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Teodoro Grageda, Secretary of the Preparatory Commission of the 21st General Chapter

19/08/2009: General House

Brother Teodoro Grageda, 50 years old, Mexican by birth, African by adoption, has been to the front of the Preparatory Commission of the 21st General Chapter, coordinating its programme of activities from Rome as Secretary. Through his hands and through his heart have passed the many details of this long and intensive preparation which has been taking place in the Institute. Since the election of the chapter delegates was completed, he has maintained a steady dialogue with them all by means of the web page, which was created expressly for this purpose. He cannot keep count of the hours of work spent in front of the screen of his computer in his office on the first floor of the General House. We interrupt him at his task for a few minutes, and he responds with a broad smile.

AMEstaún. Nearly twenty years in Africa. You are practically at the end of your work at MIC, in Nairobi, when you receive an unexpected invitation. It has to do with taking on the role of Secretary of the Commission which is to prepare for the 21st General Chapter. How did you receive this assignment?
Teodoro Grageda. With surprise, because up to then I knew nothing about it.

AMEstaún. And once you got over your surprise?
Teodoro Grageda. Well, with a certain “rebellion” within me. I imagined that at the end of my work in Nairobi I would have some months of sabbatical, before being listed for my next assignment, and then suddenly this new task appears in my path and I have to change plans. However, I felt a great happiness in being able to provide help to the Institute.

AMEstaún. A task like this, which emerges unexpectedly in your life, raises unforeseen personal challenges.
Teodoro Grageda. One very important one has been to improve my level of understanding and using French. I had already done some study at the time of initial formation, and I had to improve so as to be able to express myself in this language with people who normally use it. As well, the work I had to perform forced me to organize myself in a more practical way, to find out where things were, and to pay attention to the comings and goings.
The new situation also required me to give myself time to attend personally to those asking for some help, and with pleasure as far as I could, I did what was within my capacity. This has opened many doors for me and given rise to many relationships. I have encountered a great spirit of availability and collaboration in the members of the General Council, in the brothers and lay people in the General House in Rome, in the capitulants, etc. I have a great desire that everything works out well. My concern has been to combine all the good I have, the good ingredients that are to be found in the dispositions of all, the good atmosphere of work, in order to harmonize it and find a way of expressing it naturally.

AMEstaún. A new work is also an opportunity to discover enriching experiences for yourself personally.
Teodoro Grageda. I have had those in abundance! Being in this office has helped me come to know the Institute much better, and to love it as it is. Another very enriching experience has been to have worked so closely with all the members of the Preparatory Commission. I have felt great support from each and every one of them. I believe that we have formed a work team; we are very different in our manner of being, in our rhythms of work, but we have reached a good level of understanding and work.
My attention has been much drawn, from the beginning, by the readiness of provincials to attend to the repeated requests that I have been obliged to ask of them; something similar happened later with the liaisons of each administrative unit; and later still with all the delegates to the Chapter.
Moreover, direct communication with many brothers of the Institute, known to me or not, has been very encouraging for me. In these contacts, we have passed very easily from the Chapter topics to topics of our personal life as Marists. This has been very enriching for me! There are many brothers with whom I have shared my life and from whom I have received very much support. I can only express feelings of gratitude to the Institute.

AMEstaún. Your vision of what this institutional way of preparation is supposed to be
Teodoro Grageda. I have been very pleased with the dynamic we have followed, inasmuch as we have been able to have contact with people present in many different situations: brothers (in administrative positions, associated with educational institutions or other types of presence in the apostolate, experienced brothers who have already celebrated jubilees, young ones in formation), Marist lay women and men who expressed their points of view; young leaders of youth or vocational groups, etc. That is to say, that the bases of the Institution have been considered in this movement of raising awareness about what is happening today at the level of the Institute. I felt that regions of our Congregation, which perhaps on other occasions had been left somewhat on the margin of what was happening in the Congregation, have felt part of the whole in this process of preparation.

AMEstaún. A prediction about what the 21st General Chapter might present us with
Teodoro Grageda. In the Preparatory Commission we discussed at our last meeting the general plan we will suggest to the Chapter, and in it I discover that more than “managing to deal with all the topics we have or might have”, it is a matter of creating a more natural atmosphere for decision making, using processes which involve all at the Chapter, being inclusive, to arrive at the object or proposition that all share. I believe that the basis of all this will be the confidence that they have in one another, that the topics are set according to the table, and that there are no preconceived decisions, but that they are open to what the Holy Spirit may be asking of us.

AMEstaún. Many thanks

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