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Looking at the future of regionalisation with hope and creativity

 

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VIII General Conference

01/06/2007: General House

Today’s reflection is about the themes discussed on the 29th and the 30th May. The groups gathered in seven rooms named after our Marist origins: the Hermitage, Le Rosey, La Valla, Maisonnettes, Verrières, Fourvière and Marlhes. The ideas suggested were collected in one document, listed according to the following topics: the vision of regionalisation; the geographical configuration of the regions; actions carried out in the regions; Provincial conferences; the regional general co-ordinator; the executive council of the region; regional assemblies; teams, groups or commissions; interaction of the General Administration and the region; interaction of the region and the Administrative Units; and finally, legislation for articulating the functioning of the region. This provides material to further the reflection in the future.

All in all there is a hopeful vision about what a region must be. The experience of regionalisation in the Institute in recent years has been positive but it has to be developed so that it helps to transform hearts, to open new possibilities for the mission and to inspire a deeper sense of fraternity and belonging in the brothers. These new structures facilitate the meeting of major Superiors and the study of matters of interest to everybody, and they allow the calls of the Church and the Institute to be heard with more clarity while the principles of subsidiarity and autonomy of the Administrative Units are implemented. The regional actions come at cost but the common idea is that it is worth doing it. There is still the task of continuing to deepen the criteria, of finding people for regional interaction, of connecting with the structures of the Church and of overcoming any reluctance between the different cultures.

Regarding the geography of the regions, there are sub-regions such as Brazil, Spain, Arco Norte, Cono Sur which have given themselves efficient structures, but these ones must consolidated and integrated in the regional context. On the contrary, in other Administrative Units there is neither a vision nor a sense of region yet.

Regional actions have a great cultural diversity and different social sensibilities as well as different socio-political and religious contexts. But there is the desire to be open to the value of internationality. Regionalisation allows for the widening of the setting of activities, including patrimony, mission and on-going formation. It facilitates the interchange of brothers between Provinces according to the needs, even with the creation of interprovincial and international communities. We also foresee the planning of formation sessions for brothers and laypeople and the establishment of regional funds for emergency situations.

The way to co-ordinate actions and to participate

Regarding the way to co-ordinate those activities, there are Administrative Units that do not see how to do this very clearly. It seems that the Provincials do not have the time to animate regional actions and so it is necessary to well define the role of the person who assumes that responsibility. Maybe this will be a good topic to be brought to the next General Chapter.

The making of decisions can be very different in each region: regional Assembly, Executive Council of the region, etc., as there is no Canon Law that prevents us from doing this. One of the structures that have been foreseen is the regional Assembly. In the groups, some objectives were proposed concerning these structures: to encourage combined meetings of the Provincials and the Provincial Councils of the whole region or else to foster different kinds of regional encounters.

The participants also spoke about already existing teams or commissions, but giving them more autonomy so that they may fulfil their function better. Or else we can have new teams that respond to today’s real needs. These teams or commissions must be composed of members of different Provinces at an equal level. In Oceania there is already a network of interconnected teams which function satisfactorily. There were proposals oriented to the development of networks for different areas of animation: spirituality, laity, formation, mission, education, brothers, solidarity, schools, etc. The desire was expressed that the regional commissions should be well connected with the commissions and bureaus of the General Council. There is a positive assessment about the extended General Council which can be applied in the different regions.

To integrate the Province, the region and the General Administration

This is an aim for the future. For the moment it seems that there is a lost link that prevents the chain from being extended in a solid way. Somebody mentioned that the original commissions should have a relationship with the commissions of the General Council, and General Councillors should be appointed to animate the regions. Some noted that it is not good if there is insufficient interaction and co-ordination between the planning of the General Council and the planning of the regions, but it must not lead to a repetition of the old model of “Assistants General”. We have to find better schemes for the animation and the accompaniment of Provincials and their Councils on the part of the General Council.

The same goes for the inter-relation of the Administrative Units and the regions. The strength of regionalisation is measured by the way in which it helps to respond to the needs of the Provincials and the Administrative Units.

It is evident that all this structuring which is emerging in some parts of the Institute or is being consolidated in others, needs to be specifically based on juridical grounds, an aspect that has to be taken into account. It is up to the General Chapter, if they consider it necessary, to develop the norms required for these new schemes of functioning. Some people asked for clearer and simpler guidelines.

Workshop on the culture of vocations, CD from BIS and other news

On the 25th three different workshops were offered. On Thursday 30th May, there was a vocational workshop animated by Brother Ernesto Sánchez, director of the Bureau of Vocations: “Vocational ministry in restructured Provinces”. During this, ideas were expressed about the culture of vocations in the Institute, in the Provinces and in the Districts, and at the same time there was a sharing of vocational ministry experiences in restructured Provinces.

On the other hand, BIS presented a CD produced to promote a find-raising campaign in support of the brothers in the Ad gentes project. This CD, aimed at communities at educational works, apart from solidarity calls contains information about those brothers and the places in which they are working.

At the end of the afternoon there was time to respond to various questions that the members of the Conference had sent in writing to the co-ordinating Commission. The first referred to the document on Marist Spirituality and the Year of Spirituality. The second one was about the selling of a part of the property of the General House. Late in May the sale contracts were signed and money has already been exchanged. The third concerned the places of our origins. An agreement on the project called “Marist Places” has been reached. It will be initiated in April 2008 in the hope of being finished by September 2009; for the moment this only concerns the Hermitage. The brothers showed interest in a course in English that will be offered in Rome from January to June 2008 about Marist patrimony. Clarification was also sought concerning the canonical situation of the brothers participating in the Mission ad gentes in relation to their Provinces of origin. This time of questions and answers finished with information being shared about the beatification of forty-seven brothers martyred in Spain.

A first look at the 21st General Chapter

The work of Friday 1st June consisted in a final synthesis of all the reflection that had taken place during the days of this Conference. Brother Seán oriented this work by saying that during the Plenary Session of the General Council, planned for the month of June, the Preparatory Commission for the 21st General Chapter was going to be appointed. The presence of all the Provincials and District Superiors was an excellent opportunity for noting some important subjects and sending them to the said Commission, especially concerning regionalisation.

To focus the work, the following questions were used: In the light of our reflections and discussions, what are the three series of key problems that the next General Chapter should treat? In the light of our experience during this General Conference, what would be the central subject that you would recommend to the Preparatory Commission to be treated during the next General Chapter? What are your suggestions about the type of dynamic that it would be necessary to follow during the General Chapter? These are three questions that denote the interest that has already started to be felt concerning the next General Chapter.

The ideas gathered in the groups continued to revolve around fundamental subjects already discussed: Identity and consecration, for both the brothers and the members of the laity; new life for the mission, passion for the mission; spirituality and mission; refoundation and regionalisation.

Concerning the methodology to be followed during the Chapter, it was suggested that it be simple. The classic: “see, judge and act” is always useful; it is necessary to arrive at a true spiritual experience and a new life for the mission. There should be an external expert who will help with the general dynamic of the group which would be linked to identity, spirituality and the mission of the Institute. A few brothers proposed that some sections of the Constitutions be revised to adapt them to the current reality. And others, finally, that the Chapter be held away from Rome to lower the costs, facilitate the process for visas, etc.

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