Saturday, April 30, 2016

2016 Provincial Chapter

Provincial Chapter assesses province’s condition, sets direction for next three years
If you’re wondering why these men look so happy, it’s because 
they’ve just come from the final session of a provincial chapter!

After sitting for nine days—a lot of sitting!—the Province of St. Philip’s 2016 Provincial Chapter concluded on Wednesday evening, April 27, with Mass and dinner.

42 SDBs—37 priests and 5 brothers—took part as capitulars: Fr. Tim Zak presiding in the absence of Fr. Provincial; 4 other provincial councilors; 17 directors; 14 elected community delegates; and 6 at-large delegates.
Fr. Tim Zak, vice provincial, calls the chapter into session
 on the first day of meetings, April 20.

Your humble blogger was the chapter secretary without being a member of the chapter. Unlike his previous experiences in that role, this time he was invited to take part in the discussions in both the small groups (but didn’t) and the plenary sessions (he did, about half a dozen times, sometimes with an opinion, once with a question intended to provoke thought, at least once with information responding to a question asked in discussion). As secretary I was busier than almost any member of the chapter; all most of them had to do was talk, vote, and fill a liturgical role now and then. And that's why I haven't posted for while!

(In addition, I was acting as reporter, taking notes for use in the province newsletter, where most of this post was originally published, and taking photos for the same purpose as well as archives.)

The chapter met mainly in plenary session, but there were several occasions when the members divided into six smaller groups (committees, as it were), including when members of the Salesian Family were present and took part.

Another angle on the chapter.
The chapter began with a day of retreat on April 19 led by Fr. Tom Rosica, CSB, and included the annual Province Day celebration on Saturday the 23rd and a short break on Saturday evening-Sunday morning that allowed local priests to return to their communities and provide their usual weekend Masses.

Each day began with the Liturgy of the Hours and most days also with Mass; on other days, Mass was in late morning, except the last day’s evening Mass. There was prayer to open each session, meal prayers, and Evening Prayer too.

On April 20, the chapter was given the customary report on the state of the province, which it spent a lot of time reviewing and reflecting upon, and which provided an important base for almost all the discussions that took place in the following days. There were a detailed presentations on province finances, youth ministry, and safe environment matters, which likewise generated considerable response.

The DeSales Room small discussion group (clockwise from left): Fr. Matt  DeGance, Fr. Bill Keane, Bro. Tom Sweeney, Fr. Tom Provenzano, Fr. Rich Authier,
Fr. Tom Ruekert, and Fr. Tom Brennan. Maybe this should have been called the St. Thomas Group?
On the afternoon of Friday the 22nd, Bro. Paul Bednarczyk, CSC, executive director of the National Religious Vocation Conference, presented a detailed summary of a recent NRVC/CARA study on vocations to the religious life, which stimulated many questions and much comment. He posed a key question: “What are we willing to sacrifice to get new vocations?” Almost all the SDBs in formation were present for this session, and most of them took an active part. An optional evening session followed up discussion of vocation animation in our province.

There were three sessions concerning the Salesian Family. Two were evening options, one on working with lay collaborators and one specifically on the Salesian Cooperators. The last was a session of prayer, fellowship, and dinner with Salesian Family members.

One afternoon session was given to reflecting on the vocation of the Salesian brother in the light of the recent Vatican document on the vocation of religious brothers. The brothers at the chapter, and four others present for the session, offered their thoughts on the document and their Salesian experience, and then some of the priests present voiced their appreciation for the brothers they live or have lived with, especially a marvelous example of holiness and Salesian presence.
At one optional evening session, local Cooperator delegates met 
with Sr. Denise Sickinger and Fr. Dennis Donovan (at Sister’s 
left in photo), the delegates of their respective SDB and FMA provinces.

Other optional evening sessions dealt with missionary animation, an example of going out to the peripheries to evangelize (the SDB work in Port Chester), and our schools.

In formal sessions, the chapter:

1. reviewed sections of the Province Handbook on formation, finances, and aging and retirement, and formally ratified the entire Handbook (including other sections) except the unfinished part on aging and retirement;

2. assessed how the province has been putting into practice the various indications of GC27;

3. marked out directions for the province and the local communities in the next three years in the areas of

  • vocation and formation;
  • community life;
  • belonging to an international congregation;
  • missionary identity;
  • mission to the young and the poor;
  • communications;
  • Salesian Family and Salesian Youth Movement;
  • formation of and collaboration with laity.

            4.  finally, proposed steps the province should undertake to advance our fraternal life and our mission to the young and the poor through our witness as mystics, prophets, and servants in areas concerned with:

  • the quantity and quality of confreres in each community;
  • the Salesian presence in New Rochelle; 
  • reshaping the presences in the province; 
  • young adult campus ministry; 
  • a province-level lay formation plan; 
  • communications; 
  • unity of residence within a community.

Fr. Bill Bucciferro presided over and preached at one of the daily Masses.

A committee composed of Frs. Rich Alejunas, Mike Conway, and Mike Pace labored long and hard after sessions, and at times during sessions, to produce the various segments of the chapter’s written output, which will soon be published for the province.

One of the regular evening socials—this one with ice cream 
and many trimmings, and cheese and crackers.   
There were beverages, too, of course.
Our vice provincial, Fr. Tim Zak, not only led the preparations for the chapter, a task he was given many months ago (and on which he was ably assisted by the preparatory commission), but he also presided over the chapter’s deliberations with equanimity, suitable firmness, and good humor. The capitulars were very grateful to him, and the entire province ought to be.

At various sessions some confreres and other members of the Salesian Family sat in as observers, as did some members of the province youth ministry team for the YM presentation, and at appropriate moments contributed to the discussions.

Each evening also had time for socializing with one another over food and liquid refreshments, and with entertainment when the youths of Port Chester came. There were a couple of special celebrations: Fr. Rosica’s 30th anniversary of ordination and Fr. Joe Santa Bibiana’s birthday (he recently celebrated his 50th anniversary of ordination, so you guess his age!).

Fr. John Serio made one of the most emphatic interventions 
of the entire chapter on the last afternoon.
The chapter members experienced wonderful days of fraternity, frank opinions, laughter, Fr. Jim Heuser’s efficiency, and prayer. They’ll try to bring the experience back to their communities, which now are charged with walking the course that the chapter has marked out.

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