Under the theme "Soyons-unis" (Let’s be united), the SCJs of Madagascar held their 5th Regional Chapter from September 20 to 23, 2023 at Andranobe, the novitiate house.
“Let’s be united” was the theme of the 5th Regional Chapter of the Priests of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Madagascar Region. It took place from September 20 to 23, 2023 at the Maison Père Dehon Novitiate in Andranobe. All perpetually vowed confreres of the Region were present, except those abroad. In his opening address, Fr. Leonard, Regional Superior, touched on a number of themes: in particular the growth of the region, the activities carried out, the strengths and difficulties, the challenges facing the region, as well as future prospects in the various areas, namely formation, spirituality, pastoral care and education.
After this opening speech, the regional treasurer, Fr. Andry, presented the region’s economic situation, banks, financial movements and assets. During the chapter, we were able to discuss various themes such as direct pastoral care in the districts or parishes, the formation of young future religious, religious and priests, and socio-educational pastoral care in the field of education. Following the presentation of each theme, the capitulants were divided into four groups. After discussing the same theme, each group presented its report to the plenary assembly.
Pastoral work in the region
With regard to direct pastoral care in the districts or parishes, it was noted that the region has various assets in this field, notably the availability, hospitality, openness and fidelity of confreres to the call of Christ and to the Community. Through our apostolic zeal and our lifestyle, we want to live, bear witness to and pass on to the faithful the spirituality of the Sacred Heart and our Dehonian charism. However, we deplore the fact that some confreres are not well trained for pastoral work. What’s more, tours of the outskirts and pastoral visits are still very rare, due to a lack of time, resources, and personnel. To improve pastoral activity, we need to train our confreres and organize opportunities to share pastoral experiences.
Vocation ministry and training
When it comes to vocation ministry and the training of religious and priests, the region’s assets include its good existing infrastructure, in particular the three houses of formation, and the living witness given by our confreres. Studies abroad are also seen as one of the region’s strengths in the field of formation. Despite this, the region is experiencing certain difficulties, such as the lack of support for young people due to our limited workforce. Another difficulty is finance. Vocation ministry suffers from a lack of operating funds, while the training budget remains insufficient. What’s more, we don’t have enough trained confreres to act as formators. The lack of religious rigor, initiative, creativity, prayer and a sense of belonging has been noted not only among our young scholastic confreres, but also among some religious and priests. We have also noticed that the intellectual level of our scholastic confreres is regressing more and more. For this reason, we have begun to send confreres to train the formators. In order to ensure the quality of our training, a considerable intellectual level is now required as one of the main admission criteria for our young candidates. Last but not least, it is essential to send confreres to specialization studies, in order to qualify our activities in a variety of fields.
Social work and education
In the field of education, we note that all our confreres are very sensitive to and interested in the issue of education. Educational pastoral care occupies a very important place in our mission. Building schools and universities, not only for education but also for evangelization, is one of our priorities. Because of the good results and the quality of education in our educational structures, parents always put their trust in us. However, reality shows us that we are not yet sufficiently prepared to manage schools and especially universities, due to a lack of skills and diplomas. So, we have proposed preparing confreres to take on this responsibility. It is also necessary to strengthen listening and collaboration with the laity, but with serious discernment.
Elections and voting
The 4th day of the Chapter focused on the election of the two delegates to the General Chapter and their alternates, as well as voting on a number of motions, notably: the construction of the ASJA University in Moramanga (14/31), the extension of the pre-postulancy to 2 years (31/31), collaboration with the Servant Sisters of the Heart of Jesus in Analalava Moramanga (23/31), the construction of a family cemetery (31/31) and the investment of the Ravinala Buildings in Andranomafana (30/31). After the chapter secretary’s review of all the minutes, Fr. Régional gave his closing address, thanking the confreres for their presence and especially for their active participation during the Chapter. With this, the 5th Regional Chapter of SCJs in Madagascar came to a close, with the celebration of the Eucharist presided by the Regional Superior.