Pre-Chapter Preparation: Congolese Reflections

WP 061813 congo reflections

CONGREGATION OF THE XAVERIAN BROTHERS
COMPILATION OF REFLECTIONS IN PREPARATION
FOR THE 27th GENERAL CHAPTER
SYNTHESIS OF REFLECTIONS

 

Dear Brothers,

Here at last is the compilation of the reflections of the brothers of the Congolese Region, in preparation for the next General Chapter.

Besides the part dealing with the description of the charism, practical issues have been addressed and organized at two levels. On one hand, there are recommendations for the Congregation as a whole, given that we are one, single Congregation. On the other hand, we thought it was necessary to take into account the specific realities of each of our regions. That is why we have suggested approaches that could be considered for the Congolese Region, if the Superior General should deem appropriate.

 

Description of the charism

What is meaningful to you in each of these passages? 

a)     The invitation to turn to God and to fall in love with Him through a life of simplicity and humility, He who, despite our sinful nature, is always turned towards us and has called us to turn to Him and put ourselves at the service of the Kingdom, by our service of our neighbor.

b)    The invitation to live, without dichotomy the life of Martha and Mary, in the presence of God.

c)     The invitation to integrate into our prayer and contemplation a growing friendship in community, through fraternal and frank dialogue that becomes possible because of time spent in solitude and because of our fidelity to the Evangelical counsels.

d)    The consideration of education as the best way to encourage the development of young people. However, the work of education requires a great spirit of collaboration; one cannot work alone.

e)     The invitation to put ourselves at the service of the poor and the marginalized, because in them, we can experience our own poverty and marginalization. We must help young people, especially those who have academic difficulties.

 

Through the Xaverian Way we are awakened by the Spirit of God to our own graced potential and freely offer that giftedness in service to the gospel.  Through our ministry, in particular among the poor and the marginalized, we work to help others discover their own uniqueness so they, too, may “share the love of God with the world through their own giftedness.”

 

f)     The Xaverian Brothers are inspired by the vision of Ryken. This vision leads them to believe that education is the best way to promote the development of young people and children. Note that this education can be multifaceted and diverse;

g)     What is important also is the standard of education given by the Xaverian Brothers and Associates; we seek to nurture human gifts, so that people can discover the richness and the love of God for them and in their lives, and transmit it to the world, to build a better world;

h)    To put our potential, our whole person (i.e., our ways of acting and being) at the service of others so that they may discover the love of God in their lives;

i)      To fall in love with God, letting ourselves be consumed by the fire of the Spirit and be led around the fire, to dance to the rhythm of the Holy Spirit and contemplate God in a simple and ordinary life, an evangelical life, in the light of the story of Martha and Mary;

j)      To respond to our baptismal commitment through the witness of Evangelical life, lived in community with other brothers, and to work with associates and collaborators;

k)    A call to be conscious of belonging to a religious family of consecrated brothers, associates and lay collaborators wishing to achieve the spiritual aspirations that Theodore James Ryken had in view when founding his congregation;

l)      A call to realize the vision of our Founder as a band of Brothers who mutually help, encourage, and edify one another, and who work together while developing a growing friendship in the community, through a frank and fraternal dialogue;

m)   A call to live in communion with the Roman Catholic Church to bear witness to the ideal of the first Christian community;

n)    A call to participate in the evangelizing mission of the Church through the apostolate of education in all its multifaceted reality, with an apostolic zeal such as St Francis Xavier’s;

o)    In contemplation, as Xaverians, our lives must be nourished by prayer. That is why we strive to know and follow Jesus on this way.

 

Can you accept this description of the Xaverian charism?

We accept the description of the Xaverian charism, since it clearly highlights

  • The requirements of our personal life as religious;
  • The requirements and the importance of community life so that every member of the community can reach his full potential and live unselfishly;
  • The importance of our work among young people, wherever and however God desires. This work will be based on and inspired by the love of God;

However, we ask that the lay character of our identity be clearly underlined. Indeed, because we do not belong to the hierarchy of the Church, we can more easily come into contact with everyone, with no distinction.

  • The description of the charism opens a horizon and a field of action for the community. Associates and collaborators share the same spirit, the same vision, and the same charism as the Brothers. This is an eloquent testimony of community life = Brothers + Associates + Collaborators;
  • The revival of the spiritual life centered on the practice of the three vows of religion;
  • The particularity of Xaverian life: a simple and ordinary life. The Brother seeks neither entitlement nor privilege in the Church to exercise his apostolate, but he does so in simplicity and in the ordinariness of life.
  • This description of the charism takes into account all aspects of the experience of the Xaverian vocation, as it has been lived for nearly two centuries: spiritual, apostolic, ecclesial, and community aspects, which are lived through the three religious vows, according to the model of St. Francis Xavier. Also, our mission is shared with collaborators and lay associate members.

A few comments :

–         It would be a pity if the interest and effort generated by the description of the Xaverian charism led us to forget our Fundamental Principles. These are, indeed, a wealth about how we own to live the religious life;

–         That the description of the charism be added as an Introduction to our Fundamental Principles;

–         It would be better to give clear and precise guidance on the apostolic presence of the brothers in their schools (particularly in Africa);

–         We would like the charism of the Founder, the charism of the Congregation, and the charism of each brother to be seen in this description of the charism. Moreover, it needs to be explained how these three charisms can be lived in harmony;

–         The section on vows seems very poor. We believe that we should develop the understanding of the vows, beyond as a mere ascetic practice;

–         The allusion to François Xavier seems to be somewhat secondary, and yet deep reasons led our Founder to choose St. Francis Xavier as a model for the Congregation. We should therefore bring out with more weight, the choice of the name of Francis Xavier;

–         In the last line of the third paragraph, it is better to speak of “the ideal of the first Christian community…” instead of the “ideals of the first Christian community…”

 

First part: At the General level of the Congregation

 

1      Community and spirituality:

1.1. Community

“We are trying to integrate into our prayer and contemplation a growing friendship in community, by means of a frank and fraternal dialogue.”

  • We propose that this chapter on the community either preceded by the Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, considered the Charter of all community lives. (The Beatitudes).

Recommendations:

1)    That the brothers of the community come together to share their experiences of spiritual life, at least once a month (faith sharing).

2)    That a community meeting be organized every three months, during which each brother will be invited to share his experience of work or ministry (joys, sorrows, difficulties…); this sharing must be done in a climate of fraternal and frank dialogue. During this meeting brothers will assess compliance with the community schedule, fraternal charity, and the practice of sobriety, especially during the high points of the Church year (Advent and Lent).

1.2 Spirituality:

“We take as an example the indivisible life of Martha and Mary. In this connection, we recommend:

1)    Respect for silence in some parts of the house (to be specified by the community, with attention to the Constitutions, Article 9);

2)    The consecration by each brother every day of a time sufficient for meditation and personal prayer.

3)    The prayer of compline in each of our communities, at least once a week. On this occasion, the community can reflect on a passage from our charism and/or from our Fundamental Principles.

4)    Organizing quarterly days of recollection and an annual retreat for the benefit of all the brothers.

5)    Valuing the feasts of the Congregation by celebrating them with solemnity, for example the Feast of the Sacred Heart.

 

2      Missions and ministries:

2.1. Mission:

“Like Martha, we are transformed by this love and forced to put ourselves in the service of Jesus by our helpfulness towards our neighbour.”

“…we stand ready to abandon what is familiar and comfortable to go and teach the peoples of the world.”

“A band of brothers who help each other and who work together…”

–      Although some communities are composed solely of older brothers, it is desirable that they take small initiatives to bring a little more joy to their respective communities.

“We believe that education is the best way to encourage the development of young people.”

–      In this connection, we must develop a Xaverian educational vision inspired by our Charism. This vision must be conveyed in our schools, in a practical way, with the help of our collaborators.

–      For pastoral animation of our schools, we have to refer to the work of the XBSS, already being carried out.

 

3      Government Structures:

–      The Congregation must be directed by the Superior General and his Council. For this purpose, it is desirable that the Superior General reside with his Vicar, for greater collaboration;

–      At the regional level, we want to avoid the term of Superior, in favour of “Coordinator.” We propose that a Regional Council duly installed and chaired by a regional Coordinator be the principal source of direction in each of our African regions. Indeed, unified leadership is needed, capable of steering the brothers in the same direction, to build the future. This regional Coordinator must have the confidence of a large number of brothers in his region. This Regional Council will have a mandate of three years.

–      As for those General Councillors who will be in Africa (Congo and Kenya), they will have to play essentially the role of Adviser and not Manager of these regions. In addition, we believe the function of “General Counsellor for Africa” is not timely; (it is not suitable for our situation).

–      A special regional meeting will be held every three years to assess the previous activities and give new directions for the future. It is also on this occasion that the Regional Council will be renewed;

–      In order to lead a regular life we need a team of leaders who are concerned, not only with efficiency, but also and especially by listening to all the brothers and to our collaborators; leaders who care about formation and the accompaniment of brothers;

–      Today, Africa is the only region where there is a vocational development. Therefore, the Superior General will have to deal very seriously and in a very active way, with the life of the Congregation in this part of the world. In this context, it will be normal that once a year, the meeting of the General Council be held in Africa. This will allow each member of the General Council to grasp the realities close up;

–      We must make a clear distinction between the management of the Congregation and the Leadership of the Congregation, even if the two will be very often played by the same people.

 

4       Finance:

In order to live in sobriety, we must:

1)    Develop a responsible conscience for the disposition and use of money and other assets of the community and of the region.

 

5      Xaverian Associates:

“We, Xaverian Brothers, Associates, and Collaborators are a true religious family, striving to fulfill the spiritual aspirations that Theodore James Ryken had for his Congregation.”

2)    A good preparation of our collaborators and associates is needed to keep those in Africa from considering the Congregation as a sponsor. Therefore, we must clearly define the statutes governing this collaboration;

3)    Summarize the elements on which our communion as Xaverian Brothers, Associate members and Collaborators will be based.

 

Second part: At the level of the Congolese Region

6      Community and spirituality:

6.1. Community

“We are trying to integrate into our prayer and contemplation a growing friendship in the community by means of a frank and fraternal dialogue.”

  • [Again] We propose that this chapter on the community either preceded by the Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, considered the Charter of all community lives. (The Beatitudes).

Recommendations:

1)    Provide a half-day of prayer, reflection, and decisions at the start of every school year, during which the distribution of community tasks will be set and a community schedule established and recognised as achievable by all members of the community. All members of the community should commit to this schedule;

2)    The brothers of the community come together to share their spiritual life experiences at least once a month (faith sharing);

3)    That every three months, a community meeting be organized, during which each brother will be invited to share his experience of work or ministry (joys, sorrows, difficulties…); this sharing must be done in a climate of fraternal and frank dialogue. It is during this meeting that compliance with the community schedule, fraternal charity, and the practice of sobriety, especially during the highlights of the Church (Advent and Lent), will be assessed.

4)    A member of a brother’s family might be heavily burdened or facing unbearable problems. The brother concerned should talk to his community which can decide on a specific way to intervene. However, it it is important to be fair with everyone

 

6.2. Spirituality

“We take as an example the indivisible life of Martha and Mary.” In this connection, we recommend

1)    Respect for silence in some parts of the house (to be specified by the community, with attention to the Constitutions, Article 9);

2)    The consecration by each brother every day of a time sufficient for meditation and personal prayer.

3)    The prayer of compline in each of our communities, at least once a week. On this occasion, the community can reflect on a passage from our charism and/or from our Fundamental Principles.

4)    Organizing quarterly days of recollection and an annual retreat for the benefit of all the brothers.

5)    Valuing the feasts of the Congregation by celebrating them with solemnity, for example the Feast of the Sacred Heart.

6)    Encouraging devotion to the Virgin Mary; provide therefore, a special day to implore the protection of Mary. A decade of Hail Marys would be suitable at the end of Vespers;

 

6.3.  Missions and ministries

–      Mission:

“Like Martha, we are transformed by this love and forced to put ourselves at the service of Jesus by our helpfulness towards our neighbour.”

a)     Let the ministry of brother be well defined by the Regional Council, in collaboration with the community of which he is a member. No activities should be beyond the control of the community and the region;

b)    Let some brothers, in addition to their ‘congregational’ and professional works, engage actively in the small Christian communities of their respective parishes. In this way, they witness to our collaboration with the local Church and bring a rewarding and encouraging contribution to the formation of the laity.

c)     If time permits, it would be desirable that some brothers work on vocational and pastoral committees and organise holiday camps. These are ideal times to have a considerable influence on the human and spiritual growth of the young.

 

“… we are ready to abandon what is familiar and comfortable to go around the world to teach peoples ‘.

–      Let Brothers strive or continue to strive to learn new languages, particularly those spoken by the population of the milieu where they minister.

A band of brothers who help each other and who work together..”

–      Although some communities are composed solely of older brothers, it is desirable that they take small initiatives to bring a little more joy to their respective communities.

“We believe that education is the best way to encourage the development of young people.”

a) Could we make a greater effort to ensure that, in all our schools, brothers take charge of the religion course? This does not of course exclude the brothers from teaching other subjects, in their area of expertise. Quite the contrary… During the admission of new students, is not wise to ensure that the majority of the students are Catholic?

The mission and the ministries are divided into 3 categories:

1)    The Schools

–      We must develop a Xaverian educational vision inspired by our Charism. This vision must be conveyed in our schools, in a practical way, with the help of our collaborators;

–      Let the brothers be prepared for spiritual animation in our schools

–      Let materials be developed to serve as a guide to the brothers in their educational mission, under the inspiration of the Xaverian values expressed in our Fundamental Principles;

–      For pastoral animation of our schools, we have to refer to the work of the XBSS, already being carried out.

2)    The apostolate among the poor and the marginalized:

–      Hire qualified personnel in the centres for the supervision of abandoned children;

–      Encourage local awareness, among people of good will, for the financing of our centres.

–      Set up training and production workshops in our respective centres.

3)     The Apostolate in the Church (parishes and SCC’s):

–      This aspect must be taken into account by each community, with regard to its particular situation. However, we have to discern this kind of Ministry carefully, according to the abilities of each brother.

 

6.4.  Government Structures

–      The Congregation must be directed by the Superior General and his Council. For this purpose, it is desirable that the Superior General reside with his Vicar, for greater collaboration;

–      At the regional level, we want to avoid the term of Superior, in favour of “Coordinator.” We propose that a Regional Council duly installed and chaired by a regional Coordinator be the principal source of direction in each of our African regions. Indeed, unified leadership is needed, capable of steering the brothers in the same direction, to build the future. This regional Coordinator must have the confidence of a large number of brothers in his region. This Regional Council will have a mandate of three years. That is why, in the case of the Congo, we recommend his election and not his appointment.

So that these elections may be objective, they will need to be preceded by a period of prayer of meditation, of formation and of reflection.

Also, the General Councillor(s) living in the Congo can belong to the Regional Council, like anyone else, with no “exceptional” powers.

–      A special regional meeting will be held every three years to assess the previous activities and give new directions for the future. It is also on this occasion that the Regional Council will be renewed;

–      In order to lead a regular life we need a team of leaders who are concerned, not only with efficiency, but also and especially by listening to all the brothers and to our collaborators; leaders who care about formation and the accompaniment of brothers;

–      Good collaboration is necessary between the Regional Council and the commissions (groups of study and specialization): formation, schools, social work, finances… The members of the Regional Council will avoid interfering in the internal workings of the commissions.

 

6.5.  Finance

In order to live soberly, we need to

1)    Develop a responsible conscience for the disposition and use of money and other assets of the community and of the region.

2)    Develop a project for husbandry and agriculture at an industrial level (poultry, small and large cattle) as well as an orchard. This project could be implemented at the farm of Kampemba, or at Kapulwa or Ndakata. In this connection, a study should be made to assess productivity or non-productivity of the Kampemba farm. Otherwise, we should consider selling this farm;

3)    Study the possibility of developing project similar to that of Kasenga, where we have a large enough tract of land;

4)    To enable the region to increase its revenues, we must have as many brothers as possible hired at the Collège in Likasi. Also, to the extent possible, in Lubumbashi;

5)    We ask the Congregation the permission hold onto local revenues in the Congo to enable the re-launching of various projects of self-financing; the duration of this action will be examined by the Finance Committee (3 to 5 years).

6)    The Kipushi project depends therefore on this authorization. However, a study should come first to decide the type of teaching and program needed (national, international or mixed) with a view to local realities. Also, a plan and an estimate will have to be studied and voted on beforehand.

7)    Evaluate all units of production at the local level, to decide on keeping them in the current state, to redirect them, or eventually to drop them, in favour of more realistic and cost-effective projects.

 

Lubumbashi, 5 June 2013
For the Congolese Region,
Br. Vital-André Mwenge, cfx
Secretary

 
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