From Sunday, 17.10.2021 to Thursday, 21.10.2021, the Provincial Assembly took place in Neustadt. Nearly 30 participants exchanged views on current issues, the situation of SCJs in Europe and the world. "It was a week full of themes," summed up Provincial Fr. Heinz Lau, enumerating: The Report of the Provincial, the Provincial Treasurer, the Procurator of Mission and the General Administration in Rome; the vision of the confreres under 65; the future of the houses; the meeting of the European Superiors in Krakow; sexual abuse and more."
At the beginning there was a report from the superiors of the six houses in Germany. Who belongs to the community, what are their fields of work, what challenges do the brethren encounter in their place?
Much space was given to a vision for the group of Dehonians under 65. It read, “In deep communion with Jesus Christ, as priests of the Sacred Heart (Dehonians) we witness to the good news of life in abundance, especially to people on the margins, in a simple, hospitable and open lifestyle.”
In small groups, the Fathers discussed what key concepts are important to them in this sentence and how they already put them into practice or would like to act on them in the future. They agreed to share this vision. Father Ernst-Otto Sloot SCJ as the “representative” of the U-65 group announced that they will now continue to work with it, “We will develop a mission for our religious province based on this. This ideal we formulated in the vision, now we have to translate it and find a practical realization of it. What is our main concern? What is our Dehonian charism and is it verifiable in reality? What makes us recognizable to people? These are the questions we will be examining over the next two years.”
“Where are we going?”
Dehonians did not close their eyes to the difficult topic of “Sexual Abuse: Prevention, Intervention and Assistance.” Father Michael Baumbach MSF was the speaker. He gave a very clear and factual lecture on the causes, consequences and treatment of abuse cases by religious.
“It was good that a religious was brought in for this topic,” Fr. Sloot said afterward. “He is an expert on the subject and speaks from his own experience. his talk was not about…, but with us. Abuse affects all of us, all of our working, doing and thinking.”
Of course an important topic was The Future of the German Province and the six communities. Father Lau summarized it this way: “Our purpose was to reflect together and exchange ideas: Where do we go in the next few years? We have not made any decisions, but we are at a critical point: we are very few in terms of personnel, but we still have our houses well located.” Father Jacinto Weizenmann SCJ, a Brazilian working in the Berlin parish, adds, “We are all very aware that we are few. We honestly presented this situation and asked ourselves, how do we deal with it?”
Some ideas were developed on how things could continue in the province. Now the provincial leadership needs to address this. Father Lau says, “What I perceived motivates me to think further. And there is much to think about.”
The internationality of SCJs
SCJs are present all over the world. And even in the German province there are some brethren who come from other countries. The internationality of the Order was therefore also an important theme. A theme reinforced by the fact that it was the subject of discussion at the meeting of European superiors that took place recently in Krakow. There, too, the central theme was that the priests of the Sacred Heart are becoming fewer in number: They are aging, and there is very little new blood. (You can read the reports on the meeting of superiors in Krakow on the international website www.dehoniani.org).
Nevertheless, a new community was founded in Nijmegen in the Netherlands. Fathers Jésus Baena Valbuena from Spain, Michal Tabak from Poland and Petrus Subowo from Indonesia arrived in Neustadt. Together with their Dutch confrere Father Wim Halters SCJ, they participated in the Provincial Assembly. They do not (yet) have a clearly defined task. First of all, they want to form a good community together and learn the Dutch language. Then the three Fathers want to see where their charism is needed.
Another guest was Fr. Alban Pascal Noudjom Tchana, Provincial Superior of Cameroon. He took advantage of his visit to Germany, among other things, to visit students from Cameroon studying in Freiburg. He reported on the difficult political conditions in his home country and, when asked, told of a project with which the province is making an important contribution in the country, both economically and socially: the social activity of the bakery.