“On the ever-new path of discipleship” was the theme of today’s meeting of the Major Superiors. Fr. Artur Sanecki, who presided at the Eucharist and led the work of this day, considered the question from today’s Gospel: “When will the kingdom of God come?” The Kingdom is already in our midst, so we should not worry about the future with predictions about when it will be… Our concern must be to welcome the Kingdom today, to leave Christ continually and to undertake a generous journey at the service of the people of our time, always leaving the road open for tomorrow’s work.
The meeting today was dedicated to the study of formation and youth ministry. Fr. Léopold introduced the subject of formation, taking up Number 14 from the last General Chapter: “With a formal vote, the Chapter reiterated what was said in the last General Chapter:” This stated that the congregation should favor the international dimension in initial formation, study the stable organization of student exchange, creating in each scholasticate places for young religious from other entities. The General Government needs to play a coordinating role in these exchanges, in dialogue with the interested entities
From sharing and discussion in the meeting room, the following aspects emerged:
– The sending of confreres for international formation must take into account the apostolic project of the entity and must in no way concern personal projects;
– It is necessary to clarify the type of project, length of stay, training, holidays, pastoral service, etc.;
– There must be a reference person (who can be the superior of the entity) who accompanies, visits and dialogues with the confreres in formation abroad;
– It is recommended that there be a written agreement between the entities involved;
– In votes, take into consideration the evaluation made by the formative team of the entity in which the religious does his formation;
– Consider the profile of the confrere to be sent, bearing in mind that not everyone is suitable for an experience of international formation.
– Pay attention to the culture and inculturation of people;
– Consider carefully the implications and the economic costs;
– Allow sufficient time for language learning before starting studies.
– Follow the procedures necessary to obtain a visa and residence permit in a foreign country.
But the fundamental question posed by the General Chapter about the role of the General Government in the coordination of these projects of international formation did not find a clear answer. In fact, the question of the circulation of persons between entities is more directly an issue that concerns the superiors and, possibly, the geocultural areas. However, it was concluded that the General Government must be informed about these projects of international formation, must encourage them and accompany them as one of the aspects of its mission to animate the life of the Congregation, in line with Sint Unum. Coordination can be carried out by superiors, by one of the formatorss appointed for this mission or by a coordinator of the geocultural area chosen by the superiors.
The afternoon was dedicated to a reflection on youth ministry starting from the input launched by Fr. Levi, coordinator of this pastoral sector.
At the congregational level there are challenges in working with young people: secularity and lack of identity of young people, lack of involvement of all the confreres, confreres who are overloaded with activities and yet still responsible for this work, and the question of sexual abuse, which in some regions of the world has launched a climate of mutual distrust. Despite this, the Congregation has many international initiatives of great pastoral utility for young people: the Dehonian Youth Mission (Latin America), the Meeting of the Delegates of Youth and Vocation Ministry (Europe), campus ministry, missionary volunteer projects (My Mission, for example).
Some proposals were also raised, already in use in some regions of the Congregation, which may have a more universal character: prayer for vocations, use of the internet and other communication technologies, the need for people dedicated full-time to youth ministry, better international coordination, greater commitment to university ministry and support for families.
The next World Youth Day, in Lisbon in 2022, can be an important moment to bring together at the Congregational level young Dehonians and the religious who work with them. The Portuguese Province is ready to promote and host this event.
At the end of the day there was the presentation of two new missions of the Congregation: Colombia and the creation of a new community in the Netherlands. The Colombia project is in an advanced stage of preparation and soon the confreres destined for this mission will gather in Quito (Ecuador) to meet each other, strengthen fraternal relations and study the language. The mission to Bogotà is expected to begin in mid-2020. In the meantime, another group of confreres is expected to establish a community in the Colombian capital.
As for the Dutch project, it could also start in the near term and has the support of the confreres of the Confederation of the Netherlands and Flanders.