The Union of Superiors General held its 98th General Assembly in Fraterna Domus in the outskirts of Rome from 23- 26 November 2022. On the last day, Pope Francis received the participants of the encounter in an audience in the Synod hall in the Vatican. The encounter focussed on Fratelli Tutti: Called to be artisans of peace. The meeting was attended by 125 Superiors General.
On 26 November, during the papal audience, Pope Francis chose to have an open conversation with the Superiors General and gave his previously prepared text to the President of USG, Fr. Arturo Sosa SJ, for later reading and reflection. The participants asked several questions to the Pontiff inviting him to enlighten them about the mission of consecrated people in the present world. The questions asked were related to peace building in the context of war and conflicts in the world, synodal journey in the Church, shared mission, missionary sending, role of women in the Church, protection of minors, and exercise of authority in the Church.
Speaking of the synodal journey of Congregations, the Pope mentioned the example of the last General Chapter of Claretians and mentioned that it was facilitated by a woman religious, Sr. Jolanda Kafka RMI, and how congregations can enrich each other on the synodal path. The pontiff pointed out how feminine wisdom complements and enriches the Church as the Church is essentially Marian; spouse and mother. While wrapping up the conversation, he again mentioned our General Chapter and the synodal manner it was conducted.
The Holy Father insisted on distinguishing the natural tensions of life, which lead to growth when they are accepted and used to transcend to a higher level. He cautioned that these tensions should not be transformed into conflicts that often serve selfish interests.
In his answers, the Pope invited a positive and creative approach to the problems and difficulties that come up in life and to seek creative responses based on prayer, honest search, and dialogue. He insisted on the importance of elderly and young religious enriching each other from both the wisdom of the old and the enthusiasm of the young.
The USG meeting
Prior to the encounter the newly elected Superiors General had an introductory program in which they were introduced to the Dicastery for Consecrated life and Societies of apostolic life and to USG office with different moments of sharing of experiences and the functioning of both entities.
The USG meeting which began on 23rd November began with a reflection of Mons. Paul Gallagher and the presentation of the Dicastery for Integral Human Development by Dr Dolorez Sanchez.
The sessions that followed were on the application of Laudato Si and Fratelli Tutti in the life and mission of the various institutes of Consecrated life animated by the joint JPIC secretariate of both the unions of men and women Religious (USG and USIG). Sr Sheila Kinsey FFJM facilitated the presentations and dialogues in the hall in which Fr. Vincet Anes CMF, shared how the Claretians promote JPIC in their formative program.
There was also sharing of the programs of JPIC Secretariate and the collective missionary response in South Sudan called Solidarity South Sudan. Clarerians have participated actively in this program since its beginning and Fr. Christi CMF form part of the team in South Sudan at present. In the past, Fr. Callistus Joseph and Paul Smyth coordinated the program both on the ground and from Rome respectively for a period. Fr. Jim Greene shared about the present situation of the project on the ground and its future prospects. One of the pioneers, Sr. Pat Murray IBVM, now General Secretary of USIG, shared the story of the beginnings of this initiative from USG-USIG- after the congress on Consecrated life in Rome in 2004 based on the theme Passion for Christ, Passion for humanity.
Representing the Dicastery for Institutes of Consecrated life and societies of Apostolic life, Fr. Luigi Nava SMM spoke about the spirit and nuances of the laws that Pope Francis has legislated in recent times regarding the authority of the Supreme Moderators of the Institutes of Consecrated life. It was followed by a fruitful dialogue with Fr. Nava on various issues and their canonical implications.
Our Superior General, Fr. Mathew Vattamattam, is a member of the executive team of the USG.