Keeping the charism alive is first task

Fr. Tom Cassidy leads a discussion during the Major Superiors meeting in Rome.

SCJ Major Superiors Meeting

From October 18-27 the major superiors of all of the provinces, districts and regions of the Priests of the Sacred Heart are meeting in Rome.

The gathering began with a presentation by Fr. Joseph M. Abella, superior general of the Claretians.  The first task of a major superior, he said is to know the charism of his community, “to know it well and to live it enthusiastically… In his providential care, God has led those whom he willed to this position for our own good and the good of others.”

He prefaced that by saying that “the charism is the reason why we exist as a congregation in the church and in the world. God has raised up the charism through our Founders and continues to sustain it through those who feel called to attach themselves to our religious family. It is a gift, a treasure we received from the Father, one which we ought carefully to preserve.”

So while governance of the province, region, district or local community is a significant part of the major superior’s task, “added to this basic mission is the inescapable responsibility of keeping the charism alive,” said Fr. Abella.

Click here to read the full text of Fr. Abella’s presentation.

Following the introductory day, the general administration’s Six Year Plan, an outline for governance and priorities of the congregation during Fr. José Ornelas Carvalho’s second six-year term as superior general, was presented and discussed.  The presentation noted the changing face of the Priests of the Sacred Heart.

To plan for the future of the congregation the general administration needed to have a sense of what the congregation looks like now, and how it will look in the years ahead.  In developing its plan the general administration looked at the statistics of the congregation from  1991 to 2010.  Of significance:  the population of the Priests of the Sacred Heart is shifting from the northern hemisphere to the southern hemisphere.  In particular, Africa has changed from being a continent ministered to by missionaries from the north to being one whose SCJ population is now primarily African –– and much larger than before.  In 1991 there were 65 SCJs in Africa; in 2010 there are 311 members (again, primarily indigenous Africans).

This movement to the south is not just an SCJ trend but a trend of the Church as a whole.

The repercussion for the general administration is that it must prepare for a congregation that is no longer European-centered. During his presentation of the Six Year Plan to the U.S. Provincial Council, Fr. John van den Hengel, SCJ, general councilor, said that “This shift from north to south is the greatest change and challenge that the congregation has faced since its initial development.”

The major superiors also discussed the needs of those provinces with a significant elder population, as well as the response of religious communities to the protection of children and vulnerable adults.  The major superiors also set the date for the next general conference:  July 16-25, 2012 in Neustadt, Germany.

Fr. Tom Cassidy, SCJ, provincial superior for the U.S. Province, wrote a “letter home” following the first couple of days of the gathering.  Click here to read it.

A few photos of the Major Superiors meeting are in a slide show on the congregational website.  To view them, click here; they are at the lower, center of the home page.  Also, reports of the meeting, in Italian, are available on the right side of the page.