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As God’s gift to the Church, Brothers are called to bring renewal and vitality to the mission of the Church.

The Vatican’s office of the Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and the Societies of Apostolic Life released a document in December 2015 titled “Identity and Mission of the Religious Brother in the Church”, to help appreciate and better promote the vocation of Religious Brothers.

The document explores the particular role of Religious Brothers in the Catholic Church. It speaks of the Brother’s vocation as a “mystery of communion for mission” and the call “to live integrally and prophetically.”   The document then expounds on the threefold identity of the Religious Brother,  as  Mystery”, a gift that is received; as “Communion”, a gift that is shared; and as “Mission”, a gift that is given away. In the end, the document suggests some guidelines so that in every part of our world, in every community, each Religious Brother may respond to this question: How can we be Brothers today?

We believe that this document is a significant opportunity for us SVD to come together  to share and evaluate the Brother Vocation, to raise awareness of the importance of this vocation for the life and mission of the Church (cf. CD 45), and to be united in our shared identity and mission. More reflection on this document can be found in this link: https://sites.google.com/site/romatuttifratelli/website-builder     In the following lines, we want to conscienticize ourselves about the Brother Vocation, based on this Church document and try to respond better to the challenges of the mission of Brothers in our present world.

Religious Brother, a gift received from God

The Religious Brother is called to live Jesus’s brotherhood. This is the very essence of the Brother Vocation. It is a gift given to the whole Church and us as stated in Lumen Gentium 43: “Religious life is a divine gift that the Church has received from her Lord and that she always preserves through his grace”.  As God’s gift to the Church, Brothers are called to bring renewal and vitality to the mission of the Church. As the gift, Brothers will always be an impulse in the mission of the Church. They are to be a welcoming and close presence for those who need someone who listens to them and helps them make sense of their lives, in particular among those excluded from society, and to convey a message of mercy, joy, and hope.

As SVD Brothers, if we consider our religious and missionary vocation as a gift which we have received from the Lord for the good of the Church and of the world, then we should joyfully live out our vocation as a Brother, and be proud and appreciative of being a religious missionary Brother. In this way, we can be more fully present and become more of a witness to the people and in the world. Our lifestyle requires a spirituality that is rooted in the Word, committed to His Mission, a spirituality which is refined and intensified daily in a personal encounter with the Word and which is shared with and in the community.

Religious Brother, a gift shared

One of the essential aspects of being an SVD Brother is living in an international, intercultural and interracial community setting. By living together, sharing together, doing our activities together and praying together, we are united in a spiritual  communion in which we witness to the world that brotherhood is possible far beyond and despite differences. The community is the fundamental place for the spirituality of the Religious Brother. It is a space where the experience of God can reach its fullness and be transmitted to others. This urges the Brother to a prayer life which is open to the reality of his time and resonates a life of solidarity and which brings together the joys and sorrows of the people whom God puts in his way, especially the poorest and the marginalized.

As our prayer life strengthens us for living together in community and ministry, our life in a community also strengthens us as we go forth in generous service to others. Opting for life as a Religious Brother also means choosing a life in a community. Our life and activities begin in the community where we live. This is where we give form to our principles of mercy and brotherhood and from where we give ourselves away, going out to accomplish our mission in the world.

Religious Brother, a gift freely given away

Our time is characterized by significant challenges and disasters, human-made or natural: ethnic conflicts, refugees/migrants, drought, AIDS, epidemics, flooding, incredible suffering in slums, etc. To respond to these challenges and disasters, the Religious Brothers, in a special way, need signs of God's love and great creativity to open doors for the proclamation of the gospel, giving themselves for the mission of Christ, by reaching out to those who are in need.

Saint Arnold Janssen read and interpreted the signs of his time and responded to its needs. Looking at this rapidly changing world, it is our turn to answer to the call of Christ. We need to use our God-given talents and gifts at the service of the Word, for the people.  There is a greater need for us SVD Brothers to be visible witnesses to the World made flesh in today’s world. It is opportune to call forth a more defining profile of who the Brother is today in a rapidly changing world. The document “Identity and Mission of the Religious Brother in the Church” provides an appropriate reminder to reclaim the importance of the Religious Brother in the Church as a sign of hope and as "a mystery of communion for mission."

The first ministry that the Brother develops in the Church today is to be a minister of the Gospel by being a role model to the people entrusted to his care and to share with them Gospel values.  Yes, the world needs Brothers who freely give their talents, knowledge and consecrate their life to be with the poor, the down trodden, the weak, the voiceless and who share the “Joy of the Gospel” today with everyone we meet as equals! Just like our Brother Jesus.

Fr. Heinz Kulüke and the Leadership Team

Published in the newsletter “ Arnoldus Nota” – Sept. 2017

Other Notes

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SVD Spiritual animation II

With Fr. Peter Dusicka, SVD, General Spiritual Animation Coordinator.
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SVD Spiritual Animation III

The transforming love of Christ: in the process of a spiritual transformation /The transforming love of Christ. Fr Peter Claver Narh Kwame, SVD
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