TO ALL CLARETIAN MISSIONARIES
Rome, April 18th 2011
I begin this letter by expressing the hope that the Easter celebration of the Lord transforms our lives and helps us to be bold and credible witnesses of the New Life that is manifested by the Resurrection. I am sure you will have spent these days in intense communion with the Christian community, and with it you will have renewed your unconditional commitment to God’s plan. Let the mystery of Easter impact on every moment of our lives. Several events, for various reasons, have been the central focus of our attention and of public opinion in recent months. The Claretians participating in the inter-congregational missionary project in South Sudan have, along with the people, lived through a referendum on the independence of that nation. The overwhelming consensus in favour of independence marks a new chapter in the history of the people of southern Sudan, which we are endeavouring to support during this very decisive period in the country’s history. Along with them, we welcome this foray into democracy and we renew our commitment to serve this inter- congregational project. The earthquake and subsequent tsunami that hit the eastern island of Honshu, Japan, has made us aware again of the fragility we are experiencing when faced with these natural disasters. Our brothers in Japan have not suffered directly, but they have joined in with the many expressions of solidarity that we have all seen for ourselves. Contamination caused by the explosions at the Fukushima nuclear power plant comes on top of the suffering caused by the earthquake and tsunami. To all of them, we send our expressions of solidarity and offer our prayers on their behalf. The situation on the Ivory Coast has been deeply concerning. We truly appreciate the strong expression of the solidarity of our brothers at the Soubre mission, who took in nearly a thousand people who sought protection in the midst of a confusing and increasingly violent situation. Of the other two communities (Vridi and Bouafflé) we haven’t receive any detailed news, but we know they have experienced times of great anxiety along with their people. We ask the risen Lord to fill our brothers with the gift of peace so they can be themselves builders of peace and reconciliation through their missionary service. The list can go on. Thank God that we also frequently witness acts of solidarity and commitment to peace and justice, to help us continue to walk alongside those who thirst for these gifts. During the month of March the General Government has sat through intensive meetings, something which is all too familiar at this time of year. Let me run through some of the outstanding issues we have discussed.
Government The process of reorganisation of the congregation continues. The new Province of Peru-Bolivia has already had its first Provincial Chapter. There was a strong sense of togetherness concerning the missionary charism that unites us, and concerning the project through which we want to live out that charism in that area of Latin America. The definition of the new missionary project, as we have ascertained in other similar cases, has provided a good opportunity for missionary renewal. The outcomes of the Chapter have been given the stamp of approval by the fact that members of the nine provinces have demonstrated their missionary availability during the triennial placements made immediately after the Chapter. The challenge of vocations, and the support of new vocations, have been confirmed as a priority for the province. The apostolic planning of the Province is consolidated and enriched through their experience with different communities and apostolic works. The two Provinces of the United States have been reorganised into one. This was the fruit born of the direction taken in recent years. They are currently preparing for the Provincial Chapter to be held next August. The definition of the missionary project is the most urgent challenge at this moment of time. They have already established a date, in July this year, for the amalgamation of the new provinces of Colombia-Venezuela with southern Latin America (Chile, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay). It was a shame that in Colombia they haven’t been able to carry out a more comprehensive project due to the refusal of the Eastern Province of Colombia and Ecuador to participate. The renewal process requires critical clear- sightedness, which is only possible when we are able to generate an appropriate Congregational perspective, and we are able to look at the horizon of the mission with creativity and boldness. Now we have to face the challenge of congregational reorganisation in Europe and Africa. In Europe there is a positive effort to maintain the missionary vitality despite the reduction in numbers and the increase in the average age of Claretians. In Africa, we are endeavouring to consolidate the growth, which we are delighted about, and which should enrich the charismatic heritage of the Congregation. This cannot be done without a sincere attitude of open-mindedness, and without a generous commitment on the part of each Claretian and the current Provinces and Delegations. We have carried out some visits and have already scheduled several meetings for this purpose. Of continued concern is the issue of vocational steadfastness. There are constant requests for exemption from the priestly duties, from vows, for secularization and exclaustration. We are saddened to note that, in most cases, these requests arise from a withdrawal from the dynamics of spiritual growth specified by the Constitutions, and a dereliction of duties within community life and the work of the missionary team. This should challenge us all and lead us to a thorough review of the values that guide our personal and community life.
Spirituality With the start of Advent, the whole Congregation began the journey of “The Forge in our daily life.” At this moment of time, we can highlight a positive response to it, and it makes us very happy. It offers all of us a great opportunity for spiritual renewal. It will also help us to deepen our experience of community life. I encourage you to take this project with great seriousness. An important aspect of it is spiritual accompaniment. Its meaning and relevance is well explained in the introductory brochure for the project. Let’s all make an effort, both to seek someone to accompany us on our own “Forge” journey, as well as making ourselves available at the request of one of our brothers who asks us for our help in accompaniment.
In Vic the CESC team (Claretian Spirituality Centre) is growing stronger. Now that the celebrations of the Bicentenary have finished, the number of visits to Claretian places has gone down considerably. It would be a good idea to include some activity of this type in our programmes whenever possible. Study tours and pilgrimages are scheduled to open up the possibility of visits to these places of deep Claretian tradition. Let’s take advantage of them. The General Prefecture of Spirituality has scheduled a symposium on the Eucharistic dimension of Claretian spirituality. It will be held in Segovia in September this year, coinciding with the celebration of the Eucharistic blessing that Fr Founder received 150 years ago. The symposium will gather together the experiences that some Claretians wanted to share on this aspect of our spiritual heritage.
I would like to remind you of a date that may go unnoticed but has great importance in the history of our congregation. This year marks the 150th anniversary of the first novitiate in the Congregation, established in Vic in 1861, in response to the increase in the number of candidates to the Congregation, which occurred after the election as Fr Josep Xifré as Director General. It is therefore an important step in the consolidation of the process of formation for applicants to the missionary life. When we look back, we feel called to give thanks to God for his blessings on the congregation and commit ourselves wholeheartedly to work harder on vocations and on the formation of candidates for the missionary life. It would be nice for this anniversary to be celebrated in a special way in all novitiates. During the months April-June, the course for formators takes place in Vic. This time it will be in Spanish. As on other occasions, it is a three month course which endeavours to train our formators in those aspects which are specific to the Claretian charism. The General Prefect of Formation, with the help of Fr Jesus M. Palacios and in collaboration with other Claretians, will guide a group of 20 formators from different sections of the Congregation. It is planned to hold another course in English during this sexennium. The General Prefect of Formation has focused his activities on the training of formators in recent months through workshops. It began with formators in India. The plan now is to organise such workshops in different parts of the Congregation.
The new Prefect of Apostolate is familiarising himself with the reality of the missionary outreach of the Congregation. Meetings are being organised with the prefects of Apostolate through interprovincial conferences, in order to arrive at some agreement on how to implement the guidelines of the General Chapter and the projects proposed in the area of the apostolate of the Action Plan of General Government, which were agreed upon with the Major Superiors in the Colmenar Viejo meeting of September last year. As announced via the Congregation’s website, on March 25