December 12, 2017
 
Previous Table of Contents Next


DR#: 26 The Synthesis of General Chapter 2000, Ordinance #1

Introduction

In immediate preparation for the 2000 General Chapter of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart, the Institute was asked to meet in six geographical language groups. These were called pre-chapter assemblies and were comprised of representatives from the major entities of each assembly. With input from the local communities and chapters, these representatives were asked to focus on three major areas or themes: the Cry of the Poor and Youth without Hope; Structures of the Institute; and Financing for Solidarity. 

These three themes were eventually to become the exclusive consideration and reflection of the General Chapter and came to be expressed as ordinances of the chapter -outcome challenges for the entire Institute. The guiding question for the chapter came from Chapter 25 of Matthew's Gospel: "Lord, when did we see you?" The challenge of Ordinance # 1 is, thus, "Lord, when did we see you in the cry of the poor and youth without hope?" 

The members of the General Chapter also passed seven motions that were incorporated into Ordinance #1, which in turn became known as the "7 Supporting Elements." These elements both support and develop the ordinance, providing very specific and practical means of responding to the ordinance's challenge. 

Through this experience, the participants will:

  • gain a better understanding of how the challenge of Ordinance # 1 affects the works of the Brothers and their lay collaborators in every region of the Institute;
  • be able to discern how to respond to Ordinance #1 at the local level; and
  • further incorporate the challenge of Ordinance # 1 into their spirituality. 
Readings
  • Lord, When Did We See you? Page 14 (four aspects of André Coindre's response to the cry of young people poor and without hope) 
  • Lord, When Did We See you? Pages 26- 31 
Options for Additional Readings

  • “Minutes of the Pre-Chapter Assembly”: United States Provinces 
  • A Prayer for Solidarity (with reference to Supporting Element #7), “Educational Charism Statement of the United States Provinces”: especially Characteristic #'s 1 and 5 
  • "A Pedagogy Based on the Spirituality of the Sacred Heart," a presentation of Brother René Sanctorum, dated 3-5-98 
  • "Compassion," a presentation of Brother René Sanctorum, dated 3-28-98 
 

Suggestions for Journal Reflection
  1. In your understanding of the educational charism of André Coindre, how do you see Ordinance #1 as a contemporary reflection of this charism?
     
  2. In your own ministry situation, where do you see the "challenge of the cry of the young who are poor and without hope"?
     
  3. Using one or two of the 7 Supporting Elements, what specific and practical ways can your school respond to the challenge of Ordinance # 1?
     
  4. How might your understanding of Ordinance # 1 make a difference in your personal prayer life and in your relationships at school?
Prayer

Heart of Christ,
in the course of each day,
in my place of ministry,
in the midst of schedules and commitments,
let me know that you are with me.

Help me to see you in the faces
of those with and to whom I minister.

May I take up the challenges
of compassion,
of trust,
of solidarity and social justice
not out of duty,
but in the abiding belief that through them,
I can make your love known.

Amen.

Readings

Lord, When Did We See You
Selected Reading, pp. 14, 26-41

CRITERIA FOR DECISIONS

There are four aspects of André Coindre's response to the cry of young people poor and without hope which the chapter desires to incarnate into concrete proposals for action:

  1. Compassion which commits itself. “Seeing the hospitals and prisons of Lyon filling up with young children, André Coindre decided to create a refuge in which to gather them and protect them from danger. He began by gathering five or six boys in a cell of a former Carthusian Monastery.” (Memoirs of Brother Xavier, p. 29)
     
  2. Trust which pardons. “These young prisoners are worthy of personal attention. Guilty at an age when one is more careless than bad, more reckless than incorrigible, above all we could not give up hope of their changing. We had to surround them with help to form them to good.” (A. Coindre, Prospectus of 1818)
     
  3. Solidarity which builds a network. “Having established us as a congregation, Father Coindre earnestly desired to give a greater impetus to his work. He sent out notices to all the churches in Lyon that there would be a talk given by himself in the parish of St. Francis to promote his new work. They came in droves... businessmen and nobility. He spoke movingly on brotherly love and on the pressing need to save the children in the streets of Lyon.” (Memoirs, p. 37)
     
  4. Social justice which shares resources. “Endowed with charity and full of confidence in that of his fellow citizens, Father Coindre oversaw the growth, due to considerable charitable gifts, of the resources which came from his zeal and his personal wealth. ...His hope was not disappointed; ...our expenses are paid, our students all have proper clothing for winter and summer, and we have a fund in reserve.” (M. Casati, “Minutes of Benefactors' Council, 1823”, in Annuaire 91: 49)

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Lord, When Did We See You?
Selected Reading, pp. 26-31

ORDINANCE 1

Incarnating a response to the cry of young people who are poor and without hope, In union with the Heart of God and faithful to the charism of Father André Coindre, the Brothers of the Sacred Heart take on the challenge of the cry of the young who are poor and without hope as source of inspiration in the institute's life and mission. They respond to this challenge by integrating it into their personal ongoing formation plan, into their local community's annual plan, and into the animation and administrative decisions of the entity.

This first ordinance is the principal fruit of the chapter's reflection. It was the chapter's intention that this ordinance express, encompass, influence, and permeate all other decisions. Its purpose is to respond concretely to the central question of the chapter: In union with the heart of God and faithful to the charism of Andre Coindre, how can we be brothers today responding to the call of young people who are poor and without hope? The chapter members, convinced that they were acting in this spirit, wanted us to progress daily in living and announcing good news to the poor as Christ did.

It's a significant decision. As an institute we've decided to take up the challenge of the cry of the young who are poor and without hope as source of inspiration in our life and mission. It is by dwelling in the Heart of God and by being faithful to the charism of our founder that we fulfill this ordinance personally and communally.

We are invited to take up this challenge by opening ourselves to growth and by taking certain concrete steps. First, we can make these important orientations a part of our personal formation plan. We can pray and do various kinds of reading that will remind us constantly of the way Jesus drew near to the poor and oppressed. Finally, we can create a climate of unconditional acceptance of one another as individuals.

Another way of taking up this challenge is to make at least one of its dimensions a part of our local community's annual formation plan:

  • How can our local community make the cry of the young poor the source of its ongoing formation plan?
  • How can it express its compassion?
  • How can it show the kind of trust which goes as far as forgiveness?
  • How can our local community practice solidarity which builds up networks of assistance or shares its resources with "the least"? (Mt 25:40)

The responses may vary, but they will certainly require changes in our lifestyle. It is up to each local community to challenge itself boldly, always according to its setting and its real possibilities. But let us not be too quick to opt out of this request from the general chapter. Let's be daring!

The chapter recognized that spirituality of compassion and pedagogy based on trust formed part of the fundamental intuitions of our founder. These intuitions have always been present among us though we may not always have been aware of them. They express the educational values lived out by the vast majority of our brothers in their apostolic mission. It was the chapter's intuition that they are at the heart of our heritage. However, the chapter did not dwell at length on them. Now is the time for us to do so. Personal reflection and sharing within the local or educational community will complete what the chapter started.

Ordinance 1 sets a clear direction. The decisions regarding spirituality of compassion (1.1) and pedagogy based on trust (1.2) will be major areas for our reflection and sharing in the next few years. How can we change our hearts so that we see the sufferings of young people through the open heart of Jesus and, conversely, see Jesus in them? In our apostolate, how can we acquire a spirit that allows us to see in each young person, even in the most deprived, a unique human being capable of changing and growing?

We have here a vision worth contemplating and appropriating as our own. We are called to deepen our understanding of this vision through regular sharing with our brothers in community and with our lay collaborators. Each entity is likewise called upon to go beyond what it is already doing in accomplishing this vision. The general council, through its animation, wants to accompany the institute on its journey. Each year we will propose a specific theme for reflection (see p. 29). Each theme will be developed in an annual circular from the superior general published at the beginning of Lent. The councilors will give these themes special attention during their visitations. It might be appropriate for all entities to orient their animation along the same lines; nevertheless, we want to respect everyone's freedom in making these choices.

Regarding formation to social justice, we must admit that our institute has not made great strides. In both our personal efforts and in those of our educational communities, we need to provide ourselves with a more enlightened formation in line with the social teachings of the Church and the charism of our founder. (1.3) Those responsible for SIR(a Formation Program for Brothers in Rome) and CIAC are already incorporating into their respective programs components to help realize these objectives. At their levels, the conferences and entities are to make provisions for formation in this area.

To be of assistance, the general council will try to develop a data bank of documentation, animation materials, and examples of successful experiences within the institute. And so we invite you to send to Brother Guy Dussault, secretary general, any such information materials so that he can add them to our institute website and in this way make them widely available.

We've been talking mostly about formation aimed at changing mentalities and attitudes. The decisions that follow will be more concrete.

The chapter asked us to intensify our innovative educational efforts on behalf of the most needy. (1.4) In using the verb intensify; it recognized that much good work is already being done for the poor in many of our schools and centers. Nevertheless, it stressed that we shouldn’t be satisfied with what is now being done. The chapter wants us to be innovative in our commitment to young people who are poor and without hope. It is up to the respective councils of each entity to implement this decision. But since we can learn from one another, it would be good for us to share with other entities information on our implementation efforts.

The chapter did not stop with our existing works. The delegates clearly expressed the desire that each entity identify a new urgency among young people who are poor and without hope, and that it find an appropriate response, in collaboration with lay colleagues. This decision is courageous at a time when the needs of our present works are immense. It is a call for generosity for the purpose of generating new life. Our creative spirit must come into play, transforming into reality the values and criteria developed in the discernment stage.

One appropriate response might be to establish a small work or a team of three or four brothers who would initiate a particular project on behalf of the most deprived. Or perhaps this team might involve itself in a work presently being directed by a single brother so that it becomes a community work. The team would seek collaborators to join with them in building a work which meets real needs of the young poor in the area. We emphasize how important it is that this be a community work whose attractive witness draws others to become a part of it.

The general councilors will take advantage of their visits to discuss with the councils of the entities the implementation of these last two decisions. (1.4 and 1.5) Through dialogue we will see more clearly what is feasible within each entity. We know that in some places great efforts are already being made. The chapter has asked us to do what is bold, not what is impossible.

In stressing the importance of developing collaborative networks, the chapter expands our vision, spurring us on to interdependence with other Church groups and humanitarian organizations. (1.6)

Creating networks of collaborators implies the belief that our mission can only benefit from the gifts of others. It also means that we accept humbly that we cannot do everything our selves. Our decreasing numbers and the developing notion of the Church as communion confirm us in this direction. Let us move forward in hope, aware that genuine collaboration requires great respect for the other partner, adjustments in our way of doing things, and transparence in decision-making. In this way, our partners will play a determining role in the projects we undertake with them.

Collaborators

Lay collaborators, men and women, want an increased role in our schools and centers. They are baptized; they are bearers of the Holy Spirit as much as we are. They believe in their mission of evangelization. Why shouldn't we share with them the richness of the special charism given to the Church through the mediation of Father Coindre? In a spirit of trust, why shouldn't we allow them to playa greater role in our works? The results might surprise us!

There are yet other resources available to us: associate members, former students, young volunteers, parents, and our students themselves. It is worth remembering that at the multiplication of the loaves, as recorded in the Gospel of John, the Lord worked a miracle using bread offered by a young boy. (Jn. 6: 1-15)

Yes, we are able to create something new. We can find solutions to present-day problems of young people, but we cannot do it alone. We need to seek help. There are already many charitable groups and non-governmental organizations (NGO'S), parishes, dioceses and many others who are working with deprived young people. They often ask for partners. We could become one. Each local community, when it prepares its community plan, might identify such an agency, join up, and support it. The same goes for our educational communities.

Finally, ordinance 1 includes an invitation for increased collaboration and solidarity within the institute. (1.7) We are members of one large family, and each entity should feel a sense of solidarity with the others. Much solidarity already exists among some entities at leadership and council levels. Significant initiatives for mutual support are already in place. Personnel is made available, financial support is offered, and technical help is also possible. But how involved are individual brothers? Are we really interested in promoting concrete gestures of solidarity within the institute?

What efforts are our local communities ready to undertake? What about "twinning" a community in the North with one in the South involved in a similar apostolate? Or perhaps linking up two communities of retired brothers? Or even a situation in which a community of senior brothers, through their prayer, would support an innovative project among the young poor? And what are we doing to get our educational communities involved?

We need to broaden our contacts within the institute for the sake of greater mutual awareness and better collaboration. By strengthening our sense of belonging to an international network and by providing education for social justice, we will experience increased solidarity among the different parts of the institute. Programs of formation to solidarity could be established in our school communities. Partnerships or twinning between schools could provide brothers, co-workers and students with a taste of universal brotherhood and a context for putting solidarity into practice. Some schools and centers are already involved in such programs. But we're called to do more.

New Links

"You talk of creating solidarity links within the Institute, but we've always had links like these between provinces and their missions. Did the chapter want to undo the ones that exist in order to establish new ones?"

"The chapter wanted to adapt to the evolution of the Institute. For several reasons, contacts between provinces and the missions they founded have been diminishing. For one thing the dwindling of our missionary personnel is obvious. The development of partnerships among entities of the South is altering the dynamics of collaboration. Likewise, the superiors, who are more often than not indigenous Brothers, have fewer opportunities to visit the founding province and establish contacts. Your question underlines the fact that we need to adapt our structures for more effective solidarity."

"So, it was to promote increased solidarity within the institute that the chapter put the re- vision of structures on its agenda. "

"Yes and no. Yes, in the sense that the thrust of this particular chapter was to help us see the apostolic value of solidarity. But the decision may be seen in another sense if we recall the last two general chapters. The chapter of 1988 appointed a commission to study our structures. It was obvious then that existing structures no longer responded to our needs and sometimes were even obstacles to revitalization. Some restructuring did result, but it seemed difficult to go any further. The chapter of 1994 established signs of viability for evaluating existing structures. That same chapter mandated a revision of the Rule of Life regarding everything that involved structures and government with a view to drafting a specific proposal for this chapter."

"Can we say that the chapter of 2000 had a dual objective in mind as it worked on structures?"

"Precisely. Two currents merged, as it were. In introducing this topic, Brother Bernard was careful to place it in the context of the present chapter's central theme: restructuring the institute must first of all increase our sensitivity to the cry of the poor who are young and without hope and enable us to respond better and more quickly. He then asserted that this 33rd chapter had a mandate from the preceding one to take action and not simply to submit this matter to yet another study commission."

Introduction to Re-structuring

Brother Claude Cadoret, in giving the organizing committee's report on the topic of structures, summarized the work of the pre-chapter assemblies:

  • All the assemblies are in agreement on the need to move forward by encouraging coordination leading to greater collaboration.
  • The assemblies favor structures that will assure appropriate balance between interdependence and respect for the uniqueness of each entity.
  • They prefer simple structures which do not add levels of authority.
  • They are also looking for flexibility both in the structures themselves and in the process used to reach the desired goals.
  • The assemblies recognize the merit of the principles articulated in A Year of Favor from the Lord. ( 110-111) Consensus is less clear-cut about how to achieve those objectives.

We can therefore summarize in a few words the fundamental objectives for undertaking this process of change: openness, internationality, solidarity, flexibility and simplicity. Having agreed upon these objectives, the chapter members had what they needed to take action in revising structures. This revision, the result of the preceding phases of comprehension and discernment, had a double goal: stronger solidarity within the institute and more effective presence among young people who are poor and without hope.

Previous Table of Contents Next