The chapter started off with a minor mishap. Due to a change in agendas, Mgr. Carballo, secretary of the Congregation of Consecrated Life, was unable to attend the opening Eucharist, which was therefore postponed to 6 pm this evening. Instead, the General Chapter was opened with the opening speech of Superior General Bro. René Stockman at 11 am. At the same time, practical arrangements were made to ensure that the chapter runs smoothly. Read the opening speech here. With this speech, the 23rd General Chapter of the Brothers of Charity was officially declared open.
Seeing that a chapter is ‘celebrated’ in ecclesiastical terms, we raised our glasses at 12:30. The participants could enjoy their first gathering, which, for some, was a first introduction.
All brothers are present, except Bro. Adrian Hartotanojo, who will arrive from China on Tuesday morning due to international passport issues.
Well-wishes poured in from different parts of the world with the promise to pray for the success of the chapter. We hereby thank the many brothers, associate members, and friends for their intense support and for their prayer.
In the afternoon, we chose the secretary of the chapter and the members of the various commissions.
- Bro. Linus Packiyanather, General Secretary, was elected secretary to the General Chapter. He will be assisted by two Generalate staff members, Mr. Patrick De Pooter and Mr. Jos Leysen.
- The commission that will evaluate the report of the Superior General and his council consists of Bro. Luc Van Dyck, Bro. Martin de Porres, and Bro. Déogratias Rwabudandi.
- The commission that will evaluate the report of the General Bursar and his services consists of Bro. Alfred Hassett, Bro. Gerard Simpamagaye, and Bro. Charles Nkubili.
- The chapter commission that will take up its duties in the second week of the chapter, when the chapter of affairs starts, is composed of one representative from each province: Bro. Luc Van Dyck for Europe, Bro. Martin de Porres for Asia, Bro. Jimi Huayta-Rivera for America, and Bro. Hippolyte Manirakiza for Africa.
- Three moderators were elected for the chapter of affairs. Bro. John Fitzgerald, Bro. Jimi Huayta-Rivera, and Bro. Donatien Matala will alternate moderating the meetings.
The first day ended with a Eucharist celebration presided over by Mgr. Carballo, secretary of the Congregation of Consecrated Life. In his very well-received homily, he discussed six words that are very important to consecrated life today: prophecy and memory, passion and gospel, hope and joy.
In consecrated life, one enters into a long tradition, and for that one should be grateful. It is always a matter of keeping the memory of the past alive: the memory of our own vocation and the memory of our charism.
However, this return to the origin, to the past, should not be a sterile matter, but rather fruitful to experience the present with more fervour, truly prophetically. It is a return to our sources, stated during Vatican II, which we should link to the aggiornamento. After all, it is about remembering Jesus and realizing his way of life in our own lives: Jesus, poor, pure, and obedient. The example of our founder, his holiness and creativity, can continue to inspire us, as well. In this, we will be prophetic or we will not be.
We should experience consecrated life with passion. We can only live according to Jesus’ example in a fervent way. The greatest danger to consecrated life is routine, lassitude, and rationalization. The Gospel can never be reduced to an ideology and Christ certainly not to an idea. Only when we follow Christ as a living Person can the Gospel be our true vade mecum, a rule of life. It is our task to make Jesus and his Gospel tangible in the world.
After all, our lives must be focused on hope and radiate joy. At times, we are burdened with the lack of vocations, the decreasing number of members, the difficulties we face in the apostolate. It is as though it feels like winter. But winter is needed for new life to sprout, hidden at first and then to emerge in the spring. Maybe we are going through that winter now, but we have to keep hoping that it will be spring again one day.
Faith offers true joy in our lives. We should not try to hold the visible Jesus like Mary Magdalene, lose ourselves in what is tangible and provable. Faith asks us to take that leap in the dark, to let go of what is visible and certain, and to be open to what is essential. It is there that we may find our true joy.
Brothers of Charity must excel in fraternity and charity. May our fraternity be experienced during this chapter in our dialogue with each other, as we continue to strive for unity. And charity must remain the true face with which we head out and go to the neighbour: the poor, the sick, those whom we want to serve in a caring and loving way.
Finally, Mgr. Carballo conveyed the regards of His Holiness the Pope, with whom he had just met and from whom he had received the apostolic blessing for our chapter.