By Brother John Collins | en français
The June meeting of the Graced Crossroads Integration Team in Rome was the second time, in 57 years as a Xaverian, that I have participated in an international meeting of Brothers. I had looked forward to the meeting with anticipation and hope that those of us participating would find common ground that could eventually open a path for the future of the Congregation.
It was vital, as a first step, that we listen to the representatives of Congo, Kenya, and the USA report on meetings held in their regions regarding the Graced Crossroads process of transformation. I was struck by how direct, candid, open, and honest our African brothers were in reporting about present conditions in their regions, what changes needed to take place and their hopes for the future. I believe they set the tone for the depth of sharing and dialogue that took place during the remaining sessions of the Rome meeting.
One major topic that arose in our deliberations was that of internationality.
We identify ourselves as an international Congregation. What does this mean in today’s reality? What is our present understanding of this term as it relates to each region? What is our level of consciousness regarding it? What impact does it have on decisions that are made with respect to different areas of the Congregation? What is its reality for me? How can we foster a greater sense of awareness concerning it?
It became apparent in our discussions about internationality that, while we acknowledge and affirm that we are an international Congregation, our lived-reality is quite different. What happens in one region has little impact or effect in another. We live as though our regions are separate, distinct and self-contained, each on its own path. It seems that the Congregation is currently more like an assembly of villages: American, Belgian, Congolese and Kenyan that identify themselves as Xaverian.
There is no future, however, for such separate village life in a Congregation whose very roots are international. We need to become ONE VILLAGE deeply rooted in our Fundamental Principles and the unique charism of our Founder, Theodore James Ryken. Once more we are being called to become
A band of brothers
who mutually help,
and edify one another
and who work together
To create this ONE VILLAGE will require personal and communal sacrifice as well as ongoing prayerful discernment and innovation. Like the biblical Abraham, we will have to leave our familiar village and walk an unfamiliar path that holds out the possibility of transformation and refoundation. Hopefully, we can become a truly global Congregation in consciousness, outlook and behavior – one based on respect, appreciation and honest sharing of intercultural values and experiences.
Well done, John. Two items prompted me to request some further investigation.
First, “African Brothers -changes to be made and hopes for the/their future” Are any specifics available concerning changes and hopes?
Second, Internationality and One Village. Again, more specifics seem needed. “leave our familiar village in consciousness, outlook and behavior”. Behavior? Relocation? Age and health to be considered?
“No future for such separate village life”? Is the call “band of brothers…who work together” realized even now in our small villages? Example: In our DC/VA regional area the then (2015) 22 Brothers included three “communities” and 13 living alone. A difficult forum in which to ‘help, encourage, edify and work together’. An ongoing challenge.
Thanks to the Sage of Somerville for sharing his thoughts. Allow me to share some thoughts from a Davis Square prospectus. The term village concerns me. Let’s say who we are. We are a religious congregation of men missioned to address various needs of the Catholic Church world wide. At present we have lost that identity in the US. Some of our schools who no longer have Brothers have marketed the term “Band of Brothers” to describe current students. The kids love the term and haven’t a clue regarding its original designation to a religious community of the Church.
If we are a village, we are a sad one in the US because we no longer have a youthful population. Every gathering is one of basically old men. The exuberance of the young is missing among us. In the report we received out of Rome the only the writing of the Kenyans inspired me. They are dealing with real life issues and were brave enough to comment that the American Brothers live a different life style than the Kenyans.
The Americans and Belgians talk wistfully about a unity in internationality whereas the Kenyans talk about their problems of living and working together. We in the US experienced a schism in 1960 when the Province was rigidly split. We became North and South. Here in Louisville that terminology still exists. The era of Harvey was a Northern thing. Now our direction has gone South again under Driscoll. The XBSS has brought a basic unity among our sponsored schools, but not among the American Brothers. Even the committee of the Sage of Somerville is seen as Northern with one Southern rep.
Each pocket of the present Xaverian Congregation has its own realities. The Kenyans appear to be able to express them. The Americans talk about international unity while death is knocking at its door. Refoundation is a US issue. We either creatively face it or shortly disappear as happened in England and is happening in Belgium. If our lay instructed kids become the Band of Brothers, yeah for them and woe on us. We need the passion of the Kenyans here in the USA. That would be true internationality and because we learn from another culture we are living communally and not like a village.
I could not access the comment section for Paul Murray. I will include it here. Good job, Paul. Your writing takes into account differences in age, sociological contexts and environments of the three reporting groups of Brothers.
I would mention that formational training is stunningly different and by its nature possibly divisive among us. Americans entering in the 40s, 50s and early 60s were formed in a hodge podge spirituality and seldom encountered a unique Xaverian spirituality. Ryken left us no formative program, such as the Exercises. We were weaned on Men and Deeds and The Practice of Perfection and Christian Virtues. Many of us dashed back to school to grasp the changes of the tumultuous sixtees and the cynical seventees. We experienced the necessary reorientation of spirituality and religious life. The Africans have experienced a totally different entrance into the Congregation. We have little hope of melding these two experiences.
Paul, you mentioned that reports in Rome came out of the previous shared meetings. Our meeting in Louisville generated some unique ideas and insights. I saw none of this reflectected in the American report.
Finally, I repeat that the exclusion of our Associates from this process is unfathomable especially given the two quotes from Pope Francis given in your paper.
I’d like to second Charles Warthen’s request for “specifics” on the crossroads project:
I know that the “crossroads” are not there yet, [i.e.at specifics] even though it seems to have had its start in the idea of some hoping to start a new intentional community in Lowell or some place where we could work or at least be a presence among the poor [whom we claim to be for].
But that seems to have been dropped when no rent-free place was offered in Lowell, although there are loads of empty rectories and convents around that could be used for such a purpose. We really shouldn’t expect to get something rent-free since the poor don’t get such a luxury.
It would also be my hope that such a community would not be just for able-bodied ‘youngsters’ [in their 60s and 70s] that might be involved but also include some of us decrepits in later years who could participate in such a venture. We’ve lost the idea, prevalent in times gone by, when the old could be energized by living among the young.
As always, you cut to the meat of the matter. The crossroads has to do with the XBs in the US only. Suddenly it has become an issue of internationality. To be an older Bro. in the US today is an experience of great sadness because of the lack of youth in our ranks. In our schools our students have become the Band of Brothers without any sense of the religious community that was/is the band. In the US we have little communal public image. We could disappear tomorrow and only leave the historic dust and sad older alums
If we do not publically define our mission in the U S, we have failed to emulate Ryken and deserve to die. The crossroads is a shambles because we have yet to name it and define its geographic locus.