In the same boat of the Church with the Dehonian family

The theme of the day was Dehonian formation. A space was dedicated to the Dehonian family and the presentation of the congregation's two new missions in Holland and Norway.

by  Willyans Prado Rapozo, SCJ

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The seventeenth day of the XXV General Chapter begun with the Holy Mass celebrated in English. The main celebrant was Fr. Andreas Suparman, provincial superior of Indonesia. In the chapter hall, Fr. Andreas shared his reflection on the Word of God. In today’s Gospel, the disciples’ boat was being swamped by the stormy sea. The boat is a symbol of the Church; although we might face danger and difficulties, Christ is always with us, and if he in the boat we are safe. If he seems to be sleeping, we should cry out to him and ask for his help, “Lord, save us, for we are perishing.” In times of trial, our founder Fr. Dehon entrusted everything in God’s hands, waiting on his never-failing providence. Crying for help is a form of prayer; we must remember what Pope Francis said to us, “Without prayer nothing will be accomplished.”

After the meditation, Mrs. Mariolina Lambo, a lay Dehonian from Bologna, gave a report on the Dehonian Family, prepared in spirit of synodality. Their activities were inspired on the Superior General’s programmatic letter “His way is our way,” and on the directions given by Pope Francis who wanted an “outgoing Church.” Led by the Holy Spirit, they strived to live the Sint Unum among the various groups within the Dehonian Family: Consecrated SCJs, members of religious institutes founded by SCJs, and lay Dehonians who share our charism and spirituality. Mrs. Mariolina presented the main objectives of the Dehonian Family:

  • Defining the role of its members according to their life status;
  • Making known the Dehonian Family to our SCJ candidates during their formation time;
  • Promoting the formation of lay people on the Dehonian charism;
  • Making their Iter Formativo known by all; 5
  • Maintaining communication through their “Newsletter”;
  • Preparing an International Meeting of the Dehonian Family during the centenary of Fr. Dehon’s death;
  • Promoting the development Dehonian family in all continents. There are also some questions to be considered: How to keep a good communication with the various groups within the Dehonian family and their international coordination? How to make the Dehonian Family more visible to the world? Mrs. Mariolina encourages all entities to support lay Dehonians, because “Dehonian family is a gift to the world,” she said.

Language groups today focused they work on the theme of formation. These are some of the challenges identified by the groups: good formation of formators, work as a formation team, lack of testimony as formation by example, promoting ongoing formation and encouraging participation of all, promoting the vocation and formation of religious brothers (often forgotten), candidates with fragile identification with our charism, importance of spiritual direction, appropriate use of social media. Concrete recommendations and decision will be proposed later to be voted by the Chapter assembly and taken on by the General Administration.

At the end of today’s work, we listened to the sharing of two missionaries invited to speak at the Chapter: Fr. Jesús Manuel Baena Valbuena, originally from Spanish, who has been a member of the Nijmegen community (Netherlands) in the last three years; and Fr. Michael Fuh, born in Cameroun, and a missionary in the Trondheim community (Norway). Fr. Jesús started by quoting a magazine he once read in the Generalate, which stated “God made the world, except for the Netherlands, which was made by the Dutch.” According to him, this statement speaks of the struggles of Dutch people in building their nation. One may say that they are stubborn, but they are also strongly proud of their values and independence. Fr. Jesús lives in Nijmegen with another confrere in a simple and joyful community life. He said that although the Dutch society has distanced from traditional religious practices, many people are showing a desire to return to the faith. Our confreres serve in prayer groups, celebrate the Eucharist, assist the homeless and migrants, direct groups of Lectio Divina, youth and students, charismatic groups, help the diocesan seminary, and are presently searching for a possibility to engage in prison ministry. We hope that Christianity “will not be like a light of a night candle that goes out, but  a fire that continues to burn forever,” concluded Fr. Jesús.

Fr. Michael Fuh shared his experience in the, as he called, “baby mission of the Congregation”. He said that in Norway, there is vitality and hope. He reminded that Fr. Dehon himself has visited Trondheim in 1863 and said, “I will pray with whole heart to St. Olav for the conversion of this people.” Therefore, our founder is the first missionary in this land. Our Dehonian community is formed by three confreres who were welcomed by the bishop of Trondheim and settled at the cathedral. They are still studying the language but have already made progress and are able to celebrate mass in Norwegian. Although, the cold weather is a challenge, Fr. Michael shared that they are loved by the people who appreciate their presence. According to him, there is hope for the mission because Christianity is growing in Norway.

Fr. Carlos closed the session by quoting the question of today’s Gospel, “Who is this who even the wind and sea obey?” We know the answer, he said, it is Christ! We thank those who joined us in the boat, the members of the Dehonian Family and all our missionaries throughout the world. Let’s remember Jesus’ question to his disciples, “Why are you of little faith? Why are you afraid?” renew our in the Lord.

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