Chapter 7
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Arno Jose
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Our last Chapter recognized a desire for renewal and transformation in our Society that “could bring us back to the Word of God as the source of our life, vocation, and mission” and help us “to rediscover the spiritual foundations that sustain and nourish our  personal and community life and give meaning to our mission.” (2018 GC #2)

“The task of being a missionary disciple is more than to preach. Rather, he or she must radiate and demonstrate the joy of his or her faith through words and actions as an authentic disciple of Jesus.”

We are called to become transforming missionary disciples “actualizing the Kingdom of God together with others” (2018 General Chapter #13). These words of our last General Chapter document recognize that an authentic Christian spiritual life is always in touch with the reality of this world. It is a spirituality rooted in the Triune God, which enables us to act creatively in the world and to care for our brothers and sisters.

Pope Francis rightly reminds us that “our worship becomes pleasing to God when we devote ourselves to living generously and allow God’s gift, granted in prayer, to be shown in our concern for our brothers and sisters.” (Gaudete et Exsultate #104) We believe that the theme of our last General Chapter has the potential to mobilize all of us in this project of renewal and transformation of ourselves and the whole world according to the values of the Kingdom of God.

Reception of the Chapter Statement

The reception of the Statement of the 18th General Chapter is the first step in this ongoing project of renewal and transformation. We know that in order for an initiative to have an impact on daily life, it is not enough that commissions of specialists meet or hat assemblies make normative decisions. It is necessary that the consensus, agreements, norms, and orientations reach out to the grassroots, be accepted by the people, and become mobilizing tools of the life and mission of individuals and the communities.

The Chapter Statement is the result of a long period of preparation, discussion, and reflection that involved all PRMs and the majority of our membership in the four zones. All these flowed into the Chapter itself where it gained its final shape. We are aware that the Chapter Statement has been translated and distributed among the confreres, not only in the two official languages of the SVD but other languages as well.

This, of course, is a crucial factor in disseminating its ideas and animating its implementation. Also, some PRMs have been discussing it during their assemblies. At this moment, however, we would like to raise two questions in order to keep alive the discussion on the Chapter document and decisions and to animate ourselves to come
up with creative ways to implement them.

What can I do?

The first question is directed to every one of us. What can I do, as an SVD, regarding the documents of the 18th General Chapter? To start, maybe we could follow what was suggested by the provincial assembly of ARS and make a reading of the documents in a “personal, critical, reflective, and prayerful” way.

Alternatively, we could go through the document and try to answer some of the questions that require a personal answer. Moreover, several questions could be answered and creatively implemented in our personal life. Of course, we shall not forget that it is pointless to answer the questions and implement them without the larger context of the discussion triggered by the theme that inspired the preparation stages leading to the Chapter and during its sessions: “The love of Christ impels us.” The love of the Triune God is manifested in the love of Christ, who through his love nourishes us and our mission.

When we are united with Christ, his love transforms us, and we become transforming persons. If Christ is our first love, we experience in a personal way his love. As a result, such a relationship impels the transformed person/community to give oneself entirely for the mission in loving service. The grace of the love of Christ for us along with our love for him is the very source of our being missionaries.

What can we do?

As communities (local or PRM level) we would like to stress the importance of communal discernment, an essential step prior to committing ourselves to Christ’s mission. In order to discover the will of God and to engage in the process of renewal and transformation in our personal and community life as well our mission, we need to cultivate ongoing discernment.  Discernment can only be done rooted in the Word and in a context of prayer and attentiveness to the signs of the times. It also requires looking beyond our compounds and frontiers. Assemblies at the local or PRM level are excellent forums to exercise ongoing discernment rooted in the Word of God and direct contact with the surrounding social, cultural, political, and religious reality.

Attentive listening is a critical attitude in this process in order to make decisions and to do the will of God (cf. 2018 GC #18). The Chapter document recognizes many areas that need conversion and transformation. Thus, we would animate our members to promote spaces for life sharing and reconciliation not only within our communities but also in our places of work (parishes, schools, etc.) that, impelled by the love of Christ, we “bring peace and reconciliation in each place, among every people, and for all cultures.” (2018 GC #14)

Ongoing discernment will sustain our commitment to mission as a community and enable us to face the present challenges and to answer the signs of the time. Of course, we are aware that the Chapter Statement does not cover all the areas and apostolates where our Society is engaged, but stresses some concerns ad intra and ad extra that are seen as significant challenges in today’s world. For example, we want to address more concretely and effectively the challenges we continue to face in our intercultural life and intercultural mission. In this field, we are called to the mutual transformation that will enrich one another.  Also, the following areas are given special attention: community, finances, leadership, formation, putting the last first, the integrity of creation, the digital era, and collaboration with our lay partners. A special place shall be given to the least and the last of society, putting all our charisms at the service of others, compelled by the Lord’s love (cf. GE #130).

Our name is our mission

A name has several functions: it reveals someone’s identity, provides necessary information about a person or an object, describes a role in a group, and delimits a specific area within the broader context. Names also have a performative function in the sense that they can inspire a commitment to action. This was expressed by the participants of the last General Chapter when they wrote: “Arnold gave us an apt name for our congregation – Society of the Divine Word, and we cherish this name. Our name is our mission. This name is challenging us today to do our task. We are invited to be in touch with our experiences of life and to be rooted in the Word today as it manifests itself in various forms, places, persons and realities.” (2018 GC #53)

In the Chapter Statement, after each set of commitments, there are two questions: To what else we shall commit? How will we carry out these commitments? These questions are meant to provoke further reflection, discussion, and action by individuals, communities, and PRMs. We believe that taking these questions seriously at the personal, communal and provincial levels, will help us to keep alive the process of renewal and transformation that has brought our Society to its 18th General Chapter and continues today to inspire our members and mission partners around the world.

We hope that spiritual renewal and the commitment to the transformation of our life, mission, and structures, especially our mental structures, will help us to become closer and closer to what our name already envisions: Missionaries of the Divine Word. May the celebration of Advent and Christmas, the feast of the Word made flesh, inspire and transform us to become missionary disciples who are rooted in the Word and committed to Christ’s mission.

--- Father Paulus Budi Kleden and the Leadership Team

Posted in the bulletin "Arnoldus Nota" - December 2018