A special moment for the congregation
“This is a dynamic moment for the congregation,” said Fr. Carlos Enrique Caamaño Martín, SCJ, superior general, in welcoming delegates to the XXIV General Chapter. “It is a time for intense communion while also recognizing our diversity. We must let the Holy Spirit touch our hearts, and to do this, we must have an open heart, and open mind…
“Walking together as Dehonians isn’t just a duty, it is our permanent call. It is something essential to us. Community life isn’t a means to an end, it is the fullest realization of our religious life.”
Fr. Carlos Enrique reflected on the theme developed by Bishop Virginio Bressanelli, SCJ, when he was superior general: “We the congregation.” In successive chapters and in successive administrations, that call for “Sint Unum” continues to grow.
Before the General Chapter officially opened, delegates had to approve the chapter membership. Seventy-seven delegates were presented; including members of the General Curia, provincial and regional superiors, and elected delegates.
The next item of business was the approval of the chapter staff. As is tradition, the two youngest delegates were chosen to serve as tellers: Fr. Ghislain Cardin Djietcheu Ngakam of Cameroon and Fr. Aloysius Yudistiro Adi Fitri Tyassanto of Indonesia. The moderators are Fr. Stefan Tertünte of (director of the Centro Studi Dehoniani) and Fr. Maurizio Rossi of the North Italian Province.
The recording secretaries of the chapter are Daniele Canali of the South Italian Province and Fr. Sergio Rotasperti of Germany. Members of the reviewing committee for the minutes are Fr. Alessandro Capoferri of Mozambique and Fr. Ricardo Jorge Ribeiro Freire de Oliveira of Portugal.
Also approved as support staff to the chapter: Fr. Antonio Purwono (vice secretary general), Br. Roberto Garcia Murciego (ESP) and Mr. Massimiliano Pocek for administrative assistance; Fr. Bruno Pilati (ITS), Fr. Juan José Arnaiz Ecker (ESP), Fr. Ricardo Jorge Ribeiro Freire de Oliveira (POR) and Fr. Antonio Purwono for prayer and liturgy; Fr. Stefano Zamboni (ITS), Fr. John van den Hengel (CAN) and Fr. Carlos Luis Suárez Codorniu (VEN) for the Synthesis Committee; and Fr. Francesco Mazzotta (ITM), Fr. Radoslaw Warenda (POL), Fr. Jose Zeferino Policarpo Ferreira (POR) and Ms. Mary Gorski for Communications. Also approved were the language translation staff and invited guests.
With all delegates, staff and guests approved, the chapter moved to the Opening Rite. It was a moment of prayer, but also a time in which delegates pledged their confidentiality and discretion in communication of the chapter proceedings.
Sr. Nicla Spezzati, ASC, Undersecretary of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, spoke to delegates about the nature of a chapter. She is familiar to many SCJs for her work last year at the Dehonians’ theological seminar in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. There, she gave a well-received analysis of the congregation.
In today’s presentation, she began by stating that a general chapter is an event of the Holy Spirit.
“You are like the disciples, gathered in a sign of love,” she said. “You are not just an association expressing preferences. You are here as a gift of yourselves to your brothers.”
The task of chapter delegates is to listen to the Spirit. The history of the congregation, found in its works, its people, its prior chapters, and in the founder himself, gives context to what the congregation can be today, and how it can respond to the world today.
“You must listen to your memory, to your origins,” she urged. “The charism is a spring that never stops flowing… We are not the sum of facts and works. A charism is a profound dynamism.”
Echoing words spoken by Fr. Carlos Enrique earlier in the day, she said that a general chapter is celebrated in synodal way. “It is a concrete commitment to walk together,” she continued. “A chapter is a common spiritual experience.”
Sr. Nicla reflected on the Dehonian Mission Statement’s call to an “Open Heart and Mind.” “This is your commitment to seek a new future together. The future doesn’t happen by chance.”
She encouraged delegates to have the courage to challenge themselves and the congregation. “When you feel the courage to challenge, to enter into dialogue with a diversity of brothers, you can find in the chapter a moment of grace.”
In that grace, one sees the future.
The day concluded with the Opening Mass. Fr. Carlos Enrique was the main celebrant.