Day 11 of the Chapter. The Capitulars prayed the Liturgy of the Hours. The holy mass, presided by Fray José Mª Aguerri, the Prior Provincial of the Province of the Our Lady of Consolation, was offered for the deceased benefactors of the Order.
As the information phase of the Chapter concluded, COMMISSION PHASE ensued. The different commissions were tasked to study in detail the following areas: charismatic identity and government; mission, ministerial, and educational apostolate; the youth and vocations; formation; and the restructuring of the Order. The Life and Mission Project was reviewed. The capitulares had to dig up anew the results of consultations, the opinions heard in the Chapter hall as well as the reflections of the commissions themselves. They were recapitulated to facilitate the formulation of concrete proposals to be presented in the hall and to be subjected to vote.
Before the groups went to work, some pending issues relative to restructuring had first to be addressed: secretariats, commissions, institutes, and the possibility of creating new forms of organization, etc.
At the start of the afternoon session, the capitulares voted on the final draft of the mission of the Order. This will be integrated in the Life and Mission Project.
As the Vespers hymn goes: “Night will not break your relationship with mankind; night is the time of salvation”, and after supper, the Chapter delegates gathered in the chapel for a lectio divina wherein they put all lights and shadows experienced during these days of the Chapter, all illusions, fears, hopes and insecurities in the hands of Jesus in dialogue with Nicodemus. It was time to pray the Word in John 3, 1-3. It was an invitation to identify with Nicodemus, the perfect teacher of the law, man of the temple, of age and with much experience… But Nicodemus lacks something, he misses something much greater. He needed to be born again… to submit self to the Lord, his only love. “Do not be afraid”; “Peace be with you”; “Do you love me more than these?”; “Your faith has saved you, go in peace”; “I am with you”; “My grace is enough”. The LV General Chapter was, indeed, witness to the “night that is time of salvation”!
The Holy Eucharist was celebrated with vocations to the Augustinian Recollect life as the main intention. Fray Dionisio Q. Selma, Prior Provincial of the St. Ezekiel Moreno Province. Fray Lauro Larlar gave an exhortation during the homily, calling to mind the importance of religious life as the reflection of the appeal of Jesus. Only from the Lord, with all our hope in his great mercy, welcoming His will, can religious life illuminate lives and awaken the vocation. That is the challenge.
From the start of the morning session, the whole day was dedicated to the work of the commissions, some of which have already profiled their first proposals that will be appearing soon in the Chapter hall.
Each commission is led by a President who moderates the reflection and the interventions, and a Secretary who takes charge of collecting all ideas that emerged and presents them in the session hall.
Although the commissions have a specific objective to deal with, they can also make proposals on any other issue tackled by the others. In this way, the dialogue in the plenary sessions is enriched even more.
The starting point of each commissions is the Life and Mission Project of the Order, the consultations made with the religious, the technical studies carried out during the sexennium, the contributions of the Capitulars in the plenary sessions, and the ideas that emerged during the meetings of the commission.
At the Roman basilica of St. Augustine, where the tomb of St. Monica lies, the Capitulars gathered to celebrate the Eucharist. Fray José Ramón Pérez, Vicar General and First General Councilor, presided the mass and gave the homily.
As calendared for their Saturday schedule, the General Chapter members also went on a pilgrimage to the St. Peter’s Basilica (Vatican) covering the five stations of the Via Crucis which they had prepared for their entry through the Holy Door.
The brief yet intense procession started at the Castel Sant’Angelo. The first station was an invitation to meditate on Psalm 122. At the second stop, in front of the Church of Santa Maria in Traspontina, the Virgin Mary, Mother of Mercy, was the central figure of the reflection.
The third station was at the threshold of the St. Peter’s Square. It was a moment of praying together the Prayer for the Jubilee of Mercy. At the fourth stop, facing the Holy Door, everyone was invited to embrace God’s mercy with Psalms 103 and 24.
The last of the stations, already inside the basilica, was near the tomb of St. Peter, which in that afternoon, was jam-packed with people. There the Chapter President, Fray Miguel Miró invited those present to renew their faith by reciting the Creed.
The final invitation was something inspiring for everyone: “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Lk. 6:36).
His Eminence José Luis Lacunza, an Augustinian Recollect cardinal, presided the Holy Eucharist of the 55th General Chapter on the feast day of St. Thomas of Villanova. In his homily he made mention of this archbishop of Valencia (Spain), the great reformer of his epoch, as a model of following Christ, always dynamic and seeker of unity. At this decisive moment in the life of the Order, this holy saint assumes a good reference point to pay attention to. The cardinal livened up the Order to continue being faithful to the foundational charism without losing the energy and the courage to go to the peripheries.
During the day, the cardinal also shared to the religious in Rome about the challenges that the ongoing General Chapter must confront as well as his vision about the Church of the 21st century. The Capitulars took advantage of asking him about the next World Youth Day, in 2019, which will take place in Panama. Finally, he sent greetings to all the Augustinian Recollect Family all over the world.
At the Chapter hall, it was the turn of Fray Manuel Fernandez, President of Haren-Alde and Mr. Javier Ojeda, Technical Director of Haren-Alde, to present one of the key points in the life of the Order. Their proposal was directed towards the mode of revitalizing the Order’s sensitivity for solidarity and the way by which this sensitivity can revitalize the Order. It was also a moment to be grateful for the job well done by so many people in the Order, in different places, with this solidarity-oriented cause.
What followed was a report on economy by Fray Santiago Martín Lázaro, General Econome. He made an anlysis on the sexennial performance of the Order in general, and those of the provinces in particular.
The rest of the sessions were spent to discuss issues related to the service of governance, the institutes of the Order, the publications of the Order, the importance of translations and of giving weight to the three official languages of the Order (Spanish, English, Portuguese). Also the ever-constant challenge of communications within and outside the Order came out.
After the Liturgy of the Hours in memory of Blessed Elias del Socorro Nieves, the bilingual (in Spanish and Portuguese) celebration of the holy mass followed. It was presided by Fray Carlos Ma. Dominguez, Prior Provincial of the Province of St. Thomas of Villanova.
The day’s work at the session hall began with the usual reading of the messages. Especially significant was the cordial message from His Excellency Carlos Osoro, archbishop of Madrid who has just been named cardinal.
The central theme of the day was apostolate in its very wide dimensions: missionary, ministerial, educational, etc. In the first place, there was insistence on the import of the social sensitivity of the religious and the necessity of being present among the poor and the needy, not only in a personal but also in a structural way. There was also orientation towards reinforcement on the formation of religious in the missionary spirit. “Being missionaries” is not an appendix fo the Augustinian Recollect vocation, rather it is that which gives us the true meaning of life of the religious.
Another discussion was on the management of parishes, the juridical formula of parish priest “in solidum”, giving warning on the urgency of a shared mission for which the religious are not sufficiently prepared. On the contrary, a very promising horizon opens up, because there is so much that the Augustinian Recollect spirituality can contribute to the ecclesial communion from its own charismatic experience.
In subsequent sessions, after correcting and approving the minutes, another great chapter in the list of themes on restructuring was opened, referring to ordinance 19 of the previous General Chapter. Firstly, the Prior General made a presentation of the process followed so far, what the provincial priors added to what has been realized: achievements, difficulties, etc.
The celebration of the feast of Our Lady of the Pillar and of Nossa Senhora da Conceição Aparecida (Our Lady of Aparecida, Patroness of Brazil) illumined this day from the very first hour of the morning. The holy mass was presided by Fray Fr. Jesús Nicolás Pérez-Aradros, Prior Provincial of the Province of St. Rita of Cascia.
The session hall continued to receive quite a number of messages pouring in from different communities, parishes, educational centers, cloistered communities, communities of the youth, etc.
The morning session focused on information and discussion on the restructuring of the Order. The Chapter President, Fray Miguel Miró, jump-started by making an exhortation to be docile to the action of the Spirit, manifesting availability and courage. It is the moment of taking decisions, and it requires responsible discernment starting from what has been treated so far. He also pointed out that restructuring has to be considered as means, not as end. The question that has to be made is what Order do we want and how do we want to achieve our dream. It is from here, Fray Miró concluded, from where there will arise how one should be a province of that Order being dreamed of.
The afternoon sessions saw the different groups presenting their visions of the Order which they developed and the keys of restructuring. These would be forwarded to a respective commission that, based on these, will formulate concrete proposals. Different articulations of the vision were presented and, afterwards, the different texts were subjected to a vote in order to be included in the Life and Mission Project of the Order.
The second session tackled the issue on restructuring about which discussions involved presentation of a constellation of ideas, criteria and sentiments. Without doubt, they helped enlighten the decision-making that will transpire in the following days.
October 2: ARRIVAL AT THE VENUE
All the 40 participants to the LV General Chapter were reportedly present on this day at the venue: Casa Nostra Signora Madre della Misericordia at the Via di Monte Cucco in Rome.
The delegates from the Philippines arrived earlier in Rome, in pairs (Frays Selma and Buhay on September 30, and Frays Larlar and Marcos on October 1). They still had time to bond with oour student-priests at Collegio Sant’Ildefonso in Via Sistina.
October 3: MASS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. ELECTION OF CHAPTER OFFICERS. INPUT ON REVITALIZATION AND RESTRUCTURING
The votive Mass of the Holy Spirit was presided by Archbp. José Rodríguez Carballo, OFM, Secretary of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.
After the mass, all the members of the General Chapter posed for a photo-op. At midmorning, they assembled at the chapel for the holy hour led by Fray Miguel Angel Hernandez.
Towards the end of the morning, the Capitulars consolidated at the Chapter hall for the first morning session with the solemn singing of the Veni Creator. The initial exhortation of the Prior General and President of the Chapter, Fray Miguel Miró, followed; then, the election of key Chapter officers. Through election, the following Capitulars were to carry out their respective tasks: Frays Rafael Mediavilla and Miguel Angel Hernandez as moderators, Fray Javier Tello as Chapter Secretary, Fray Simón Puertas as Councilor, and Frays Angel Martínez, Alfredo Sánchez and Wesley Silva as tellers.
Part of the day’s program was the first input given by Fr. Pedro Aguado, Superior General of the Piarists or Scolopi (Order of Poor Clerics Regular of the Mother of God of the Pious Schools) who talked about his experiences of revitalization and restructuring.
October 4: SECOND DAY OF THE CHAPTER
The day began with the Eucharistic celebration in honor of St. Francis of Assisi. Fray Miguel Miró, Chapter President, presided the mass. Together with him were the two elected moderators, Frays Rafael Mediavilla (San Nicolas Province) and Miguel Angel Hernandez (Santo Tomas Province), as altar co-celebrants.
At the Chapter hall, the Capitulars continued to work on the tasks assigned to them.