From 25 January to 3 February 2018, Fr. Heiner Wilmer, SCJ, Superior General, accompanied by Fr. Paulus Sugino, SCJ, General Councilor, made the canonical visit to the province of Northern Italy (ITS). It was a very welcome and anticipated visit that was prepared well.
There were 10 intense days in which Father General was able to listen to the voice of all the communities and get a better idea of the ITS reality. The chosen methodology — meetings with several communities grouped together along with the possibility of individual interviews — was judged positively because it allowed everyone to have input; it was a good way to have a comprehensive overview of the Province.
The ITS province is presented today as a reality with a great history, but in evolution. Despite the growing age and the current lack of vocations, there is enthusiasm and a willingness to be pastorally active among even the eldest members. It is a province that has done good planning, placing fraternal life at the center of the community, and is mindful of economic concerns and the management of activities.
The ITS province is in the midst of “downsizing” after long years of expansion, even beyond the Italian borders. Resizing is a “creative process” rather than a “reduction and cutting of works and structures”.
The major challenge — beyond that of aging, vocations, the relationship between great works and the number of confreres, new missionary ministry ad intra and ad extra — is to arrive at a structure of a Province proportionate to its members. It is not a matter of doing away with the past, but of offering a more creative vision of the Province in the current social, ecclesial and numerical situation. The courage to “leave” is a challenge launched that requires honest and “gritty” discernment.
The invitation of Father General is to keep the Dehonian charism at the center of our path. At the center should be placed the Father who saves, with a devotion to the Sacred Heart that is attractive (Ecce venio), feeling called to a path of communion with the weaker of humanity (Sint Unum), to collaborate in the growth of the Kingdom of God on three sides: poor, culture, missionary (Adveniat Regnum Tuum). It is a “rethink” that asks the ITS province for a renewed openness within the Congregation. We have the capacity and desire to reach out to the other realities of the Congregation today, to enrich oneself with the experience of new realities developing within the congregation.