January 5 – RECONCILIATION
The historical meeting between Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras in 1964, as the Council of Vatican II (1962-1965) was still on course – a Council that brought out a decree on ecumenism – was an example for reconciliation in the Montfortian Family. The coming together was prepared through small gestures in Rome, Lourdes and other places and culminated in two historical meetings. On 23 December 1968, at the General House of the Montfortians, and on 5 January 1969 in ours, the General Councils of the Company of Mary and of the Brothers of St Gabriel came together to “wipe away in charity and, if possible with a common vision, the effects of the unfortunate opposition that separated us since very soon eighty long years”. The two Superiors General of the time were Fr. Cornelius Heiligers and Br. Romain Landry, one Dutch and the other Canadian, hence both more foreign than the others to the dissensions of the past.
The discussions of the two meetings were organised around three aspects.
Historically, the response to the questions posed were classified as sure, probable or possible. Theologically, while the conception of the Church seen as an institution has strongly marked the quarrel regarding filiation in the past, it would hereafter be the
- Montfortian charism would appear to .have priority in a Church which, after Vatican II, defines itself fii-st as the people of God and in which the religious Institutes are situated in a line that is directly spirituaL Psychologically, the General Councils did not ignore the affective charge of some words and wished for a coming together of mentalities which “would derive from the multiplication of contacts between communities in concrete situations, the development of dialogue, and the exchange of mutual services”.
A common commission was set up with several goals: to study the possibility of collaboration in the various activities (apostolate, publications, formation, vocation pastoral), to organise common sessions on Montfortian spirituality, to spread the message of StLouis Mary, and to continue the historical research with a view to arrive, if possible, to unanimity of opinion.
One other reconciliation, perhaps more spectacular, was to take place during a session- the first of the type- which was held on 27,28 and 29 September 1997, at the General House of the Brothers, of the three Councils of the Institutes of the Montfortian Family: 20 Fathers, 24 Sisters and 24 Brothers. In the morning of the last day, 29 Septembr 1997, feast of St Gabriel, and fifty years after the canonisation of Montfort, which was a celebration but also a suffering born out of the division in the Family, the three Superiors could say, making their own the words of John Paul II, how it was necessary to “purify ourselves through repentance… from sins that… badly affected the unity willed by God for his people” (Tertio Millennia Adveniente). All the participants then asked pardon for the faults of the past, but also for all the shortcomings of the present in the way of living religious life. As a sign of reconciliation, Sr. Barbara O’Dea, Superior General, and Fr. Bill Considine, Superior General, handed over to Br. Jean Friant, Superior General, a reliquary offered by the Sisters of Wisdom, which contained a part of the relic preserved in the General House of the Montfort Fathers; this was the first one the Institute ever possessed. The day continued on the theme of a future to be built together: among others, common projects of formation and mission were introduced by the three Superiors and discussed by all.