Colmenar Viejo, Spain. Practically all the members of this encounter arrived on the evening of September 7, as had been indicated. However, some were affected by the general strike in France and arrived late in Madrid; two members had to postpone for today their arrival to Colmenar.
The participants in the Encounter are the 8 members of the General Government and 35 Major Superiors. The Vicar of the Delegation of Chile is taking the place of the Superior. Fr. Agustín Monroy, until recently General Consultor-Prefect of Apostolate, and Fr. Mario Gutiérrez are also participating.
Fr. Mario Gutiérrez is the coordinator of the unification process of the Province of Argentina-Uruguay, the Delegation of Chile and the mission of Humahuaca in Argentina, dependent on the Province of Betica and Paraguay, dependent on the Province of Santiago.
In the Encounter, Fathers Angel Ochagavía, Jesudoss and Anthony Igbokwe are also collaborating as translators and the students Gilles Njobam and Michael Chima, both members of the Province of East Nigeria, but assigned the first to Canada and the second to the United Kingdom-Ireland, as helpers.
At 10:00 h all the participants in the Encounter gathered in the hall to learn how to operate the simultaneous translation devices and to receive instructions on the functioning of the house and the development of the Encounter.
The celebration of the Eucharist marks the beginning of the Encounter. It is presided over by Fr. General, accompanied by Frs. Emmanuel Edeh, General Consultor, and Krzysztof Gierat, Provincial Superior of Poland, who celebrate the 25th anniversary of their profession.
Fr. General makes special mention of Frs. Armin Sixt, former Provincial of Germany, still in coma after his vehicular accident in Sri Lanka, and Fr. Yvon Lafontaine, Major Superior of Canada, who took part in the last General Chapter and died, after a long illness, last month of December.
Already in the assembly hall, Fr. Manuel Tamargo, Provincial Superior of Santiago, and host of the Encounter, welcomes all the participants and expresses his pride and pleasure in receiving them all. Fr. Tamargo explains that this house, founded in 1964, is emblematic in the Province for the different missions it has had throughout the years; it is close to Madrid and to many places linked to the life and pastoral ministry of our Father Founder, and presently it takes in students from different nationalities. Lastly he thanks the Provincial Secretary, Fr. Pedro Belderrain and the community of Colmenar for the work done so that everything would be well organized for the Encounter.
Fr. General continues the session with a reflection on the situation of the Congregation and the meaning of this gathering, which is not a mini-Chapter, but wants to “articulate the governance action in the Congregation in order to carry out the priorities marked by the General Chapter and gathered in the Action Plan of the General Government.” Fr. General refers to the social and ecclesial context that challenges the generosity, transparency and consistency of our vocation and mission. He also indicates some aspects of the life of the Congregation that deserve to be emphasized and will be the object of deliberation in this Encounter: spirituality, fraternal life in community and the sense of belonging to the Congregation, the emphasis given by the Chapter to our apostolate, youth ministry, formation, the on-going processes for the restructuring of the Congregation, economy and fidelity to our personal and community commitments regarding poverty and the most beneficial use of our resources.
Fr. General made a special mention of Fr. Agustín Monroy who, for health reasons, was forced to resign his post as General Consultor-Prefect of Apostolate, thanking him for his dedication to the service of the universal Congregation this past year, and he ended by thanking the Province of Santiago for its availability to free Fr. Miguel Angel Velasco to take the place of Fr. Agustín, and for the great effort it has made to be the venue for this Encounter.
The moderator of this session, Fr. Emmanuel Edeh, gave the floor to Fr. Paul Smyth, Vicar General, who invited the participants to introduce themselves briefly because ten Major Superiors had not taken part in the General Chapter and did not know or were not known by the rest.
In the first session of the afternoon Fr. Manuel Tamargo introduced Professor Luis González-Carvajal, mining engineer, priest of the diocese of Madrid, doctor in Theology and professor in Comillas, especially invited to speak to the assembly on the socio-religious situation of Europe. He used for it the word “secularization“, because Europe is its fatherland and the place where it has reached its maximum development. In a systematic, very clear and illuminating exposition, he developed four out of the six meanings the word “secularization” may have: as autonomy of the profane realities with regard to religion, as privatization of religion, as retreat of religiosity and, finally, as “becoming worldly” of the churches themselves. The talk was followed with great interest and caused so many questions that the time of the session had to be prolonged.
The second working session of the afternoon was dedicated, under the moderation of Fr. Paul Smyth, to commenting on the responses of the Major Superiors to the three questions that the General Government presented to them last month of April: how was the message of the General Chapter presented and accepted in their Province or Delegation, and what are their priorities. The participants gathered two by two and in small groups to share their responses.
And, to finish the work of the day, some of the participants, in a plenary session in the hall, freely expressed their impressions on the comments shared. This work will continue tomorrow.
The evening prayer, Vespers of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, was prepared by Fr. Gonzalo Fernández, in the name of the General Government, who was in charge of the community prayer today.