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VIII General Conference

22/05/2007: General House

The participants have experienced dynamics for reflection and sharing that we can summarise in three stages. The work proposal has been similar to the task of a painter who has to paint a picture or that of a photographer who takes a photograph to be displayed in an exhibition hall. The aim of the exhibition was: to paint the hope in the future which encourages their Provinces together with the forces that act against the life of the Province and its mission.

The Brothers Provincial and District Superiors have had to seek in the palette of colours of their hearts and minds the mixing of pigments that best highlight the small details of reality which they have to reflect to be observed by the others. As expert artists who know the reality in which they live every day, they have shared their impressions in twos to select the most important features that they discover in their own Administrative Units. This first sharing of opinions was later followed by sharing in groups of five or six people. This sharing has allowed them to define the fundamental principles that should summarise the portrait that each participant was to paint in order to be exhibited before all the others present. All of this process of analysis and discussion to find out what the reality is like was developed throughout the whole morning.

The works of the afternoon began after the Marian prayer with which the participants honoured Mary on this day of the month of May. The proposal that Brother Seán addressed to the participants consisted in painting their own portrait of their own Province to highlight the features of the hope that inspires the brothers at this time. The area around the main staircase of the General House has been the space for the exhibition of the portraits, one for each Administrative Unit. Later, the painters themselves have become the visitors to the exhibition to analyse the characteristics of each one of the portraits. And these have been some of the appreciations that have been heard in the group sharing.

In all of the portraits are highlighted the well defined traces that reflect the identity and consecration, the happiness and joy, shown by the majority of the brothers of the Institute facing the changes that restructuring has brought about; happiness in being religious. Restructuring has led to a better knowledge of the brothers and has awakened a love and appreciation for who we are. Some darker traces can also be seen in some who are closed or reticent to change.
In the displayed portraits you can find many coincidences. The attitudes of laypeople who share the mission with the brothers, the openness and acceptance of change on the part of the youngest brothers, to need to offer specific formation for the older brothers so that they can face the new challenges that have arisen.

Some have observed that in the group of portraits presented the tones portraying mission are stronger than those portraying consecration. Compromise and mission are more highlighted than community and consecration. They lack the colour of a witness that gives visibility to community compromise. In all the portraits, the dark tones of vocation ministry and the future of vocations are stressed. The whole of the portrait exhibition lacks the perspective given by inter-provinciality and the dynamism of community.

Some have observed that the portraits of the Provinces are positive when looked at as a whole because the details are lost in the distance but if you use the “zoom” to get closer to reality and to observe if the brother is happy and a man of God, you will find that the happy tones disappear and that the message that the portrait transmits is, in some cases, worrying.

But the majority of the interventions show that the general vision is encouraging because in all the portraits the colours and the forms that reflect confidence are highlighted. And the positive is more abundant than the negative.

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