General Superior's Report
Saturday, October 12th was given to receiving and reflecting on the 'Report of the General Superior to General Chapter 2013 on the Life, Mission and Government of the Society of the Faithful Companions of Jesus'.
We know that around the Society many FCJ Sisters were united with us in receiving this report which Sr. Katherine Mary sent to the members of the Society prior to the Chapter. We include here some opening paragraphs in the report which was accompaned with powerpoint images when it was presented to us.
As we begin to reflect on the life of our Society over these five years, we recognize that “the Society was not instituted by human means; and neither is it through them that it can be preserved and developed, but through the omnipotent hand of Christ, God and our Lord”. (C. 351) Beginning from this perspective, we seek to understand reflectively what Christ has been preserving and developing through the Society in these years.
Much of life is lived in the dynamic interplay of consolation and desolation, times of light and times of darkness. As we reflect on the past five years, we see the lights and shadows of our Society. The challenge in doing this is to acknowledge the dynamic of both the consolations and the desolations. Consolation is usually a comfortable place; most of us stay there very easily. We give thanks for the many fruitful undertakings and developments as well as numerous experiences of joy and times of encouragement. The more difficult experience is that of desolation and yet as the Spiritual Exercises tell us, if we fail to attend to desolation, we risk missing what God may be saying to us. God is at work even in dry and challenging times. By confronting our darkness, our shadows, our fears and resistances, we will allow God to draw us once again into the light. In some mysterious way, God is asking us even in our darkness to be light, even in what may seem dry, to be salt for the world, hence our theme for this General Chapter: “Salt for the Earth, Light for the World”. I would hope we can approach this Report in the reflective mode of the daily Examen by situating the Society in these 5 years in God’s presence, giving thanks for the many graces we have received, being attentive to lights and shadows, those of the world and Church around us and our own, always praying for the Spirit’s guidance as we look to the future. It is not possible to do this in a step by step process but rather by weaving in and out and by attending to, thanking for, reflecting on and discerning God’s action through these years.
A particular mission of our Society over the past five years has been to live the gospel as Faithful Companions of Jesus in the light of what the last General Chapter asked of us. We are living in “rebellious and restless times” (Archbishop Rowan Williams address to the Synod on Evangelization, Rome, October 2012), not unlike Marie Madeleine’s time; war, rebellion and unrest continued sporadically in France throughout most of her life. In this century, we are also dealing with greater complexity and change than the world has known. As we look back on the past five years, we see the reality of constant change. Our Society and the charism given us through Marie Madeleine are evolving within this context of change. The words of the 6th century BC philosopher Heraclitus are ever more true: “the only constant in life is change”!
The postmodern spirit which refuses to accept any absolutes supports a world in flux. Many believe that there is a significant paradigm shift taking place in the cosmic breaking down and breaking through which we are experiencing... we also find shoots of equality, communion, collaboration, synchronicity, expansiveness, abundance, wholeness, mutuality, intuitive knowing and love. (Sr. Pat Farrell osf. Leadership address to LCWR, 2012 ) As we look back on the past five years, we can be consoled by the opportunities our Society has experienced in facilitating these new shoots in our world and Church...
After a comprehensive review, the Report concluded with:
A bird’s eye view of any group over a five year period is never the complete picture .... As one looks back from this vantage point, one cannot but be astounded by the generosity of God throughout these years... The paschal mystery of life and death is never far from any aspect of life. This mystery is a constant reminder that death and life are inseparable, we need to let go so that new life may evolve. We need to ask ourselves as we come to this General Chapter, “what do we need to do in order that life and mission can continue in the Society in the future?”
Reflecting on the Report
In the afternoon, Sr. Kathryn Lennon (general bursar) presented a financial report.
Sr. Kathryn's reflection on the Chapter theme led her to begin:
...I ask myself the question how we can be salt for the earth and light for the world in our use of temporal goods. I think this present age is calling out to us to be just that in all our business dealings, in our use and care of resources and in our investment policies.
One day during my retreat last year I was praying before a Nativity window where I had often prayed in the past and been very conscious at times of the place of Mary with the Child Jesus or of the Three Kings but on this occasion a shaft of sunlight hit the windows and lit up some of the less obvious parts of it. The figure of Joseph stood out in a particular way as did the shepherds as they watched their flocks. The beauty of the colours of the glass was highlighted for me and they seemed to be speaking to me as never before. The light had somehow transformed the whole scene. Joseph and the shepherds stayed with me right through the retreat and I became aware that they were saying something to me about Temporal Administration.
Looking at Joseph sitting there with his hand under his chin I could almost hear him say ‘What have I got myself into here?’ We can imagine him thinking through the implications of caring for Mary and the child Jesus, wondering what it would entail. We could imagine that he was thinking about how he would house them and put his carpentry skills to use to provide for them. He seems to be gazing too at the ‘Gifts’ being brought by the Kings for the Child Jesus. What would he do with those?
Just as the sunlight lit up the windows for me I hope that in looking at the state of the Society’s Finances in this report we might be able to see how we can be salt for our earth and light for our world by the use of our Temporal Goods.
In her conclusion, Kathryn returned again to Joseph and reminded us what Pope Francis had said about him:
“He was able to carry out that role,” said the Pope, “not only because he heard the word of God, but because he responded to it realistically. He can look at things realistically, he is in touch with his surroundings, he can make truly wise decisions.“
I hope that we too can hear the word of God spoken to us during this Chapter and make truly wise decisions so that we may be salt for the earth and light for the world
I think that, like Joseph, we have provided well for the mission of Jesus in the world by making great efforts across the Society to plan our spending. Most communities and individuals are paying serious attention to budgeting for the year ahead and making real efforts to remain within that budget.
We have an enormous contribution to make to our world by attempting to live more simply and with greater awareness of the state of our planet and of the needs of future generations.
Having looked at how we are blessed with financial resources we must now ask ourselves the question:
How can we be salt for the earth and light for the world and make a significant contribution to the sustainability of the planet and ensure the future of the mission of Jesus in our use and administration of temporal goods?