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Meeting of European Provincial Councils and capitulants

06/05/2009: Spain - Photo gallery

At Guardamar (Alicante – Spain), from 16 to 19 April 2009, there was a meeting of the Provincial Councils of Europe (Compostela, Central-West Europe, Iberica, Mediterrenea and the Hermitage) with the capitulants to the XXI General Chapter from the same European Provinces. The majority of the capitulants were Provincial Councillors, except for Brothers Juan Miguel Anaya and Benito Arbués, who also took part in the meeting, as well as Brothers Peter Rodney and Emili Turú, the liaisons between the General Council and Europe. In all 40 brothers, plus the facilitators and the translators (9 other Brothers).

The 17th and 18th were entirely devoted to reflection on the General Chapter, while on the 16th and 19th the work concentrated on matters proper to Europe.
The organisation of these two days was entrusted to the provincial facilitators.

The house of Guardamar and the Mediterranean Province gave themselves body and soul to facilitate the holding of the meeting and to put at its disposal all the means necessary for the successful outcome of the work planned.

Preparation for the Chapter

This assembly set up procedures aiming at promoting listening and shared reflection among brothers and capitulants. Thanks to this listening, the capitulants were able to prepare their hearts for the Chapter, and, in a certain way, become better spokesmen for their brothers’ deepest wishes. On the other side, the brothers of the communities were also able to share in the chapter proceedings by becoming actively involved in all these initiatives: the initial consultation, the shared reflection on the results of the consultation and the matters arising from it, the analysis of the General Council’s report…, etc.

Reception of the preparatory documents

Having been given the dates for the meeting, we tried, in reality, to live together the reception of the two great documents in preparation of the Chapter: « Guidelines for Reflection », of the Preparatory Commission, and « Report of the General Council » (the first arrived several weeks ago, and the second was in process of arrival). The capitulants had the possibility of collating with the Councils the first echos and comments, which will help them in the task of leading the reflection and exchanges with the brothers of their respective Provinces. These circumstances clarify the nature and intentions of the meeting: it was not a question of arriving at the drawing of some conclusion, whatever it might be (it would not be honest to define any position before the brothers have had their say).

Method of work

Apart from this basic task, the meeting served to try out the method of working in small groups, seated around a table and in the same room. This was a great novelty for most of us. Despite the languages, we distributed ourselves in different ways to encourage the experience of diversity (each group used two languages at most, and where necessary we could count on the help of the translators).

This arrangement allowed very subtle changes of dynamic, an immediate contrast of opinions in group, a greater participation and listening on the part of all, work facilitating mutual assistance, a more sustained search for consensus; the group spirit was easily perceived when one moved away to work alone in our rooms. The noise of the other groups did not seem annoying for us; little by little, it became a sound base on which bonds became closer and a common spirit was woven.

The morning Eucharist and evening prayer marked out our timetable and enriched the life of the group.

Fruits for Marist Europe

All these procedures, as well as helping us prepare for the Chapter, are a further step in the building of Marist Europe as a region. We are all aware that we have still some way to travel; this method of working, without the pressure of having to reach conclusions, helped us come to a better understanding of the realities of our provinces, and brought us closer together, so that gradually it became easier to make a mutual valuation as well as to consider the possibility of building something together. The reality of Marist life in Europe will have to be arrived at by all, in a joint manner, and because of that, it will not be possible to make partial responses.

Plan of work

The work plan envisaged by the facilitators comprised 3 phases:
1) Reception of the preparatory documents: presentation, personal time and exchanges in groups on the first echos and elements placed in relief. This was done during the first day, the 17th: in the morning, the « Guidelines » document, and in the afternoon, the « Report of the General Council ». The road traveled by the Provinces was also briefly presented.
2) Deepening: in the light of the contributions of the day before, 6 topics were proposed as choices for group discussion. Considering the audience, all the groups also spent some time on reflecting on the animation and government of the Institute. This took place on the morning of the 18th.
3) Listening: the afternoon began with the sharing of the groups, an initial echo on the part of the capitulants in groups of three, and finally, a meeting of all the capitulants to organise themselves, prepare the drafting of letters (provincial and regional) and for the August meeting in Madrid.

First echos of the shared reflection

As the fruit of the reflection on the two preparatory documents (day of 17th), 6 topics were chosen which, according to the facilitators, had received the greatest number of contributions on the part of all the groups. These topics were already indicative of the deep wishes of the European region and a more concrete definition of the 4 great topics proposed in the « Guidelines » document.

1) Brotherhood, a road for recovering the identity of the brother
2) Forms and levels of association and belonging for lay Marists
3) Joint and specific formation in charism and in identity
4) What Marist school, today, in Europe?
5) Being present among the young
6) A current call: to become teachers of spirituality. But how ?

The morning of the 18th, the groups freely chose to work on one of the topics mentioned:
- Three groups chose topic 1
- Three groups chose topic 5
- And one group chose topic 6

The choices reveal more clearly the pressing matters and priorities felt by the Provincial Councils of Europe.

In what concerns the animation and government of the Institute, it is appropriate to note that the proposal of a Councillor residing in a region did not arouse much enthusiasm, but rather a number of reservations. It would be sufficient to strengthen the role of the liaison Councillors for the regions (that is to say, a temporary appointment made by the Superior General or his Council, but in no case by the Chapter).

We can finally indicate two calls which were felt deeply in the assembly:

1. Call to take account of the present reality of the brothers, to avoid utopian and idealistic language (to avoid the use of verb moods expressing wish, command, or prospect ; to avoid also constraining expressions of the type «we will have to… » « it would be necessary to… », to use instead formulas calling to invitation, recognition, or exhortation).

2. Call to be aware that the Chapter has to carry out only the tasks which it alone can bring to a successful issue (changing of norms, main ground lines…, etc) without making the claim that it must resolve all problems; the direction of Marist life in the different places is more appropriate to other organs of appeal than to the General Chapter itself.


Documents - In Spanish
* Aportaciones de los grupos a los 4 temas del documento ORIENTACIONES
* Aportaciones de los grupos a las CONCLUSIONES del INFORME del Consejo general
* Temas de reflexión
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Br. Josep Maria Soteras

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