The Congregation Chapter was underway in Lima, Peru. News here from the first two weeks.
DAY 14 – Saturday, 14th of March - CLOSING PART I OF THE GENERAL CHAPTER.
The Brothers gathered this morning to a time of quiet meditation led by Hugh O’Neill. The Brothers ended the meditation with the following poem by Helen Mallicoat.
I was regretting the past and fearing the future.
Suddenly, my Lord was speaking: "My name is I AM"
He paused. I waited.
"When you live in the past, with its mistakes and regrets,
it is hard. I am not there.
My name is not – I WAS.
When you live in the future, with its problems and fears,
it is hard. I am not there
My name is not – I WILL BE.
When you live in this moment,
it is not hard. I am here.
My name is I AM".
The Brothers gathered for two sessions this morning and then a closing ritual before lunch. The purpose of meeting this morning was to look at the Minutes and to explore how the Brothers could sustain the momentum of the last few days till the Chapter reconvenes. This was new ground, since a significant number of things in the Constitutions are determined by the completion of the Chapter. What process might help the Brothers in the Provinces to dive into the inner disposition that the Capitulants reached over the last few days, so as to continue in the Generative Conversations? Brothers volunteered to be a part of a Chapter Momentum Committee that will work together (online) till the time the General Chapter continues.
DAY 13 - Friday, March 13th
Today the Chapter President and Chapter Secretary wrote to the Congregation stating:
As Brothers of a global congregation we are conscious of keeping the needs of the wider world at the centre of our attention; we recall that “the agenda of the world sets the mission direction of the Church and our Congregation.” (Nairobi Chapter) In this light, we have been following the impact the COVID-19 virus has been having around the globe. Our prayers are with those whose lives have been impacted by this pandemic.
Today, the President of Peru decreed that all flights to and from Europe and Asia will be canceled for a minimum of thirty days as of March 16, 2020. Many of our Brothers here at Chapter are traveling through Europe and Asia for their homeward journeys on flights scheduled after March 16. This is an initial ban and may well be extended.
In the light of these considerations, the Chapter has decided to prorogue as from 1 pm Saturday, March 14, 2020, until such time as it is possible for the Congregation Chapter to resume.
DAY 12 – Thursday, 12th of March - PICTURING THE WHOLE
Brothers Geoff, Julius and Tony set the tone for the day with a Eucharistic Celebration. As the Brothers partook of the Bread and Wine, what was at the core of the Eucharist for each of them. They also shared their own stories of Eucharist in their lives.
Matthieu then spent a considerable amount of time going through the process of the Chapter, using the Theory-U diagram. The last 11 days of the Chapter dealt with the Brothers Sensing the reality of the Congregation and the World around. Brothers were constantly reminded to be open in mind and heart as they engaged in this Process.
Today begins another section of the Chapter - Presencing - Looking at what is God calling us to, in this reality. To do this, the Brothers were invited to be open in will as they engage in this part of the Process. Matthieu invited the Brothers to look at what could no longer continue in the future, what holds them back, what stifles life and vitality of the Congregation, what takes too much space for the Congregation to be able to open up to welcoming God within it, and within the reality that the Brothers had got in touch with, over the last 11 days. Matthieu reminded the Brothers that it is only in letting go, that one can be open to listening to God’s call. Being open in will is being kenotic, equanimous and in a way ‘indifferent’, so that one can be open to follow God’s will and listen to the direction that God is pointing one to.
The Presencing part of the process would therefore lead Brothers to discover fundamental questions that the Chapter Body would need to discover answers for. The Chapter watched a TED talk from Simon Sinek – How great leaders inspire action (LINK HERE).
The Brothers spent time getting in touch with images and metaphors that came to their hearts and minds as they looked at the ‘Boat in the Sea’. They looked at what would be symptoms and root–causes, out of the many things that were named, and what would be some fundamental questions that the Congregation would need to discover answers for, in order for it to move forward towards more life and vitality. A discussion followed in the wider group where Brothers shared around the questions and/or metaphors, symbols that arose in their hearts over the course of the morning.
DAY 11 – Wednesday, 11th of March - THE BOAT AND THE SEA.
“This is Trasna, the crossing place. Choose.” Brothers David Gibson and Gerard Brady led morning prayer, setting the tone for the day. Keeping to the journey motif, they drew the attention of the Brothers to the power of dream, reminding them that each has a special part to play in this journey of the Congregation, not only as members of the Congregation but in particular, as members of the Chapter Body.
Mattheu then asked the Brothers, at the start of the day to once again, get in touch with how they were feeling, with what was moving in them, and to see if there were things that they might want to add after all the Presentations – things from their own lived experience or things that emerged from the Generative Conversations that took place in their respective Provinces/ Region. The whole morning and part of the first afternoon session went into listening to Brothers as they shared deeply.
Mattheu then invited the Brothers to spend some time looking back over the last 11 days– exploring whether they have been generative, in the sense that these conversations had generated something new in each of them. He asked the Brothers to spend some time in an exercise of awareness. The Brothers were invited to look at whether they were letting go of their own perspectives, assumptions, and certainties on realities; they were invited to look at the degree with which they were allowing things within themselves to be deconstructed? Was their initial perspective on things expanding in the process of all that had been happening? Or if nothing new had emerged, what could be some of the things they were holding on to that had not yet moved? After the time of silence, the Brothers went out in twos to share on their reflections.
The last session ended with Br. Patrick Fitzgibbon (Deputy CL of the Presentation Brothers) wishing the Brothers all the best for the rest of the Chapter. He would be leaving
DAY 10 – Monday, 10th of March - THE BOAT AND THE SEA.
Brothers Hugh & Kevin Griffith conducted prayer this morning, leading the whole group into a time of stillness and quiet. The Brothers also prayed in a special way for Joe Johnson who celebrates his 50th Birthday today. Happy Birthday Joe!
The morning session began with the Brothers watching a video on the Garden of Oneness, Zambia (Presentation Sisters). Videos watched yesterday were – Human Rights in Zambia (Justice Desk, South Africa), Community Engagement (Fiona Dowling) and Edmund Rice Beyond Borders (Wayne Tinsey). The whole purpose of watching these videos is to give the Brothers a chance to see and engage with what is happening around.
The Brothers then went back into their groups to bring to a conclusion their time of preparation for the Presentations that would follow. A major part of the morning and afternoon went into the Presentations of Indicators regarding the life of the Congregation, in the light of the various Reports.
DAY 9 – Monday, 9th of March - THE BOAT AND THE SEA
Week 2 began with morning prayer conducted by Brs. Senan & Jorge. Keeping with the theme of the day, the Brothers were called to look at the journey of the Boat (the journey of the Congregation) since its beginnings, becoming aware of significant dates along its journey. The Brothers also spent time reflecting on their own personal journeys in the light of the journey of the Congregation, and the impact that each had on each other.
Using the imagery of the Boat, the invitation for the day and the next few days would be to explore both the Boat (the Congregation) and the context of the sea (the world/ the environment in which the Congregation is evolving). Matthieu reminded the Brothers that their task was to discern as one discerning body – that each Brother was called to put forward points not so much as to debate, but to help and feed the process of discernment. The Brothers got together in groups to come up with various indicators that they felt they would need to address in order to look at the life, vitality and sustainability of the Congregation. Having come up with 10 criteria, groups were formed by theme to explore each criteria.
DAY 7 – Saturday, 7th of March - LOOKING BACK OVER THE WEEK
The day began as usual with morning prayer, this time being led by Brs. Amandi Mboya & Puriey Musunga. Keeping with the theme of the day, which was to be spent in reflection, Brs. Amandi & Puriey led the group into a process of looking back over the week in a spirit of silence and reflection.
The rest of the morning was spent in quiet and reflection. Brothers were asked to take time to go back to memories and notes of the whole week since day one, to recollect all that was done - topics covered, conversations had, feelings and thoughts that were generated as a result. To bring the morning’s time to a close, the Brothers got together in their Integration Groups.
DAY 6 – Friday, 6th of March SENSING THE PARTS – PROVINCE PRESENTATIONS
The morning began remembering the people of Ghana on their Independence Day. The morning prayer was led by Brs. Andrew, Marty & Tom. The Theme, “Seeing the face of God in others”, invited the Brothers to see the face of God in each Brother, reminding the whole group that as Brothers, community is our principle means of evangelization. The morning prayer concluded with all the Brothers standing up for the Ghanaian National Anthem. The Brothers also welcomed Brs. Dean McGlaughlin and Ralph
The morning session began with the Presentations on the different Provinces. The Sessions during the rest of the day went into deepening the experience of the Presentations. Questions were given to the Brothers to help them - What has touched me? What has struck me? What do I need clarification on? What do I want to clarify about what was being said? F
The last session during the evening went into the selection of the members of the Chapter Facilitation Committee (Steering Committee).
DAY 5 – Thursday, 5th of March SENSING THE PARTS – PROVINCE PRESENTATIONS
The morning prayer was led by Brs. Francis and Parag. The invitation was to see what the Spirit might be saying through the images that were drawn by each Brother during the previous evening’s time of Integration.
After morning prayer, the Brothers went back to their groups to once again continue reflecting and sharing on questions being displayed. The whole exercise has been very enriching to the Brothers who have gained a fairly good idea of the happenings in Provinces other than their own. The rest of the day from after lunch went into preparing Presentations on individual Provinces/ Region. The whole purpose of the Presentation would be to give the rest of the Body a felt sense of what life is like in that Province/ Region – what gives it energy and what drains it. Each Presentation of about 15 minutes would try to answer the question, “What fans the flame of Brotherhood and what stifles it?” in that particular Province/ Region.
DAY 4 - Tuesday, 4th of March - SENSING THE PARTS – BEGINNING PROVINCE PRESENTATIONS
"This is Holy Ground", was the theme for the Morning Prayer led by Brs. Simon Coelho and David Silva. The Brothers were invited to be aware of the sacredness of the last three days and to also listen with reverence to each other during the course of the day, which would be spent in sharing about happenings in each Province. The remaining part of the day revolved around sharing in different groups, using the World Café methodology.
DAY 3 - Tuesday, 3rd - DEEPENING BROTHERHOOD
Day 3 began with Brs. Senan and Jorge conducting a Bread and Wine ritual. The theme of the Ritual was the Symbol of Brotherhood and the Eucharist. Brothers were reminded that at the heart of the Eucharist is the self-giving of Jesus and that they in particular, as Religious Brothers are called to give the sacrament its full effect in unity, brotherhood and service. The Eucharist continues to be the highest expression and strongest support of life in community.
After prayer, the Brothers went back into their groups to bring to a close their sharing on their presonal life stories that they began the previous day. During the most part of the morning, the Brothers were given time to explore Brotherhood and in particular Christian Brotherhood, through a set of questions that they spent time pondering upon. Brothers then got together in groups to share, after which they came together to listen to the wisdom that emerged from the individual groups.
DAY 2 – Monday, 2nd of March
The day began with the morning prayer led by Brs. Senan and Jorge. How do we want to live as Brothers this month? and What intention do we bring this month? were the two questions that the Brothers reflected on.
During the First Session, Matthieu Daum, the facilitator invited the Brothers to gather around the boat at the centre of the room that symbolized the Congregation. The Brothers were asked to consciously leave all those things that they have been carrying before coming to the Chapter, and to touch the boat, symbolizing the leaving behind of all that they have been carrying. They then were made aware of the moment in which they sat on their chairs, again a symbol of their taking up a new role as Capitulant, as a member of a discerning body, leaving behind one’s own concerns and discerning about the welfare and wellbeing of the Congregation.
Later the gathering discussed how they could best live as community in the month together. This was followed by a sharing in the larger group. The Principles of Generative Listening were shared again as a prelude to the Brothers going out in groups to share stories and get to know each other better.
DAY 1 – Sunday, 1st of March
The morning began with all the Brothers meeting in the Auditorium to look at matters concerning their stay in Lima. The meeting began with a reading the Scripture Passage of Jesus in the Boat (Mk 4: 35 – 41). The Brothers then together prayed the Chapter Prayer. The Capitulants - Ex-officio and elected delegates together with invited brothers including a Presentation Brother, the Main facilitator Matthieu Daum and the Committee Members - were introduced. This was followed by Br. Hugo Cáceres welcoming the Brothers on behalf of the Latin American Region.
The Afternoon program began with a large gathering of about 120 people - Religious and Christian Brothers in Lima, members of the Chapter and members and associates of the Edmund Rice institutions in and around Lima and Chimbote. There was a lot of energy with so large a group. The Program began with the poem "Trasna" being read in both English and Spanish. This was followed by ice breaking activities. A boat was then moved to the area where a traditional Andean Q’oa Ritual was going to be held.
The whole group then gathered at the Auditorium. A short video was displayed showing the involvement of the Christian Brothers in Latin America. The Educational Community of Teachers from Fe y Alegria school in Canto Grande then welcomed the Brothers through three traditional dances. This was followed by the Danza del Diablito.
The Opening Ceremony of the Chapter was held at 6pm when the visitors had left and was led by the Liturgy Committee, Brs. Senan D’Souza and Jorge Tavera. The Ceremony began with the Brothers gathered singing "Make me an instrument of thy peace”. This was followed by the President of the Chapter, Br. Hugh O’Neill calling each of the Capitulants by name. Each Brother when called responded vocally with a “Here I am” and in a symbolic gesture of his being totally present, placed his name tag into the boat.
Br. Hugh then addressed the gathering, calling the Brothers present to be open to the Spirit and to listen to their hearts. He invited the Brothers to spend the month connecting with their commitment to God and to creation as Religious Brothers, and to remember that they were here not so much to debate but to discern. As men of God, Br. Hugh asked the gathering to look at their levels of commitment to the poor, and to recognize each other as Brother.
The guiding scripture text that has been chosen by the Chapter Planning Group is Luke 8: 22-25 in which Jesus calms the storm
One day Jesus said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side of the lake.” So they got into a boat and set out. As they sailed, he fell asleep. A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!” He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. “Where is your faith?” he asked his disciples. In fear and amazement they asked one another, “Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.”
Accompanying this text is the image by Fr. Sieger Köder
As we continue to discern your will and to co-create our future as Religious Brothers,
we pray that we be free from all self-interest and fear.
Open us to your ever-present creative Spirit
which leads us to see your love in all things and all people.
Renew in us the charism of our Founder, Blessed Edmund Rice
who saw Christ present and appealing to him in the poor.
Help us to engage in enriching conversation with our Brothers and all people
as we seek to deepen our response to the invitation of Jesus
to see everything with the eyes of faith,
to do nothing but with a view to You
and to ascribe all to You.
May the Brothers who gather in Chapter
be faithful to our deepest aspirations
and at this time of change and challenge, give us the courage to say
‘The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away: Blessed be the name of the Lord’.
31.10.2018 Generative Conversations
In a letter to all Brothers on October 31st, 2018 the CLT wrote:
"It is the CLG’s belief that the flame of our brotherhood will be reignited only if we engage more with one another in intimate, honest conversations around questions and issues significant to our lives.
From our experience, we believe that, as Brothers, we must make time and opportunity to sit down and talk with one another from the heart. If we are going to co-create a future, the CLG considers it is vital that we engage with one another in a process that is called “Generative Conversations".
... The choice of a Generative Conversations approach was made at the CLG meeting when we saw anew that any sharing not from our hearts would not bring about the transformation we desire. We sense a strong call from the Spirit to speak deeply to each other in this period of our Congregation history.
... Generative conversations are probably not as simple as they sound. We on the CLT have been working at them ourselves, and have found it helpful to have the assistance of a facilitator. That is something for your consideration.
... In addition, you will receive from your local Leadership Team guidelines to assist in understanding and engaging in generative conversations with one another in community and in clusters, wherever practicable. This has already happened in some Provinces. This conversation could include the involvement of women and men who are associates and supporters of the Brothers in various parts of the Congregation.
... Essential to the success of generative conversations is a readiness to speak the truth in love to one another, mindful that what we each see as truth might be different, based on our personality, perception and life experience.
... Similarly, it is important to create safe spaces, in which participants know that what they say will be listened to, respected and treated with confidentiality. The sharing of what is personal is often risky, because it exposes our vulnerabilities. It is likewise important to give full attention to each speaker in a group, mindful that feelings are often communicated with non-verbal gestures and reactions. These, too, need our attention and response."
In a further letter on December 13th, 2018, the CLT wrote:
We are aware of the various efforts being made across the Congregation to put in place structures which will allow groups of Brothers to gather on a regular basis over the next year or so. We have thanked leadership teams for the energy they have put into making this possible across the Congregation.
...We place great value on ensuring that each of you has the freedom to bring to the surface, for deep and rich conversation, matters of significance to you. We want every Brother to be aware that he is being personally invited to participate in these conversations. We are convinced that in these groups, as the level of trust grows, we will be more open to sharing from the heart our personal lived experiences, our joys and sorrows, our hopes and challenges. Then, together, we can begin to look towards our shared future.
...An important aspect of Generative Conversations is that of ‘harvesting’. By this is meant the gathering of the experiences shared, the wisdom that is shared, the insights that are revealed and the issues that emerge. This is not a matter of reporting on matters hared in the confidential intimacy of the small groups. Rather it is the identifying of what is burning within us, for good or ill, and that we would do well to address in the process of co-creating our Brotherhood into the future. We believe it is important for you to know that what you raise for conversation is not lost. It feeds into the bigger picture of where we are as a body and where we need to go.
The Oceania Province Newsletter said the following on February 1st, 2019:
Generative Listening is foundational to authentic dialogue. Such listening does not come naturally. It is an art that requires practice and specific disposition, so that both speaker and listener connect. Generative Listening enables a level of connection, between the one who speaks and the one who listens, that is truly generative, that is, it creates new possibilities for action that neither parties have thought of or even expected before the conversation.
The Seven Principles for Generative Listening
- Slowing down and noticing more of what is present. Letting go of recent and future events in order to be fully present in the here and now. Generative Listening calls for full attention and engagement and not to be distracted by other forms of communication such as phone messages and emails. Good facilitation allows for a period of time for participants to slow down and enter a reflective space.
- Listening with all my senses and not just with my ears. Listening is the source of wise and profound spoken words.
- Listening to the words and images chosen by the speaker. Speaking is like painting with words. The chosen images / words of the speaker give added insight to the speaker’s intention.
- Listening and noticing the emotions conveyed by the person who is talking.
- Suspending judgement is probably the most difficult of the seven principles to embrace for Generative Listening.
- Noticing what I don’t understand or what trigger questions are raised for me rather than what I don’t like about what I am hearing. It may be helpful to write down such questions rather than interrupting the speaker.
- What do I feel as I listen to what is being said and why? It is important to connect with my own feelings as I am listening, as feelings are a filter to what is being said and affect interpretation and response.
11.02.2019 Official Announcement of the Congregation Chapter
In a letter to the Congregation today, Br. Hugh O'Neill officially announced the Congregation Chapter to be held in Lima, Peru, during the month of March, 2020. Included in the letter was thee following:
I have seen the sun break through
to illuminate a small field
for a while, and gone my way
and forgotten it. But that was the pearl
of great price, the one field that had
treasure in it. I realise now
that I must give all that I have
to possess it. Life is not hurrying
on to a receding future, nor hankering after
an imagined past. It is the turning
aside like Moses to the miracle
of the lit bush, to a brightness
that seemed as transitory as your youth
once, but is the eternity that awaits you.
The Bright Field, R S Thomas
... Today, as the Church celebrates the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, we are reminded that Mary is a model of faith for us. When she encountered the divine presence asking her to be completely open to the Spirit in her life, she said “yes.” Like Mary, by saying “yes” to a call to religious life, we have committed our lives to bearing witness to the divine presence in our world and in the hearts of people. Is this our pearl of great price, our own bright field?
... Pope Francis has stated the world is in need of brotherhood and sisterhood. Listening to each other in a deeper way and speaking honestly about our passions, dreams, and how we can be brothers together will help us determine how best to live the gospel values we profess. This will be our framework for moving forward and the ongoing focus will be on our conversations together. We need to remain open to wherever the Spirit draws us and the conversations will need to continue well beyond the Chapter.
... In this light, I formally announce the Thirty-Second Congregation Chapter to be held in Lima, Peru, from the 1st to the 31st of March, 2020.
... Brothers, in your discernment process for electing delegates from your area of the Congregation to the 2020 Congregation Chapter, you are encouraged to look for individuals who have leadership skills and the energy to continue listening and working with what is surfacing from the generative conversations across the Congregation. Look for those who can continue to engage the Brothers in creating our way forward together.
... "The time is now! The place is here! You are the people!" This line from the 2008 Congregation Chapter is a good reminder for us. If we want a future together as Brothers, then each one of us needs to commit our energy and time to making it a reality. The treasure in the field is worth any cost. May we continue to be drawn by Blessed Edmund’s charism of presence, compassion, and liberation. And may Jesus truly live in our hearts.