The day began with the Opening Liturgy, celebrated at three ‘stations’. In the Atrium of the Crucifix, after prayer and sacred reading, lanyards were conferred on the Synod members who then went in procession to the statue of Saint Paul of the Cross. At this second ‘station’, the co-ordinator of each configuration received a piece of the Synod logo as a ‘Symbolum Fraternitatis’. After singing ‘Salve, Sancte Pater’, the assembly moved to the aula for the third ‘station’ where the logo-symbol was put together and Synod members attached their lanyards to the completed logo. Then, in the presence of the icon of Mary, ‘Salus Populi Romani’, the Synod members invited the Holy Spirit to be present in their midst.
The Formal Opening of the Synod began at 11.00 a.m. in the Aula with a short introduction by the Superior General, Fr Ottaviano D’Egidio. Fr Denis Travers, General Consultor, then introduced the facilitators, Sister Christine Anderson F.C.J. and Fr Michael Mullins S.M.
Fr Ottaviano then gave the first part of his report, explaining that the second and third parts will be given on subsequent days. This first part was inspirational in character and reflected on the role of our Charism in the process of restructuring. The full text is available on the website.
After the Superior General’s report, Fr Denis led the Synod members through the procedure of approving the appointment of the Secretary of the Synod, Fr José Luis Quintero. The Synod then approved the general theme (Solidarity for a New Life and Mission), the proposed Synod Calendar and the Norms for the Synod. After some discussion on the composition of the Co-ordinating Committee, the Synod approved the following as the members of the committee: the Superior General, the four General Consultors, the Secretary of the Synod, the six Co-ordinators of the Configurations and the two Facilitators of the Synod.
Fr Michael Mullins then reflected on what it means to ‘take up Membership of the Synod’. The work of the Synod is to take up and examine the implementation of the General Chapter and to plan the way ahead. The Synod members now embark on a dialogue whose aim is to surface ideas which we don’t already have and, in this way, to discover the flow of meaning for us all. This implies neither discussion nor debate, but dialogue. He asked the members to reflect on these questions: ‘What were you hearing in the General’s report? What stayed with you? What do you hope for from this General Synod?’
Among hopes expressed were the following: a desire for something clear and concrete, leading to a real and specific sharing of resources; a recognition of different cultures and traditions; the willingness to take risks and experience a change of mentality: an equal partnership between new and old parts of the Congregation; a solidarity based on our Passionist spirituality and charism.
In the afternoon Fr Denis presented the General Council’s report on restructuring. This was a report on what is happening and why, based on the reports received from the six configurations. He highlighted the challenges of globalisation and the demographic changes we face in the church and world, and also in our Congregation where vocations and students are mostly from the new entities. There is a need for new relationships to enable a new missionary presence in the world. Our new outreach in China, Vietnam and also Nigeria is being carried out by religious from different provinces and vicariates. We need new dialogue and sharing between the older and newer parts of the Congregation.
The report spoke of the different phases of the restructuring process: 2004-2006 Consultation; 2006-2008 Planning Together; 2008-2010 New Structures of Solidarity; 2010-2012 Our Future. Among the tasks for the Synod are the following:
– How do we ensure that solidarity can be lived effectively and practically?
– What authority do we need at the level of the configurations in order to make our decisions binding and effective?
– How do we respect issues like cultural diversity, ethnic and national identity in a more collaborative future?
– How do we balance diminishment and aging in the older provinces with the need to expand and recruit in the newer parts?
– What is the best viable size for a province?
Three possible models for the future have emerged from the reports from the configurations:
– The Provinces, Vice Provinces and Vicariates within a configuration merge or combine into a new unified entity under one Leader and one Council. The Council members come from entities within the configuration.
– Some of the The Provinces, Vice Provinces or Vicariates within a configuration merge into a new Province and some remain independent entities. The Leaders form a Board which has decision-making power for all matters of solidarity at the level of the configuration. All decisions affecting solidarity for the entire configuration are binding on all.
– The Provinces, Vice Provinces and Vicariates within a configuration remain independent entities. The Leaders form a Board which has decision-making power for matters of solidarity at the level of the configuration. All decisions affecting solidarity for the entire configuration are binding on all.
The Synod members went into groups to discuss what they have found life-giving in the process of restructuring our mission. Life-giving areas included collaboration, solidarity in formation and finance, finding a common direction, awareness of the need for change. Some reports from groups highlighted the importance of involving all the religious, at grass roots level, in the restructuring process and not just those in leadership.
After a plenary session in the aula, Fr Mullins concluded by inviting us not to rush towards solutions but to stay with the anxiety and uncertainty, seeking God in the reality of our lives. Mass was then celebrated in language groups.
(Also available on the Passionist General Synod Blog.)