Pre-Chapter Preparation: Additional Reflections

WP additiona reflections
Thoughts Before General Chapter

This is perhaps the best prepared General Chapter in my recollection. It is also the most important.

The agenda includes as we look into the future, among others, the following items: the number and age of the members, finances, vocations, future locations – this is enough for the prayer of the entire Chapter.

These few little words may not even be worthy of the deep spirituality that Charism will bring to the Chapter, but they are my concern and, prayerfully, I would like to add them.

When I joined the Congregation, I was surprised to learn that the primary purpose of the Congregation was the sanctification of its members. I always thought that it was to teach because that is what the Brothers did.

I later learned that the secondary end of the Congregation was the education of male youth was the “secondary end.” It has pleased me very much that this has now been expanded to include both sexes. This is completely in the recognition of the importance of women to the church.

In the midst of this complicated agenda and the deep spirituality that will enhance the chapter, I do not want the brother to forget we were expected to be teachers. This was the wish of Theodore James Ryken, who twice traveled our entire country collecting signatures of Bishops and other important Catholic leaders endorsing and approving this plan to fund an order of laymen who would work in Catholic schools. They felt what they needed was teachers.

It is remarkable how Jesus loved to be called “Teacher.” I doubt if anywhere talk is used more frequently in the Gospel, for example – after the death of Lazareth and the beautiful discourse of resurrection between Jesus and Martha, Martha goes to Mary and says “the teacher has come and is asking for you.” And when Jesus appears to Mary on Easter Sunday her greeting is “Raboni” which John says – “means teacher.”

I want us to be proud of our vocation as “teachers.” I want us to treasure this vocation and to realize how essential it is to the future of the Church and of course to the Xaverian Brothers.


Proposal from a meeting of the Brothers in Virginia and Southern Maryland April 3 – 4

For a significant number of years, the Brothers on the Leadership Team who have been doing the visiting and interviewing of the Brothers in the United States have heard that we as a Congregation have centralized too much and have thus moved in a way that is contrary to the vision of Vatican II that called for collaboration and subsidiarity.

As a result of the centralization, many Brothers claim they feel disconnected and not included in any form of congregational decision making which leads to feeling of ennui and lack of interest.

At a recent meeting that Paul Murray and I had with the Brothers in Virginia and Southern Maryland, a general proposal surfaced that Paul and I thought was worth sharing as a way to address the concern that many Brothers are articulating.

1. Invite all the Brothers in the US to join a regional group that is focused on mission and congregational issues. Again this will be an invitation.

2. Once all the Brothers who respond YES then the regions can be determined.

3. Once regions are formed, each region will be asked to elect a GATHERER whose chief responsibility will be to gather the Brothers in a region and coordinate the planning for the gatherings.

4. The gatherers will also, perhaps once or twice a year at most, meet with the congregational leadership for a day’s meeting so there is meaningful and personal communication between the Brothers and the leadership.

Click here for a printable PDF version of the above two sections.


Charism Description

Both in the individual meetings and in the reflection papers, there is a general appreciation of the work that went into the statement on charism. There was also a sense expressed that the statement is too long and wordy and that the Fundamental Principles already capture the essence of our charism.

Most Brothers resonate with the emphasis placed on the following: “the ordinary,” simplicity, serving the poor and marginalized and the integration of prayer, contemplation and ministry. There was some serious questioning of whether we are, in fact, serving the poor and marginalized?

There is a sense that the chapter needs to be “discerning the needs of our times, those of the congregation, Church and world and answering the question, “ Given who we are, age, health and talents, how do we, in these days, respond from our charism to those needs?”

Our Xaverian Charism
Our Xaverian charism is a grace, that is, a gift from God, and like all charisms it is given to us not so much for our own good but for the good of others. It enables us to do good for others. Fundamentally a mystery, it comes to us through our Founder, Theodore James Ryken. We can describe it as a conversion Ryken experienced when he was a very young man whereby he understood that God had saved him in a disaster, probably a fatal illness (perhaps the small pox, which left his face severely pock-marked), and at the same time made him realize how deeply God truly loved him, loved him as he was, unconditionally. Through this experience he fell deeply in love with God and was possessed by a very deep desire to devote himself entirely to the service of God alone. That service called him to love and help the poor, the alienated, the un-churched, those on the margins of society and the world, and particularly those in foreign lands, “mission countries.” This charism is best described and best expressed in The Fundamental Principles of the Xaverian Brothers. The spirit of the Founder runs through and forms every page. Believing, accepting, and living by these principles is to possesss the Xaverian charism; it keeps the charism alive and active in these very different times and cultures.

Community and Spirituality
These topics evoked a lot of reflection. One basic question for American Brothers is how do we describe or define community. Some felt that the key issue is how do we live out the description of community as presented to us in our Fundamental Principles—mutual sharing of our lives and faith.

Ministry at all Stages of Life

The key question that surfaced in the regional meeting is “ Given who we are, age, health and talents, how do we, in these days, respond from our charism to those needs?” The implication of “the ordinary”, that is not seeking privilege or position also surfaced.

General and Regional Levels of Governance
There was the recognition that the General Superior’s time and energy have been consumed by the realities of Africa. Many expressed the regret that he did not visit this region much.

There was a real sense that the governance structure needs to change as do the structures for sponsorship and even for general chapters.

The recurring themes are simplicity and accountability for the use of congregational resources. Some feel sustainability really needs to be studied.

The discussion of Associates was very positive. There is question as to what is the difference between “collaborators” who often are directly engaged in the life and mission of the congregational works and the Associates who may or may not be thus engaged?

27th General Chapter
Regional Gathering Louisville

SUMMARY Exercise 1—A

Personal Reflection on the Description of the Charism
What is significant for your about each of these passages?

“Our family is a place of humility and simplicity in God’s service.”
“We are to be attentive to everyday life an united in contemplation and service to the Xaverian Way.
“We offer service especially to the poor and marginalized in a spirit of hospitality, being approachable and available as true brothers.”
“We live in gratitude as a band of brothers in communal friendship by continual formation and affirming others.”
“A summary: Daily through hospitality and prayer, we are more approachable and available in both joys and sorrows to affirm others and to live our life in gratitude.”

I found these statements to be the most significant for me. They are traced to our Fundamental Principles.

“Called to the common, ordinary unspectacular flow of ordinary life.”
“Service to others.”
“ A band of Brothers who mutually help, encourage and edify one another.”
“ We discover our gifts through sharing in community.”
“We are in communion with the Roman Catholic Church, and especially to those who are marginalized.”
“ It is through education and evangelization in all of its forms that we develop and actualize our giftedness and the gifts of those we serve.”
“ We should stand ready to leave the familiar and comfortable, but only according to our gifts which should be discerned in community with our brothers.”
“ …be formed in the common ordinary, unspectacular flow of everyday life.” “…where we seek to find God.”
“We Xaverian Brothers, associates and collaborators are a true religious family.” “..God is the source of all we do.”

“… a way of continual formation.”

A code to live by—iSAT
• I Seek the face of God—always, confidently and quietly.

  • IAccept whatever happens as coming from the hand of God.
  • ITrust in God—completely and always.
  • Our lives would be a seamless union of prayer and works; a ministry to others would be a ministry to Christ.
  •  An integrated life of both contemplation and service. We strive to balance our lives so that service does not become the be all and end all of our lives.
  • Choose an “ordinary life” without privilege or entitlement where we seek and find God.
  • We work toward living as humble people who can live and encourage others to live by realizing that all is a gift from God who loves us unconditionally.
  • We realize we are never finished as long as we are on this journey. We need others and other means to help us grow as members of a truly religious family
  • We do the above mainly through education.
  • The Principles are not theoretical, but practical and necessary.
  • Our life is a balance: simple, contemplative, commu7ncal and daily service-oriented in humble service.
  • Together we affirm God, others and ourselves.

SUMMARY Exercise I—B

Can you accept this description of the Xaverian Charism? ( Please be specific about your reasons for accepting the Description.)

“These are the Basic Fundamental Principles of the Xaverian Way and here stated are the reasons for accepting of the Xaverian Way.
“The description needs fewer words.”
“ I really do not believe you can write a charism. It is “lived” by the way each Brother, associate and collaborator carries it out in her/his life.”
“ To be honest, the description seems to be an attempt to explain in more words what is already found in our Fundamental Principles.”
“Why not simply reflect on the Fundamental Principles.”



Specific Statement from the Description • “… a band of Brothers together…”

  • “… a way of continual formation…” by community life.
  • “We endeavor to integrate prayer and contemplation with growth in friendship within the community by means of honest and fraternal dialogue.”
  • • “We see our way of life as intimately connected with mission.”

Suggested Practices We Can Incorporate Related to This:

 We need to examine our practice of the communal spirituality described for us in the Fundamental Principles that place great emphasis sharing of faith and life among the brothers. Do we, indeed, share prayer, share faith and life? What assistance do we need for this practice to grow?
 Get together for birthdays, seasonal holidays, a ball game, etc… volunteer attendance at events like an art show or film.
  More gatherings between communities: pray together, do service together.
  We need to involve as many brothers as possible in discerning the practices of our Community. Without inclusion, there is very little ownership of decisions.
 We need to be faithful and prompt at duties, thereby encouraging brothers with actions not words. Accept the joys and trials of communal living with equanimity.
 Have a positive attitude, “ the glass half full, not half empty” approach to daily conditions.
  The practice of Lectio Divina and all that is implied.
  Keeping compassionate contact with brothers by letter, telephone and email.
  Initiating conversation in an effort to engage others.
  Doing useful tasks, quietly, that make living together easier. For example, tidying a location that needs it.
 Brothers living in community should gather weekly to reflect on scriptures or other spiritual texts and to consider the direction and quality of their shared life.”
 Have opportunities for those interested to meet to share about their lives—to talk about their gifts and to learn about others.
  Have meetings so members can share their hopes, wishes and even complaints.
  Brothers not living in community should gather with Brothers, Associates or others on a regular basis to share their living out the Xaverian Charism.
 Twice a year each community or group of Brothers and Associates meet to discern the nature and quality of their hospitable sharing with others of their communal life.  The Brothers and Associates shall undertake a congregation-wide discussion of the communal nature of our mission and ministries and shall work toward a more deeply shared and common direction and work.
 Publish by region (perhaps using a bulletin board) when there are retreats, conferences and readings.

MINISTRY AT ALL STAGES OF LIFE Specific Statement from the Description

  • “…Transformed by love and impelled to place ourselves in humble service…”
  • “…ways of continual formation” by individual practices.
  • “ We are sent as missionaries to the world.”
  • “ … our place in the Church is on the margin, in solidarity and availability among the people.”
    • “…witnessing to the ideals of the first gospel community.”
    • … we are called to live our mission on the frontiers.”

    Suggested Practices We can Incorporate Related to This:

     We don’t “retire” from mission and ministry. We need to respond to the needs of the world and Church in these days and discern how we can best respond to them given our ages, health and talents.
     Move forward with more laity in leadership.
     Have the General Superior or the Vicar live in Africa.
     Encourage inter-cultural communities and committees.
     Better communication between various Xaverian ministries and the entire congregation.
      Reorganize XBSS.
      Be willing to leave a comfortable mission for one that is less desirable.
      Avoid the hubris that “I am important” to this work or place. No one can replace “me.”
     Enlarge of view. Seek to understand those outside our immediate circle. Read and learn. Be compassionate with all peoples everywhere for there walks Christ.
      Be alert to the promptings, however slight, to the needs of others.
      Have the courage to venture into the darkness, the unknown, secure in the hope of following Christ or at least wanting to follow Him.
      Undertake all ministries with the support and approval of congregational leaders.
      Find a ministry that allows one to meet the poor and to learn how to share and learn from the poor.
     Be willing to share our time, talents and money with the poor individually and collectively.
      Have special times for prayers for mission areas: Haiti, Bolivia, Kenya and Congo.
      Support those working in the mission areas by letters, emails, Facebook etc.

    (Including the call to simplicity of life, the practice of evangelical poverty and self- sustainability.)
    Specific Statement from the Description

    “… our place in the Church…among the people, freely renouncing any sense of power or prestige…”
    “…we are invited to a simplicity of lifestyle.”
    “ In community we are strengthened in our endeavor to practice evangelical poverty.”

    Suggested Practices We can Incorporate Related to This:

     In general we need more poverty practices.
     Each us attempts to live with less.
     More emphasis on both initial and ongoing formation.  Each of us examine our “needs” vs. our “wants.”
     Encourage good, careful use of what we have.
     Let the local community know what the budget is.
     Have input as to how money is spent.
     How do we use money wisely.
     Do we know the true costs of our lifestyle?


    Specific Statement from the Description

    “… in a spirit of hospitality, we try our utmost to be approachable and available…” “ We are in communion with the Roman Catholic Church.”
    “ A band of brothers who mutually help, encourage and edify one another.”

    Suggested Practices We can Incorporate Related to This:

     Emphasis on “leaders” not just administrators in leadership roles.
     There is an appreciation of the growing demand on the time and energy of the General Superior given the emerging realities in Africa.
     There is a need to examine the structure of general government. It seems that the governance structure of the congregation needs to empower the African Brothers to take actual leadership roles in governance of the life, mission and ministries in their countries? At the same time, the structure for the West needs to go beyond maintenance of the elderly and to promote mission and congregational unity so Brothers feel they belong to vibrant community.
     Each brother is responsible for the spiritual life and mission of the congregation and cannot “wait” for general leadership to “do” things for him. The structure needs to facilitate this realization.
      More emphasis on pastoral leadership.
      Rethink the structure of congregational governance. We need a structure that can provide more than just services.
     More emphasis on the responsibility that the individual brother has for the pastoral care of his confreres and those he serves.
      Fewer congregational leadership positions.
      Greater use of technology and communication media.
      As a Papal congregation, we need to live our Constitutions and have a General Superior.
      We need to discuss issues facing our Church , such as, the ordination of women.
      We need pastoral governance in the USA to continue to grows and to feel we belong to a congregation. Perhaps on pastoral leader per 30 brothers.
      Agree to means of being accountable for what the congregation provides us.
      Call each other to economic simplicity for the sake of mission.

    Specific Statement from the Description

    “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 live ordinary lives that give witness to God’s unconditional love.”
    “To live the dichotomy of Martha and Mary.”

    Suggested Practices We can Incorporate Related to This:

     Consider other ordinary modes of membership.
     The Associate Organization is very new to us. We need to discern its place and directon. How are associates sharing the life and mission of CFX and how are Xaverians sharing their lives and mission with the Associates?
     What is the difference between “collaborators” who seem directly engaged in our life and mission and Associates who may or may not be as directly engaged?
      Listen attentively to the Associates.
      Occasional meetings for faith sharing.
    Click here for a printable PDF version of the above section



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