to the Assumption family. D’Alzon’s vision of the fundamental problems remains extremely relevant for the world today. We need to root our discussion about d’Alzon and Augustine in our current reality, and detail how they speak to that reality.
Rome also asked us to reflect on the missionary character and vocation of the Assumption. What does it mean for us to be “missionary disciples” in today’s world? This has been an important theme for Father General in a desire to counteract individualism and clericalism. Being a missionary, we realized, also means addressing one’s culture at home in today’s increasingly post-Christian world. Being a missionary means being “sent forth,” so the Church herself cannot not be missionary. As disciples, we are necessarily on mission, going outside of ourselves to announce God’s Word. In other words, disciples must also be evangelists.
For our next discussion, we evaluated the governance of our Province over these last six years. We acknowledged that the pandemic made it hard for us to remain in contact, but we also echoed that it is important for communities to see more of the Provincial and his council in person. We wondered how this accompaniment might happen in the future? What relation will the regional superior in Mexico have with the Provincial and his council? Could he meet with them at least once per year? More broadly, how might the Province as a whole come together more regularly to share ideas, impressions, and hopes? We recalled that the Provincial Chapter of 2017 had suggested holding forums every three years, but who is to say that the structures we have now, like a regional council, are the ones we will have in the future?
We then moved into our final phase of the Provincial Chapter: voting for our delegates and alternates to the General Chapter. Fr. Dennis reminded us that the elected brothers are chosen to represent the interests of the Congregation as a whole, beyond his local context. He should be able to contribute to the conversation leading to the renewal of our Congregation. After an initial straw vote, Fr. Chi Ai and Fr. Louis were elected as representatives of our Province; Fr. Alex and Fr. Irvin were elected as alternates. We thank each of these brothers for their willingness to represent our Province and for their enthusiasm in building God’s Kingdom.
The Provincial Chapter officially ended with a closing Mass. Fr. Dennis Gallagher, A.A, Provincial Superior, celebrated a Vigil Mass for the Epiphany, and he reminded us to “keep guard” over that internal light that God has given each of us. In this great feast of light, he asked us all to reflect how we can more passionately share this light with others in the world. Even though the world doesn’t realize it sometimes (for it is filled with so much darkness), it needs this light, this gift we have received (and continue to receive each day) from Our Lord. How can the faith, hope, and love of Christ illuminate each of our lives?
Thus ends a wonderfully fruitful week in Mexico for the Provincial Chapter. As Fr. Dennis mused during final remarks to us, “It is good that we were here.”
See more photos from day five here: https://photos.app.goo.gl/zhcQh2Vj6CersH5R6