Archive for October, 2010

Synod Faces

What better way to finish my coverage of the Synod than by a few photographs that didn’t make it into earlier posts?

Father Waldemar Linke from Poland

Father Leo Bos from the Netherlands; behind him is Father Jesus Maria Aristin

Father Antonio Curto from Italy listening

Father Piergiorgio Bartoli from Italy listening, while Father Antonio Curto talks and gives hand signals at the same time.

Father Michael Ogweno listening, while Father Antony Xavier Tharayil has a siesta.

Father Giuseppe Martinelli looking pensive; in the background is Father Battista Ramponi, the General Econome

The four Major Superiors from Africa, Fathers Raphael Mangiti, Antony Sikhalele Mdhiuli, Aloysius John Nguma and Emerie Kibal

The Secretary General of the Passionist Congregation, Father Ramiro Ruiz Betancourt

and finally the Secretary of the Synod, Father Jose Luis Quintero (my boss during these days), sending greetings to all ‘Laus Crucis’ readers.

Read Full Post »

Synod Sketch – Day Ten

The Final Day at the Passionist General Synod. There was a change of timetable today. We had nothing to do until the first session at 9.00 a.m. which was to be followed by Mass. The usual routine has been as follows: Synod Mass at 7.00; morning sessions from 9.00 until 12.30, with dinner (-most people nowadays call it lunch) at 1.00. After lunch, I would start the daily summary, trying to cover the morning’s work before the Synod took up again at 3.30. The Synod continued from 3.30 until 7.00, with Evening Prayer at 7.30 and supper at 8.00. After supper, I would do the second half of the daily journal, and then write my Synod Sketch, which I usually finished at about 11.00. Last night I decided to take advantage of the late start, so I stayed in bed until the General phoned me at 7.45. (Why does somebody always phone when I decide to get up later?)

The closing session is described in the daily summary which you will find in my earlier post (Synod Day Ten – Summary from the Drafting Commission) or on the Passionist General Synod Blog. If you haven’t already looked at it, go over (not now, but when you’ve finished here!) to the Passionist General Synod Blog. They have some interesting things there, including, in a documents section, the full text of the three parts of the General’s report; click ‘documents’ at the top of the page, and then look for ‘Relazione P.Generale, 1a parte (en)’, then ‘2a parte’, and finally ‘3a parte’. There are lots of photographs on the site too.

This morning was basically a tidying up session which lasted about an hour and a half, after which we assembled in the Retreat House Chapel for Mass at 11.00. (One of the good things about the way the Synod was organised was that we never went directly from work to Mass or Prayer, but always had a quiet period in between.)

Father Aloysius Nguma from Tanzania, wearing his lanyard on the opening day of the Synod

You might remember, if you have been following this blog closely during the Synod, that on the first day each of us was given a yellow lanyard which we then had to leave in the aula. Before Mass we were asked to take a lanyard and write a word on it which expressed the Synod; these would then be used for a dinamica after Mass. I wasn’t sure what a dinamica was, but I wrote ‘speranza’ (‘hope’ in Italian) on one of the lanyards and then asked one of my multilingual brothers what the word meant; he said, ‘It’s kind of liturgical, but it’s not liturgical’ which gave me an idea and at the same time no idea, so I decided to wait and see. The Mass was, as usual, very prayerful with good music and a homily by the General (see my previous post for the text). After Mass, we were given our ‘dinamica’ instructions: we were to exchange lanyards with the person next to us, sharing the words written on them as we did so – then do the same with someone else. This exercise developed its own dynamism and in the end I had five or six changes of lanyard; the words I received included patience, bridge and charism, but the one I ended up with was in Spanish: Ilusion. At first I was disappointed because I thought the word simply meant ‘illusion’ (-I don’t speak Spanish), but after conferring with my multilingual brother, I discovered that it also means ‘hope’ which was my own word. How very ‘dinamica’.

The ‘dinamica’ in progress; photo by Fr Miguel Angel.

As for the meaning of the word ‘dinamica’, looking at the photograph, I think the nearest we have to it in English is ‘muddle’, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

In today’s summary you will find some of the evaluations of the Synod given verbally by Synod members. For myself, I think the funniest summing up of this kind of meeting is one I heard many years ago after a Provincial Chapter, given by my old mentor, Father Marius, beloved friend of many readers of this blog. He said, ‘Sometimes I think a Chapter (or in this case we might say a Synod) is like two elephants trying to have a baby. Everything happens at a very high level, with enormous difficulty, and it’s a long time before you see any result.’

A great expression when I studied in Rome was chiavi di letture which literally means ‘keys for reading’; in English we might say ‘key-words’. So, what were the key-words from the Synod? I would say there were five; the first four were Solidarity, Charism, Dialogue and Discernment. The fifth word, used so often in Latin countries as a spiritual value, has no single word in English which sums up the richness of its meaning for southern Europeans. In its Italian form, the word is Cammino, which means path, way , journey or the state of being on the road to somewhere (what the Second Vatican Council called ‘the Pilgrim Church’) so, taking a leaf out of the book of Father Massimiliano, the Podcasting Passionist, I thought I’d finish my Synod Sketches with a song. (I really would have preferred Ken Dodd singing ‘On the Road to Madalay’, but I could only find Robbie Williams on YouTube.)

Read Full Post »

Homily of Most Reverend Father Ottaviano D’Egidio for the Closing of the 14th Passionist General Synod, Rome, 31 October 2010.

My dearest Brothers of the Congregation,
Let us thank God for these days that we have spent together. Let us do this with the Eucharist where Jesus himself becomes thanksgiving to the Father by his death that is renewed and offered in another “Last Supper” in the cenacle of this chapel where He again is priest and victim and where we, together with Him, form the mystical body which is the Church.

Solidarity has its maximum expression on the Cross where Jesus dies for us and in the Cenacle where He takes bread, which is His body, and breaks it and shares it among the disciples. He takes the cup, which is His blood, and he gives it to the disciples so that they may all drink from it. Breaking and sharing the same bread and drinking from the same cup are the “sign” of sharing and solidarity and doing this we “remember.” We do this in this Eucharistic sacrifice where: “Because the loaf of bread is one, we, though many are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.” (1Cor.10:17) Personal choices, choices as a Synod and as a Congregation cannot contradict what we are celebrating. It was sharing and breaking the bread that it could be distributed, that enabled the disciples of Emmaus to recognize Jesus.

However, the days of this Synod, two years after the Synod of Cuernavaca, were not easy. We experienced foggy days, feeling lost, feeling afraid and feeling tempted to a “reverse Exodus”—wanting to turn back, like Israel, to slave labor and the precarious life in Egypt. God had a plan for his people; it was not a plan to help the powerful, but to free the oppressed.

Moses himself had his doubts and he resisted the call of God who reassured him: “I will be with you.” (Ex.3:12) It is a small phrase, but it has a strong meaning: what does man have to fear if God is with him? Man can fulfill the mission that was entrusted to him because he will not be alone in fulfilling it – God will be with him.

The presence of God strengthens, encourages and transforms. This is what today’s gospel reminds us with the account of the meeting of Zacchaeus with Jesus in the biblical city of Jericho—a vast oasis rich in water, date palms and fruit trees, and there are also sycamore trees that appear in today’s gospel episode. Jesus is travelling toward Jerusalem (we, too, as a Congregation during this historic period of Restructuring are travelling toward Jerusalem). In the crowd that gathers around Jesus, there are two individuals who are on a similar faith journey: an anonymous blind man who cries out: “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!” (Lk.18:38) He screams out, and he is annoying because in addition to yelling he is also begging; but Jesus, always accessible and welcoming, heals him: “Have sight; your faith has saved you.” (Lk.18:42) The other individual is Zacchaeus and both of them, the blind man and Zacchaeus, at the moment that Jesus is passing by, react, take the initiative, and finally are able to “see” Jesus and to find salvation in Him: salvation is offered to the poor man, but also to the rich and the sinner.

The biblical exegetes say that the episode of Zacchaeus is among the most meaningful in the gospel of Luke because it contains many of the elements that are cherished by the evangelist: the journey, wealth, the desire to see, the encounter, the contrasting of values, the immediacy of salvation, and the mission of Jesus who was sent to bring Good News to the poor.

They are many elements that describe Zacchaeus: he was rich, he was small in stature, he was a sinner – a Jewish man at the service of the Roman occupation troops- he extorted money from his fellow citizens; however, he wanted to “see” Jesus. The gospel says he “ran ahead” and he climbed a sycamore tree. And up there, he waits and he watches from a distance, not wanting to get too involved; but Jesus looks up and calls him by name: “”Zacchaeus, come down quickly..” and surprisingly Jesus invites himself to his home… “for today I must stay at your house.”

Salvation is offered today. We, too, are aware that it is often this “today” that is present in our search for answers for our mission and as yeast in today’s world. Using the current process of reviewing positions and the weaknesses and strengths of our communities, there is the common desire to discern appropriate responses to the “today” of God whose Reign is in our midst. “Today I must stay at your house”– Zacchaeus hurries down and welcomes Jesus with joy. If it is authentic, the meeting with Jesus accomplishes salvation: “Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor, and if I have extorted anything from anyone I shall repay it four times over.”

It is sharing; it is a change of view and relationship with others; it is the capacity to act with generosity. Jesus, observing the conversion that took place in Zacchaeus during the encounter (“Today I must stay at your house.”) says: “Today salvation has come to this house.” This “today” from the mouth of Jesus still resounds, confirming the divine intervention in that moment of grace and responsibility. It is a “today” that is always new, that becomes the future for the Church and for the Congregation and for our young and for us who are responsible to them for the task entrusted to us as elder brothers. This refers to the Restructuring and choices that we are making. However, faithfulness requires of us greater enthusiasm, courage and faith in God. Let us avoid impeding the future by each of us remaining ensconced in our houses and in our own situations: God has invited us to leave the encampment.

Zacchaeus does not make any other statements to Jesus: he is only happy to receive Him and he promises solidarity with the poor and the restitution of goods to those that he has defrauded, and Jesus says that salvation has entered that house. The same thing will happen in the first community of Jerusalem where powerful witness was given when the disciples placed their goods in common. (Acts 4:34 ff.) Similarly, Zacchaeus strove to share his wealth and to repay what he had unjustly extorted.

Justice that is restored reconstitutes him as a son of Abraham; solidarity affords him new membership among the people of Israel. Meeting with Jesus–Solidarity—Salvation: three words and three realities that are intimately connected in this episode. Each is a result of the others. They are also symbolic for us and for what we are trying to do as a Congregation during these years and during the days of this Synod: they should be directives and confirmations of what God wants from us “today”—a word that Jesus says repeatedly in this gospel.

And I am not surprised that this gospel is offered to us today for our study and reflection, as if God was closely following our journey. He knows our weakness and indecision; but he wants to affirm the plan He has for us in our spirit and in our heart. The gospel episode of Zacchaeus is his word for us as we close the Synod. It is his prophecy for us. He wants to tell us that meeting and living with Jesus (“I must stay at your house”) is fundamental and it is the premise for every act of salvation. It is an invitation to a profound spiritual life and intimacy in community with the Lord (“at your house”). We want to assert that an authentic encounter with Jesus converts and helps to restore justice and to recognize the rights of the poor.

It generates and strengthens the capacity to share goods and lives. And this initiates salvation; it is the Reign of God in us and in the Congregation. And the gospel, in its mystery, also reminds us about the mission that “the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.” It summarizes the meaning of the entire mission of Jesus and our mission through the Passionist vocation that we received. In fact, He is the shepherd who came to search for the lost sheep and He did so by going to the houses of “sinners” and by allowing himself to be crucified among “thieves”.

In the reading from the Letter to the Thessalonians, Paul begins with a prayer in which he asks that the Lord “bring to fulfillment every good purpose and every effort of faith” so that the Christians of Thessalonica could always be “worthy of his calling” and through them, “the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified.” It is an invitation also to us to carry out the work that has been entrusted to us.

In the first reading from the book of Wisdom, it states that God loves everything that he created. Love has a determining role to play in creation- “you love all things that are” because his “imperishable spirit is in all things”—and this is especially true for human beings. God has compassion on everyone; little by little he corrects; he forgives our sins and he loves life. God wants to convince us of his love for us – an infinite love that we have come to know on the Cross where Jesus, out of compassion for us, went to take our place: the innocent One who became the guilty victim for all the sins of the world. And as a Congregation, and as the Passionist Family, through our vocation we are witnesses of this through the charism of St. Paul of the Cross and the mandate of the Church. I thank each and every one of you especially for your presence and your participation: we are a gift to each other. Let us entrust the work of this Synod and the next two years in preparation for the General Chapter to the protection of Mary, “Salus Populi Romani” (The Health of the Roman People).

May St. Paul of the Cross bless us and protect you as you travel home. Amen.

Read Full Post »

The closing session began with a prayer reflection led by Fr Orven Gonzaga. The session was chaired by Fr Luigi Vaninetti, who began by saying that the session would consist of four parts: the reading by the Synod Secretary of the decisions taken by the Synod; a statement from the General Econome on the expenses of the Synod; a verbal evaluation of the Synod on the part of the Synod members; the Superior General’s concluding remarks.

Fr José Luis Quintero then read the text of the six proposals which had been agreed by the Synod. These are: the proposal on the Solidarity Fund from the Commission on Solidarity in Finance; the proposal to study the question of criteria for the viability of provinces and the situation of the vicariates in preparation for the 2012 General Chapter; the proposal on giving decision-making powers to the configurations; the proposal that the General Council consult our own religious and the members of the various Passionist lay movements and examine the situation of the various groups, with a view to including references to our Passionist lay movements in both the Constitutions and the General Regulations; the recommendation to provinces regarding the eligibility of Passionist Brothers to the role of First Consultor; the proposal that the configurations continue to operate until the 2012 General Chapter.

The General Econome, Fr Battista Ramponi, then gave the Synod members a detailed breakdown of the costs incurred during the Synod, including travel to Rome for Synod members, food and lodging, rental of equipment for the secretariat and translators, costs for facilitators and invited speakers. He compared these to the costs of the last General Synod in Cuernavaca and the last General Chapter in Rome. He explained how the costs, including travel, would be redistributed around the provinces, vice-provinces and vicariates according to their ability to pay, following the same percentages used for the annual contributions to the General Administration.

The statement from the General Econome was followed by a time of sharing for evaluating the Synod. The Synod members had already received a form for a written evaluation on the previous day, containing the following questions: What were the three most useful aspects of this Synod of for you? In what way has the experience of this event impacted on your current configuration in terms of solidarity for formation, personnel and finance? Which aspects of the Synod were less helpful? Do you have some suggestions to make regarding content and process for another Synod? What have you learnt personally during this Synod? Do you have any other comments? The written responses to these questions were to be returned today and would be collated by the Synod Secretariat but, as a shared evaluation before the Synod would close, the members were now invited to give their views.

Among the opinions expressed were the following: I want to recall what Fr Michael Mullins said about the role of the leadership group as a resource for moving the process forward and his underlining of the need for us to work in a systemic way. The Synod has been a time of critical distance which has strengthened us for going forward, filling us with hope and expectation as Passionist believers, convinced of the importance of the process. The strengthening of the Solidarity Fund is a very positive step and help our presence in Africa and other parts of the global south. The diversity of cultures and apostolic experiences in the configurations is a blessing, teaching us to live with differences in a changing world; the open mind, open heart and open will referred to by Sister Christine will help us in this. I am glad I was able to bring a translator with me; this helped with understanding what people said, but there is another task to be accomplished: that of understanding the situation and culture out of which people speak. It was good that we made some progress on solidarity but we did not look sufficiently at the question of a common mission at the service of the Kingdom of God.
Some of the remarks were directed at the way in which the Synod was conducted: The method lacked a clear way of proceeding. The timetable did not give the topic for each day, after the initial period of receiving input and reports, so it was impossible to prepare for the day’s session. During the final days we failed to centre on the important themes. Yesterday, Sister Christine gave us tasks for the next two years, but these should have been the main tasks of this Synod. Language was a problem, especially for interaction with people from other regions. The Synod seemed to come to an abrupt ending; the decisions we were asked to take did not flow from our discussions; the reports from the configurations did not influence the drawing up of the norm for the configurations, which ignored the paths already being followed by CPA and PASPAC. The Synod did a good job in agreeing on solidarity in finance, but I hope it does not take ten years to reach agreement on the other two areas of personnel and formation.

Various people were recognised for their contribution to the work of the Synod, including the facilitators, Fr Francisco Ó Conaire OFM and Fr Aquilino Bocos Merino C.M.F. Fathers Don Webber, Patrick Duffy and Robert Joerger who formed the panel for the session on sexual abuse were thanked by members of the Synod for the sensitivity and clarity with which they spoke. The various members of the ‘staff’ of the Synod were also thanked for their work.

Father Ottaviano D’Egidio, Superior General, then gave his concluding remarks. The evaluation has been useful and helpful. There were perhaps some moments of confusion in the Synod, with texts not being sufficiently prepared before being submitted to the assembly. During this Synod we evaluated the viability of the configurations. It was useful to hear the strengths and weaknesses not just of the configurations but also of some of the provinces and vicariates. The General referred to no. 37 of the second part of his report, where he had highlighted the two crucial points which the Synod needed to clarify: 1) the viability of the configurations, and 2) the legislative and executive capacity required by the councils of the configurations. Fr Ottaviano now referred to the four principles of nomads, which can be useful in a time of restructuring: 1) adapt to nature: 2) adapt to other people; 3) practice openness to others; 4) practice reciprocity of life, which means not helping someone so that they will help me, but helping another so that someone in the future will be helped. In one of his novels, Flaubert wrote, ‘Do you love this person enough to give up your happiness for their happiness?’ Jesus did this for us. The General then went on to thank all those who had worked to support the Synod and all the Synod members for their participation. He said that yesterday had been a disappointing day for him but that now he was more hopeful, and he encouraged the Synod members to go forward in the process of restructuring, without putting a brake on things. It was their task as superiors, he said, to let people know what had happened at the Synod; no one should try to obstruct the move forward, but all should consider themselves bound by what has been decided together. This was the time to go forward joyfully, under the guidance of Saint Paul of the Cross who is smiling down on us.

The session was followed by Mass presided over by Fr Ottaviano, during which he preached the final homily and formally closed the 14th General Synod of the Passionist Congregation.

Read Full Post »

A Synod Marches on its Stomach

At the Passionist General Synod, one of the compensations for sitting in the aula for hours on end is the food. In Italian monasteries the food is always good, but during the Synod the Servants of the Passion and of Our Lady of Sorrows, who have a convent in the grounds of Saints John and Paul, have spoiled us.


Tea (There’s coffee too, of course; we’re in Italy.)





and Fruit.

Now for the mid-morning break:


Fruit and Nuts

Mineral Water and Soft Drinks

or Fruit Juice.

What’s for Lunch?

Everything is ready…

but most people aren’t here yet.

Begin with pasta…

or rice,

followed by meat…

and potatoes,

with salad and cheese, some fruit and a glass of wine.

It’s a hard life at the Passionist General Synod.

(How anyone is able to go out for gelato after that, I do not know.)

Read Full Post »

Synod Sketch – Day Nine

The day began with Mass celebrated in Spanish. I have mentioned before that I find Spanish religious a little bit too enthusiastic first thing in the morning but once again I was lucky, as the celebrant was Father Franz Damen, the Belgian Provincial, who worked for many years in Bolivia. After breakfast, I headed for the aula. The six configurations had spent all of yesterday afternoon in configuration groups so this morning was devoted to their reporting back to the Synod. It was a very full session, at the end of which I found that I had written ten pages of notes. They said a lot, but it was very interesting. You can read about the reports in the daily summary (see previous post).

Provincials and Regional Vicar from Bavaria/Austria, Botswana/South Africa/Zambia, Sicily, and Mexico listening attentively

I can’t remember what was being said, but it looks like they didn’t like it.

This session turned out to be the last working session of the Synod, which meant that the members of the Synod got an unexpected free afternoon. It came as a surprise to me and, I think, to many others. I was waiting for the next stage on the road to restructuring when someone at the table (I think it was Fr Denis Travers, but it could have been Sister Christine Anderson) said that we had more or less completed the work of the Synod and then suddenly the two facilitators were thanking us and the General was thanking them. It was one of those occasions where you feel as if you must have dozed off, but know that you didn’t.

Sister Christine Anderson with Father Denis Travers who chaired the session.

Just before the ‘thank-you’s started, Father Ottaviano said that perhaps it would be useful to have an open forum session in the afternoon but by this stage i sinodali could already picture the gelato in Piazza Navona and I think there were in fact only two who voted in favour of such a session; both were Italian and hence immune to the lure of gelato.

Fathers Anthony and Michael thinking about ice cream.

Tomorrow morning we will have the official Closing Session, followed by the closing Mass.

Read Full Post »

Fr Franz Damen was the principal celebrant at this morning’s 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.

Read Full Post »

Synod Sketch – Day Eight

Today was a game of two halves, as the football fans among us might say. The morning was a kind of Synod housekeeping exercise, while the afternoon was devoted to the central question of the Synod. I say ‘housekeeping’ not to take away from the importance of the morning’s business, but simply because it consisted of a number of unrelated items which had to be tidied up at some point.

What do the World Youth Day, a Passionist website, how many Passionists it takes to make a province, a norm for configurations, the various Passionist lay movements and the eligibility of Passionist Brothers for the role of First Consultor have in common? The answer, of course, is that they were all discussed this morning. In the afternoon, the Synod members went into configuration groups to discuss what the remaining issues for the Synod are, and how the results of the Synod will be communicated to the members of their provinces, vice-provinces and vicariates. However, before the group discussion began, we all went outside for the official Synod photo, taken by Fr Miguel Angel.

I got the job of closing the front door when everyone was outside, so all I could photograph was this:

…but then somebody moved and I was able to photograph the photographer:

When it was over, the Synod members and translators went back to work;
this is Fr Paul Matsumoto, who is translating from Japanese to English,

this is Fr Joseph Barbieri, who is translating from Italian into English,

and, just in case you were wondering what a configuration looks like, this is PASPAC.

After supper, there was a special optional session with more information on the new website and the work of the Commission for Digital Communications. The speakers were the Synod’s two digital whizz kids, Fr Marco Pasquali and Fr Massimo Granieri. Unfortunately, I was involved in another discussion and missed the beginning of the meeting, but what I did hear was most interesting and helpful, including Fr Marco’s comment that in the world of computers, one year is a generation. – It reminded me of the first computer I bought for St Joseph’s, Paris, twenty years ago which was a top-of-the-range desktop with a stunning 120 megabyte hard-drive. The person who advised me on buying it said, ‘You don’t need a quarter of that, but you probably will in the future.’ You were right, Laurence.

Frs Marco and Massimo exploring the digital continent.

Read Full Post »

Mass today was celebrated in language groups.

The morning prayer reflection was on the theme of having the mind of Christ crucified; it was led by Fr Giovanni Cipriani. The session was chaired by Fr Luis Alberto Cano.

An update was given on the situation of Fr Mario Bartolini in Perú. The Synod members had seen a news report which was broadcast on television yesterday. Today they received fresh information from our religious and sisters there about the present state of the case.

On behalf of the interprovincial Passionist Youth Ministry Team in Spain, Fr José Maria Saez gave a presentation about the World Youth Day in Madrid in 2011. It is important for us as a Congregation to be present at the WYD, as the sign which defines this encounter is the Cross. There will be a meeting of young Passionist religious at Peñafiel from 12 to 14 August. Groups of young people who are part of the Passionist family will be welcomed at Alcalà de Henares during the WYD, from 15 to 21 August. The special Passionist day, referred to in the General’s letter on the WYD, will be on 18 August. Those interested in taking part should contact the Youth Ministry Team and also, in the case of the Meeting of Young Religious, the Secretary General at Saints John and Paul.

The work done by the Commission on Digital Communications was then explained by some of its members. The Commission (Frs Clemente Barron, Ramiro Ruiz, Marco Pasquali and Massimo Granieri) have been working on a new Congregational website which aims to be user friendly and act as a place not just of information but of communication. The site can be used for internal communication within the Congregation and with our associates, but will also have an external mission in the evangelisation of the digital continent. Congregation members will be able to log in to the internal sections of the site, and there is the possibility for our religious of having a blog which is hosted on the site. At a later stage, the site will also be available for video conferencing. This will be an innovative site, unlike any existing site of a religious congregation.

The Synod members then looked at four proposals, which followed from the General’s report, on the size of provinces, a norm for decision-making in the configurations, the notion of an addition to the Constitutions regarding Passionist laity, and the question of Brothers being eligible for the role of First Consultor.

At present, there is no fixed criterion for the number of religious required for an entity of the Congregation to be a province. Normally, three canonically constituted communities are required to establish a province, but there are several other questions which are taken into consideration, such as the group’s ability to undertake formation of candidates and its financial viability. The relationship of existing vicariates with their respective mother province and with their configuration is also relevant here. This proposal envisages a discussion during the next two years which can permit an examination of criteria for the erection or suppression of provinces; the number of religious would be part of that, but there would also be other criteria. The Synod members were asked to indicate their view on the aim of the proposal; all were in favour.

A one-page proposal on the functioning of the configurations was then presented. After discussion, which included clarifications on the role of the leader (‘president’) of a configuration and also the question of configuration statutes, it was suggested that Synod members should indicate their acceptance of the content of the proposal, rather than the text of the proposal. In this spirit, a show of hands was asked for: two were against the proposal, two abstained, and the rest were in favour.

The suggestion to include a text on the Passionist lay movements in our Constitutions and General Regulations was then discussed. It was pointed out that as well as laypeople, there are also diocesan priests who seek to live according to our spirit. Is this about a spiritual belonging to the Congregation or is it more than that? In addition to the Missionary Secular Institute of the Passion (which is of Pontifical Right), there are some lay associates who seek to live a form of consecrated life. There were some difficulties with the wording of the proposal: in the text, religious and laypeople seemed to be all mixed up together; the place of the laity was actually defined by negation, saying who they are not, rather than who they are; they were described as being ‘together’ with us only spiritually whereas, for many, this ‘being together’ has other dimensions, particularly the dimension of mission. There are also legal considerations in relation to those countries where the constitutions of a religious institute are recognised as binding in civil law. It was proposed that the General Council should study this issue, with a view to a statement on the laity for inclusion in our Constitutions being proposed to the next General Chapter. This suggestion was accepted unanimously.

The proposal on Passionist Brothers was for a recommendation to be approved by the Synod that provinces, vice-provinces and vicariates modify the norms of their own regulations to allow a Brother to be elected as First Consultor. This would be done by changing existing legislation so that, in the event of the Provincial leaving office, the First Consultor would not automatically become Provincial, but the new Provincial would be chosen in some other way determined by the entity’s legislation. Because, at present, a Brother cannot become Provincial, this modification would mean that our Brothers are no longer ineligible for the role of First Consultor. This has already been done in Korea; Br Laurence Finn, who is present at the Synod as a translator, was asked to share his experience of how such a norm had functioned when he was elected First Consultor in Korea some years ago. After this, the proposal was approved, with one against and three abstentions.

Having looked at the four proposals, the Synod members were invited by Sister Christine to reflect on the Synod so far and ask themselves what other issues need to be addressed. The afternoon was to be spent in configuration groups where this could be discussed. The groups were also to look at the question of the configuration’s communications with the grass roots: provinces, communities and the religious.

The Synod group photograph was taken at the beginning of the afternoon session, which was spent in its entirety in configuration groups. Evening Prayer was celebrated at the usual time in the Retreat House Chapel.

Read Full Post »

Synod Sketch – Day Seven

Today, as well as being present to listen to all the things you can read about in the previous post, the little drafting commission of which I am a member (consisting of Fr Adolfo Lippi, myself and – for assistance with the Spanish language – Fr Alejandro Ferrari Freyre) had its first bit of drafting to do. Fr Adolfo and I met with Fr Floriano de Fabiis, the Procurator General. The dictionary I consulted said that a procurator is ‘an official of ancient Rome who managed the financial affairs of a province or acted as governor of a lesser province’, but in fact Fr Floriano represents the Congregation in any dealings with the Holy See and is the official canon lawyer of the Passionist General Curia. As such, he is a member of the General Council and an ex-officio member of the Synod.

We were asked to take about half a page of text which might have to be voted on and clarify it. In fact, we reduced it to three lines, but I don’t think we’re going to get away with it; I suspect that someone somewhere is looking for something longer.

Fr Marco Pasquali, Secretary to the Superior General

As well as the members of the Synod (i Sinodali, as I called them yesterday), a meeting like this needs lots of other people to keep it moving. So, in addition to the Secretary General (Fr Ramiro Ruiz), the General’s Secretary (Fr Marco Pasquali) and the other secretaries who are usually here, there is also during these days a Synod Secretariat, led by Fr José Luis Quintero, a liturgy commission who see that we have everything we need for liturgical celebrations (altar breads, vestments, missals, music…), a logistics commission who look after laundry, keys, transport when needed, and so on. There are also translators, some of whom do simultaneous translation while others do the written texts. The translators deal principally with the three official languages of the Congregation which are English, Italian and Spanish. Occasionally people in the aula speak French or Portuguese. The Indonesian, Japanese and Korean members of the Synod brought their own translators.

Fr Patrick Rogers, who is doing simultaneous translation from Italian into English, with occasional forays into other languages

In case you have been lazy today and didn’t read the previous post, I want to highlight three points (to quote Fr Guy Sionneau, the French Provincial) from the third part of Fr Ottaviano’s report. The first is his suggestion that a text be included in the Passionist Constitutions regarding the place of those laypeople who share in our spirituality through the various movements like Passionist Companions or the Community of Passionist Partners; there is also an interesting discussion on this point in the responses to the General’s report. The second is a seminar on Blessed John Henry Newman and Blessed Dominic Barberi which will be held in the Lateran University, here in Rome, on Friday, 13 November; you can download the leaflet (in Italian) here. The third item concerns three new publications which are coming out in the next year (-unfortunately, none of them in English at this stage, but they probably will be translated later): the first is the third volume of the History of the Passionists, covering the period 1839 to 1862, which will include the foundation of the Congregation in England, Ireland and the United States; the second is ‘Passiology: A Historical-Theological Introduction’ by Fr Antonio Artola; the third is a Dictionary of the Passion, being edited by Frs Luis Diez Merino, Robin Ryan and Adolfo Lippi.

Finally, there was a very nice sentence in the section of the General’s report which dealt with JPIC. I think it’s worth looking at:
The heart of the Passionist Charism beats with two continuous pulses:
a) Contemplating the Passion of Jesus and living in fraternal and poor communities, located in solitude, and b) announcing the contemplated word of the Cross, giving preference to abandoned places and recognising Jesus in the suffering and in the poor.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »