You will be accompanying the Superior General, Fr. Carlos Carlos Luis Suárez Codorniú in his official visit to the ITM province. Let’s first talk about numbers: how many confreres are there and what is their average age?
Our province includes 39 confreres (37 priests, 1 brother, 1 novice) The average age is 67. We have 4 priests between 40 and 50 years old, 8 between 50 and 60 years old, 6 between 60 and 70 years old, 10 between 70 and 80 years old, and 10 between 80 and 90 years old. We currently have a 30 year old novice who is doing his novitiate in Spain.
With what spirit and expectations do you welcome the Superior General?
With a fraternal spirit. And it is a pleasure to have him among us. He will listen to the people and see our activities. Our province is in a critical moment because we are making choices, trying to remain faithful to Fr. Dehon’s charism. Fr. General represents the voice that binds us to the congregation and to the spirit of Fr. Dehon. He represents communion, made visible in the general visitation.
This is the second time you have accompanied a superior general. Back in 2018 you welcomed then the superior general, Fr. Heiner Wilmer. From the dialogue with the confreres, some concerns and difficulties have appeared, especially concerning the mission in Albania. But signs of hope have also emerged, such as, for example, the pastoral commitment of the Dehonians among the university students of Rende and the presence among the simple and poor people, such as those on the outskirts of the city of Rome. And today, where does the new superior general stand with respect to 2018?
We are still meditating on the letter of 2018. After the canonical visitation, we celebrated a chapter in two sessions. In that chapter our attendance was considered. We need to scale back our attendance. The criteria were: fidelity to the Dehonian charism, revitalization of community life, presence in the world of youth, openness to the mission ad gentes, presence in poorer contexts. Today we are trying to create communion around these guidelines. We will continue the mission in Albania, but we cannot do it alone and we are asking for the support of the Congregation to create an international community.
On the occasion of the centennial of the birth of the Italian Province last December, you and the provincial superior of the ITS entity wrote a joint letter. Among many interesting things, you also wrote: “our organizational structures should always be a help and never an obstacle”. Isn’t having two entities in Italy today (ITS and ITM) an obstacle? In Europe, both we and other congregations (e.g., the Jesuits) are moving toward structural reorganization. Has the time not yet come for a courageous reform?
We are thinking about it because we are following the path of the Church. We must try to simplify presence, lighten structures, take steps to reunify provinces. It is a process; however, that must start from the ground up. We have given input in the letter because we must enter into this perspective. It is necessary, but we cannot arrive unprepared; we have to make this journey together, make some common choices. We can, for example, collaborate already now on some common activities.
Can you leave for us a message for the congregation and the Dehonian family?
I wish us to live together in community, feeling that we are part of the great Dehonian family; let us make sure that we help each other live out our vocation, each according to his own commitment, his own calling. We need to help each other, to support each other, to encourage each other. This is how we will carry out our mission and the ever-living mission of the Church in the spirit of Fr. Dehon.