11 Apr 2019
Reflections on the Provincial Chapter
Dear Salesian Family,
It’s been almost three weeks now since we finished the SDB provincial chapter. I would like to share a few reflections on the experience. The chapter began on March 19, the solemnity of St. Joseph, with a day of recollection and concluded on March 23 with our Province Day celebration. At the conference on the day of recollection, Bro. Tom Dion reminded us that the provincial chapter is “a fraternal gathering in which the local communities strengthen their sense of belonging to the provincial community, through their common concern for its general problems” (Const. 170). I truly felt we were gathered together as brothers, belonging to something bigger than ourselves and our local communities, namely to the province community and the Congregation, sharing our common concerns for our mission to the young.
The fraternal dimension of the provincial chapter was experienced in our unity around the Table of the Lord and in our common prayer, in our fellowship at meals and evening socials, and in the unanimity in voting. While respecting the different points of view on topics that were discussed, in the end we came to consensus about the documents in preparation for General Chapter 28 and our Province Handbook.
One of the topics that resurfaced several times, and about which the confreres spoke with commitment and concern, was formation. In part, this was due to the general theme of GC28, the revisions in the Province Handbook, and individual interventions. At the same time, I take this as a good sign that our confreres are dedicated to their Salesian vocation and want to continue to grow as Salesians and give authentic witness to our calling. We also see the urgency of accompanying young people on their journey of faith toward vocational discernment. What a blessing that Pope Francis recently published the new apostolic exhortation Christus Vivit. We will need to study this letter in depth and let it guide our province and community projects in the year to come. As did the provincial chapter, it encourages us to live our Salesian vocation with even greater dedication and enthusiasm.
I believe we can say with confidence that the provincial chapter was an experience of the movement of the Spirit, giving our province direction for the next few years, in line with the priorities that the Rector Major has identified for GC28: “What kind of Salesians for the young of today?” The final documents capture some of this direction. They have been sent out to all the communities for your review. Our ongoing reflection and community formation in preparation for GC28 will help us maintain the unity of spirit and mission which was so strong at the chapter.
As a province, we are becoming more familiar with the discernment process used by the Congregation and encouraged by Pope Francis, that is, to listen, to interpret, and to choose. We set out to listen to the young and their families, to each other, to the reality of the world in which we live. We then strive to understand what we have heard: What does it mean? What is God saying to us in this reality? What are the motives, resistance, and encouragements we feel when faced with this reality? Finally, we make a few choices that will guide our planning. This is valuable process that we can use on a personal level as we do the daily examine of conscience. It is also a worthwhile process as we evaluate our annual plans and projects, now that we are close to the end of the academic year and looking ahead to 2019-2020.
Thanks to Fr. Mike Mendl, the chapter moderator, and the preparatory commission; thanks to all who took on extra roles of service—facilitators, secretaries, writing committee, ministers in the liturgy; thanks to the community and staff in Stony Point.
Fr. Tim Zak, SDB