TO ALL CLARETIAN MISSIONARIES
Rome, 6 October 2012
I am writing you this letter a few days before the start of the “Year of Faith”, precisely on the day in which we will commemorate the fiftieth anniversary since the beginning of Vatican Council II, and on the vigil of the beginning of the XIII Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops which has “The New Evangelization” as its theme. These are two ecclesial events that touch us closely as missionaries and which invite us to deepen the route of spiritual renewal which we are carrying out through “The Forge in Our Daily Life” project and looking for new ways to announce the Good News of the Kingdom.
The Pope, in the letter announcing the “Year of Faith”, invites us to cross through the “door of faith” and to renew our heartfelt devotion to Jesus, in a way which we can feel the deep joy of living as His disciples and the urgency of sharing the gift for which we are grateful. This year ought to be for each one of us and for our communities a beautiful opportunity to grow in faith. To allow the faith to model our life in all its dimensions will make us messengers of hope in a world that needs it, as always, or perhaps more than ever, bearers of hope and promoters of fraternity and communion.
The economic crisis that is facing much of our world is forcing us to confront fundamental questions about the values on which we have built our lives and the relationships between individuals and peoples. At the same time, it is also forcing us to question a lifestyle that threatens the future of our planet and creates outrageously unfair differences among its inhabitants. Not only do we peer at this problem through social media, but we live in very close daily contact with so many people and families who are being forced to give up many things in order to meet their basic needs. We also know others who have given up everything they could renounce and begin to find themselves reduced to very difficult and painful situations. How is this affecting us? Have we tried to listen, as men of faith, to what the Lord is asking us through the feelings and the questions that are raised in these situations? Faith is expressed through attitudes and behaviors, and this is a very appropriate time to discover the strength of our own faith. To confess faith is certainly more than just reciting the creed, because it touches all aspects of our personal, community and congregational life. We ask the Lord to help us this year purify our profession of faith.
Due to my participation in the Synod, this time we have advanced the meetings of the General Government for two weeks. We concluded them on Wednesday, October 3rd. I turn, then, to inform you, as it is now customary, of the most important points that have occupied our attention these days. I will do so according to the various areas of our Congregational life.
On July 6th the Independent Delegations of the Congo and Cameroon were formally constituted; in addition, the Mission of Gabon which will depend directly on the General Government. This was the final point of a process of reorganization in the zone of West Africa which been developing for some years. The need was seen to create an organization which would facilitate a closer accompaniment with these groups of young Claretians and consolidate their missionary project. It was prepared with a General canonical visit and with Assemblies in each one of the places. I wish to thank the Claretians of these Organisms for their deep sense of the Congregation. The collaboration of the Province of East Nigeria was important for the formation of the Delegation of Cameroon. The reorganization of the East Africa Missions is now pending, specifically Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda, which have been sharing their formative program for years.
The new provinces created in the American continent are slowly consolidating. They are fraught with difficulties, but we are confident that they can be overcome with the collaboration of all. There is a need to encourge everything which will create communion and to know how to situate it within the broader missionary horizon. The availability of each one of the members of these new Provinces is the fundamental condition for the construction of a new provincial identity, reflecting the richness of the heritage of each group and knowing how to create a strong dynamism of missionary life.
We are now dealing with the Congregational reorganization in Europe. The diversity of languages and traditions can hinder the process, but we believe that it’s a matter of urgency, if we want to remain “missionaries” in Europe. The new situation in the continent seeks new pastoral responses that will be almost impossible to offer in the situation of organizational fragmentation in which we find ourselves. A brochure was sent to all provincial secretariats at the end of the month of May to help understand the Claretian reality in Europe and inviting everyone to participate in a process of discernment that we hope to be able to conclude in two or three years. I hope that you’ve already commented on this in your communities. If we wait much longer, we will unfortunately arrive late. It is a challenge for the Congregation in Europe to make this process an opportunity of deep renewal. It will require a great sense of Congregation and an attitude of true missionary availability. At the end of October and the beginning of November we will have a second meeting in Fatima of some members of the General Government with representatives of the Governments of all the Major Organisms of Europe. We see the need to identify some priorities that will guide the way of the reorganization.
Two new foundations have been started in Asia and Africa. The Province of Chennai, as reported at the time, started a missionary presence in Malaysia, in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Kuching. Two young missionaries of that Province are currently learning the language and familiarizing themselves with the culture of the people to whom they have been sent. Likewise, the Delegation of West Nigeria has sent two missionaries to Johannesburg; and they, too, are in the phase of adaptation and learning the language. To all we express our communion and promise our prayers.
I hope that, upon reading this letter, you have now received the new edition of the Directory of the Congregation. For technical reasons there was a delay at the publisher, but we hope that it has now arrived to all of the Organisms. We need to thank the Secretary General and the translators for the intense work which they have put into this publication.
Also, I hope that you have received the circular letter dated the 13th of August which I have titled: “Missionaries”. I would hope that it will help us in the discernment about how to express today the missionary charism which we have received. In the English translation the title of paragraph 1.3 of the third part needs to be changed to “Mission in solidarity”, because as it appears now it can easily be confused with paragraph 1.1 of the same third part. I thank the translators for their work.
We have prepared the upcoming visits and activities. Among them is the Assembly of the new Claretian Confederation of the Americas (CCA) that was born as the result of the merger of the NACLA and CICLA. We hope that it can be an effective tool for the animation of missionary life in the American continent and will continue to offer a significant contribution to the entire Congregation. We will have the Assembly at the end of the month of November in Costa Rica.
I commented that the movie on the Claretian Martyrs of Barbastro is now being filmed. We hope that this will be a good instrument of evangelization. Within a few months it will probably be ready. Once you have seen it you may consider having it dubbed into languages other than Spanish.
The itinerary “The Forge in our Daily Life” continues. I ask that you follow the four fundamental aspects to significantly live this process: the daily encounter of the Word of God by means of the “lectio”, the implementation of the guidelines and instructions given in the booklets, personal accompaniment, and the community gathering. On the other hand, the experience of the residential “Forge” has been re- implemented, both in the Spanish and English languages. We will try to continue it, but we will need to have sessions with greater attendance.
In the month of September the Claretian renewal program “Encounter with Claret” was carried out, this time in the English language. Next year we will offer it in French for the first time. Those who are thinking about sending people from their provinces or delegations need to do so at the time of preparing their budgets for the year 2013.
The most important event in the area of formation was the Encounter of the Provincial Prefects which was held in Dar-es-Salaam from the 10th to the 20th of August. In addition to sharing the experiences and the formative programs in the distinct parts of the Congregation, the participants reflected on what it means, between the formator and the formandi, to have a formation that is truly a transformative. The testimony of life of the communities, and of each person of the Province or Delegation, also constitutes a fundamental element in this sense.
The Prefect informed us about other visits of animation to various centers of formation and on workshops that were held for the formators in the various geographical zones of the Congregation. I invite you to take advantage of the valuable materials which are available to everyone on the web page of the Prefecture.
In the area of the Apostolate, the most significant has been the completion of the workshop on “The Theology of the Mission”. It took place in Colmenar Viejo (Spain) and Claretians from all geographical areas of the Congregation participated. From the Prefecture complete information about the workshop has been given. We are awaiting the publication of the papers and the conclusions that are going to help energize our mission and accentuate it in our own charismatic identity. The process which started with the workshop will continue in the missionary encounters programmed in each of the zones of the Congregation for the next year. In the year 2014 a synthesis of the whole process will be sought at the Encounter of the Prefects of the Apostolate from throughout Congregation.
The priority themes of the sexenium continue to be worked upon. We always seem to be insisting on promoting Vocation Ministry. The commitment of each and everyone is essential. Enthusiasm for one’s vocation remains, however, the most important element for vocation animation.
The General Prefect of the Apostolate has placed at our disposal interesting materials on its web page. I invite everyone to take advantage of them in your missionary activities.
We are making a great effort to overcome a difficult moment which is crossing through the economy of the Congregation. Some Provinces have given extraordinary support which has allowed us to breathe a little bit better for the moment. I am extremely grateful. I reiterate what I told you this last year that you must have ready the detail of the budgets for next year: those who have asked for a subsidy from the General Government need to consider well the difficult situation which we are experiencing, those who are able to offer some collaboration look to see about being generous, and everyone needs to be austere and responsible in the management of the economy of our communities and Organisms. We will give, as always, priority to the needs of the formative centers.
The construction of the new theologate in Yaoundé has finished and help for the expansion of other centers of formation has been offered. Some Provinces and Delegations have presented various projects with a view to achieve a higher level of self-financing. It would be good to examine them well and coordinate them within the scope of the entire Congregation. We ask that you understand that we cannot respond positively to everything. We do what we can.
We are able to now confirm that the beatification of our martyrs of Sigüenza-Fernán Caballero and Tarragona will take place next year in Spain. The date has not yet been set, but it seems it will happen at the end of October or the beginning of November. We will offer more information about this when the Spanish Episcopal Conference makes the final decision.
Although it is way ahead on the calendar it would be good that the Major Superiors plan to be in Vic from the 10 – 20th of January 2014. This will be an Encounter to prepare the way for the XXV General Chapter which will be held in August-September 2015.
I also wish to inform you that from the 1st to the 8th of April 2014 a meeting on “The Vocation and Mission of the Missionary Brother” will be held be in Vic. A committee has already begun to prepare for the meeting and the process that must lead up to it. Later we will send more detailed information on the development of the encounter and its participants. I think it is an issue of vital importance to our Congregation and desire that we all feel called to participate in the preparation of the meeting.
We all join together in the celebrating the Claretian Delegation of Congo to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of this mission by the German Province. We thank God for the missionary life of our brothers who, with great zeal and generosity, announced the Gospel in missions that were entrusted to us and pray for those who continue this work today.
October is a missionary month. Let us live it intensely from this perspective.
Josep M. Abella, CMF