The New Wine Press vol 26 no 1 September 2017 - Page 11

Province Updates Community Life Symposium Summary by Fr. Alan Hartway, c.pp.s. From Monday through Friday, July 24th–28th, Missionaries of the Precious Blood from nineteen different units internationally met at the Colegio on Via Narni under the sweltering Roman sun, as the city dealt with a drought and threats of water shortages ap- peared in the news. In sharp contrast was the hospitality of the semi- narians and staff of the Collegio. We were graced with abundance of food and beverages to cool everyone off. The schedule was fully loaded, hardly a minute wasted; if anything, it was too busy, with not enough time to socialize. Monday was a day for listening. Fr. Bill Nordenbrock’s opening homily observed that we live in liminal states, in between, and never settling in comfortableness. Our vice moderator general, Fr. Emmanuele Lupi, presented an excellent history of the community’s rule from the original texts. He showed that our community began out of experience, and then only years later principles for community were written down in various kinds of “legal” documents. The point is that we are still “in process.” Our specific apostolate and charism shapes our unique forms of community, and not the other way around. Lupi reminded us that our language even in these “legal” texts speaks in terms of vinculum, a theological and Eucharistic word, and not ligamen, a canonical legal term, which we don’t use.These are two very different ways of approaching exactly what holds us together. A "vinculum" (Latin for "chain"—used first by St. Augustine in the phrase "bond of charity" in his Easter Sermons on the Gospel of John), means a spiritual bond that is deeper and richer than a mere legal matter. Rather than more permanent institutional struc- tures, the original Gasparian mission houses were “on the fly” transient priests and brothers working at a mission site. It is surprising to learn that the phrase “bond of charity” disappeared from our organization- al texts from 1946 until the new Norms in 1988. The last 200 years of our community experience gives us permission to be adaptive and flexible to the needs of the Church in the times in which we live. Fr. Ed Dougherty, Maryknoll’s leader, and Bro. Robert Scheiler, Lasallian director general, shared their experiences of community. Like us, these are communities with laity involved, and this has proven to be a blessing for them. Much like our- selves, their community life is often “on the fly” and “messy,” which is to say not based in legalisms. Their apostolates come first. Societies of Apostolic Life are constantly living their way into new structures and associations to promote and benefit their unique charisms. The phrase “living alone together” comes close to describing at least our North American expe- rience of community. On Tuesday we listened to all the unit reports, answering the nine questions which our province ad- dressed this past year and a half from the xx General Assembly. Rereading my notes, I saw several common threads emerge. We are very small numerically; house of four or more members are very rare. Money is not an issue in many places. Lay associates are almost everywhere in the international community, but Companions in the North American experience are moving toward a deeper involvement. Shared prayer and shared meals are hallmarks of community life. We must take up the challenge of being experts in com- munion. From these reports, a central point of much discussion began to emerge: can members live alone? On Wednesday, each unit shared their hopes and dreams. Of course, everyone imagines future growth, some stressing more members and formation pro- grams, and others like ourselves emphasizing compan- ion engagement more fully. Words like reconciliation, hospitality, and “bond of charity” came up most fre- quently along with an enormous spectrum of forma- tion practices. My favorite quotes from these two days: “We must take up the challenge of real communion” (Pope Francis). Community means being “attentive to the poverty of the other.” “We are more than what we do.” “Reconciliation requires the truth.” “I exist because others exist.” In order to prepare for a plenary session on Friday, the last day, the participants broke out into language groups in order to gather the main threads as they heard it from the various unit reports on Tuesday and Wednesday. In my group, several welcome ideas were expressed: we are not provocative enough, several continued on page 12 September 2017 • The New Wine Press • 9